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.
If you had to relate the One Man Band character to someone else in pop culture, who would you say he has something in common with?
[With] the whole One Man Band character, I was wanting to do it more like I'm a walking concert type instead of it being like I can play everything. I would probably put him together with someone like a party animal, a guy who wants to have a good time like Charlie Sheen or something — a wild man.
I've got a strange question for you: Where do you get your leather pants you wear nowadays? They're a great part of the character.
[Laughs] Ah, man, there's going to be more to come, too. Don't worry about it. Y'all sit back and enjoy it while we just get it made up and done.
Now, are they from a costuming department or do you have a special store where you get your leather pants?
Oh no, they made it from scratch actually — [women] named Teri, Sandra and Julie.
When you're turning up the heat on being a bad guy, is there any person you're channeling? Is there somebody you've run across that you're really trying to take the energy from and put into what you're doing?
Naw, man, I don't try to be anybody. I don't try to mimic anyone. I just try to be myself. I'm just being me out there. If I'm mad, happy, whatever the feeling I'm feeling, that's all me that you're seeing.
Do you have any strategies, theories or secrets when it comes to being a good villain because you can get the crowd to really hate you?
Honestly, no. If they say something to me, yell at me [with] “Wendy's,” “Carrot Top,” “Stupid,” whatever, I turn around and just fire it right back at 'em. I guess they're the type of people that like to run their mouth, but when [threats] get run back, they can just holler from a distance. But yeah, with me, man, I just roll off of them. You're either gonna love me or you're gonna hate me, but you're always gonna remember me. I can say that much.
Does being hated as a character ever affect you as a person? It's one thing to do this once in a while, but you're going around getting booed every night. Has someone ever said something that's gotten through to you?
No, not really. I'm guessing there's a few things they could probably say. Twitter is the worst, actually. They can just talk behind their keyboards, but then again, [with] some things that they like to say, they say it to your face and [would] have their jaw knocked off.
What's the most ridiculous thing someone's said to you on Twitter?
That they want to kill my family and stuff.
Oh goodness, that's horrible.
Exactly. You see how harsh that is? It happens, you know. I've had bottles thrown at me, wings thrown at me, all that stuff. If I'm doing that good of a job, it's all good. Whatever.
Do you see much of a future for yourself as a sympathetic character?
Ah man, I'm unpredictable. You never know. I'm just going to leave it at that: I'm unpredictable. Honestly, if it happens, I'm looking to have a good time doing it.
I want to talk about a few moments of your career in WWE. What's your most vivid memory of the Nexus invasion in 2010? If you have to think of something that really pops through for you, what is it?
That no one had a clue, and that's the truth because we didn't even know what was going on until 30 minutes before. No one had a clue. They just told us to go down there and make sure we destroy everything, so we did.
What did you do afterwards? Did you celebrate?
Of course we celebrated. What do you mean? We just made an impact that no one's seen in years. People still talk about it today, so [it's] pretty good. I don't know, there might be a reunion one day.
Well, I'm expecting it to happen.
You never know.
How do you feel about the way all those story lines involving the Nexus ended: the Nexus changes, the New Nexus, the Corre and all that? When it was all wrapped up, how'd you feel about it?
When it was all wrapped up, I just felt like there was a lot more mileage in some parts that we could have got out of it instead of ending it the way it did. Everyone said and everyone will keep saying that it ended way too soon. That's the story of Nexus: It ended way too soon.
You could be the guy guiding it. You could make any one change in the way the storyline unfolded. What's a specific thing you'd do?
We would have won SummerSlam . That's what would have changed. We would have won SummerSlam.
Back when you were tagging with Justin Gabriel around that period, there was also a following online about this bromance you guys had going. (See an example here.) Have any thoughts on that?
Ah, you know, there are some sick people out there. [I saw] some of the stuff that people drew of me and him — just the wild stuff [of] what their fantasies were — and I'm just sitting there with my mouth dropped to the pad of the computer, like 'Are you kidding me? What?' So yeah, you already knew that answer! I mean, come on. [Laughs] But yeah, there's some stuff. Some people, they really get into it, I guess you could say. [Laughs]
What was the weirdest thing you saw someone make or write about you?
Honestly, I really can't say that. Just use your imagination. I'm in a PG company. I can't really open my mouth that way. You almost reeled me in on that one.
Going back to the Legends storyline, you had interactions with all these guys who were really important to the business. Is there anybody that stands out to you that you had a really good experience with or even a really bad experience?
Honestly, the whole Legends thing leading up to Raw 1000 was honestly awesome. I'm literally in the ring with the guys I grew up watching. It was honestly one of the best things that happened to me in WWE. It was just one of those things like, 'Holy crap, I'm wrestling Vader. I remember when him and Flair and Sting used to go at it.' 'Oh crap, it's Sid Vicious. Are you kidding me?' 'Cyndi Lauper busted an album over my head, and that happened years ago.' It was a great feeling, and I'm glad they picked me to do it. But out of every one of 'em that I've ever worked, I would have to say Bret Hart [is the best]. Still today, he communicates with me, and he's actually a very good friend. He's helped me a lot with things to do, things I can't do, things I should do. He has a great mind and has done everything in the business. Getting in the ring with him was a childhood dream, too. I never thought it would happen, and it did. Putting the Sharpshooter on me in Calgary was just awesome.
Did you have any guidelines when it came to working with Bret since his health isn't so good nowadays?
No. It was all whatever, wherever the wind took us. There wasn't really nothing holding me back or anything. It was just whatever he wanted to do. I just sat and listened.
How about the Three Man Band? Who came up with that idea?
Well, I wanted to create a band leading into Raw 1000 to get the Legends back, and they said, 'No, we ain't gonna do that.' So next thing you knew, they came up to me a month or two later and pitched the idea [that] I was getting a band, and it was going to be Drew and Jinder. We love hanging out behind the scenes anyways, so we're going to have some fun with this on-camera. Actually, we also play good instruments, too. Jinder's an excellent drummer, Drew can play the bass and guitar, and I'm pretty good at the guitar, too. I have a lovely singing voice.
Are we ever going to hear a recording?
Yeah, of course. We've been working on a few songs: “Hot Mustard,” “Lava Flowing Out of the Volcano.” Drew's going to be working on a love album, too. His heart's been broken a few times.
What kind of music are you into and not into?
Honestly, I like it all. I listen to everything. I just don't like that heavy screaming metal. [Does a hilarious impression that sounds like the guy from Disturbed in a hardcore band] [When] you can't understand what words they're saying, I don't like that type of stuff. I like a song to tell a story, you know? '80s hair bands are good.
Three Man Band is going to go on tour. You're going to have three touring partners. What bands would they be?
Oh, shoot. Probably Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Hinder — and Bon Jovi. Let's say four.
I'd pay a lot of money to be backstage for that thing.
Heck yeah, I think everyone would. Of course, they would have to open for us though. We're going to be the stars of that anyway. People have been wanting to hear what we already got, but we're going to make sure it's perfect before we put it out. Drew always says, 'One song could change the world,' and I really believe that.
Who are the guys you tend to travel with? Is it Jinder and Drew? Is there somebody else?
Jinder and Drew, man. We travel as a band. We've got a little tour bus that takes us around to each arena. We just was on Bourbon Street having a good time at Mardi Gras. We got our little tour bus to drop us off right there in the middle of it like we always do and go out there and have a great time. You'll see footage. Don't worry, it'll be up.
Now, make a prediction. WrestleMania 29 is coming up soon. Where are you going to be at WrestleMania 30?
I'll be around somewhere, I can say that much. You never know. If my 3MB puts out that one song, you might see me touring the States and wrestling on television. I have confidence in myself that even [with] WrestleMania 29, you'll see somewhere on there. WrestleMania 30 you will, too, just like at 28 and 27 you saw me.
Is there anything about you as a character or you the person that people don't know but should?
Ah, I don't think. I mean, you might see the One Man Band out having a good time, and Heath Slater doing the same thing, just turned up to 10. That's me letting my aggression out. The man Heath Miller [is a] family man that has a good time coming home and putting his feet up watching The Walking Dead. There's different sides to everybody, I guess you could say.
Who's your favorite Walking Dead character and your least favorite?
[Sighs] I like Daryl, and I like Rick, but Rick's losing his mind, man. Glenn really proved himself, actually. I like those guys. My least favorite? The Governor. Man, he's such a good bad guy. Of course, if he's sucking me into not liking him, I guess he's doing a good job.
Plus, he shares that name with that opponent from your first match.
[Laughs] Exactly, and we joke about that, too.
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