After being “released” from his WWE contract last week, Axel Tischer – formerly known as Alexander Wolfe – has opened up about his WWE run, the circumstances that led to it, how WWE is looking after him following his release, and what he plans to do next..
Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy in his first English language interview following his WWE exit, the former Alexander Wolfe has opened up about the circumstances that led to him leaving WWE – as well as reminiscing about his run with the company, paying tribute to Nikki Cross, The New Day, The Usos and WALTER among others.
So, we’re speaking two days after reports have emerged that you’re going to be leaving WWE. How’s it going today, Axel?
Going well. So far, so good. It’s the second day after I got the bad message from WWE. Quite honestly, I feel great and I’m quite happy – and I don’t know why. But yeah, now I know why. I’m happy because the view of the whole world is back open and I’m a little bit out of this WWE cloud and I see a lot of possibilities, a lot of opportunities coming towards me. So I’m really pumped for that.
Excellent! That’s great to hear, and I’m going to try and not bring that mood down at all, so we’re going to get into some fun stuff, but first thing’s first, I need to ask about the release. The one the thing for me that was really striking about your release as you were on TV the night before. On Tuesday, was that any sense that the release was coming on Tuesday or did it come straight out the blue? When did you find out?
No, nothing at all. After it happened, it kind of made sense what happened two weeks before. Not storyline-wise, more like backstage-wise. But it was weird. Like, first off, that was one of the most things that stung me, what really sucked was the way it was. I mean, it’s a send off and of course it has to happen somehow but, for me, I get the whole point how they did it and it’s better that then just disappear without explanation.”
I’m happy that I could do it with my best friends. So I had to match against Killian Dain and we get the send-off from two of my mates, which I’m very good and very like… It’s two of my friends. They could give me their farewell and I’m happy for them that they had the chance to give me that. But on the other side, it was very weird. So now I hear a lot of reports, it should have happened three weeks ago and it explains a lot of things why they kind of like stalled the storyline, because usually they plan the match and then Triple H is like, ‘Let’s do another angle. Let’s go with it next week.’
In general, they do not give you a lot of heads up with creative – just speaking with NXT, I don’t know how it is right now up there with RAW and SmackDown – but they don’t give you a lot of heads up, because with on everything, one guy gets tested positive and the entire storyline has to get postponed in the future. But with me was the thing I tried to get a hold of Triple H or even Shawn Michaels, and both those guys are very busy men. Shawn is very busy. Triple H is more busy with his position, and everything. So I kind of told myself, yeah, if they don’t have the time, no need to rush because my plan was originally… I want to move back to Germany anyway because I have a two year old kid and I want him to grow up with his grandparents – and they don’t get younger.
Because of what happened with the pandemic, I was stuck for a couple of times in Germany, so I had the chance to anyway work in NXT UK. So it’s an easier travel for me and also I’m back in Germany. I wasn’t that keen to stay in the States. So I tried to chat with those guys and talk with them. ‘Hey, is there a possibility…?’ But it never came to that. And for me also was the big question, ‘Am I stayed with Imperium or you want to do Sanity 2.0?’ And I never had the chance to talk with them. I tried it a couple of times, but it was like, ‘Yeah, we’ll go back and get back to you.’ No message or answer. And again, both were very busy. So I’m not wanting to say they tried to dodge me, but it’s kind of after thinking it’s… Yeah, you probably don’t want to talk to a guy you plan to release because he did not, in your opinion, evolve as much as we keep the investment – and that’s a part of the business.
I’m totally fine with that because I learned in those six years to understand this. But it’s more like the pride of me as a professional wrestler that I know I’m very good at what I’m doing. I’m probably not the biggest, the strongest. I’m not in the best shape I could be. I understand that. And that’s also the first thing I do. I just touch my own nose and ask myself what I have to do better to keep the job and not blaming others because that’s weak.”
I feel like I could do everything what they want from me. I did everything what they want for me in six years, I could be a clown, I could be serious. I can do almost everything in the ring, what they want from me. And I’m very grateful for the six years because I learned a lot. But on the other hand, it’s kind of… You guys hire people that are not able to take a single bump. They are not able to run the roads. You have to teach them everything and they get hired by WWE and you fire me? So that was the point where I even told the guy who gave me the bad message, that’s the only thing that really pissed me off. But in the end, it is what it is. And, you know, now I have to chance to find something else that makes me more satisfied. It’s probably not as easy as getting paid that much money by sitting at home or doing nothing or eating catering but in the end, it’s now just, you know, I have to hustle. I have to see what I can do. I have to see, you know, who wants somebody on the show who can deliver.
And we’ve said “release” a few times, but I was hoping that was something we could clear up. I’ve heard some speculation that your contract was set to run out on June 15th anyway, is that, correct?
Yes, yes, yes. WWE didn’t release me but it was not my choice. It wasn’t my choice. If I had the choice, I probably would stay with WWE because it’s the biggest company and again, it’s very comfortable to work for them because you make a lot of money with doing nothing. I still went to the Performance Center and used the facility as a tool for life for my own, like, brand. But yeah, WWE told me, “Hey, we will not release you but your contract is up on June 15th, so we will let you run out the contract and then, on June 16th, you’re off to go,” which I really appreciate because I kind of got the 30 day complete a no compete clause, but not really. So they give me the heads up four weeks ahead.
I have a lot of work to do now just to get rid of all the household and then just move back to Germany. Yeah, it’s OK. But like, fair enough. I have to say, even if a lot of people just spitting venom right now and say, “Yeah, F— WWE,” and everything, so they always take care of the talents and they are even fair enough because I will go back to Germany because I need to because of visa reason, they paid for my flight back. They are very kind in communicating with me just, for example, because of moving reasons, I ask them to pay me out completely out of the contract – that I not get still the weekly salary and they are cool with that. They even asked me if I want to have it.
So you can be negative about as much as you want but even me being pissed off about the reason they let me go, I have to say fair play to them because they always took care of me, they always been very kind and very professional.
Yeah, obviously it’s reasonable to dislike the situation but it’s good to hear the circumstances around it are all fair. So, I want to ask a bit about your time in WWE. We spoke beforehand about my favourite moment, of course, being your NXT UK debut in Glasgow, as it’s my hometown and I saw it live. What are your highlights when you look back across your WWE tenure?
Definitely having the chance to perform for so many great, amazing wrestling fans. It doesn’t matter if it’s the States or whatever, like Barclays Center in New York, or Download Festival in England. So you have the mud fest and you have one of the the most crazy arenas in the States over there. And also to have the chance to to tour with WWE. Even when I was a part of SmackDown, I had the chance to have two European tours in England and one was in Amsterdam and one was in Munich, Germany, which was cool. My first match under the WWE umbrella was in Germany.
I have a lot of great memories, but most importantly, I have great memories about the coworkers. All the guys I had the chance to work with, learn, to know them, travel with them, sit backstage and play PlayStation, everything – just having fun around fun people. And also not only the workers, also staff members and everything, because WWE is a big family and everybody is working together.
You have some good days, you have some bad days, you have times where I want to punch the wall. You have some times where I want to hurt everybody. That’s life! But that’s the most important thing. I learned so many people to know how they are or how they feel.
Some people you have seen through the telly and then you think like, “Oh, he’s a great guy,” and then he’s a total asshole. Vice versa, the other guys you think, “Oh, he’s little bit weird” – as it turns out, he’s one of the coolest dudes ever. So not not dropping names but for example, I adore the guys from New Day and The Usos because we had so many house shows together and they’ve been so kind to us. We came up from NXT and they taught us a lot and they gave us a lot of chances to work with them, and even like to do something with them without saying, “No, you’re green,” or whatever. So they’ve been very open to working with us. Also, a lot of other guys, it would take too much time to name everybody, but just to have the camaraderie of the locker room and everything.
So, I promised not to bring things down, but you just mentioned SmackDown and I have to ask… Working in wrestling media, you become a bit desensitized to, you know, booking decisions you don’t agree with – to an extent. Saying that, I’m still annoyed at how SAnitY’s run on the main roster went. How do you feel about it, and why do you feel it didn’t go quite the way we all hoped?
I definitely feel the same. But it is what it is. It’s part of the game. So the difference between NXT and RAW and SmackDown, in my opinion, is it’s like rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop. You have a little bit of something, it’s not for everybody, and then the other thing is more mainstream.
So you see, with SAnitY, it was a good act in NXT, a lot of potential and after we all agree on one fact that we should not get the call up that quick, we should have stayed a bit longer. We were close to having a longer program with Undisputed ERA. So that’s what we pitched in that time, but it didn’t end up that way. Would be great because Undisputed ERA guys are awesome, all awesome. And yeah, in the end, we got the call up. We were happy, but I remember when… And it’s typical, they always need to have a camera somewhere when you get something told for some documentaries or something. So it was kind of like, we get told, “You guys get a promotion, you get called up to the main roster, but don’t call it main roster,” or whatever. And then it’s like, “Yeah, but it’s just you three guys, Nikki will stay here,” and automatically it wasn’t a feel good moment because we just grew so much together, like the four of us in SAnitY, and it sucked in that time. So I wasn’t that happy.
But then in the end, you kind of think, “Yeah, let’s go to SmackDown,” because I started in 2015 and they always try to get in your brain like, “Oh, that’s the goal. You have to go to the main roster and that’s when you’re into it and you travel the world,” and blah blah blah. And then in the end it was kind of like, yeah, I did it and I had something accomplished what was on my bucket list and now you make a lot of money and everything. But what I really learned in that year is that this wrestling business, I think especially WWE, is full of empty promises and you have to know what you’re dealing with. And in that time, we did not know. We got told, “Yeah, Vince likes you.” Which could be possible, I don’t know. And, “Yeah, you guys are on every house show, you will be on every pay-per-view, they have big plans for you.” In the end, it was, “Yeah, we have to delay your debut. And then the first debut match you lose,” and everybody’s kind of like, “You guys lost? You lost your first match? Oh that’s… That’s not good.” “OK, yeah. I guess. We have trust in it and they will do something with us.” And then they repeated that and we got lost in the shuffle. We got lost in the water, we got dropped like a hot potato because… I don’t want to say they lied to us with having big plans with us and everything but I think they figured out maybe they didn’t like the plans after three weeks. Maybe they figured out that gimmick is not really something for a PG product and maybe we just see what we can do.
“If they maybe come up with something,” which we did, “maybe they find like a niche where we can just use them,” which they didn’t. But yeah, in the end, had a lot of dark matches, a lot of like negativity on our part. We tried to stay positive, but, you know, you get caught into the, “Yeah, no, f*** it.”
That being said, I was very happy, I think it was in Montreal when they had the shake-up, and I got… Like WWE has this talent relationship where you get like your appointments, you have a calendar and has a red dot on it, it says you have something to do here. So I see NXT UK in Glasgow and I was asking Triple H, “What’s that all about?” He said, “Yeah, I don’t know what they want to do with you, but I see you guys sitting around in catering, I don’t want that, you’re all talented, we want to split you guys off. Killian is going back to NXT US. I want you to go to NXT UK and get together with you guys,” because he knew, like, the Ring Kampf stuff is real. And EY was staying there because of reasons, I don’t know. Personally, I think he wanted to stay there and then – yeah, the rest is NXT UK history.
So, you mentioned a name there, and she was part of SAnitY with you. Obviously I’ve followed her career closely due to being from Scotland. Nikki Cross – what are your thoughts on Nikki as a person, and as a performer?
Yeah. Sister from another mister.
Yeah, she’s one of my best friends for sure. One of the most generous and realest person I know in this fake businesses. And fake business is… We all know it’s show and I still love it because it’s 100% athlete stuff and sports entertainment but, in this business, you have a lot of fake people. They smile to your face and they want to kind of stab you with a knife in the back. That’s how it is, I think, in life in general. But she is, since day one, one of the nicest people in my life and also one of my best friends. Such an awesome performer and an even better person.
I do not want to miss her as a friend. So even, when I go back to Germany, I’m sure… Because she’s married with one of my best friends as well. So basically both were a big part of my career here and I really had so much fun times with her on tour, and touring together, traveling in the car – even before Killian Dain got signed by WWE and, yeah, it’s always fun to be around her. Bundle of joy.
Annoyingly we didn’t get to touch too much on Imperium, but I need to ask you about that dynamic and WALTER in particular. You mentioned living in Germany, moving between Germany and the States. Every few months, a new report emerges about WALTER not wanting to move to the United States. With the other Imperium members appearing in NXT quite regularly, do you feel like that’s something that held you back, or is it something you could completely understand?
It’s not a mystery that he doesn’t want to live in America and I understand this. I had some great six years here, I had the change of culture because European and especially German culture is very different than the American culture. I never had a problem. But he, since the first day, said, “I would never want to live here.”
I think he had some tours with some wXw shows over here and sometimes wrestled for some other promotions at the same time. And he kind of didn’t like that. He’s very keen on staying in Germany where everything is fine and he has his place where he can just go back to privacy. He’s a very private guy. He’s not, like, an inner city living guy. He lives outside in the country. Yeah, he probably will not move to the States soon, but never say never. I don’t know.
I spoke with him about, like, “Hey, I want to move back to Germany” because, you know, we just spent some time there in 2020 and we figured out… We compared – you have life in the States, which is OK, but you have the good side and bad side, and it was more balanced in Germany. So I talked with him, he said, “Yeah, told you!” It’s the same with Ilja. He’s the same. He does not want to move over to the States at all and I respect that. For me, there was no choice back in the day. Like, 2015 there was nothing. Some English promotions, wXw was running riot in Germany but I took it by chance that I had to move. I didn’t mind it because I was open for an adventure. Nowadays, if you have a chance to do NXT UK, for example or even like you want to do something over there… I don’t know.
But the good thing with WALTER is he’s such a massive presence and he’s such a superstar and, in my opinion, one of the best if not the best in this company right now who has this persona and everything. Even without doing as much as some people do and they don’t even get 50% of what he gets. So good for him that he is the decision maker on that.
So, final question, and I know you’ve mentioned moving back to Germany and being in touch with WALTER about that – but I need to ask, what’s next for Axel Tischer?
I’m almost open to anything, but first off, it has to be professional. I got some booking requests from some shows in America and, without being disrespectful, it did not look professional enough. Even if they pay me a lot of money… If they pay me so much money that I can say, “OK, it would be a gig to take,” it would be OK. But I know I have to watch out that I do not show up everywhere, if that makes sense, and I do not want to sound arrogant or anything, but I had the chance to build up a brand over the six years and I know what I can do and that I can do something valuable for promotion.
Basically I will, for now, move back to Germany. It depends if something else flies in. I reached out to some guys I trained with, I traveled with, I am good with, to see what opportunities will come. So let’s say the rare plan is move back to Germany, settle down. Luckily, I was smart enough to get an apartment already in the time I spent there. It was, like, a three quarters of the year I was in Germany. So my wife and I got ourselves a nice apartment and a fridge, everything, so we have all the stuff ready. So we kind of like go back into almost like an apartment which is already settled. So I go back to Germany to see what’s going on there and also we have still like this pandemic stuff happening with Covid, so nothing is really open in Germany. They are kind of getting a little bit looser with like the restrictions but like it will be hard, for sure, right now.
I don’t think that really a show schedule is possible right now in Germany. I don’t know how it is in the UK. I hear that Scotland is pretty tight right now as well. So we’ll see what happens in four weeks. That’s the thing. Or even like five weeks because I will not fly back that early when the contract ends. I will stay a little bit longer in the States for some weeks, then I will fly back and then we’ll see what’s up. But like with me right now and that’s an extra thing, I want to wrestle again. I want to do something.
I will not show up in one promotion and be not really associated with it. So I have a few promotions I’m kind of looking where I’m going with that. Maybe they have a show right there. Maybe they have something where it’s… You know, when you show up in one promotion, it kind of takes the pop away so I kind of seeing like, “Hey, there’s a promotion I worked before, so now they get this.” Like my independent wrestling debut is on that promotion – or you have another promotion, which I never worked, but they’re quite big. So I get in contact with them and they say, “Hey, we want to book you and your independent debut, your re-debut is on that show.” So it depends what comes, but I don’t want to take just the first thing, what kind of I get thrown at me just to keep the quality of my work just up there.
I love that you have a plan – but you’re very happy for that plan to go completely out the window!
I’ve had a plan B for a couple of years. That’s the thing, because I like to be prepared and for me was always like, “What if?” And what if I was in my head, “OK, I need to have a plan B” and as soon as the what if happens, the plan B needs to happen.