WWE producer Tyson Kidd recently spoke with SLAM! Wrestling for a lengthy interview and discussed the June 1, 2015 dark match with Samoa Joe that ended his in-ring career.
Kidd was injured while taking the Muscle Buster from Joe. Kidd talked about how he wasn’t supposed to wrestle Joe that night but last minute changes were made. This would be the first match between the wrestling veterans.
“The night of injury, it was just one of those days where the show was being changed — up to the last minute — but the show was being changed and the next thing I know it’s me against Joe in a dark match,” Kidd said. “I’d never worked Joe before. I’d of course seen him. I’m a student of the game, I’ve seen everybody. But I’d never physically worked him. When we landed on the Muscle Buster, I saw the whitest light I’ve ever seen. I thought it was a concussion for a second. I remember thinking, ‘Man, I did this whole match, completely on the fly, I pulled it off and then I get rocked at the end.'”
Kidd said he believes he had his hands in the wrong position for the finish, which is what caused the injury.
“I have a picture and I think my hands are in the wrong position compared to other ones I’ve seen. I wasn’t able to run through it with him (before the match),” Kidd explained. “I drop, bang, and at first I saw this light and I was like, ‘Ah, man.’ And then my whole body went limp. It felt like it weighed a million pounds. I was completely paralyzed. I was paralyzed from the neck down.”
Kidd described that as the scariest seconds of his life. The match continued as Joe nor the referee had any idea of what just happened.
“We hit, however long it takes him to pin me 1, 2, 3, give it a beat and then I could move my fingers and toes,” Kidd said. “It was probably five or six seconds. But time stands still. I knew because I was being pinned, but in terms of sense of time, it was out the window. If it had just happened and I’m just laying there, I would have had no clue, but since I was being pinned, I know it was only a matter of several seconds.”
Kidd’s friend and then-tag team partner Cesaro then reached to pull him out of the ring, also unaware of the condition Kidd was in. Kidd added, “Cesaro goes to pull me out of the ring and I said, ‘Don’t touch me.'”
Kidd started to regain feeling in his extremities as the seconds passed, but then he experienced the worst pain in his neck.
“I started to regain feeling,” Kidd said. “It was kind of like if you’ve ever been hit in the chin and you kind of feel fuzzy, that’s how I felt after. Finally, the feeling came back. Then I had the worst pain ever in my neck.”
Kidd was transported to a local hospital in San Antonio, Texas. He said he remembers feeling like doctors and hospital staff weren’t taking his injury seriously when he first came in, despite the pain he was in and his detailed explanation of what happened in the ring.
“That might just have been me being sensitive because I was the one hurt,” Kidd said. “I had a neck brace on, but I was otherwise in pretty good shape and I came walking in on my own.”
Kidd said he knew then what was wrong. “I knew my body so well, I knew I broke my neck,” he said.
Kidd underwent an MRI and waited for the doctor to return with an update. The doctor told him not to move and said Kidd’s disc hit his spinal cord, which is why he saw the white light. Kidd was told the injury he suffered is called a spinal cord concussion. The doctor told him “this is really bad.”
“I didn’t fracture my neck, I didn’t break it, but technically it’s actually worse. The ligament holding the C2 ruptured, so my disc hit my spinal cord,” Kidd said. “That’s what caused the temporary paralysis. You don’t have to sever your spinal cord to be paralyzed for life. You could just touch it and be paralyzed for life. There are different situations obviously.”
Kidd was taken to another hospital, which was better equipped to deal with his injury. Doctors there were skeptical about the initial prognosis, telling him that 1% of people survive the same injury. Cesaro was with him and told doctors, “Well, you don’t know him, he could be the 1%.”
Samoa Joe also showed up to check on Kidd at the second hospital as they performed another MRI on the neck. Joe was “pretty emotional” and apologized to Kidd.
Kidd said the next morning the doctor came back in and confirmed his worst fears. “The doctor comes in and these are his exact words: ‘Hey, your wrestling career is over, I’d like to do emergency surgery right now,’ ” Kidd said. “I’m thinking, ‘Man, first off, you need to learn how to speak to people because that’s not how a conversation starts.'”
Natalya, who was in the room with Kidd and the doctor, spoke up. Kidd explained, “Nattie said, ‘Hold on, are you the best?’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ She said, ‘We work with WWE and we have access to the best doctors and surgeons and if you’re not the best, you’re not touching his neck.’ “
The doctor admitted he was not among the best in his field and Natalya responded, “All right, then you’re not touching him.”
Kidd ended up seeing a top surgeon located in the same city where they lived, Tampa. Kidd talked about how he was supposed to be airlifted to Tampa that Wednesday but it was delayed. He wanted to take a commercial flight or make the drive home but doctors insisted it would be a bad idea as the airlift is designed to protect him. Kidd became agitated but that’s when another doctor entered the room and said what Kidd will never forget as long as he lives.
“She said, ‘You have a very, very similar injury to Christopher Reeve, and the truth is your C2 is what controls your breathing. When it hit your spinal cord, you should have suffocated to death right there,” Kidd recalled. “She said five percent of people survive this injury and of the five who do, 99% are paralyzed.”
Kidd also discussed the state of mind he was in after the surgery, when the reality and the severity of the situation set in. Kidd was left at home alone with plenty of time to think while Natalya was on the road.
“It came in waves,” Kidd said. “Sometimes I’d feel great and there were times when I felt like I was in some dark places, bitter and angry, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think that’s natural.”
The short winter days in Tampa didn’t help as Kidd went through some really tough times while recovering. “In Tampa, it’s not that cold but it gets dark early here compared to Calgary. That first little while was brutal ? with the neck brace ? absolutely brutal. I don’t wish that on anybody. I mean I don’t wish any injuries on anybody, but I really don’t wish that neck brace on anybody. There was a while, man?” Kidd said, his voice trailing off.
Kidd revealed that he tried to watch wrestling to help lift him from his depression but it was “super tough” to watch as the combination of wrestling causing the injury and not being able to wrestle again created a tug-of-war between his heart and his brain. Kidd revealed that he started drinking alcohol more and taking less care of himself as the days went on.
“I just would try to fill up my time literally playing video games,” Kidd said. “I have this room upstairs and I would literally be playing video games all night. I wasn’t drinking like a mad man, but I’d be drinking a bunch of beers up there while I was playing and the next thing I knew it was like 7 a.m. and I’m coming out of that room and the sun’s coming up. It was this horrible cycle. And obviously there are people with much worse stories than that. But for me, that was as bad as it got. Physically that was probably as bad as it got.”
Kidd continued to be paid by WWE while he was recovering but a year passed before he knew it.
“Even then, a year later, I was having a hard time getting my body back,” Kidd said. “(It was almost like I was) coasting through life or like I’d lost or had misplaced my purpose in life. I mean I was getting paid every week. That was cool, but I was not on the road. I was used to a very specific lifestyle. Before I got hurt, I was on the road five days a week and then I’d come home for a day and a half. And some of those times, I’d be filming Total Divas, so at some point I was working seven days a week, which I was cool. I loved it. And then you go from that to zero. It’s a hell of a shell shock. It took a long time to kind of come to grips with it. It took a long time to get out of that and be like ‘Okay, I’ve gotta do something,’ but I guess, especially initially, I didn’t know what it was.”
“To all of a sudden go from feeling almost invincible to being temporarily paralyzed to then having rods and screws in my neck and not really being able to move around to seeing my body change, I definitely, definitely, definitely did not feel myself at all. I remember filming Total Divas and we went on this vacation with Mandy Rose’s family. It was August/September and it was hot out and I didn’t want to take my shirt off in the Florida sun. I was so self-conscious. I was like, ‘This is not me.’ I felt like I’d inherited somebody’s almost broken-down body.”
Kidd finally hit a turning point while watching the 2017 Super Bowl. A friend noted that Kidd wasn’t in the peak condition he was once in, and issued a challenge. The friend, who was young and had just started working out, said he would have a better body by Kidd in one year, and would beat Kidd in a bodybuilding contest. Kidd, who said he’s very competitive when it comes to some things, said that challenge is what led to him getting his life back on track.
“I needed something to compete in,” Kidd said. “I know it sounds weird but it was kind of a weird turning point and when I did that hour of cardio feeling like s–t, I was like, ‘Okay, I know I can bounce back.’ “
Kidd is in the best physical shape of his life now. “I do feel great,” he said. “I train every day and I try to eat right as many days a week as possible. But at the same time, I also know that I feel great right now due to staying in shape.”
Kidd thinks back to the few seconds in the ring with Joe, when he was unable to move, whenever he gets the urge to get back into the ring these days.
“When I was temporarily paralyzed, for about five seconds, all I hoped was, ‘Please regain everything,'” Kidd said. “It put a lot of things into perspective. Even though I do feel great right now, there is a chance that if I were to try to wrestle that I might reinjure myself. It might not be in that first match back and may not be in that second match back, but there is a chance.”
“There’s always a chance of (injury),” Kidd added, “but maybe my odds are maybe a little greater that that chance exists and maybe I do something more permanent. I mean you can’t really get too much more permanent than what I’ve got, but it can be a lot worse.”
Kidd said the final stage of his comeback was forgiveness. While he never blamed Joe for the injury and never felt bitter towards him, they both needed closure.
“There’s an unwritten protocol when you hurt somebody,” Kidd explained. “And when I say you hurt somebody, obviously it’s not on purpose, but it still happens. I know I’ve rocked guys before where I checked on them after to make sure everything’s cool.”
“Joe did come to the hospital that night,” he said, revealing that he stayed in touch with Joe. “We spoke that night. We would text throughout the time I was hurt, but I only saw him face to face when I got hurt and when I did see him that night, things were still up in the air with the severity of my injury. He was definitely remorseful and I think we all are when we hurt somebody and when somebody gets hurt under our watch. Stuff happens. We perform at such a high level so many days a week that things are going to happen. We just have to do the best we can to take care of each other and to let a person know that we’re there for them when they do get hurt.”
Kidd added, “My first day back as a producer after two years, once I was out of meetings, he was the first guy who I Terminator-style sought out and found. And we had a very good talk and we’re friends. We get along great.”
Kidd opened up lines of communication with WWE around the same time his friend made the fitness challenge. WWE had continued to pay him but the new communication led to him being hired as a producer.
“I finally stopped being super stubborn,” Kidd admitted. “Once I actually opened up communication with WWE, it made me feel better. I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m an idiot. I should have dealt with this from the start.’ But sometimes we need to go through our stuff to kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Vince McMahon approached Kidd with a proposal once they started talking about how he would return to the company. Vince recognized Kidd’s vast knowledge of the business, his experience and his understanding of WWE, and thought Kidd would make a great producer for the company.
“That was his idea. He thought I’d be good at it or I could get good at it,” Kidd said. “(McMahon) said to me, ‘You’ll be like me.’ “
Kidd wasn’t sure what Vince meant by that comment at first but Vince explained that he gets to enjoy the matches from the monitor backstage in the Gorilla Position, and he gets fulfillment out of seeing the talents do a great job, returning to the backstage area happy with the performance they just put on. Kidd admitted he wasn’t sure about the job at first.
“I didn’t know if I’d be good at it and I didn’t know what all it entailed. I didn’t know if I would get any real fulfillment out of it. But right off the bat, maybe two weeks in, I was a part of a battle royal and I had an idea that Tye Dillinger would be one of the last three guys. I thought his ’10’ stuff was getting over and I thought it would be good and he could have a good showing. I’ve been given those same things where maybe you’re not being super featured but they throw you a little something and then see what happens out of it. The audience was completely with (Dillinger),” Kidd said. “When he came back, he was happy and I felt that fulfillment, which now I’ve felt a million times over. I love my job. I’ve been doing this now almost a year and a half and I haven’t taken a week off yet.”
Kidd also talked about how he’s read tweets and comments from people who say he was never given a fair shot in WWE or “given the ball to run with” in the company.
“I see that a lot, and then of course I’ll see negative comments. The truth is in the middle somewhere,” Kidd said. “I think I did well for myself. In ’06 when I got signed, there weren’t many guys under 200 pounds who got signed and I think I outdid anything I was ever expected to do. I was told many, many times I would never make it, but I knew I wasn’t giving up and I knew I was just going to keep working and keep working and keep working. I definitely appreciate the comments.”
Kidd admitted he will always wonder what could have been, and he does wish his career had kept going. He is at peace with everything that’s happened, and grateful to be alive. He said he’s pain-free about 95% of the time these days. He also said the legacy he leaves behind might be unfolding in front of us now.
“I don’t know if it breaks my heart to say it or not, but I feel like my legacy might be more behind the scenes than it ever was in the ring,” Kidd said. “That feels kind of funny for me to say because I spent so much time in the ring and trying to perfect every movement that I ever did. But I think when it’s all said and done, my legacy might be more behind the scenes than in the ring. I’m so proud of everything I did in the ring. Not every match was a home run, but if you go back and watch my in-ring stuff and watch my career, I’m very proud of it. I think bell to bell, in-ring work, I’d put it up against a lot of people’s work. But at the same time, I think I’ve hit something that’s working for me backstage and working for me with the talent. I think my legacy is being built now and I think it is going to overshadow what I did in the ring.”
Source: SLAM! Wrestling