Taz was a WWE commentator for eight years after injuries ended his in-ring career. Despite positive reviews as a color commentator, the transition wasn't easy for Taz as he explained when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"I had a lot of fun doing it and when I transitioned from the ring to the commentary desk, it was actually a hard thing to do. I didn't want to do it but Vince McMahon felt it was the next chapter for me. He said we need someone else that's a little younger than Jerry Lawler and you have a unique personality and New York slang that's a little different than everyone else we have," recalled Taz.
"Vince said to me, 'I need you to be good at this [laughs]' He comes over and goes, 'Taz, you're doing good with the commentary and Kevin Dunn told me what you're doing on Heat and it's great.' Then he looked right at me and goes, 'I need you to be REALLY good at this.' So, a little pressure!"
Taz added that WWE did everything possible to make sure he excelled at the job including sending a private car to his home on Long Island so he could practice at Titan Towers in Connecticut.
Something all WWE broadcasters have to deal with is Vince McMahon in their headsets. Taz discussed how he was able to manage McMahon's voice while he was talking.
"Once I was on SmackDown he would let me get my sea legs under me. He understood the importance of you and your partner getting chemistry," said Taz. "A lot of times you either have it or you don't have it – Michael Cole and I – but Vince and Kevin Dunn really wanted us to build that chemistry so early on Vince wasn't in my headset that much.
"Over a couple of years when he knew this was a legitimate, strong team, then he would get a little crazy sometimes. Some nights and segments he's chattier than others. But it was never like, 'Oh my God! This is driving me crazy!'"
Taz said the worst part was having to hear Cole and Vince at the same time and how hard that was. He said that over time he was actually able to listen to one person talk while hearing another person talk and he knew Vince's cadence so that Vince could start a sentence on headsets and Taz would finish it on the air.
"He was more helpful than hurtful but there were times when he was too wordy. I'm a firm believer in all announcers need to be produced…In WWE's case it's Kevin Dunn. He's producing in and out of breaks, what graphics are coming up, counting the play-by-play guy into things," stated Taz.
"There's another guy that produces you on the creative end and not the logistics end, and that's what Vince McMahon did for me. I learned more from Vince in my headset. But he would often get upset in a segment cause of the guys in the ring or the ref, and he'd then get on the announcers.
"He was always a little harder on the play-by-play guys than the color commentators because back then the commentators were former champions or former wrestlers. Now the business is different where many commentators weren't champions or never wrestled much. But back then he did have a little bit of a different respect for guys who laced up boots."
WWE is reportedly sticking with three-person commentary teams with their season premieres this year. Taz noted that he prefers a two-man booth.
"I'm a firm believer in the two-man booth. To me it's a better and easier listen. In some cases, a three-man booth is important for example AEW because they're a new brand and there's a lot of stories that need to be told. I think that's important as long as the announcers in AEW can get their cadence right," said Taz.
"I've worked in both but I've always preferred a two-person booth. Everyone needs to know their role when it's a three-person booth. There has to be a lead and you can't step on each other or it will be a horrible listen.
Taz was a part of Starrcast III after turning down both I and II. He explained why he rejected Conrad Thompson and also revealed Conrad's reaction.
"With Starrcast with No. 1 and No. 2, there were so many opportunities where [Conrad] was like, 'Hey, do you wanna come and do this…' With me, I was like, 'Nah, I'm not interested.' He was like, 'WHAT,' recalled Taz.
"The third one, he had to go through a mutual friend of mine to do it. For me, I do so much content and radio that I normally don't go out there and do too much stuff. So whenever I do something, it's kinda unique."
Despite the rejections, Taz considers Conrad a good friend now.
Taz's "The Taz Show" can be heard 2-3 times a week and is available at radio.com/taz-show. Taz's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Taz discusses his potential return to pro wrestling commentary, what he's looking for in a promotion, working with Vince McMahon in his ear, two-man versus three-man commentary teams, AEW vs NXT, NXT's debut episode on USA and more.