Michael Tarver recently did an interview with IYHWrestling.com, former WWE superstar & founding member of Nexus. He is asked what has he been up to recently. Tarver answers that he is busy with his ministry, as well as keeping in shape. His faith is very important to him. But so is training. He travels a lot doing public speaking in churches as well as to young adults at juvenile detention centers. He has been staying busy.
How did he get involved with FCW? He said a friend called him in 2007 and asked him to come to New York, because Smackdown! was having a taping in Rochester, and the WWE needed big physiques to fill-in as bodyguards for a segment between JBL and Chris Jericho. He got a try-out and Johnny Ace gave him a job. He stuck out because of his presence and his piercing stare, his intensity, all of which shone through when he told a heckler to shut up. Elijah Burke was one guy who told Michael he had that look about him. Jack then asked Michael about the old school custom of shaking hands. Michael said it wasn’t just a “ritual” but it was about respect. He said the atmosphere in WWE is intense.
FCW was awesome for him because he started right away, and he showed his intensity and passion by walking up to Steve Keirn and asked to do a promo in front of the crowd, after seeing them react to Alicia Fox. He felt that he could get a lot of heat because the crowd seemed receptive. He cut an ugly heel promo and got booed out of the building. When he got to FCW there were guys there from OVW as well and it was a great atmosphere, different then it is now, because there are fewer wrestlers and more bikini models and ex-athletes.
Incher asked a question from Nikhil, who wanted to know if anything original, got dropped from the Nexus storyline. Michael said things just snowballed week after week. Creative doesn’t plan in advance because it is too difficult. “WWE knows what it is doing, even when they don’t know what they are doing.” They had no idea what was going to come in the future.
Was there any jealousy from other wrestlers? Vance Archer, who Michael said was a good friend of his. They were supposed to debut together in ECW together. Archer debuted and Tarver did not, because Michael did not have his passport yet.
How did NXT come together was the next question. Michael says talent relations came to Florida and explained the show in general details. He hoped it wasn’t going to be another Tough Enough. He wanted to debut as himself on SD! They later came down and little by little they found out who was going to be on the show. The plans during the show were half-improvised, as the young talent was thrown into the fire to see how they would react and handle the pressure. He brings up a time when Carlito did or didn’t spit an apple in Heath Slater’s face. He praised Carlito as a talented guy who should have been a world champion. He mentions Daniel Bryan’s match with Chris Jericho and that the WWE had plans for people and you could tell by watching who the machine was really looking at pushing in the future. He didn’t mind being labeled as a rookie, when OIB asked, because in the WWE, even Daniel Bryan was a rookie by their standards. He has seen everyone improve tremendously in the past year, but again stated that everyone can always learn more and hone their craft, and WWE is the place to learn it.
At what point were they NOT considered rookies? Michael felt that the strength of the Nexus angle was that these young guys were making a statement, so he didn’t mind the rookie label. He said everyone but David Otunga had an average 7 to 10 years of experience as wrestlers, so he didn’t view himself or anyone else as a rookie. It was just a label the WWE used for the story.
When were they told about the Nexus angle? They were told that same day. He said Wade Barrett was a natural leader, Darren Young was a great personality, you never saw Tarver wrestle, we never saw Sheffield wrestle, and that we didn’t see all that the Nexus guys had to offer. On the day of the angle, they were told to destroy everything except the cameras. They were told to wear the Nexus garb and armband everywhere they went, even in bed with their girlfriends or boyfriends. Justin Gabriel was “outed” as straight at this point. They were not allowed to sign autographs either.
Michael spoke about his friendships with the Nexus group and that he was close to all of them. David Otunga was his closest friend, but he did say that Otunga was in WWE because of his wife, but he was a hard wrestler and trained very hard.
The tie incident was brought up. The Nexus guys were shocked that Daniel Bryan got fired a week later, but the WWE office and the talent were surprised by what happened, especially Daniel’s aggressive attack.
Tarver put over the Nexus and the angle and felt that WWE could have gone farther with it. The fans loved it. The fans loved the original Nexus. He felt that he could have run out during a John Cena match at Summer Slam and it would have gotten over. The WWE machine could make you if they got behind you and he seemed surprised that they didn’t push the Nexus originals further in storylines.
On his intensity, he said he learned right away that he had to take his opportunities when they presented themselves. He did feel that the WWE didn’t give him many matches to show his talent. He felt he still stood out with his persona and his ferocity. He said he “spoke with his t-shirts” and with the handkerchief across his face. He forced promos and became unpredictable, grabbed the mic from Matt Striker, took any chance he could take. WWE told them to be ready at any time, and he felt that they forgot him, so he took his opportunities when he could, to stand out from the rest. He said Vince was the one guy who noticed him and praised him, but that was about it as far as the office communicating to him. Vince held promo classes once a week for the Nexus guys. Michael praised Vince for his ability to teach this important skill. Michael felt he did better then everyone on his promos through unorthodox style, his diction, and his style. Everyone in WWE knows Michael Tarver can talk.
Jack asked, did anyone dislike his enthusiasm and aggressive attitude? He did think that some people simply did not know what to expect from these new wrestlers, comparing their initial run to John Cena and CM Punk.
Incher asked about his promo where he said that he should be the one eliminated, and Michael responded the WWE didn’t understand what he was saying. If he was not eliminated that night, the next week he would start destroying everyone. Daniel Bryan said that he himself should be eliminated, so there was a difference. He felt that people bought into his character too much and thought that he was a disruptive force, and he was stereotyped in that way.
John Cena was brought up. Michael said working with Cena was amazing. Cena was a superstar. He did say he could not stand the guy, but that Cena could wrestle and he was as good as CM Punk or Chris Benoit. But getting to know him was not great. Cena treated Michael Tarver “like crap”. Cena had unlimited power in the WWE. He could make or break young wrestlers no matter who they were. He felt that he could stand toe to toe with John Cena on promos and in the ring. He felt he was not as good as Punk or Daniel Bryan. Cena did not shake his hand on some occasions. There was the chair incident at a PPV where Cena hit Michael extremely hard. He had past injuries which made him a bit vulnerable, so he put his arm up to protect himself and Cena broke his arm with the chair shot. Cena was not careful and didn’t take care of him. After the match, you shake everyone’s hand, but Cena did not shake his hand after that match, but just walked away with a laugh. Michael felt slighted at that. Cena asked him about the arm but Tarver told him it was fine, which Cena laughed at again and then walked off. Michael thought that Cena should have remembered that he was once a rookie as well, and forgot where he had started. Michael said he was targeted as the guy with the bad attitude from the beginning. That carried over and stuck with him throughout his tenure with the company, which he called very powerful a number of times. Michael noticed this early on. He feels he did everything right, practicing, promos, showing up early, but it was all for naught as he was labeled a bad guy early on.
Jack asked about Vince McMahon and Nexus merchandise, and why did Vince say that the merchandise wasn’t popular. Tarver didn’t know why that mattered. He pointed out that the nexus were heels. He said that nexus merchandise did sell. The days of the generic babyface were over, and the Nexus was something people wanted to see, a bunch of ass-kickers.
Did he feel that Cena beat them too often? Yes. There could have been a lot more done with the Nexus. CM Punk didn’t need the Nexus, but the reverse was true as well. The Nexus didn’t need CM Punk. The Nexus angle was the hottest angle in a long time. Why were they not at Wrestlemania was another question Michael had for WWE. He pointed out that they beat up Undertaker and Ricky Steamboat, so why not kick The Rock, The Miz, and John Cena’s ass at Mania?
Gene the Drunk called in with a question. How did Michael Tarver feel about the old generation’s opinion that the new guys didn’t know how to work and didn’t understand psychology? Tarver felt that a lot of what the older generation did just couldn’t be done anymore. He understood that you had to tell a story, but things simply weren’t the same in this day and age. Gene also wanted to know where the best rats could be found, but Michael said he was engaged before he got to WWE. He did give Tampa, Florida a shout out for having the most rats.
Taso the Greek called in and asked about independent promotions and TNA. Michael has been in contact with TNA people, and he would go if they want him. He also mentions Ring of Honor as a place he would like to work. He mentions going to Japan and work for New Japan. He wants a match with Nakamura and Yuji Nagata. There was always a chance that he could go back to WWE as well. He wasn’t sure if he would ever want to go back, but he felt he was more seasoned now so he would be in a better position.
What was the reason he was given for being let go? Johnny Ace told him simply that they had nothing for him. The WWE felt that he was unhappy; his relationship with Steve Keirn also wasn’t good. He wasn’t getting opportunities, he was hurt, so they let him go with the idea he could one day come back. Michael felt both relief and regret.
Why did Darren Young get the boot so early out of Nexus? Michael had no idea. He didn’t really question why either because WWE is the biggest player in the game and that was pretty much it. He did feel Young was the most well-rounded guy in the ring out of the entire Nexus group. Did people think Young looked like John Cena? Yes, it was unavoidable. Darren was a classy guy and a smart person but Michael didn’t know why he wasn’t used. They did mention the resemblance on TV and backstage.
CM Punk and Nexus? Michael can’t say either good or bad. He felt they could have brought back the original Nexus. He liked the Wade Barrett / CM Punk chemistry. He did a little fantasy booking with Punk and the nexus, with his main point being the Nexus was a huge and successful angle and it could have had legs for a very long time.
Jack tried to find out who was the RAW GM. Michael had no idea and doesn’t think there was any plan at all.
A question from the board was asked about what the talent thought about the NXT show and the silly stuff they did. Michael said that everyone thought it was entertaining.
Mike Higgins called in and asked how Michael Tarver broke into the business. Tarver started training in 2000 in Ohio, got good, and showed potential. He worked his first day in the business in a 3-minute squash match. He then started working 3-4 nights every week. These days he is working on his music and his ministry.
Nikhil asked what was the plan or angle, where Michael Tarver was hanging out in the back on SD! with a phone. Michael said he was supposed to be recruiting for a new stable, possibly. He wasn’t quite sure where they were going with that angle. He did feel that the fans wanted to see him and his appearances did generate interest. Michael Tarver thanked the fans. He loved working in front of thousands of people. At the moment he is working on a hip-hop religious album, his ministry, and even playing basketball abroad. He is also writing a book. He talked about how his kids were the most important thing in his life, however, not the WWE. Wrestling was a vehicle for him to do good things in his life.
You can catch the whole audio show at iyhwrestling.com.
Neal Jones contributed to this article.