WWE Presents Raw: Road to WrestleMania
$15-$95, 7:30 p.m., Mar. 15. Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main St., Bridgeport, websterbankarena.com
If you're ever having a bad day at the office and need to console yourself with someone else's on-the-clock misery, think of Heath Slater. During a typical day at work, the leather-pants-wearing, hard-rock-loving 29-year-old WWE talent otherwise known as “the One Man Band” deals with thousands of people lobbing boos and insults at him from every angle in person, and thanks to the wonders of social media, a similar crowd can assail him digitally. Still, the guy seems content with his position, and really, he deserves to be since he plays all the notes of a ridiculous, annoying and immensely entertaining wrestling villain just right. The West Virginian born Heath Miller has mastered a clutch of obnoxious mannerisms (chief of which is a tongue wag) and can switch between being a joke and a jerk handily. Now in his third year in WWE, Slater's heel character is gliding along in its prime.
In order to build hype for last summer's nostalgia-heavy WWE Raw 1000 on USA Network, Slater repeatedly ran his mouth and subsequently received beat downs from several retired and semi-retired players including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Vader, Bob Backlund and Diamond Dallas Page. That story line’s true highlight came at its outset when the otherwise kind and harmless Cyndi Lauper visited Raw and smashed a gold record on Slater's noggin. If anyone can make senseless abuse from an '80s pop queen look equally comical and brutal, it's this guy.
As of late, Slater has been guiding fellow nefarious types Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal in the Three Man Band, a faction designed to amplify their leader's most detestable traits by dressing like a cut-rate Def Leppard cover band. Slater will visit Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport this Friday for a WWE Raw live event that finds 3MB challenging current rivals Brodus Clay and “Sweet T” Tensai. Before the show, we chatted with the One Man Band about several topics.
When you first got on NXT, WWE made a promotional video in which you talked about your lifelong interest in wrestling as photos of you with an Ultimate Warrior birthday cake and a Randy Savage Wrestling Buddy were shown. You definitely go back with wrestling. At what age did you get into it?
Oh, shoot, man. Honestly, I don't even remember not havin' wrestling in my life because my grandfather used to love watchin' it. He basically brought me to some independent shows around the neighborhood when I was only like 6 years old, so he's the one that got me into it. He just burned it in my head, and then I grew up just watchin' it my whole life and just always wanted to become [a wrestler].
What attracted you to going into wrestling in particular? Why wrestling versus another sports or entertainment avenue?
I don't know. I guess I was a fan growin' up the whole time. I played sports my whole life: football, basketball, baseball. I used to box. I did a lot growin' up. I just always wanted to become a wrestler. The entertainment aspects, being in front of the people — I've always liked that feeling. I played college ball a little bit, and then after college, I remember sitting down with my mom, telling her I wanted to try wrestling. She looked at me like I was crazy at first, and then I kind of talked her into it. My grandfather helped me out when I was on the independent scene a little bit. Next thing you know, I was down in Atlanta, Ga., and got picked up by Deep South Wrestling, the developmental school there. A buddy of mine named Cru Jones got me in the door.
What was your very first match? I think you started around 2004-ish.
That was around 2003, 2004, yeah. [For] my very first match, I remember one of my buddies had a ring and I had never been trained before. This was before I went down to Georgia to train. We're whipping each other off Mexican-style, like lucha libre, with the right arm and just doing crazy stuff we had no idea how to do in front of about 30 people. It was the time of [my] life. I think that's what really got me wanting to wrestle. Then, my very first match on the indies after I was trained was just clothesline after dropkick after arm drag and headlock takeovers — just the basics — but I remember I was nervous, so nervous, man. You gotta swallow your nerves and everything and go out there and really perform. But yeah, I was so nervous. I was scared to death.
Do you remember the guy you faced in your first match?
Yeah, his name was the Governor. He was from London.
You and retired WWE wrestler Jamie Noble have something strange in common. You're both from Wyoming County in West Virginia. It looks to be a small county of only 23,000 people, and you both made it to WWE. What's the reason you think both you and Noble happened to make it all the way from Wyoming County?
He probably has the same story as I do. There ain't really too much to do where I'm from aside from sports. If you ever watched that movie Varsity Blues, that's exactly how it is down there. Everyone's into sports, and [if you] play sports, you can get away with pretty much anything. I guess he grew up loving it just like I did. There's a lot of wrestling fans down there. It just comes down to whenever you've got a passion for something, it just gets burned into you.
I want to talk about the One Man Band character. Tell me about the mannerisms: wagging the tongue, spreading the arms, shaking the hair, shimmying the shoulders sometimes. Where'd you get those from?
Honestly, man, that's just me turned to 10. [Laughs] That's just me doing my own thing, just going out, having a good time. I am kind of like that whenever I go out anyway. There's a little bit of myself in there, just [with] the volume turned up a little bit.