Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast
Release Date: February 1, 2017
Guest: Titus O’Neil
Recap By: Matthew Wilkinson
- Titus wished Prime Time Players lasted longer.
- Titus does not think Vince McMahon is racist.
- Batista helped Titus become a wrestler.
- Sam is not scripted on the pre-shows.
- Sam thought the Royal Rumble was brilliant.
- Sam is thrilled to see Ronda Rousey in WWE.
Subjects Covered (With Timestamps)
00:00- Sponsor Ads
13:10-Being An Athlete
33:00-Getting Into WWE
42:10-Prime Time Players
1:03:00-NXT Takeover Philly
1:36:00-WrestleMania 35 Rumors
1:40:00-Rockstar Spud Debuts
1:43:50-Monday Night Raw
Interview with Titus O’Neil-WWE Production
Sam Roberts welcomes Titus O’Neil and mentioned that they’ve spoken recently but this is the first time they have sat down and recorded something in a long time, he wonders if big shows like Raw 25 are when he realizes how long he has been with WWE.
Titus thinks it’s actually pretty astonishing for a guy who didn’t plan on ever doing this at all to have the tenure he has had and see the things he’s seen. Not just at WrestleMania, but small moments on the 800 show or something like that. To see guys come back like Undertaker or Stone Cold to see them come in and out.
Sam mentions WWE’s excellent production and how the Network is a major deal, something that no other company had at the time. He asks what the feeling was when that was announced.
O’Neil hadn’t been with the company that long to see the business aspect of it and saw it as something new and wondered how it was going to work.
Some people were worried about the pay, and deservedly so. But if you have your own Network, that means they are going to need tons of content as nobody is going to sit there and watch wrestling all day long.
They need variety, so Titus looked it as what he could do to make this transition even easier for him as a performer to show himself in a different light, host the show, be a part of shows, it’s been about if the company is expanding how can he expand with it.
Titus pitched a few things, Ride Along would be the only thing, him and Darren talked about how much fun they had on the road and the next thing you know the show pops up and they have never appeared on it.
He wanted to do a thing where because he has so many contacts in sports where he would go to different campuses and talk about wrestling and different stuff.
Being An Athlete
Sam asked how hard it is for wrestlers as they portray characters either using your names or what we believe to be your real names, there is no separation between person and character.
Titus said that wrestlers come with a lot more stereotypes than most sports, there were issues in the past with rock and roll lifestyles and things like that. He tells people all the time he works with some of the best and most respectful human beings, they understand they have a multibillion dollar company to represent and they are all building brands as independent contractors.
Sam also mentioned the element of wrestlers not being taken seriously as athletes because of scripting, and asked how his other athlete friends view that, Titus speaks at a lot of NFL campuses and they all have a genuine respect for it. They don’t understand a lot of it and they ask a lot of questions which he used to do to with Batista.
The respect level of what we do, the number one question is when your days are off and he tells them we don’t have an off season, we aren’t just doing it in the United States and they are like “wow.”
You don’t know we are doing a show in New York then flying across the country and driving here and there in successive days. It’s hard for people to see me in television and then we are in Tampa now.
Sam asked if it was tough to realize, when there is WrestleMania and then Raw is tomorrow. There is never a moment.
That’s one of the driving points to the performers, Titus might not have done anything last week but he could go in today and be the next Tag Team Champion, nobody ever knows. If you keep plugging away and plugging away eventually you get good opportunities and hopefully take advantage.
If he comes to work and they say he has a match, great, if not Titus will go to Dot Com and see what he can do on social media.
He doesn’t come to do nothing and eat catering and pay for a hotel, he has two sons at home and is missing football games and birthday parties, he would be a fool not to come to work every day and find something that he can do to make himself better and enhance the product.
The number one thing he decided was just to have fun at this job, it’s going to be physical at times, it will be fun and upsetting at times, he will go through this rollercoaster because he is in the entertainment industry.
For Titus it has always been about consistency and it doesn’t matter if he was a WWE Superstar or a head football coach he is going to be who he is, period.
Fortunately, who he has become due to when people have invested in me he has been able to change a lot of lives and help a lot of families and to him that is being a role model. For Titus, it isn’t about being a WWE Superstar, it’s about being a good human being.
Sam asked who invested in Titus as a young person and he said that the Florida sheriff’s youth ranches did, he went to a boy’s ranch at 12 years old and a lot of people told him he would be dead or in prison by 16 because he got in trouble, his mom was raped at 11, they were homeless at times.
It taught him to learn how to work with what you have, that’s the only option you’ve got. A lot of times his mom was faced with are we going to eat tonight or do we leave the lights on?
It’s very unfortunate for society to be the way that it is, unless it affects people economically it’s not an issue or if it’s not personal it is not an issue.
For instance, his kids go to school in the Florida area, if it was freezing cold and the heat wasn’t working and they got forced to go, the majority of people would raise hell but in the neighbourhood next door that happens all the time and they say someone should do something about it.
Well, if it’s wrong for his kids then it’s wrong for those too, it’s what tripped him out about the NFL protest thing. If you’re going to protest you should have done it when he first took a knee.
Titus’ kids are very involved in a lot of the stuff that he does, from a charity aspect. They understand his background and where he came from, he has always wanted to be to all people what the stereotypes of an African male are not.
He didn’t want to be viewed as uneducated, in jail or an absent father so his kids understand. They have three rules in his home, the first is love and respect everybody you come in contact with, you may not agree with them you may not even like them but you love and respect them.
Number two, they don’t use the word can’t, firstly from a biblical sense and on the flipside, he was told his whole life what he can’t do.
Number three is always be your best, it might be a C or an F on a test but if you gave your best then nobody can be disappointed.
Getting Into WWE
Sam asked how he ended up getting into WWE, as he was a fan on a certain level but never saw hiself getting in so how did it happen?
Titus said that it’s no secret that Dave Batista is like a brother to him, one of his closest friends and he is still the same dude, which is why they remain close, he is an uncle to his kids, nothing has changed since he became an actor.
One day he was driving to South Tampa to get some dress shoes which was down the street from FCW, Titus happened to drive past the building and Dave had told him about it if he ever wanted the chance. He poked his head in the back to take a look at the place and two weeks later he was in the building and taking bumps to train.
Sam mentioned how he then ended up in NXT just three months into his wrestling career, which had to be tough as that show was so chaotic.
Titus had spoken on numerous occasions in the public, then his first promo he said: ‘If you’re gonna win, make it a win,’ then it was my tagline.
Then he dropped a keg and it wasn’t even a full three months in wrestling boots, it’s like never having played football and then your first day they put you as quarterback.
There were a lot of people at that time who were very rude and didn’t want to help, a lot of them are nowhere near the business now. It’s one of those things where people say does he feel like he made a mistake and he didn’t.
Sam mentions if that is when he realizes this is his life now, is that the moment when he needed to stop making plans like he knew what will happen.
Titus is prepared if he walks into work today and they say they had to let him go, he is going to go somewhere and make really good money, his house is paid off, and he doesn’t need to do this for money.
He feels comfortable, he can make fun of himself, it’s entertainment. If it’s fun to you and the people around you when they watch it on TV that’s the end game. You can be the best singer in the world, if people are not following along with you then you won’t do it for long.
Prime Time Players
After that Titus went on to do the Prime Time Players with Darren Young and to Sam, he thinks that team did more than anybody expected it to do, they were adding their own bits and it felt like things they made up and did.
Titus said when the app first came out they would make sure they did something, every week. A lot of people didn’t want to as it was extra work but they embraced it. A lot of times because of the app they would get it onto Raw or SmackDown. It’s embracing whatever is given to you.
The first time they broke up, neither one of them were very happy about it at all as they felt like they had so much more to offer.
They felt like they could have filled the void that team Hell No left when they split up. That’s a piece of his career when people ask what could have been different, he would say that. They won the tag titles so he is in the history books and got to do it with one of the legit good guys.
Sam asked what happened with his 60-day suspension. This was way before he had any information a lot of the internet showed you holding Vince’s arm and then you were gone.
Titus said he touched the boss in an inappropriate way at an inappropriate time, he is not too sure. He literally legit said ladies first as he was trying to let Stephanie go, he didn’t think it was a big deal but it was.
The number one saying at the time was Vince is racist, that is not the truth. If he was racist then Titus would not be part of the company, simple as that.
Quite honestly, he and Vince have a very good relationship, he has provided a living for him and many people before in all walks of life, from backstage people to people sitting at home in their living rooms he has provided an escape.
Secondly, does Titus feel like it could have been handled differently? First of all he probably could have done something different himself, who knows, but at the end of the day that happened two years ago and he is still here today.
The wrestling business has had its issue with race and its portrayal but that is entertainment in general, there are people fighting right now for equality in Hollywood, for women and minorities, it is only an issue when people want to make it one.
It was never an issue about him being black or white, when he talks to his kids about it he says hey, this is life, you take the L and you move forward.
Titus and Vince had a conversation when he came back and some people call him crazy but he genuinely love Vince he is a good man.
Sam mentioned that Titus Worldwide has brought him to this whole new place. Titus said he wanted to do this two years ago, he has always wanted to have his own press conference, it started with these press conferences were only one person of the media would show up.
When they told him, they were putting Tozawa and Apollo with him it was awesome. He has an extreme amount of respect for them and knowing how Apollo is backstage he was like this is what you need to do on camera. Now adding Dana Brooke to it has been a lot of fun.
State Of Wrestling- NXT Takeover
State of Wrestling time, it’s that time again where Sam picks the top five stories in the world of pro wrestling this week and we break them down. We are going to start them this week which is number five and that is a weekend recap which is cheating a little as it’s actually one through 10.
He was there in Philly for the Kick-Off of NXT Takeover Philly and the Royal Rumble and what a weekend. So much fun being there as always and pulling everything off.
He has really started to love doing those live shots from the crowd, they trust him now so he’s not scripted in what he says.
Sam definitely realized the tension between himself and Zelina Vega was very obvious but he didn’t realize the tension between him and Samoa Joe was so palpable until he was getting these tweets.
Let’s talk about these shows and the first thing is people asking which show was better, which happens every time there is one of these big four weekends.
There has never been a bad Takeover show but this month’s was amazing and you always tune into these shows and somewhere in the back of your head wondering is this the one NXT is going to lose its steam on and if anything, Takeover Philly was a moment to declare that its back and stronger than ever.
Look at what you have, look who is on the show and not on the show but on the roster and who is about the be on the roster.
It was a card that was so full that Sanity, whilst they were on the show, they didn’t even have a match, you’ve got the Undisputed Era you have AOP, you have the World Title scene, you have the women’s division.
We are not even talking about Peyton Royce and Billie Kay and Kairi Sane, the roster is getting deeper and then you go into the crowd and you see Candice LeRae, you see War Machine and Ricochet and then surprising everyone, EC3 shows up under the name EC3.
If all you had where the guys that were on the roster then that would be one thing, then you get into the people that aren’t on the show and then those who are ready to debut, it’s kind of amazing to see.
Sam loved what went on with Velveteen Dream and Kassius Ohno, the match was great, Ohno never fails. But Velveteen Dream, he is in his early 20s, he has years upon years of main event matches in him, it’s amazing.
Most people far older than him couldn’t make the gimmick work. He stole WarGames, which is a difficult thing to do, but to then come forward and take a story that was thrown together, he shows up and has boxing shorts and a mouth guard on a pillow, he turns it into this whole thing.
It adds this whole new layer to the story of that match that instantly makes people care about it. The match is always going to be good, but storytelling wise it would be easy to not let that happen. It was the right way for Dream to come back.
The Tag Title match was great, the women’s match was an excellent match but he loved the finish. It was about Shayna Baszler who is this dangerous woman but has not had much wrestling experience, who goes against Ember Moon who has loads of experience. She is able to use her knowledge of the ring to win that match, she is so familiar with her surroundings it was really artfully done. Sam went out into the audience and saw the Extreme Rules match which was just brilliant, some of the spots in that match were just incredible.
He didn’t see how they could top that and Andrade Almas and Johnny Gargano go and have what people are already calling a match of the year.
A lot of people were online saying the wrong person won, and Sam whole heartedly disagrees. This cemented Andrade as a super heel and cemented Gargano as the most loveable good guy on the whole roster and he wouldn’t have got that reaction if he had won.
This guy who fought against all odds, he finally makes it and he loses just by this much. Just when it couldn’t get any worse here comes Ciampa, boom. How can you not feel all the sympathy, he gave it his all, his wife is by his side then his former best friend attacks him to rub it in.
Beautiful story and now we can go forward to Takeover New Orleans and hopefully you have a Ciampa vs. Gargano match. If Drew McIntyre is back he can go for the title, but if he isn’t back in time you can easily argue and Adam Cole vs. Andrade match, but you can make the argument Aleister Black is going to get his shot.
Who knows what will happen with EC3 or Ricochet, Sam was surprised to see him in NXT and not 205 Live, it was a brilliant night.
Now, let’s talk about Royal Rumble. Sam was flabbergasted, to watch it all go down, the men’s Rumble match was so artfully done. The Hurricane spot was fun, Andrade and Adam Cole got a great reaction, Rey Mysterio coming out and them keeping that such a secret.
The end of the match was amazing, when it started to separate, John Cena, Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio whilst Roman Reigns, Finn Balor and Shinsuke Nakamura look at each other and you realize it’s the Ruthless Aggression era vs. today’s era and you are like “oh my god.”
And, it gives you this moment when you can see the rub that Balor and Nakamura are getting, three guys that represent this era, it’s those guys.
Then the ring splits up again, you have Cena and Reigns on one side and Nakamura and Balor on the other, you are seeing the story of two guys who have been shoved down our throats against two guys that we want to see, that was how it went down.
It was beautiful. John Cena started working heel, if you have been foaming at the mouth waiting to see him turn heel, watch it again and you will get a taste of it, that was bad guy John Cena, no doubt about it.
It was so cool. Then that finish with Nakamura vs Roman Reigns, it was just so much drama and Nakamura wins and he says he will wrestle AJ Styles and Philly lost their minds.
They gave us back the Royal Rumble, they gave us the match we wanted but were too scared to ask for. Then, on Twitter, Sam said it was the best Rumble in years, which he stands by, and still people tweeted him saying he was a shill and just saying it because the company pays him.
If you didn’t like that Rumble, then he doesn’t know what you are expecting, you have to just admit you are hate watching wrestling.
Some people said why they didn’t do more with The Hurricane, that was just the nostalgia pop. Brock Lesnar retained the title, the two matches in-between the Rumble matches the tag match was a filler and the title match wasn’t a classic but with as much going on it didn’t need to be.
There was a moment when Lesnar got pissed off and started punching Braun in the face, how you can have more faith in him when he is taking legit punches from Lesnar and keeping the match alive.
Then the women’s Rumble match happened, the way it was done was really great. The way it ended and the way the men’s set WrestleMania up, I feel like WWE is getting to this place where they are listening to the fans but still wanting to do what they want to do, it’s a compromise.
The result of the women’s was effective, if Sam had to nit-pick he would have slightly less influence on the legendary women and more on the future, a few less legends and a few more NXT women and heavily concentrate on the main roster.
There were too many legends eliminating current superstars, they shouldn’t be able to be beaten by legends as they should be in their prime.
Sam thought Jaqueline was excellent, the performer of the night was Molly Holly. It was awesome to see Lita and she had a scary moment with the moonsault. Trish Stratus was over the top good, and he hopes the Bellas are going to come back for good.
It felt like Trish had not missed a step, the moment with Mickie was really cool. The finish was super cool, in Sam’s head he is thinking this match is last, we could see Asuka point at the sign, or you do Rousey.
Nobody saw her all day, she was very well hidden. When people found out the women were on last people started to wonder, but it really is fun when you are backstage and the performers are discussing it, you see the fan in people at that point, people who work for WWE wondering.
Sam wasn’t so against the idea of Ronda coming out after #30, costing Asuka the match and Nikki eliminating Brie last. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see Nikki vs. Charlotte and it may have screwed the finish to a historic match but he wants to see Asuka vs. Rousey.
Her winning was perfect, there are many undefeated people who get eliminated from the Rumble but to see someone who has the longest streak ever, and to also win the Rumble, nobody is ready for Asuka.
WrestleMania 35 Rumors
Number four is WrestleMania 35 rumors. Johnathan Coachman, this isn’t on his list but he is back on Raw. It will be interesting, Sam really liked Booker T, he is just an entertaining guy, he is interested to see the chemistry between Graves and Coachman.
Rumor has it, as of this recording that WrestleMania 35 is going to be once again at the MetLife Stadium, New York/New Jersey. You can’t do Takeover at the Barclays, you would have it in April and August so maybe they will do MSG.
It would be really cool, just call in Takeover Madison Square Garden. Sam’s preference would be to see that, it would be a cool iconic thing and it would be special for all the guys.
Sam is happy about it as it’s in his hometown, it is interesting that they are coming back to Stadiums so quickly, we are back to New Orleans four years removed, MetLife would be six years removed, if we are doing an outdoor stadium he would prefer it in warm weather.
Christopher mentioned no European PPV, Sam gets that people would be annoyed by it. He doesn’t know if they can do a WrestleMania in a foreign country, but they could do Survivor Series in the UK somewhere.
Rockstar Spud Debuts
Story number three, Rockstar Spud debuts, Drake Maverick is the new GM of 205 Live. He is going to be great, he is a choice nobody saw coming and he is a super entertaining guy and that show needs that.
WrestleMania still feels a long way off to do a 16-man tournament, but it is some kind of through line. For once we have a GM who can actually wrestle, that has gone away as so many legends who can’t wrestler are used, this is a very valuable thing, you want to build tension with a GM that you can pay off in a ring.
Monday Night Raw
Story number two, how good was Raw this week? First of all, it moved, two unbelievable matches. John Cena vs. Finn Balor was such a good match and Balor came out looking like a star and Cena needed a victory.
Balor looked like someone who can hang with the big boys which he wasn’t doing a month ago. The match of the night was Asuka vs. Sasha Banks and he wishes that people wouldn’t point out the dangerous part of the match.
If you are responsible for the safety of the talent but if you are watching at home it isn’t your job as a fan to point out if things are dangerous.
As much as Sam doesn’t want to see Sasha get hurt he wasn’t like she shouldn’t be doing this, it’s wrestling. He loved the match and felt like in that match, Sasha was letting some heel tendencies show and he doesn’t think we are far removed from the Legit Boss.
People have forgot how good she is when she is a bad guy, we got lost in this real world and her dreams coming true, she is the Legit Boss.
Story number one is all things considering Ronda Rousey and first of all Sam didn’t mind that she wasn’t at Monday Night Raw, she made it clear she wasn’t coming in for WrestleMania, she was coming to be a full-time wrestler and this was her priority.
He is interested to see how this works; will it be a female Brock Lesnar or is it a full-time deal? Sam is sure she has got to do some training before ‘Mania and he doesn’t think there should be much physicality before it as that will make that match the attraction.
Once we know what she can do that’s when we can get to know the wrestler Ronda Rousey. He thought the introduction was done well, she couldn’t wipe the smile off her face and it is happy when you are happy to be there to not smile all the time, but that said he hopes we see more of a badass Rousey that smiles less.
On the subject of the criticism, Nia Jax and Nikki tweeted about her saying negative things, implying she is taking attention away from a historic moment, that it’s a storyline.
Everyone is aware of what they are doing, he doesn’t think Nikki Bella is going rogue, she loves WWE. There is some story that is a slow burn that is being told that the women’s division has a gripe with Ronda Rousey and that’s a great story.
Sam doesn’t know if The Rock is going to wrestle but people are talking about a Braun and Ronda vs Triple H and Stephanie match. He loves that she is in WWE and can’t wait to see where it goes.
This was a very interesting episode as Sam got plenty of time to talk to Titus and they covered ground that you wouldn’t normally hear Titus discuss in other interviews. Learning about his values, upbringing and family life was interesting as well as getting his full thoughts on his suspension. There was plenty of ground to cover in the State of Wrestling this week too which was very well done.
About the Writer
Matthew Wilkinson is from Bradford, England. He’s been a fan since the late 90’s with the Attitude Era and was then heavily invested again through the rise of CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. He can be found on Twitter at @MC_Wilkinson1
For more, check out Sam’s interview with Eric Bischoff, Bruce Prichard, and JBL.