ECW Original Discusses His WWE ‘Makeover,’ The Toughest Opponent He Ever Faced

ECW Original Taz was the featured guest on this week’s episode of The Art of Wrestling. Host Colt Cabana talked with Taz about his pro wrestling career, including his work in ECW and WWE. It’s worth noting that Colt and Taz did not venture into an in-depth discussion about Taz’s departure from TNA, where he worked as a color commentator from 2009 until earlier this year.

Discussing his path to ECW, Taz recalled a trip to Japan with legendary wrestler and booker Kevin Sullivan. He said that he felt like Sullivan took him under his wing and showed him a lot of ins and out with the business but also noted that Sullivan played something of a practical joke on him during Taz’s first match in the Land of the Rising Sun. Taz said he was slated to wrestle his first match in Japan against a grappler he had never heard of named Gypsy Joe.

“I didn’t know who [Gypsy Joe] was and Kevin said, ‘It’s that old guy sitting over there,'” Taz said. “He was like decrepit, rigor mortis was setting in, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God …’ Kevin goes, yeah, you’ve got to be very gentle with him … He’s a very broken down old man, he’s got nothing.”

“And then I go out there with this guy and he beat the s**t out of me. And I’m like, ‘We’re in a real fight now. Now I’m like ‘Frig this old guy!’ I’m punching this guy in the head, slapping him in the face as hard as I can and he keeps coming, bro! … Toughest guy I’ve ever wrestled!”

ECW Original Taz was rechristened as "Tazz" by WWE.

Taz added that at one point, as he was beaten and bloodied, he looked up to see the guys from the locker room watching the match and laughing at him as Kevin Sullivan flipped him off. Backstage, he said that Gypsy Joe hugged him and congratulated him on a good match.

Gypsy Joe, who is now 81-years-old, retired from pro wrestling in 2011 after six decades in the ring. He is perhaps best known to American fans for his match against ECW original New Jack in 2003 in which New Jack savagely (and legitimately) beat the veteran wrestler with a number of weapons, including a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and a chain. Years later, in an interview with Highspots, Gypsy Joe said that much of the incident stemmed from New Jack’s alleged use of drugs before their match.

Taz also recounted his start in ECW, indicating that Paul Heyman personally reached out to him when Heyman was booking for NWA and ultimately brought him into IWCCW. Taz described Paul Heyman as “cool” and “respectful” to wrestlers in the early days “before that thing with the checks,” referring to the period in which ECW had difficulty paying talent for their services.

Asked about his first match at Madison Square Garden, Tazz described his entrance as the greatest moment of his career but added that he knew that when his hometown fans reacted with such great enthusiasm, he was “doomed” in the eyes of Vince McMahon and WWE brass.

Taz with Jim Ross, working commentary while in WWE

“The pop was insane … but the pop wasn’t made by WWE,” Taz explained. “I was around the business enough that I knew they were going to give me a makeover.”

Taz said that he heard the commentary by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler a day or so later and noticed that they had deemed Taz’s signature maneuver as an “illegal choke hold” and seemingly changed his nickname from “the human suplex machine” to “the human wrecking machine.” He said that this was a move by WWE to skirt the intellectual property rights behind his established in-ring persona but noted this effectively amounted to a sensible business move by WWE.

Taz currently hosts his own podcast, The Taz Show, on CBS Radio. In his conversation with Colt Cabana, the ECW Original praised Colt as a pioneer of the pro wrestling podcast show genre.

[Images from WWE via YouTube, Wrestling123, and WhatCulture]