Matt Striker Talks Being Outed As A Wrestler While Teaching, Signing With WWE, Working WM, ECW

I recently spoke with former WWE star Matt Striker. In the first part of the interview below, Striker discussed being a wrestling fan growing up, wrestling while teaching and getting outed, signing with WWE, how he became a commentator, competing at Wrestlemania 23, ECW and more.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of our interview, where Striker discussed commentating, if Vince would yell at him on commentary, being replaced by Booker T, Vince as a boss, "Macho Man" Randy Savage not being in the WWE Hall of Fame, his WWE departure, TNA and much more. You can also follow him on Twitter @Matt_Striker_.

Also, you can check out Striker in action this weekend as he faces WWE Hall of Famer Jerry "The King" Lawler at this Saturday's Wrestling Under the Stars II at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill, NY. Bell time is 7 p.m. You can also check out a promo from Striker about the match and Lawler's heart attack on RAW in the video above.

Wrestling INC: It's been a couple of months since you left WWE. How are you doing right now?

Striker: I appreciate you asking. I'm okay. It takes a while to get over your first girlfriend or first love so. But I've been filling my time with wrestling and seminars and doing some stunt work and some other things outside of the wrestling world that have been rather rewarding.

Wrestling INC: You were a big pro wrestling fan growing up, how long were you a fan?

Striker: All my life, since I was about six or seven years old. There were times where I didn't follow as closely, but I was always following. It's just one of those things. But yeah, all my life since I was about seven years old.

Wrestling INC: Did you follow everything? Did you follow NWA and WWF?

Striker: My friend, I followed things that people don't even know existed. When I was nine years old I was going to school and talking about Hercules Ayala and Jos LeDuc. People were like, "what do you mean, there's someone other than Hulk Hogan?" And I'd be like, "yes, there's an entire world out there. I followed everything. Everything."

Wrestling INC: Who were your favorites growing up?

Striker: Stateside, I always liked Roddy Piper because he was an antagonist. I liked Eddie Gilbert. I liked The Masked Superstar. As far as internationally, I was always a big fan of World of Sport from England, as well as Japan, so I kind of like a lot of the Rollerball Rocco's and the Marty Jones's of the world. And of course the original Tiger Mask... I just really enjoyed a lot of different styles.

Wrestling INC: It was hard to keep up with international stuff back in the day. Were you involved in a lot of tape trading?

Striker: No, I wasn't a tape trader. A fellow wrestler and I joke around that looking back, tape trading was a pedophile's dream because all you had to do was post an ad in the back of Inside Wrestling and you'd have 12 year old boys sending you video tapes. But no, I was a magazine reader. I read a lot of wrestling magazines and periodicals and stuff. I would just read it cover to cover so I would absorb everything that was there. I didn't really diligently seek, oh, I want to see what happened at WWC this month. Just what's in the magazine this month? Oh, Abdullah and Carlos Colon again? Cool.

Wrestling INC: How soon did you know that this is what you wanted to do?

Striker: Well, I didn't know that you could do this. I didn't know that it was open for people to try to crack into the brotherhood of the business. Once I realized that there was an opportunity to learn the craft, I said I want to learn it. I didn't know how far it would take me.

Wrestling INC: When did you become a teacher?

Striker: Well, out of high school, I was really lucky and my dad was real supportive. I was playing hockey and baseball and my dad was like, "why don't you go as far as you possibly can." I went pretty high with hockey, semi pro level, but living in suburbia New York, it really wasn't that easy. You had to go upstate or up to Canada to really pursue the game at an advanced level. So then my father said, "listen, why don't you just get a degree?" So a few years after high school, after I'd messed around a little bit, I got a degree at about 23 years old and started teaching.

Wrestling INC: Did you ever watch that show, Learning the Ropes? It was a sitcom back in the day with Lyle Alzado and he played a teacher who moonlighted as a wrestler.

Striker: Yeah, it was a great show. It was awesome. I'd love to redo that show now, with me as the teacher moonlighting as a wrestler. We'll get Mr. Belding to play the evil principal. Then we have to have a nine year old student, maybe a male/female brother/sister tandem that constantly help me get to my shows every weekend. That's the Saturday Morning sitcom. Book it, I'm available, let me know.

Wrestling INC: I'd watch it. How long were you doing both?

Striker: Oh boy, four or five years, just about. I was teaching during the day, which didn't really work to me. I was just going in and having conversations with smart kids. A lot of people think that those kids are young; they're not smart. That's not true. On the weekends I was wrestling, with not so smart kids.

Wrestling INC: How did you finally get outed?

Striker: Well I'm still in the closet. Joke. Outed. My students were avid wrestling fans. I went to wrestle in Japan and one student, because of the Internet, saw me and didn't say anything. He was very cool. But a couple of weeks later I had done something with WWE and that showed up on television and that secret could not have been kept. So that's how it kind of all unraveled from there.

Wrestling INC: What was it like when you met with the school board? Did you know what was happening when they asked for the meeting?

Striker: I was fortunate, and then the school board is really good at providing you legal representation. So I was fortunate and had the time to know what was going down. So I got together with my close circle, which translates to my dad, and we sat down and said what do we do here? If they're really going to pursue this and they're going to take your license away, you're screwed. If I resign, I can at least keep my license and maybe something else will come up. That was the decision we arrived at and thankfully it worked out. I got to keep my teaching license.

Wrestling INC: After that happened, it was reported that WWE, I guess because this story got some media, it was reported that WWE saw the story and then contacted you about joining full time. Was that pretty much how it happened?

Striker: Yeah, the credit there goes to the creativity of Court Bauer and Tommy Dreamer, as well as the ability to capitalize the vision from Vince McMahon. Let's bring the kid in. He's hot right now. We're local. We're in New Jersey this week. He's from New York, maybe we can get 15 minutes of fame out of him and that turned into eight years.

Wrestling INC: I know everyone hopes, but did you foresee your career going that long when you signed?

Striker: I subscribe to the saying, "if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans." I never really walked in and said, "okay, I'm going to do this for five years, then I'm going to go do that." Everyday was a gift. Today's a gift, that's why it's called the present. That's how I looked at it. Every single day was like wow, how can I be the best that I can be today?

Wrestling INC: So you started off as a wrestler, and it seemed like in 2008 was kind of when they started transitioning you away from the ring, when they started having you manage Big Daddy V. How did they approach that to you?

Striker: I think they wanted to repackage Viscera and they wanted somebody to be his mouthpiece. Vis and I always got along well and everyone knew that I could talk and be antagonistic, surprisingly, so they gave it a shot. Let's see how this works out. And the first time they threw us out there together, Vis is a great pro, it went on like water. It was perfect. From there, we just began to run together.

Wrestling INC: Were you bummed out at all about moving away from a non wrestling role?

Striker: No, because it was never said alright, you're now a manager. Alright, you're now a commentator. It was just like okay, you'll be managing Big Daddy V on these live events. I always brought my boots. I always brought my trunks, but I also always brought a suit. I always brought my brain. I always brought a pencil. I always brought my ear piece. "What is it I can do for you today, Vince? Oh, you want me to go do that? Okay cool."

Wrestling INC: How did you end up getting the commentary gig on ECW?

Striker: Someone had left, either Mick Foley or Tazz had left or moved to a different show and every Monday morning at the building, they have a production meeting and they address the things that are needed for the next two days of television and they needed a commentator. They needed a hundred things, but Joey Styles raised his hand and said, "listen, I know Matt Striker. I know he'd be good at it. Why don't we give him a shot? We'll try him this week." And obviously they wanted to move on to their next bigger problem, but one week turned into however long because either they forgot about me or I guess I was doing okay enough job.

Wrestling INC: Yeah. So did they give you any kind of training at all before you stepped on?

Striker: No. A lot of it was just kind of guidelines, not really training. A little known secret, I've been doing commentary since I was seven years old, just in life in general, but mainly with my wrestling figures and different things I see. A game I still play to this day is if I'm sitting in an airport, or I'm sitting somewhere, and I'm far away from people, you can see me talking to myself. I'm doing commentary based on what I see. I make up stories for people at the gate if they're engaged, if they're mad. I do it all the time just to entertain myself. So no training was needed.

Wrestling INC: You had received a lot of praise during that time when you were commentating for ECW. Your style did seem to change when you moved to the Smackdown brand. Was that intentional or were you told to change or was it just different broadcasting partners?

Striker: I just think it was a different broadcast. It was a different show. It was a different tone. It was a different audience. So I think collectively, both amongst myself and the company, there was a concerted effort to just, you know, kind of drive a different car. Still the same speed, still on the same road, just drive a different car, a different vehicle. You can see the differences between my style and say, Michael Cole's or Jim Ross's.

Wrestling INC: Speaking of which, did they give you a lot of tips, Jim Ross and Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler?

Striker: Oh yeah. One thing about WWE a lot of people like to say is that people like to keep other people down. People are real protective of their spot. But it's the people that are truly comfortable in WWE that want to see other people succeed, and that's something that I learned from Shawn Michaels and from John Cena, was if you're good at something, you almost want to challenge anyone to try to be as good as you. So Cole and JR would always give me tips and always be watching just to see how good is this kid going to get, because it's a reflection on them. So they were always there to help.

Wrestling INC: During that time with ECW you also wrestled at Wrestlemania 23. What was that like?

Striker: Sometimes I have to go back and watch it just to prove to myself that I was there. It was absolutely surreal to me, but taking myself out of the equation, just to look back and know that guys like Tommy Dreamer and Sandman and Sabu got their Wrestlemania moment, that makes me really proud to, again, contribute to this great business. I don't know if I'm ever going to be the guy that leaves indelible memories in the minds of fans, but I will be the guy that contributed to some of the greatest moments in the last 20 years in one way or another. So, just to be a fly on the wall and to be a part of that moment in history was a humbling, humbling honor.

Wrestling INC: I'm assuming you were a big ECW fan?

Striker: I'm a wrestling fan, so yeah, I liked when ECW first came around. For me, I would watch it at one, two o clock on the morning on the MSG network. It was different. It was renegade. It was rebel and it was just something that changed the business forever. A lot of credit has to go to Paul Heyman and Tommy Dreamer and Sandman, the Dudley Boyz and everyone else that made ECW what it still is today. Not something people overlook. 2013 we're doing this interview, ECW is still relevant. That says a lot, dude.

Wrestling INC: Absolutely. The revamped ECW, you were a big portion of that brand. Looking back on it, what are your thoughts on them bringing it back?

Striker: I thought it was great. I thought it was great because if someone wants to sit on their couch and pooh-pooh and say, that's not ECW. I'm not watching. Then don't. But, there are people who go oh wow. I remember ECW. Cool, I'm going to watch this. Or, oh, I never saw ECW before. What's this? As long as what WWE creates creates a portal for fans to research the past, and to get involved in pro wrestling, it's a good thing. It's easy for the people to pooh-pooh it and say ahhh. Obviously, it's not for you. It's for that one person would would have never known who Spike Dudley was had it not been for the new ECW. Look at it like that.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the second and final part of our interview, where Striker discussed commentating, if Vince would yell at him on commentary, being replaced by Booker T, Vince as a boss, "Macho Man" Randy Savage not being in the WWE Hall of Fame, his WWE departure, TNA and much more. You can also follow him on Twitter @Matt_Striker_.