At the age of 19, Tyler Bate had achieved something not many wrestlers can say they have, winning a singles championship in WWE. Not least, the Moustache Mountain man is one of only three Superstars to have held the NXT UK Championship. In the five years since, Bate has competed in many critically-acclaimed matches at NXT TakeOvers in the UK and the US, and this week’s Heritage Cup match saw Tyler Bate edge closer to being NXT UK’s first ever Triple Crown Winner in an equally impressive encounter with A-Kid.
Speaking with Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy on the morning after his NXT UK Heritage Cup win aired on the WWE Network, Tyler Bate admitted it was a “gloomy day” in Dudley, but not enough to keep a smile from his face as he opened up about his NXT UK future, rumours of a move to the States, the progression of him as a performer and his character, and more.
Congratulations, first of all. I mean, not just the prize of the Heritage Cup – but another incredible match! You’re making it a habit! I want to ask, how natural is that? You seem like a laid back guy, so do you just go out there and have these classics, or do you feel a certain pressure on your shoulders to deliver and try up your game with each one?
Well, both, actually, it’s both the pressure and the play. So I like to think of wrestling as… Wrestling is the same as any other artform, like music for example, and I like to think of pro wrestling, at least the way that I approach, as like jazz. So when I watch jazz musicians playing together, a jazz musician has perfected his craft or her craft enough that they are able to leave forms almost, they’re so good that they leave concepts. Forms to leave forms, and that’s how I think of or at least how I approach pro wrestling is that I use structure and form to leave form so that it becomes more of a pure play, almost just playtime. I’m dancing, I’m playing music.
There’s like a push and pull that happens with whoever I’m in the ring with, and especially with someone like A-Kid, who’s so good as well, it’s very… It just makes that very fun, this feedback, because he’s pushing at me and then whilst he’s pushing at me, he’s creating opportunities for me to push back and then it becomes this almost like music, this dance type thing… [He claps hands like a pendulum] I don’t know why I’m doing this. That’s how it feels in my head is this motion. I feel like I’ve just trained enough now that, when I go out there, I have the absolute most faith in my abilities as a professional wrestler to just do. I just trust myself enough that I can relax.
So here’s a good saying. “We never rise to the level of our hopes, we always fall to the level of our training.”
I love the jazz analogy because I heard that you’ve taken up piano over the past year. I hope it’s going well, but I do hope you’re not as good at that as wrestling, because we don’t want you swapping the wrestling industry for music.
I’ll do both!
So, I mentioned that high standard of match. If, for some bizarre reason, someone hasn’t watched a Tyler Bate match and you can only choose one to show them, what one would you pick?
That’s a really tough one.
Ooh. It depends on the person. I guess the Pete Dunne Chicago TakeOver one is always going to be… It feels like like that one is timeless, it will never go out of date. I feel like, in any time period, if anybody asks me that question, that’s a match that I feel could hold up. But I also feel the same about the WALTER Cardiff TakeOver match. I feel like that, for me, is like a magnum opus. So I feel like, in my matches, I try not to do or give people fireworks and tricks to just like clickbait people into watching it, I try and make them like timeless classics, because to me, what is true to wrestling is the wrestling part. So for me, my matches are always about the wrestling because it’s the one constant that remains true to wrestling through all time.
So, I actually wanted to ask what you see your role as in WWE. You are only 24, but you’ve been with the company for five years. You’re clearly very different from when you debuted – not just in terms of the change in appearance. Triple H called you one of the “pillars” of NXT UK, we’ve had a lot of new names coming into NXT UK. Are you now one of those veterans of the locker room, taking new folk under your wing, do you still see yourself as a rookie with a lot to learn, or somewhere in between?
Again, both. I guess I have been here longer than a lot of the people in NXT UK, so it only feels reasonable that people would come to me for advice. And I’ve wrestled throughout many different levels in the company and so I can give good personal experience. But again, like you said, I am also still very young and I like to keep in mind being open to everything, but attached to nothing.
So like water flows, I’m always trying to adapt and become. It’s this constant becoming for me. So although people might think of me as a veteran – look, most people in NXT UK have actually been wrestling for longer than me. They’ve been in the UK indie scene for five, six, seven plus years longer than me. I’m coming up for ten years in the industry. We have about 15, 20 year veterans in NXT UK. As far as being a WWE Superstar goes, I think I’m a reliable source for advice because I feel like I’ve proved my point in my performances enough to show that I think I know what I’m doing.
So, one thing I mentioned there was the change of appearance. Most people who follow you on Instagram know you’re vegan, you’re an environmentalist, even the way you speak, you’re very in touch with nature. I think it’s brilliant seeing you just be yourself on TV and being you rather than portraying a character. However, whenever veganism and saving the planet becomes part of a wrestler’s character, the performer inevitably ends up playing a villain. Is that something you’re conscious of at all or something you’ve thought about in your progression?
So I have many, many, many thoughts about this.
When it comes to playing a character in wrestling, going back to the drastic changes in my appearance and the way I behaved from when I began at the original UK tournament until now, all that was is just, I was 19 when I came in and there is still, just in real life, a lot of growing up that happens up until about the age of 25, really. That post-puberty, still maturing, coming into whoever you are really. But that’s all that really was, was still me just growing up basically.
I feel like, as far as wrestling goes, there was a lot of me throwing stuff at the wall to just see what sticks and see what people liked, what people are going to gravitate to. That’s all that really was. And I eventually came to the realisation because in my mind, I was always thinking, “How am I going to stand out? How am I going to be different? How am I going to one-up everybody else? And I came to the conclusion that what makes me different, what gives me my identity, different from everybody else, is that I am me. Nobody in the world, no matter how hard they try, can do me. That is my superpower. So I simplified things for myself.
So, in wrestling, there is no difference between me the character and me in real life. I just am all the time. I’m just Tyler Bate. In the ring, out the ring. It just made things a lot easier for myself, and that is why I don’t hesitate when it comes to being vegan and being someone who’s passionate about the environment, and stuff like that, because that is just what I believe, that that just is how I am in everyday life. I’m not doing it to try to convince anybody of a character and people can see that. People know when they’re trying to be sold something or whether they’re getting what is true and I feel like that’s just why it works for me, because it is true. I’m not trying to convince anybody of anything. I just am.
It would be worse if they didn’t gravitate towards you or disliked you when you were just being you!
So, last year, there were a lot of rumours – Tyler Bate will be following Pete Dunne to NXT and that you’d be moving to Florida! How close did that get to happening, and has that fire been extinguished for now with you holding the NXT UK Heritage Cup?
It’s been something that’s been floating around in my mind, is like if and when might I want to go to the States but for me, my goals in wrestling are very simple, and it’s just to enjoy it and to do it my way, really. And I get both of those things in NXT UK. So I’m in no rush to go to NXT or go to main roster or anything. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve peaked, there is no progression to the States, I’m already winning. So for me, it’s just if and when I go to the States, it’s if I feel that my work in NXT UK is finished, but I feel like there’s still a lot of fun to be had here which is what keeps me here.
I love the crew as well. The NXT UK crew is the UK indie guys that I came up in wrestling with. I have deep relationships with some of the people on the roster, so that’s something that I really appreciate about NXT UK.
Well, you’re actually the closest person to becoming the first ever NXT UK Triple Crown Champion now, so I guess you need to stay to win those NXT UK Tag Team Championships!
I recently spoke with Triple H and Shawn Michaels and I asked about wrestlers becoming producers, namely Pete Dunne, and he pinpointed the likes of WALTER. Have you had the likes of WALTER or Pete Dunne producing your matches, and is it something you’ve thought of yet – or are you concentrating on your in-ring career?
Um, no, I haven’t done any producing or anything. It’s something that I would be happy to try, I’m definitely open to give it a go, but I know it’s not really something that I have many thoughts about, really. WALTER seems to be doing a great job at it. It. We already have James Mason and Johnny Moss, who both do a great job of it as well and, you know, they don’t need me. So, you know, until they need me…
A very humble answer!
Yeah, I don’t really have many thoughts about it!
I mentioned Shawn Michaels there know – obviously a absolute legend you get to work with every day. When I asked Trent Seven question, he gave me an answer that included drunkenly meeting Ric Flair in a hotel and speaking to The Undertaker about Japanese wrestling. So no pressure. What is the most surreal experience you’ve had or interaction with a legend of WWE?
I don’t think I have any. Look, I definitely don’t have any stories that will top Ben’s. Any answer that I give will be underwhelming. I’ve only ever had very civil interactions with to be to be legends. No crazy stories.
He set the bar too high!
Final question. My favourite thing about NXT UK recently has been the complete overhaul and the new beginning seeing people like Pretty Deadly, Aoife Valkyrie all taking the ball and running with it, people we didn’t see much of before getting time to shine, and making us sit up and take notice. I know you’ve pinpointed Jack Starz, but who have you noticed putting in that time in the gym, putting in that effort behind the scenes, always eager to learn. Beyond what we’re seeing on TV right now, who we should keep an eye on?
Um. Kenny Williams, I’ll say Kenny Williams. I think he’s outstanding. There are exciting things to come for him. Who else? I don’t know. I’m struggling to think off the top of my head. Kenny Williams, I feel like Saxon Huxley – there’s a lot of potential there that hasn’t quite been showcased. I’m struggling… Jack Starz!
Thanks to Tyler Bate for taking the time and to WWE United Kingdom for facilitating the chat. You can follow Tyler Bate on Instagram here, watch Tyler Bate every week on NXT UK, which is available via the WWE Network at 8pm every Thursday, then on BT Sport every Friday.