A former NXT star has recalled receiving praise from Scott Hall as well as being called the “biggest dropped ball” in terms of star potential by another veteran.
After spending six years in the NFL, Tino Sabbatelli signed with WWE in 2014 before making his in-ring debut a year later. However, his progress was halted by a concussion and then a serious pectoral injury.
Sabbatelli was released by WWE in April 2020, and has only wrestled one match on AEW Dark since.
Speaking on Sportskeeda Wrestling’s UnSKripted with Dr. Chris Featherstone, Sabatelli reflected on his time with NXT. The former NFL Safety revealed that he had been told by a WWE veteran that they believed he was one of the biggest missed opportunities they had seen.
“I’ve kind of distanced myself a little bit since my outing and then I still have an itch because I know the character Tino could be a megastar, and I do believe that. And I’ve had people in the industry, and I won’t name no names, that’s been inside of WWE for 16, 20 years, on the writing side, creative side, all this stuff, personally text me and say that I’ve probably been the biggest dropped hall they’ve seen of being a star.
And that means a lot to me, and it kind of motivates me to maybe give it another run. And I think it’s one of those things where, when you have people like that texting you, you’re like okay. And I know in my heart what Tino could have been. It’s just one of them things where it was a lot of bad timing, lot of bad situations, but I still have the itch because I know I could be, I know the character could be very successful in this industry,”
He went on to recall being praised by legends such as Dusty Rhodes and Scott Hall, adding that those experiences really motivated him.
“The one thing I learned quick, just learning the industry was, the character Tino just had that ability for people to hate him,” Sabbatelli explained. “And it was something that I took pride in. What really kept me motivated [was] when superstars pulled me aside. ‘The American Dream’ was the first one to pull me in the office and say, ‘Hey kid, I don’t say this much, but you got something different, man.’ And that motivated me.
It was one of the things where that was what kept me going in the PC every day. And guys like Scott Hall pulled me aside one time and that meant a lot because when people tell you, listen, you’re a main-event calibre character, you’re like okay, you get motivated. People don’t just throw that word around.”
When asked whether he would consider a move to IMPACT Wrestling, Sabbatelli explained that the company had already approached him when he first left WWE. However, he turned them down in favour of spending time with his family, and enjoying being settled after more than two decades on the road.
“I actually talked to IMPACT when I first stopped, and I would. I think when I, to be honest with you, I’ve been chasing the dream for 20 years. I left here in Florida at 18 years old, college dream, NFL dream, WWE dream, so I’ve loved everywhere around the country. And I feel like when I had kind of the out with WWE, I wanted to take a year to myself.
I came back home, I live in south Florida, Mandy and I have a beautiful home together. And I just kind of wanted to come home after 20 years and have a year to myself and get the house set up and be with my family. Me and Mandy [Rose] spent a lot of time together last year, so now that that’s coming to an end, that’s all on the table for me. It’s a possibility.”
Tino Sabbatelli last wrestled on the July 15th 2020 edition of AEW Dark where he teamed with Brady Pierce to take on Chuck Taylor and Trent.