August 20, 2011
Gary Mehaffy
@GaryMehaffy on Twitter

An interview with Michael Tarver

Weíll get back to your WWE career later, but what have you been up to since your release in June?

Iíve been very diligently working on my album; itís a Christian hip-hop album Iím working on, and itís broken up into two instalments. The first will be titled ĎThe Armor of Godí and will be released this year and the second will be titled ĎManic On Fireí and will also be released this year. Other than that Iím working in a church travelling, training, travelling to different venues speaking to youth at churches, working independently in the (United) States as well. Enjoying life!

Were you a fan of wrestling growing up?

Yea, I was very much a fan. I was a big fan of WCW/NWA. Actually, itís funny, because I didnít really get into the WWF product until early 2000ís Ė after the merger pretty much. I was aware of it, I was just such a fan of WCW, NWA, Dusty Rhodes Ė who became my mentor, which was pretty cool Ė Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, all of those guys that made the NWA special, StingÖ..that was something I enjoyed watching growing up.

Who trained you/broke you into the business?

I actually started training in 2004 in Akron, Ohio. A friend of mine introduced me to this independent promoter, as I was fresh off of my, somewhat, professional football career. I was trying to play arena football here in the States and he probably just thought that I could do it. A guy called John had an independent company in Akron, Ohio called UWC and I started training there. I ended up training with some really good friends of mine; a guy called Josh Robertson and a guy called DeMont Williams pretty much finished my training and taught me everything that I needed to know at the time. Further along I worked with different people; I worked with 2 Cold Scorpio for a short period of time in Philly before I got my contract, giving me advice and stuff like that. Those are the guys that were pretty instrumental in my beginnings.

You have said some stuff in interviews, on NXT and on Twitter about this, but I was wondering if you could let everyone know a little about your background and how things were for you growing up?

Sure. I grew up in a very strict Christian household. My father was, indeed, a professional fighter and my mother was a preacher. We trained very vigorously my entire life. My mother was a potential Olympic sprinter in High School. It wasnít like I had anywhere to run, I couldnít make any excuses, we were expected to be athletes. We were a very close family; my father worked very hard his entire life. I watched him play in the NFL for the Denver Broncos and get hurt, then I watched him start his boxing career. He sparred with a lot of the greats. Lennox Lewis was one of the greats that he trained with. I had a very strict upbringing, very spiritual based and athletics based. I played football, basketball, I wrestled in High School, I boxed, ran track and fieldÖ..very, very busy!

You signed a WWE developmental deal in 2008 Ė did you see this as your big break in the business?

Yea, I would say so. I didnít ever see that coming. When I first started, in 2004, I didnít really have any ambitions to make it to WWE or anything like that. I thought it was unattainable. The more I started training and the more I got into the business of sports entertainment/professional wrestling I started getting pretty good at it and I decided to send a tape to Tough Enough in 2005. The irony of it is actually pretty funny! My goal was I wanted to go to TNA! I thought that would be it for me. Independently I got my first break in Philadelphia working for Tod Gordon - he and Paul Heyman were the began the original ECW as you know Ė he and 2 Cold Scorpio and Sandman gave me my first break in Philadelphia in the ECW Arena about 6 or 7 months before I got my contract. It was a nice snowball effect up to getting signed with WWE.

How did you find your time in FCW?

Oh man, I was excited. Living in the States, there are certain parts of the United States that a lot of Americans really, really like to go Ė a lot of them go for the weather. Iíd always wanted to live in Florida; Iíd never really been and I hadnít travelled much. Iím from the mid-western part of the United States. Getting an opportunity to go to Florida was exciting. Originally I was under the impression I was going to Louisville to go to OVW, as I was there for a week to do my trials and stuff. It (Florida) was amazing, the weather was amazing, the women are amazing, the experiences are amazingÖ was a great thing. The honeymoon period didnít last too long though! (laughs) It was very hard work but it got more rewarding as time went on.

You went through a couple of different names when you were in FCW and then they settled on Michael Tarver. Was that because of the boxing background?

Originally when I got to FCW I didnít have a name necessarily, I was just using my actual name. There was already a guy there named Charles Evans, and my last name is EvansÖÖ.itís a funny story. My second actual week in FCW we would run these weekly shows at a bar in Newport Ridge, Florida, which is about 45 minutes north of Tampa, that Steve Keirn would organise to get us ring time and get us practice in front of crowds in a hostile environment and I noticed the way that he fans were reacting to Alicia Fox, because sheíd been in a match that night and Iíve always been very comfortable talking. I approached Steve Keirn and told him if you let me do a promo I can get a lot of heat from this crowd. He didnít believe me but he said ok and made a couple of phone calls and said youíre on, and challenged me to actually do a promo right there. I went up ad interrupted the show in only my second week there. No-one knew me and I got all kind of heat from the crowd. The point from the story was I had to actually change my name of the fly! I couldnít use my name, so I came up with Tyrone Jones. With WWE and their rights and business dealings, theyíre in the business of entertainment, so certain properties are owned by WWE, one is the character youíre playing. So, we were going through different names, seeing which one fit the most, and obviously being boxing themed as thatís my background. Sometimes names change or people debut and you have to change your name, things happen like that, and I eventually pitched Michael Tarver and they liked it.

You were part of Floyd Mayweatherís corner team at WrestleMania 24 against the Big Show. How was that experience?

That was absolutely amazing! It was my first week on the job! I got my contract officially signed in writing March 6th, 2008 and two days later it was my birthday, ironically. Nice birthday present, right? I actually finally moved to Tampa that week, March 25th, which was a Tuesday, and that Sunday was WrestleMania. I got a call saying there might be a possibility that I might have a spot on WrestleMania. At the time Iím naÔve, Iím thinking ďWhat?!Ē and then Iím like ďOk, what do you want me to do? Security or something?Ē as I had no idea what it would be. So I showed up Ė I was in my first week at FCW meeting everyone Ė and we went toÖÖthey have a lot of operation the week of WrestleMania, itís the biggest week of the year. I got to sit down and speak to a lot of creative who explained what I would be doing, and it just blew my mind! I got to ride around in a limousine, I was with his entourage, hanging around with them all day long, I met Snoop Dogg, I met John Legend, I met Kim KardashianÖÖ.it was crazy! I met tons of people, it was amazing, the whole experience. Big Show was great to work with; we had a lot of very important parts in that match. Obviously, we had to help Floyd Mayweather get through a wrestling match. He did an amazing job. He was so excited about making it the most spectacle we could make it, as far as entertainment value. He was amazing to work with, and Big Show is a legend, so it was easy to do.

You were on the original season of NXT in 2010 Ė how long before it started were you actually informed that you would be on it?

The creative and administrative personnel of WWE came to FCW and they informed us they were starting this new show, that they were actually planning a reality show. They didnít have a name for it yet and they told us that it would most likely be called NXT. They were still going through licensing things to make sure they had the proper rights to the name. We were excited about it. I was to debut on SmackDown, so I didnít know what to think, but after 2 Ĺ years in FCW I was ready for something different. We were informed of that and then not much later we informed of the first 8. Thatís when I learned I would actually debut. It was very exciting and I was starting to build momentum in FCW finally after 2 years of grinding! I felt like I was starting to go in the right direction.

Were you given any good advice during the season?

Dusty Rhodes gave me a whole lot of advice. He acted as my mentor personally and was giving me advice on how to handle myself on camera in sticky situations. We were kind of warned that we would be put in sticky situations, that it would be something based on spontaneous reactions. The season was probably the most successful because they had a better grasp on what they were to do. The show had its own uniqueness and successes. The show was a great idea and I was working with an acting coach personally who gave me advice on how to handle myself on TV. (laughs) It was fun.

You returned as part of Nexus - you must have seen this as a huge opportunity?

Yea, it was amazing. None of us had any idea what that would become. The way NXT ended for me I was realistically discouraged but I was also kind of fired up, because I knew that I could see where my ship was going, what direction it was going. So I decided to turn the boat around, put myself in the driverís seat and light it on fire! I was at least in control but in doing that you learn a few things on how to make noise in a room full of people. What that means is I learned quickly how to stand out. My theatrics on NXT, the stuff with the t-shirts, there were certain things I would do to make sure you wee always looking at me, even though there were 8 of us standing there. Most times it would work, sometimes it would work. When Nexus came along, and that decision was made Ė wow! It was an amazing thing, running out on Monday Night Raw and feeling that energy, doing what we didÖÖ felt like it was part of history. It was something that can never be taken away, that I will always cherish.

Do you think that WWE dropped the ball in a way with Nexus, especially around the SummerSlam match when, I wouldn't say you were squashed as a group as such, but the prevailing hope was they would give Nexus the win and build them up as something huge but they pulled the rug out from underneath them very quickly?

Ok, Iíd put it like this Ė I wont say that they dropped the ball, because it was successful, but I wont be political, Iíll be realistic. They hit a serious of foul balls! Right off the gate they hit a home run but then they started striking out. I personally believe the SummerSlam match should have went differently. I also personally believe that each individual member of the Nexus, we were strong based on numbers we produced with our season of NXT. With having the advantage of it being the debut season and it being something the WWEís never done before, we were already history in the making because of what WWE had created us to be on NXT. When the Nexus was formed and the decision was made to go forward with it, it was something that was different from the NWO, different from the Four Horsemen, different from DX, different from Main Event Mafia or any other faction, because it was a group of rookies.. guys that you donít know what they can do yet. The problem with it was they didnít focus enough energy on making everyone in the unit as strong as they could to make the unit even stronger. To me itís something thatÖÖ..look at WrestleMania. Thereís no reason why the Nexus should not have been on WrestleMania. One of the biggest stories ever in the history of the business, as well as WWE, was never on the biggest show in the history of the business or WWE! They pushed it very hard, which they should have. In pushing it, they didnít push it correctly. Iím not saying Iím unhappy with what happened with me Ė back then I was, now I understand. I really believe they could have done a lot of different things with the individuals in Nexus to make it stronger and make these guys the future of the company. They were ready made superstars to change the face of WWE.

You were written off TV in October when you injured your groin. You resurfaced this year in a few backstage scenes. What was due to be the storyline behind it?

Well, the reasons why I was taken out of the Nexus Ė there were a few reasons behind the scenes, I had amassed a bunch of injuries. My groin was torn, I had a torn calf, I had a bone bruise in my left knee and I had a fractured elbow, which has been made famous! (laughs) With all of those things accumulating I was doing my best to work under those conditions, but they felt it necessary to take me out of Nexus, which I didnít agree with. But things change. I resurfaced on SmackDown. It was a very interesting thing, because the idea was to focus on what was seen as my biggest asset, my ability to talk. I always felt like I was as good as anyone else they had there in the ring, I just never rally got the opportunity to show it. At the same time, who cries over spilt milk? I did the best to take what they gave me and to work with it. The idea was for me to appear mysteriously. It showed the WWE Universe was still interested in me as a character, it created a lot of buzz. A lot of people thought I was going to be the anonymous General Manager, but basically what I was doing was scouting talent. Why it didnít go anywhere, I donít know. I did everything on my part personally to make my bossí job easy. I was scouting talent and I was looking to build a stable and from there Iím not sure what the intentions were, but thatís why I was seen randomly speaking to certain people.

Iíll not say itís a sensitive subject, but you mentioned the infamous elbow fracture.

(laughs) Itís alright!

You may not be able to go into much detail, but what exactly had gone down do you think that caused that to happen?

Oh I can go into great detail, thereís NO problem! I donít mind talking about it at all. What happened was Ė I canít remember the Pay Per View, it was earlier on in the Nexus storyline (Fatal-4-way PPV). Wade Barrett had received his title shot, he was in a match with 5 other guys. John Cena and Randy Orton were included in those other guys. The idea was once we saw that Wade Barrett was in trouble and Randy Orton was getting ready to hit him with the RKO we all went down and surrounded the ring and make sure that Randy Orton got distracted and Wade Barrett would win the WWE championship and make Nexus even stronger. It just so happened that John Cena had been thrown out of the ring, and he was on the side of the ring where myself and David Otunga were. Be that as it may, we were prepared, David Otunga and I, to take chair shots. It just worked out perfectly he (Cena) was there. We had already been made aware we were talking the chair shots tonight. Itís ok, weíre professionally trained to take them and so on. As the situation progresses, we jump up on the apron and I looked at David Otunga, we looked at Randy Orton and he looked at us and I hear the first chair shot, which went to David Otunga first and I was like ďWow!Ē He drops down as was part of the storyline and it came to time to take mine. I received the shot, and it was the hardest chair shot Iíve ever taken in my life! I dropped down and Iím writhing in pain. I had a bad experience on an independent match in 2005 where a guy hit me with a couple of chair shots, and one of them caught me on the back of my head and Iíd been handicapped and unconscious for 45 minutes. Thank God Iím ok. I was nervous about taking a chair shot but itís John CenaÖ as Iím laying there I see him hammering David Otunga, taking at least 1 or 2 more chair shots, and I was under the impression I was only taking one. Thatís something you just donít freestyle on. None the less, some people do! Iím like, ok, I gotta get outta here. (laughs) Iím getting ready to run and I see a chair coming towards my head. So I raised my left arm to protect myself because I wasnít really in the position to take it safely, and it connects with my left forearm and I felt it break immediately. The pain was amazing. I grabbed my arm and began to run. We all ended up on the entrance, and as I remember we were running out of there and I had dropped to my knees and Justin Gabriel grabs my arm. He says whatís wrong with you and I said my arm was broken and he was like ďWhat???Ē He said ďAre you serious?Ē and I as like ďYea!Ē So we went to the back and Iím behind the entrance and everything and Ďm in tons of pain and Iím angry! I knocked over a trash can or something. But you pay respects. After the match, especially someone of the magnitude of John Cena, you shake their hand and you thank them for giving you the opportunity to be in that situation with them, or else I wouldnít do it for nobody! But at the same time, Iím a man, I have to protect myself in work Ė itís my job Ė so I was angry. Anyone would be angry if someone took liberties on them, but I decided to wait for him to shake his hand when he came back through and keep moving on. So I reached my hand out to him as he walked past me and said thank you very much and he just kind of looked at me and kept walking. So Iím standing there with my hand out thinking to myself ďAre you kidding me?Ē Iím angry and he makes about 5 more steps, looks back over his shoulder and laughs and goes ďHowís the arm?Ē It took everything for me not to attack him. I just said ďItís fineĒ and he giggled some more and walked off. With the addition of a few other conversations that night, because of what happened to my arm, backstage that was pretty much the end of the story. Truthfully, John Cena and I are not the best of friends. We were never the best of friends. I have nothing against him but I canít say he has nothing against me either. I wonít accuse him of it either. I know that John Cenaís a businessman, and he is the business of WWE Ė he has carried that entire company for a while Ė he is the main focal point, and I respect that and I understand that being in the position that I am, not where he is. Once again who cries over spilt milk?

I was talking to Chris Masters last week off the back of his release, and he was saying it was ďcompany restructuringĒ as opposed to ďcreative has nothing for youĒ. What reason did they give you for your release in June?

I had a very good conversation with the president of talent relations, actually. Him and I were having a lot of dialogue up to that point, because I was planning for my debut, and to get back on TV, as anyone is in that position. What I had done differently was I had spent a lot of money. I had gone to a professional videographer here in Florida where I live. I went to the trouble of doing a bunch of cover shoots, getting a bunch of merchandise made, getting my own commercial vignettes done Ė having a professional package to hand to WWE, ready made for TV. We were told that up to that point they were restructuring the developmental process on how they were going to debut the talent, the best example of which were Kharma and Sin Cara. We were told that was the angle they were going on, so I figured that WWE are still interested in me, based on everything that I do still works and they never really got to see and are curious, so what better candidate than myself? So I went to all the trouble and drove myself to TV tapings and basically barged into Vince McMahonís office and handed him a DVD of it! I have a very good relationship with Vince McMahon. Everyone on the creative team, I was handing everyone a copy! It didnít matter if they were carrying food! I was hustling, basically, until I got my face back on TV. I was surprised when I got the call but I wasnít surprised when I got the call. Regardless, I knew that I did everything that I could do. What I was told was they didnít really have any plans for me in the immediate future. It was nothing bad or I didnít do anything wrong or anything like that. The doorís open to one day, possibly, go back to WWE. If they call, they call, if they donít, they donít. Thatís basically what I was told. A lot of people donít go to that kind of effort, but I did. I got good advice and I went to a lot of trouble to put together a ready made production to give to the powers that be. Just put it in and press play Ė Iíll do the rest! Thatís what talent should do, but it didnít work for me.

Are you hoping to go back to WWE, head to TNA or concentrate more on the music side of things?

Iíve definitely been focussing all of my energy on my ministry and music, my spirituality and my life, my relationship with God and things like that. I still wrestle independently and I do some travelling and speaking. I focus on ministry work, I focus on missionary work. Iím planning to go to Costa Rica to do missionary work for a week to play basketball against their national basketball team. And acting as well, but wrestling is something I will always continue to do. I just started my training back up, so Iím going to get in the cage and get a few fights! Thank God that I made it as far as I did in WWE so that itís something that I can use. Never say never I guess. If they call me again theyíll get a completely different person at the other end of the phone. I know a whole lot more of what to do than first time around, Iíd be a much more valuable employee or asset, but a much more dangerous asset as well.

Do you have anything youíd like to say to your fans?

Sure. I always appreciate it, statements good or bad. Itís just nice to know that people care and itís nice to know that people pay attention. I appreciate people saying that I have talent, seeing things in me that obviously they werenít supposed to see! This whole experience has been life changing!

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