Former WWE Superstar Heath Slater has revealed that prior to teaming with Rhyno on SmackDown he was originally set to win the Intercontinental Championship.
In the summer of 2016, Heath Slater went unselected in the WWE Draft. This meant that the Superstar was a free agent, not that he was initially highly sought after. However, in the weeks that followed Slater faced numerous Superstars in an effort to win a new contract.
Despite being defeated on each occasion, fan support grew for the former Nexus member, with audiences routinely chanting for the star, even when he wasn’t in the ring. Slater eventually found his way to SmackDown and began teaming with Rhyno. One of the Superstars who had attacked him weeks earlier.
The underdog pair were entered in the tournament to crown the first-ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions and kept finding ways to win. The fairy-tale story reached a crescendo at Backlash with the unlikely team beating The Usos to claim the gold.
Speaking to Inside The Ropes’ own Liam Alexander-Stewart ahead of IMPACT Wrestling’s Bound For Glory, Heath Slater revealed how the team came together. Not only that he lifted the lid on a failed pitch that would have seen him win the Intercontinental Championship.
“Honestly, the process behind me and Rhyno is that we got thrown together, man. We literally just got thrown together. But then again, I feel like it is what should have happened though, now, looking back. In the beginning, the story that they pitched to me first when I was that free agent, but then they wanted to just draft me later on Smackdown. I just was like, ‘Hell no, that’s not good. How about you have me like literally showing up?’ You know, I pitched the whole idea. You heard it, and then it was like, I have Stephanie [McMahon] and Shane [McMahon] fighting for me, you know, wanting to both have me. But then they’re like, ‘Hey, what if we give you an IC title shot? You know, what about that?’ Come over here, you know, you can get that title? And they do, and I get to get work Miz and I win, but I win the IC title, but I’m still free agent, you know?”
Continuing on, Heath Slater explained that the pitch even had the blessing of Vince McMahon. That is until plans changed and he was moved into contention for the new SmackDown Tag Team Titles.
“So it’s one of those things where it’s like just such good, entertaining stuff there that could have happened. But then, like, Vince [McMahon] was like, OK with it. He was like, ‘Heck, yeah, I love it. You know, we’ll run that way.’ And then like, a month later, not even a month later, three weeks later, it was like their splitting the brands. And they’re like SmackDown was going to be this thing. And this is going to be that thing and all this stuff. And then the SmackDown titles were coming and the women’s title that was coming.
The next thing, you know Vince was like, ‘Hey, man, you’ve been tag champ three times before, I’m going to give you the first time ever over here.’ I’m just like, No, heck, no. I said I already had three times. I said, I want that title, you know, I want to go for the IC. I think it’d be great, the story is great. No, we got other plans with that. We want you to go over here.”
However, despite missing out on the Intercontinental Title, Slater said that he gained a friend in the form of Rhyno.
“Then at first it was like, I knew I was going for it, but I didn’t know who I was going for it with. And then that’s when Rhyno came in the mix, because they moved him up. And I don’t know if they had like a solid plan for him or what they wanted to do, but they put me and him together. And at first, I’m just like, ‘Man, seriously?’
It was like the storyline and how me and him adapted, because that was like the first time we really met. And then I don’t know how long it’s been now, five or six years. I mean, it was just like we became very, very, very good friends.
It’s like the one title that I always, ever wanted in WWE, like ever, was the Intercontinental. That’s the one title I’ve always wanted to hold, but never got to. But it was like I thought I was going that way, and then Vince wanted me to go that way with Rhino, and I’m just like, ‘Oh no, I’m so close.’ But I got a best friend out of it, like a legit friend, not just a wrestling tag team partner, like he’s he’s my buddy man, like, I’ll fight someone for him. You know, life takes you in different ways. But then again, I’ll take a best friend over the IC belt any day.”
Heath Slater was released by WWE in April 2020 after a 14-year run with the company. The former Tag Team Champion joined IMPACT three months later.