Tyler Reks at the age of 33-years-old decided to retire from WWE on August 21st, 2012 to spend more time with his family.
The grappler from San Francisco, California came through the WWE’s FCW developmental territory along with the likes of, Jack Swagger, Ted DiBiase Jr, Drew McIntyre and current World Champion Sheamus. Reks made his WWE television debut in 2009 on the ECW brand and also enjoyed spells working on SmackDown and Raw.
We caught up with Reks to talk about sharing a ring with the Undertaker, how difficult it was to retire, his new business, and of course the dreadlocks.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
A buddy of mine named Rick Bassman who owned Ultimate Pro Wrestling in California, but I knew him before he opened UPW and the reason we became good friends was because my wife owned a personal training centre and he owned a gym a couple of miles away but they decided to team up as business partners.
One day he called me and asked what I was doing, and I told him I had just been surfing and sitting at the house. He told me there were a bunch of scouts at his gym from WWE, I had never stepped foot in a ring before but I went down and had a look.
When I arrived Mike Bucci and Johnny Ace were there along with around 40 other guys trying out, so I had no idea what I had walked into. Mike grabbed me and a couple of guys, stuck us in a back office and they just told us what wrestling was all about. They liked our looks and thought we were marketable, they then sent us for tryouts at Deep South, which is where I got my first taste of professional wrestling.
I loved it, wanted to pursue it, so I trained at UPW for a little under a year and kept going to shows and finally, it was at the Staples Centre. Rick had set up a meeting with Johnny where I got a chance to talk to him about what my goals were and it was pretty much a done deal. Due to my dedication to training and that I was willing to move to Florida to be near FCW, he signed me right then and there.
Who were some of the wrestlers that inspired you to get into the sport when you were growing up?
I was a fan when I was younger and then during high school, I spent a lot of my time with my head in the books and didn’t really have a lot of time for TV, and at one point as a teenager, my parents pulled the plug on cable for three or four years so wrestling just fell off my radar when I was about 15.
Before that, I was a huge fan and begged mom and dad to take me to SummerSlam and let me call in on the Hotline, but they were just shaking their heads at it.
I was a massive fan of guys like, Hulk Hogan and Macho Man, then there was the Undertaker and the Big Boss Man and they just scared the crap out of me whenever they came on TV. My brother and I would wrestle in our room and jump off the top bunk onto each other.
You came through WWE’s developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling with guys like Jack Swagger, Ted DiBiase Jr, Drew McIntyre and Sheamus. You also held the Tag Titles and Heavyweight Championship, what was your time in FCW like?
It was great, but at first, it was a culture shock for me because I was coming into the industry from the corporate world. I felt very out of place to start with, nervous, it is one of those things when all eyes are on you and who is this new guy that doesn’t know anything who’s been given a shot when there are a ton of guys who have dreamt of this since they were very young.
Once I had got over that and people figured out I was a nice guy and that I really cared and wanted to learn about the business, everything went pretty good.
Tom Prichard is a great coach, and along with Steve Keirn, Billy Kidman, Norman Smiley, they were the four big influences training me and teaching me what I knew before going out on the road.
It was a great time and the likes of Swagger, Drew, Sheamus were all there and they are all my buddies. FCW was like college for wrestlers and I basically had a nice college stint with all those guys, it was a good time, it was hard work with a lot of dedication but I enjoyed it.
What was it like making your WWE television debut on the ECW brand in 2009?
It was such a cool feeling to go out in front of thousands of people compared to the largest crowd I had been out in front of at FCW, which was about 1,000, and we got that size crowd twice but the typical crowd was between 10 people in the audience to 200.
I had never been on the road to do house shows; I had never done a dark match. It was just one day Yoshi, Abraham Washington, Sheamus and myself were told we were debuting that night on ECW, we got told the show would be a platform for us to showcase what we could do and to take the ball and run with it.
What a rush it was to step out on stage for the first time with all the music, lights and just to experience it from a point of view that most people never will. It is a very cool feeling to walk through the curtain out onto that stage and look up at the crowd and even if you’re not that big a star everybody’s going to look at you, it’s ingrained in my memory and I will never forget it, it’s an incredible feeling.
The arena you made your ECW debut in I understand had a significant part in your retirement?
Absolutely, It was Fresno where I made my debut. I didn’t actually realise it until I was pulling up to the arena but I had made up my mind the night before on the drive from SummerSlam to Raw the next night that it was going to be my last day and by just complete fate or complete coincidence or whatever it is you call it, I made a full circle on where I debuted is where I retired.
You joined the SmackDown roster between 2010-2011 and featured on numerous PPV’s during that time, what was your time experience of SmackDown like?
Going over to SmackDown marked the dawn of the new Reks with the beard and the chest hair, the silent killer character we had been slowly working on over the past year. I had been off TV due to injury and it takes that long doing dark matches and house shows to really begin to feel a character and have it grow and come out.
It was awesome to be out one day expecting another dark match and for Arn Anderson to walk up to me and tell me I’m on the show tonight, I thought cool, what have I got six minutes, and Arn said, ‘no you’re on SmackDown and you will be taking part in the Bragging Rights PPV.’
I was just left shell-shocked, but it was such a great feeling and it was a lot of fun working with all of those guys like, John Morrison, Big Show, Rey Mysterio, Edge, Alberto Del Rio and CM Punk.
You were then drafted to Raw in 2011 and formed a tag team with Curt Hawkins, what was it like working with Curt?
The funny story is we were sitting there at the draft and we were on Smackdown having a good time, John Cena has just been drafted and Curt and I along with a couple of other guys were pretty sure we were going to be part of the supplemental draft just because of our positions and lack of TV time.
The way we found out that we had been drafted to Raw was with Mark Carrano coming over and telling Curt and myself that we weren’t needed for SmackDown and we could go home. We were the only ones sent home for whatever reason and it was ultimately the company saving money by not bringing us to TV.
But at the time we didn’t know and Curt and I just looked at each other and thought this can’t be good, they are sending us home and no one else is going home and on Friday we were just expecting the call to say we were done but thankfully it never came.
From that point on we started teaming in dark matches and we had great chemistry and we just need to keep doing what we were doing. Curt is a phenomenal worker and he is so under-rated, someday he will get the credit that he deserves. He is a lifelong wrestler, he always will be and it is all he has ever done, I look at him like a young Shawn (Michaels), his brain thinks differently to anybody else I know.
It seemed like there was going to be an interesting angle involving you and Curt as dancers after Booker T told you to “Step it up”, what was that about?
It was all about the opportunity to have a character for once and actually get a real opportunity where instead of just throwing us out there with nobody writing for us and no long term plans, there actually was a plan, there was a story-line, there were lights, camera, action so to speak.
We got the machine behind us for once and it was an awesome opportunity but it just came at the wrong time for me, I hadn’t even decided when we started it that I was leaving.
It was a phenomenal opportunity and I’m so happy and so glad it happened, it was really cool to take part in a production meeting and talk to Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn and tell them about the stuff we had been working on.
We took dance lessons, and were showing them the videos and telling people what we planned to wear and Vince gave us what we needed and was keen for it to work, and that is a cool thing to hear from the boss, especially when the boss in Vince McMahon.
What was the highlight of your career with WWE?
It happened right before I retired. It was when the Brothers of Destruction came back on the 1000th episode of Raw. I had been in the ring with Kane on several occasions and he is a terrific guy, whilst Undertaker and I have a good relationship outside the ring. I treated The Undertaker like a veteran should be treated with respect, and I respect every moment he spent talking to me because there is so much value behind it.
To have just had the opportunity to go out there and bump for the Brothers of Destruction was awesome. Going back to when I was a kid and talking about how I use to fear the Undertaker whilst watching him on TV, the guy is a legend. I have said it before and I will say it again, as I’m getting ready to take one of his punches I’m telling myself not to smile, but that was the attitude I had, I was having a great time just being in the ring with The Undertaker. it was short, it was quick and it was definitely the highlight of my career.
You parted ways with WWE on 21st August, how difficult a decision was it to leave the company?
It wasn’t a difficult decision at all, having a child will change the way you look at everything and my focus was on my family. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to leave and go on the road and not being able to see the changes in my daughter whilst I was on the road. I didn’t want to miss things like her taking her first steps; I didn’t want to miss another moment.
The decision was really clear; I had that four-hour drive to Fresno from SummerSlam. I’m a Christian and I spent a lot of time praying, talking to god on the ride over and I really just felt like he spoke to me and said, ‘if you want to step out and be with your family, I’ll provide for you’, which he has.
I was more concerned telling Hawkins than going into management and saying ‘I’m done’. Curt and I were really onto something and had been given an opportunity and I was throwing in the towel. But the guy is so cool, when I told him he didn’t even care about himself, he asked if everything was okay with my family and was just putting me before him. Curt is just such a nice guy and telling him was the hardest part for me.
What is the life of a WWE Superstar like, how hectic is the schedule?
For me living on the west coast in California, most of the shows are mid-west and east coast. The minimum flight I had ninety percent of the year would have been three hours to Dallas, Texas and then all of our shows are eastbound from there, I would usually fly for between three and six hours.
If I was doing house shows and both TV’s I would leave on a red-eye Thursday night, so that would leave San Francisco at around 11pm but San Francisco is a two-hour drive from me, so I would have to catch a shuttle to the airport which meant I had to leave my house at 7.30pm.
Usually the next day in the morning I would land at the destination, get a hotel, crash for a couple of hours, do the house show and then we would drive to the next town which would usually be a three to five-hour drive after the show. We would try to get eight hours of sleep, get breakfast, go to the gym and then do the show. That would go all the way through the weekend, Monday Raw TV, Tuesday SmackDown TV. I would get home Wednesday morning then leave Thursday night, I would be home a day and a half.
What was Vince McMahon like as a boss?
I never really had any dealings with Vince on a daily basis, I had a conversation with him in his office when I was debuting on ECW where he told me what he expected and he asked a bunch of questions about me and my family and if I had any questions for him, it was about five to ten minutes in his office and I was a little timid.
A year later when I went over to SmackDown as the new Reks, the same thing happened and I was a little bit more comfortable. If I saw him walking down the halls, I would stick my hand out and get a handshake and just ask him how he was but that would be about it, that’s basically most people’s interaction with him throughout their entire course in WWE unless they’re are a top guy. Vince is a very busy guy.
You are only 34-years-old, would you ever consider wrestling again for either WWE or TNA?
Not at this point, I think that my wrestling career is done. I’ve been offered a number of opportunities on the independent circuit and I’ve passed on all of them. I’ve come to the realisation that I’m 34-years-old and I can’t wait around all my life hoping that something big happens, and that was my opportunity in WWE.
I waited around hoping for too long and I now have a family I need to take care of and look towards making a college fund for my daughter and doing whatever I can to make sure she is provided for in the long term and even providing for myself in the long term.
Do you still watch wrestling on television when you are at home, will you go to live events when WWE pass by?
I‘ve got to be honest, since I’ve left I’ve not watched it once, partially because leaving a family is emotional and I just don’t feel like I want to turn it on and see the people that I use to talk to on a weekly basis. I don’t really talk to them anymore because I know what the schedule is like and I’m quite busy as well.
Triple H called me for the first time since I left the other day and we had a great conversation and he told me the door will always be open for me to come backstage and say hi to all of the guys when they come into town.
How is the hair going down in the new work environment as the owner of Local Marketing 2.0?
It hasn’t been an issue, yet. A lot of my clients are what you would call virtual clients so they don’t actually see me; we tend to do our business over the phone and emails. There are some people who know who I am and know my story, I have had quite a few clients who have read my interviews and want to work with me because they are fans.
Right now the hair is an asset, it sets me apart and makes me different from any other person in the business world. if a guy like me walks into a room full of suits and they all have the Alex Riley haircut, and then there’s me with my suit on but I have dreadlocks to midway down my back, I’m going to catch their attention. As long as I can entertain them when I talk and use my career in WWE as leverage to say this is what I did and this is where I’ve been, I’ve talked to 10,000 people in my underwear and boots, but I’m capable of a whole lot so let’s talk business and it’s a good ice breaker.
For more information follow Tyler at @GabeTuft.