Where Are They Now?: Snitsky
Gene Snitsky’s time in WWE was anything but normal. He made his mark punting baby dolls into crowds and bellowing that anything “wasn’t his fault” before transforming into a grotesque psychopath with dirty, yellow teeth. That makes his pleasant life in Pennsylvania’s coal region, where he does lots of charitable work, all the more surprising.
Snitsky’s road to the squared circle began in Nesquehoning, Pa. Like many kids of his era, he grew up a huge wrestling fan, enamored by the spectacle of it all.
“The larger-than-life characters, the entertainment aspect of it, it sucks you in,” he told WWE.com. “I loved watching it every Saturday.”
Unlike many youngsters, Snitsky didn’t dream of becoming a Superstar at first. A standout high school football player, he wanted to pursue a career on the gridiron. Snitsky’s all-state credentials in Pennsylvania brought him to the University of Missouri, where he had the opportunity to learn from Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg, two of the top coaches in the NFL today.
“I was very fortunate to have a good collegiate career and be coached by a lot of really good coaches,” Snitsky said.
Still, he always told his Tiger teammates that they might see him between the ropes in the future.
“I’d tell them if they didn’t see me on Sunday in the NFL, they’d be watching me on Raw on Monday. They told me I was crazy,” he said with a laugh.
After his time at Missouri came to an end, Snitsky took part in the NFL Scouting Combine, showing his skills for every team in the league. He ended up signing with the San Diego Chargers as a free agent, though a shoulder injury put an end to his football career for nearly two years. He came back during the Canadian Football League’s expansion into America, playing with the Birmingham Barracudas until he re-injured his shoulder. Despite his setback, the big man kept a positive attitude while he pursued other avenues.
“When one door closes, another opens,” he told WWE.com. “That’s when the light went off in my head that I was going to pursue wrestling. I was going to make it happen.”
Snitsky spent time training with WWE Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr. at his camp in Florida, before he was introduced to Headshrinker Samu, who worked out with him and booked him on a series of shows on military bases across the Middle East and Asia. Wrestling every night against Samu, he got a crash course in the ways of the business from someone who grew up in it.
“I had so much fun,” he said. “I wanted more and more and more.”
He got more back home in Pennsylvania, where he trained with Samu’s father, WWE Hall of Famer Afa of The Wild Samoans. Snitsky spent a great deal of time learning the ins and outs of wrestling with the man he affectionately refers to as “Pops.”
Through Afa’s connections, Snitsky received a tryout match with WWE in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., in October 2003. He felt the bout didn’t go quite as well as it could have, but soon got a huge surprise.
“I wouldn’t say it was great, but it went well enough to get me signed,” he said.
The big man soon moved to Louisville, Ky., to train at Ohio Valley Wrestling with Bill DeMott and Lance Storm. Having been through a Division I college football program, Snitsky had a little bit of an idea what to expect from the wrestling boot camp, though he was quick to admit WWE’s developmental program was unlike anything he’d ever done.
“It was hard, very physically demanding,” Snitsky said. “I get asked a lot if pro football or pro wrestling is harder. I say wrestling, no doubt.”
Several months into his time in OVW, the 300-pounder got an unexpected call that would change his career.
“I was training at OVW when Howard Finkel called me and said they were going to fly me into Seattle [for Raw],” Snitsky recalled. “I had no idea what they expected from me.”
That night, Snitsky faced Kane, fulfilling the promise he’d made to his buddies at the University of Missouri and embarking on a unique journey as a WWE Superstar. Snitsky found himself involved in the unusual romance between The Big Red Monster and Lita, inadvertently causing the daredevil Diva to lose her child.
Originally, that was supposed to be the end of Snitsky’s first stint on WWE’s main roster. One match on Raw, no more, no less. The big man headed back to OVW to continue training for the next opportunity. Just one week after his battle with Kane, Snitsky got the call once again, though he came close to missing it.
“We’re training and Tommy Dreamer gets a phone call,” Snitsky recalled. “He said, ‘Hey, Snitsky, you gotta go!’”
Snitsky soon realized how urgent the call was as he rushed through the local airport, running to the gate just in time to make it to Dallas, but miss a connecting flight. Luckily, WWE officials provided him with a backup ride.
“[WWE officials] had the corporate jet fly down to Dallas,” Snitsky recalled. “I got off the plane, got to the arena, got changed and went right on live TV. It was the craziest day of my wrestling career.”
That night, Snitsky went on live television to be interviewed by Jim Ross about his actions the prior week. His declaration was simple: “It’s not my fault!”
Four simple words instantly made Snitsky memorable in the eyes of the WWE Universe. To this day, he still hears his infamous catchphrase.
“I can’t go around my town, on Facebook or Twitter without someone saying, ‘It’s not my fault!’” Snitsky told WWE.com.
Snitsky joined the Raw roster after that, taking part in an infamous edition of Chris Jericho’s "Highlight Reel" where he used his punting skills (he was an all-area punter in high school) to dropkick a doll into the crowd. For the next two years, he battled it out with Kane, Big Show and John Cena before The Chairman offered him a new look and a new start.
“Mr. McMahon said, ‘Snitsky, I want you to go home and shave all your hair off and go see the makeup lady to see what we can do to make your teeth look dirty or yellow,’” Snitsky recalled.
After a call to a New York City stage makeup company, the monster was ready to be unleashed, but only after a painstaking application of tooth makeup. It’s a process Snitsky doesn’t miss.
“You had to get your teeth perfectly dry first,” he explained. “Then you painted it on and dried it. It was interesting.”
The end result was the grotesque psychopath that steamrolled into the relaunched ECW in early 2007. The reborn Snitsky made life hell for the next generation of extreme grapplers like CM Punk and Bobby Lashley. The big man enjoyed the new twist on his in-ring persona, plus the perks that came with the new look.
“I got a new action figure out of it,” he joked.
Snitsky’s time in The Land of Extreme was short, as he was drafted back to Raw in 2007. The monstrous Superstar went on an undefeated streak that summer, which was eventually put to an end by Cena.
After his battle with Cena, Snitsky soon found himself competing less often on Monday nights. Feeling he had more to offer, he came to an agreement with WWE officials on his release. Still, Snitsky has nothing but fond memories of his WWE career.
“There’s no feeling like it in the world, walking out on Raw, with the music and the fans booing and cheering,” he said. “It’s pretty sweet.”
Snitsky still battles in the squared circle for independent promotions around the country. His huge size also made him the ideal person to serve as a bodyguard for controversial New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez during his rehab stint in the minor leagues last summer.
The big man has also found a new passion – acting.
“It’s similar to wrestling,” he said. “I love the larger-than-life characters, the theatrics and production. Just becoming a character and getting to perform.”
Snitsky landed several roles on ABC’s “What Would You Do?” including a turn as a wanted criminal, seeing how real people would react to being face-to-face with him. He’s also featured in a "Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers" fan film, and has recently signed on to join the cast of “The Familia,” a TV series in development.
In addition to acting, Snitsky spends much of his time giving back to his Pennsylvania community, where he is active in various charities.
“I’m involved with the Humane Society, I do a lot of work with United Way and the MDA,” he told WWE.com.
Most of all, he loves spending time with his wife and their Great Dane, Maximus. Though Snitsky’s not the madman he used to be in the squared circle, preferring to go for a walk with his dog instead of dismantling a fellow Superstar, he knows it’s that time in the ring that allowed him to live such a satisfying existence.
“There’d be no Snitsky if it weren’t for WWE,” he said.
You can catch Snitsky's Chain Match against Kane at Taboo Tuesday 2004, along with his other pay-per-view battles on WWE Network, starting 2.24.14. For more information on WWE Network, click here.