I recently spoke with former WWE star Gabe Tuft, f.k.a. Tyler Reks. In the first part of the interview below, Reks talked about breaking into the business, if he was ready for the main roster when he debuted, his first WrestleMania experience, his issues with John Cena, how Cena reacted, his Body Spartan fitness book and more.
Make sure to check back next week for the second part of the interview where Tuft discussed getting pushed down the ladder after the Cena incident, wrestlers losing their pushes, the lack of long-term angles, if the creative team asks for their input, Triple H coming up with the Magic Mike gimmick and more.
Wrestling INC: Were you a wrestling fan growing up?
Tuft: Yeah, I totally was. It was before my teenage years. My parents pulled the plug on cable when I was 10 or 11, so I missed the whole Attitude Era. I didn't have time to watch TV in college. I had a huge blackout period from when I was 10 or 11 until I was about 25.
Wrestling INC: How did you end up getting in to it?
Tuft: I met Rick Bassman, who was the owner of Ultimate Pro Wrestling before it shut down. He and I became friends because his gym and my wife's personal training center were in the same area. It was a business networking thing. We traded business back and forth, and then we became really good friends. Then I'm hanging out with Tom Howard and Sean O'Haire and Sylvester Terkay. Then Rick says, "hey Gabe, I know you don't watch wrestling anymore but I have this wrestling school, why don't you come up to the gym, there's a bunch of scouts from WWE- just let them take a look at you. You have nothing to lose." That's really where the opportunity hit and I got back in to it. Next thing I know I'm training, watching tapes and trying to catch up on the past 15 years I missed.
Wrestling INC: Things moved really quickly for you. You started training in 2007 and made your main roster debut in 2009, right?
Tuft: That's correct. I was at UPW for a year, literally a beginner's class. I learned to bump, learned the basics and the psychology. They didn't really do shows due to lack of interest and talent at the time. Then I was in FCW, my start date was February 1, 2008. It was a quick jump from there to ECW.
Wrestling INC: Did you feel like you were ready when you got the call to debut on the main roster?
Tuft: Not even close, man! There's always the question, "are you ever fully ready?" I'd have loved to have had more experience on the main roster on house shows. When I debuted, it was me, Sheamus, Yoshi (Tatsu), and Tiffany (Taryn Terrell). We were just told, "hey, you're debuting." We'd been on the road for like two weeks, and in front of the agents like twice a week and always just with each other. I had no experience outside of what I learned in FCW. Looking back you do that and then you're in the ring with Chavo (Guerrero), MVP, Christian, Matt Hardy - if I'd have been able to do that on house shows and then debut-- it'd be a different story.
Wrestling INC: Your first year you debut, you're on ECW and then you're one of the participants in the WrestleMania 26 battle royal. What was that like?
Tuft: It was cool. Walking out and just being a part of it knowing I'm still real green and fresh to the roster and here we are at Wrestlemania, it was a real cool thing. Then seeing the crowd-- it was mind blowing. I'd never seen a crowd that size. To be in front of that many people at once is such a surge of energy and an adrenaline rush. It was great, I loved being a part of it.
Wrestling INC: Do you remember much from the match itself?
Tuft: Not a thing, dude (laughs).
Wrestling INC: How was it being at the WrestleMania after party?
Tuft: That was a real interesting experience. My wife and I didn't know everyone yet. There were all these green guys who came up from FCW, and then everyone else. We're still bottom of the totem pole and trying to be polite and everything. It was a real nerve racking experience. We got all dressed up and went to the post party, and it wasn't as fun as it probably could have been for us because we were still new. We were on our best behavior, shaking everyone's hand, making sure we didn't say anything wrong. In the following years, it was a lot more fun.
Wrestling INC: I have to ask about your issues about John Cena, and him lashing out at you for using the Burning Hammer finisher. What happened there?
Tuft: Well, we were at a house show and I was working Eddie Colon, who I knew pretty well. We were second or third on the card and I was going over using the Burning Hammer. When I put him up, he's supposed to be looking at the ceiling. It's like a moonsault for him and a sitout DDT for me. I don't know what we did, we were hurrying or something. He didn't land on his stomach, he landed on his back and it kind of looked like an F-U (Attitude Adjustment.) We were like, "oh crap, John Cena is going to be pissed." We got to the back and John Cena was looking at a monitor and was just like, "ah, Reks. You're going to have to find a new finisher." He kind of smirked at me and I thought he was joking. I told him, "yeah man, sorry about that. It kind of got screwed up and we'll make it right tomorrow." I thought he was suggesting we get it right, not to make it look like his.
Personally I think the Burning Hammer-- my version of it-- looks way better than an F-U (laughs). I had approval from Vince and Arn and everybody. In a pre-session Arn asked me what my finisher was, and I said a Burning Hammer. He was like "It's a WHAT?!" and Dustin/Goldust goes, "here man I'll help you with it." Arn asked if he was sure, and we had this whole thing where agents were watching and John Cena was at the announce table and they had me give it to a bunch of different guys. Arn asked if Goldust was okay, and he said yes and it was easy to take. Arn said I was cleared to use it, and nobody said anything.
I used it at Bragging Rights 2010 and John was literally across the ring from me when I hit Santino Marella with it and never said anything to me then. I'd been using it for 8 months on Superstars and everything before all this. I come backstage happy after a good match with Eddie all excited and John grabs me in front of everyone and says, "what do you think you're doing? I thought I told you to get a new finisher." I said, "yeah, I thought you were joking John. We hit it wrong last night. I'm really sorry." He started yelling at me asking who gave me permission to use that. He belittled me, called me an idiot, and asked me if I enjoyed working here. I told him of course I do. He told me, "find another finisher or you're fired." I was humiliated, I was a full-grown man, why can't we talk about this like human beings?
I went outside to cool down, and I was ready to quit, to walk out. That didn't seem like a healthy workplace environment. I came back in and John Cena was sitting there by the curtain and I figured that I'd cooled off and he'd cooled off so I'll try to apologize one more time. I said, "John, I'm super sorry about this. I really thought it was just a miscommunication." He looks over at me and says, "what was there to be miscommunicated? I asked you to stop using that finisher, are you stupid?" He wouldn't even allow me to apologize. Finally I was just like, yeah, I'll find another finisher. He and I never really talked after that. That's the whole story of John Cena making me feel like a six year old boy.
Wrestling INC: Did you have any issues with him before that?
Tuft: No, everything was cool. We never really talked much. We shook hands, and asked how each other were doing. I was intimidated by him because he was the top guy in the company. I came into the business and I saw John every night on Raw like, "this is awesome, I'd love an opportunity to work with him and know this guy," and that never really happened. It never got to evolve past, "hey, how are you sir, nice to see you." We never had any problems before that. We'd only really talked one or two times before that.
Wrestling INC: When did you come up with the Body Spartan book idea?
Tuft: That had been in the works for a while. I'd had fans and people on the roster asking what I eat and it's almost impossible to explain it. So I decide to put it on paper, that way I could just say "it's all in the book." I finished it in like three months, it's just a two hour read. It's a 12 week program, and it has a nutrition program, which is a missing key to a lot of books. That part was written by my wife. We sold 2,000 copies in the first couple days. It's went well ever since.
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second part of the interview, where Tuft discussed getting pushed down the ladder after the Cena incident, wrestlers losing their pushes, the lack of long-term angles, if the creative team asks for their input, Triple H coming up with the Magic Mike gimmick and more.