On the latest episode of AEW Unrestricted, Taz chatted with Aubrey Edwards and Tony Schiavone about his career in WWE. Taz has discussed his WWE debut before and the feeling that he was doomed from the start. However, wrestling at Madison Square Garden was always a dream of his and he talked about fulfilling that dream and talking with Paul Heyman as he was leaving for WWE.
"I had just a few goals in my life and my career. I always wanted to hold a championship at one point, I wanted to make a living in the business didn't care how much it was and wrestle in Madison Square Garden just one time. And stretch Kurt Angle," Taz said jokingly with Schiavone. "I figured two out of three ain't bad. I'm never working at The Garden. Then Vince told me that I was gonna be working at The Garden. I was like, 'oh, there's number three.' Then I told Vince the story. He goes, 'oh, that's great pal.' He didn't really give a s--t. No, but so anyway that night was amazing.
"I call Paul Heyman, and I thanked him. Even though it was kayfabe, he knew I was debuting there, so I just thanked him for my whole career and everything we did in ECW. I know you're pissed off at me. I know you're angry. He said, 'no man. I love ya.' He goes, 'you're gonna kick ass. I'm proud of ya.' It was like closure for me. It's weird. I sounds very soft, but I don't give a f--k."
Kurt Angle got his first taste of wrestling in ECW. Taz talked about Angle's short time in ECW and the incident that made him walk out.
"Shane Douglas, who is from Pittsburgh, had mutual friends with Kurt, who is from Pittsburgh, and Shane was the reason how Kurt was at the ECW show in Philly. That was his first and last ECW show, and that was the first taste of pro wrestling for him, which I guess he liked," Taz said. "Then something happened with Raven and The Sandman and the crucifix in the arena. Kurt Angle saw that. He got very offended and stormed out of the building. Me and Shane Douglas didn't know that was going to happen, and we're yelling at Paul. Kurt's yelling at me and Shane. 'We didn't know. We didn't know.' We're apologizing. F--king mess. It was a whole big craziness. Well, there goes the gold medalist out of the f--kin door because of some stupid angle."
Taz has called his debut match against Kurt Angle the greatest and worst moment of his career. He talked about his reputation for being dangerous after dropping Angle on his head, and the reaction his debut had backstage.
"So when I wrestled Kurt at The Garden, when I came out, like when I heard that pop, I knew I was f--ked. I knew I was doomed. I knew it. I knew it because it was massive, and again, it was before the big craze of the Internet and all that s--t. People didn't know I was going to be there. It was a legit surprise. A legit pop in the world's most famous arena. The reason why I knew I was doomed is because that pop did not come from WWE," Taz said. "I was a made guy before I got to WWE, and WWE, at that time, they'll never admit it and they won't admit it now, they didn't want made guys. As I'm walking out with a towel over my head bad as a motherf--ker, I'm saying to myself, 'oh my god. Shut up. Don't cheer. Don't pop just boo me. Do something just don't saying nothing, even though it was an awesome feeling.
"When I knew I was really f--ked was it was the first match of the Royal Rumble, massive PPV at The Garden, I walk through the gorilla [and] there's nobody there when I'm done with the match. They stretchered Kurt Angle out. Everybody's gone. As you guys know, that's not [good]. Nobody wanted to be near me or talk to me. Nobody. Nobody. I'm like, 'oh boy,' because even though it was my first night in the company, I knew how things worked. Then I was there for another nine years, so go figure."
WWE brought back ECW in the mid-2000s, but the show did not have the same feel as it did in it's original incarnation. Schiavone asked Taz if that was done on purpose. Taz said no and talked about when he realized that the rebirth of ECW was doomed to fail.
"I ended up leaving the Smackdown desk to do color commentary on the rebirth of ECW. You see the ECW guys call it the 'rebirth'. We don't call it ECW. It was Joey Styles and I. It was f--king horrible, and I don't think Vince did that on purpose. I have no agenda to put Vince over. I'm just being honest," Taz said. "I really believe that was Vince's vision for what it should be and would be. He didn't give a f--k. He wanted it to be what he wanted it to be.
"Here's the thing, I knew that thing was f--ked [when] we did the rebirth of WCW [and] we were in Newark, NJ doing a TV, and the announce desk was not going to be the regular announce desk. It was just going to be a folding table with a box and wires all exposed. That was the first one or two that we did. Then we were in I think it was either Newark or Trenton, NJ, I can't remember what town, and I remember Kevin Dunn saying to me and Joey Styles, 'yeah we're gonna change the table up. It looks like s--t.' And me and Joey are like, 'well, no. That's kind of the look. It should look [like that],' and he goes, 'it's WWE's version of ECW. It's not going to look like that.' Me and Joey are like, 'well, this thing is doomed.'"
Schiavone noted how Taz was able to leave WWE on his own terms. Tax discussed why he left, mostly citing the micromanaging of the commentators from Vince McMahon.
"Which was great. I'm so proud to be able to do that because at that time people were getting future endeavored. So if they were to release someone, they would get future endeavored. 'Yeah, we wish Joe Blow the best of his future endeavors.' Not bad enough we're gonna release you, we're also gonna see you the way out of the door. How much of a f--king deal is that? Anyway, man, I just had enough. I was working Smackdown. Technically, I was working only once a week. I was flying on Vince's plane, Michael Cole and I back to New York every Tuesday night after TV not because they liked us, but we had to go do VO's [voiceovers]. So we had to get back to Connecticut. So commercially it would have been a b--ch," Taz said. "My point is they wined and dined me. They treated me great, financially, everything. I had a new deal in front of me, a new three-year deal. They wanted to keep me, and I remember telling Kevin Dunn, 'I think I gotta pump the brakes here. I don't think I'm gonna stay.' He goes, 'what?' He was shocked. He was shocked because it came out of nowhere. In my mind, I was tired of the vibe there.
"I would sit in the rent-a-car and do show prep. I didn't want to be in the building. I didn't want to be around any of them, and there were one or two other guys that would do the same thing. I don't want to name names because one of them still works there, so I don't want to bury them. I just didn't want to go. This went on, no lie, for three months. I just didn't want to go. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to hear Vince in my ear. F--k, I know it's a leapfrog dude. I mean I know it's a dropkick. I don't need you telling me, 'it's a bulldog.' Yeah, no s--t. How many bulldogs have you taken? How many have I taken? Shut up. OK. That kind of sh--t, that kind of micromanaging got to a point where he was not just in my ear but the play-by-play guy were getting it a lot worse than the commentators."
Taz talked more about his mindset at the time of leaving WWE. While expressing how instrumental WWE has been to his career, he said that he did not want to be around a McMahon anymore and did not blame politics as Schiavone had wondered if that was a reason why Taz had left.
"So that was a big part of it just being around, at that time, I'm gonna say it and they gave me to leave the ring and be a commentator and my podcast when it was going full time, I thank them publicly. I emailed Vince privately when I got my gig with CBS Radio. I emailed him, 'without you turning me into a broadcast, I would have never had this,' but I'm gonna tell you right now, I just never said it anywhere else. I'll tell you this. I didn't want to be around anybody named McMahon at that time," Taz admitted. "They were f--king annoying, and it was the pompous, the arrogance. I think things have changed there a little bit. But the arrogance, not politics, the arrogance. That's what I keep saying. That's the adjective that keeps jumping out at me. Just the disposition of that elitist attitude, it got to the point where I was like, 'you know what? F--k off. I'm out.'"
Taz talked about going out the right way and how he gave people a heads up that he would leave. He also said that he offered to work WrestleMania without pay, but since he was leaving, WWE changed their plans on how they were going to use him.
"He said go out, take a week to think about. Talk to your wife. I knew I had the opportunity to go to TNA at that time," Taz said. "I knew. I'm not dumb. I wasn't like, 'I'm tired of working here. I'm just gonna wait until someone else calls me.' I said to Kevin, 'listen, Kevin I'm sorry. You've been really helpful for my career. I appreciate you. I need a break.' He goes, 'OK. Alright, I understand. You're gonna have to talk to Vince. He's gonna want to talk to you personally.
"I did say then because WrestleMania was the next week, I said, 'I don't want to leave you on a lurch. I'm not gonna sign a deal because my deal was up. I'll go to Mania. Don't pay me just take care of my trans[portation]. I'll go in. I don't want to leave you on a lurch. He goes, 'Taz, I appreciate that. Let me go talk to Vince. We might go to a different direction since you're leaving.' That's no problem, and they did. They went a different direction, but I know I rest on my head on my pillow at night knowing I did the right thing on the way out."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.