By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Life after WWE and returning to the independent wrestling scene: “My story is very different. You can’t forget about me when it comes to Darren Young/Fred Rosser and WWE because I was the first openly gay WWE Superstar to be signed with the company. So you can’t take away that story and you can’t take away the difference that I have made in a lot of people’s lives since coming out. But the independents is where I started. When I started in 2002 (and a lot of people don’t know I started in 2002) I grinded on the Independents. I was scooping ice cream during the week and wrestling on the weekends and I did this because when the tryouts would come up I needed to make the tryouts.
“When the WWE was in the Northeast and they needed an extra, I had to be there. But I did the independents from 2002 to 2009 consistently and in 2009 I did a paid try-out with WWE and nowadays you don’t have to do a paid try-out you get invited to the Performance Center in Orlando and you try-out. In 2009 I spent $2,000 of my scholarship money and it was like my last resort and out of 75 guys and girls from all over the world I beat them all out. I was like a maniac in the four day tryout we had and I earned my contract with WWE on May 4th, 2009. I’m not that type of guy that went from the football field to the ring. Again, I grinded on the Independents and ultimately I got signed in 2009.”
Being paired with WWE Hall Of Famer Bob Backlund prior to his WWE departure: “I had done autograph signings with Bob Backlund well before Titus (O’Neil) and I broke up and one thing about Bob Backlund and I is when we do our autograph signings we do them standing up and we like to get personable with the people because standing down is for lazy people. I’ll sit down when I’m an old man. He’s energetic and I’m energetic and I thought that when I’m done teaming with Titus I’d love to be mentored by him. When the time was right I wrote up a storyline and I had some images to show Vince.
“The most intimidating thing about Vince McMahon is his office door so when I was ready to propose this idea to him (because I proposed it to him) nobody else did. I knew it would work. I had the visuals and I had it all written out and we looked at it and he was amazed by it. He called Bob personally and asked if he would want to do this storyline with Darren Young/Fred Rosser and Bob was for it. We started filming the vignettes in Stamford, Connecticut and we did have to redo them a couple of times because we needed some bells and whistles to the stuff we were doing but eventually we brought it to TV and the storyline started to get legs behind it. You can go through my social media because I posted tons of stuff with Bob and you can hear the crowd’s reaction and they were getting behind it and they especially did in my feud with The Miz.
“When I first met the Miz years ago, I couldn’t stand him. He was the loudest person in the room but fast forward to working with him helped me so much in that storyline. The promo segments, the wrestling matches, and he was such a great guy. He was actually for me beating him for the Intercontinental Title at Battleground and of course like all heels he could take it back the next day or a couple weeks from now but it is all like giving a dog a bone and Miz was all about saying to give the title to Darren (Young) and then I’ll take it back from him. We are storytellers and I don’t take it seriously but it is unfortunate the people that are under Vince McMahon… didn’t have my back and so I guess you’ve got some favorites and not so favorites and I guess I wasn’t a favorite to someone under Vince and eventually it got kiboshed.”
When WWE decided not to put the Intercontinental Championship on him: “I’d be lying to you if I said it doesn’t bother me because it was a storyline that I created and I knew it would work. The fans did get behind it and I’d look at Vince and be like this has really taken off and I am so happy and I’m so energetic about it. But again, I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t bother me because it did bother me. To win a singles title and be by myself on my own terms would have been amazing. It is what it is and you’ve got to just keep moving forward.”
On finding out about his WWE release after doing an appearance for the company while injured: “I had just done media with them. I was at a basketball game and the next day on a Sunday I had got called up by (Mark) Carrano and he gave me my release. I thought it was surprising, but I had already made the move from Tampa to L.A. in August and I had got released at the end of October so I kind of knew and I had a feeling in my gut that I know nothing lasts forever. My fight is much bigger than in the ring and that is why I continue out here in California and all over the world to do my advocacy work.”
Other topics include working for UWN Primetime Live and NJPW on NJPW Strong, his relationship with Titus On’Neil, being the black John Cena, and more.
You can listen to other shows apart of the TMPT Empire including Shane Douglas’ Triple Threat Podcast, Taking You to School with Dr. Tom Prichard, Talking Tough with Rick Bassman, Taskmaster Talks with Kevin Sullivan and the University of Dutch with Dutch Mantell.