Dax Harwood and Cash Wheeler of FTR were on a recent episode of the AEW Unrestricted podcast where they discussed their beginnings as a tag team, as well as how influential Bret Hart has been for their careers. Harwood revealed that they did not tag together on the indies, but he revealed details of their WWE tryout match.
“Well actually, on the indies, we really didn’t work together very much,” Harwood revealed. “I was on the coast – he was in the mountains. We knew of each other. We exchanged pleasantries, but we never really worked together. We were at a WWE tryout together. We had a match; we called it the ring. They just told us to keep going and keep going. We just kept going and had an incredible match. I got signed from there, and he went to England, and that’s kind of where our friendship formed. That was maybe 10 years ago or something.”
Wheeler said that was when they started becoming friends and discussed the idea of them being a tag team. He also gave more details about their tryout match going longer than the average tryout match.
“That’s when we really started discussing the idea of being a tag team,” Wheeler added. “We were aware of each other and we had interactions here and there, but that was one of the first times we’ve spent a lot of time together and traveling together. We got to talk and figure out how much we really had in common about our vision of wrestling. We had the match that day, and everybody else ended up having four-minute matches. Scott Armstrong was our referee. He’s like, ‘they want you guys to keep going. Just keep working.’ It ended up being a decent amount of time.”
Harwood then told a story about Dusty Rhodes and his interactions with him in the Performance Center. He said he believes that Rhodes took a liking to him because he was the antithesis of what Vince McMahon likes in WWE Superstars.
“I met him in 2012, and I think he saw this 5’10” North Carolina guy walk in and he didn’t see much,” Harwood said. “I don’t blame him. I don’t blame anybody because I’m nothing special until the damn bell rings, and then I’m special. But he saw that. So, we had a relationship. And also, I think he liked the fact that I was the antithesis of what Vince [McMahon] liked from body-stature, to height, to my Southern accent. I think he really liked that. So, we formed a bond very quickly. I was always asking questions and talking about Mid-Atlantic stuff.
“We cut a promo together. He saw us together and then he told us, ‘don’t ever leave each other’s side. Always be together so everyone sees you together, and they can put in their own mind that we need to have them together.’ Then we had matches, and he would always call us in his office and we’d hang out and talk about Willie Nelson.
Harwood also told a story about Rhodes putting him over after watching a singles match of his. He said Rhodes had called him the best wrestler in WWE, and he called that moment one of the proudest of his career as a pro wrestler.
“And I remember two days before he passed away, I was in the trainer’s room with Sami Zayn, and he walked from the office into the trainer’s room. And he had just watched a match with me and – I want to say, this guy named Wesley Blake,” Harwood recalled. “We just had a singles match for some reason. He walks in and he said, ‘I want everybody to know this,’ and my name was not Dax then, but he said, ‘this guy right here is the best talent this company has.
“There’s nobody else who can have the match that I just watched, and he could work with anybody in this building. He deserves to be a millionaire,’ and he said it right in front of Sami Zayn, and that was one of my proudest moments as a professional wrestle. And then two days later, he passed away. That sucked, but I always have that memory of putting me over.”
Harwood also talked about another interaction with a wrestling legend in Bret Hart. He talked about Hart’s text that he sent to him after they were granted their release by WWE.
“Every time I get a text from him, usually my wife is right beside me and his name will pop up, and his name in my phone is ‘Brett f–king Hart’. It immediately pops up, and I show my wife the text,” Harwood said. “Whether he sends me a happy birthday text or when we finally got our release, granted our release, he sent me this long, beautiful text and it almost brought me to tears, but he told me how proud he was of us.
“He said it’s very hard in this business to stand up for yourself, but you guys did, and you always stood up for what you believed in, and I’m very proud that you did until the day you left. And that meant so much to me. That was the moment that I knew we made the right decision to leave whenever. The king of standing up for himself, the guy who punched Vince in the face, takes time out of his day to text me and tell me how proud he is.”
Wheeler also recalled chatting with Hart during WrestleMania weekend in New York. He said that Hart was giving them ideas for what they should do based on his tag team with Jim Neidhart.
“I know Hall of Fame weekend in New York, he was there Sunday for the PPV, and he called me and Dax over to his table in catering,” Wheeler recalled. “He had this idea for a spot he wanted us to do, and so, we just sat there and just listened to him talk about ways they did it, him and Anvil, and how to make it work and how it has to be executed. ‘I think it only fits for you guys to use it. I think no one else can pull it off,’ and we’re like, [in awe].”
FTR were then asked which Hart match is their favorite. Harwood named WrestleMania 12 against Shawn Michaels, praising the storytelling throughout the match.
“I do, but it’s a controversial one because I think some people either love it or they hate it. There’s no one that says, ‘it’s OK’ – but, I love the 60-minute Iron Man Match with Shawn,” Harwood named. “The storytelling and the physicality, it was kind of like the matches we had with [American] Alpha… And there’s some people who say, ‘oh, that match is so boring.’ In my opinion, if you think that that match is boring, that is your opinion, but in my opinion, you’re a f–king idiot because there are times when they slow it down, but you have to.
“You can’t go a million miles a minute, but then you work these beautiful holds and you get out of these beautiful holds, and that’s the beauty of professional wrestling. They knew when to pick it up, and they knew when to drop it, and they knew when to lay in their lifters and their kicks and their forms. To me, that’s my favorite match ever.”
Wheeler named Hart’s WrestleMania match the year after against Stone Cold Steve Austin. He said he was completely hooked into the double turn at the end of the match, but Harwood said he was not, and said he sent Hart a picture of the Hart Foundation showing his support.
“I think just based off of how I felt watching it as a fan, him and Austin in the I Quit Match,” Wheeler stated. “It’s a beautiful match regardless, but that was a very influential time in my life as far as wrestling and what I wanted to do with my life, and I was a huge Bret fan. I was a huge Austin fan and I bit on everything they wanted me to bite on, and I fell for the switch.
“It’s the epitome of what wrestling psychology and storytelling is, and I was along for the ride every step of the way. I was invested in Bret, and I started to have this ill-will towards him because the way he was acting. And then by the end of that match, I was completely switched, just like they had wanted.
“Not me; I sent him a drawing,” Harwood revealed. “This was a few months later, and I sent the drawing of the Hart Foundation. I was 12. I sent him this drawing of the Hart Foundation, and at the top, I said, ‘Bret, you’re the only person who can bring Canada and America back together. Please do.’ And at the bottom, I said, ‘but if you don’t, I’ll still love you.'”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit AEW Unrestricted with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.