Tensai takes his talents to the NXT announce desk
Career longevity is an attribute that nearly every WWE Superstar seeks. Those who achieve it often do so by adding a new element to their skillset. In recent months, Tensai has embraced that new element by joining the NXT broadcast team. WWE.com sits down with Sweet T to discuss the newest chapter in his WWE career.
WWE.COM: How did you get your start in the industry?
TENSAI: I was a fan of wrestling from the first time I saw it on my television in the early ’80s. When college and football ended, I stepped into the real world and I began teaching. A few months into the school year, I heard there was a wrestling show coming to our auditorium. Keep in mind; I never knew exactly how to get my foot in the door to become a wrestler. I used to go to ECW events and sit in the crowd, hoping to get noticed. That never worked, by the way.
Eventually, I went to our principal and asked him if it would be okay if I had some sort of contest to bring three students with me to the show. My secret plan was to maybe get noticed, as well as enjoy the show. The principal agreed and I took the three kids that won a contest to the show that was being promoted by WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski. We got to the show before the ring was set up and I introduced myself to Walter. He looked me up and down and told me about his school and invited me to give it a try. The next day I went to his school, and the rest is history.
WWE.COM: Tell us about your first experience joining WWE nearly 15 years ago?
TENSAI: My first run with WWE was definitely a learning experience. I went from wrestling in arenas that held 1,000 people to sold-out arenas that held 20,000-plus at times. It was a dream come true but at the same time, it was a huge wake-up call. WWE is a big business. With age comes maturity and I may have gotten a bit too complacent at the time. There is always someone out there who wants your position and I learned that the hard way.
WWE.COM: After about eight years away, you returned to WWE in 2012. What kind of changes did you notice in WWE when you came back?
TENSAI: Coming back to WWE after eight years was eye-opening in so many ways. The biggest change was the age of the talent that was working. I was the older guy in the locker room now. Minus a few guys, I was working with young men most of the time, but the work ethic was just as high as it was during my first go around.
Social media is also a huge change. WWE is a full-time job. When you are out in public, you’ve always got to be aware of how you are being perceived. With Twitter, Facebook, Tout and mobile phones, not only can everything you do be seen, it can spread to millions within minutes. There is no shutting off who you are. Good or bad, social media has taken WWE to a new level.
Most people and most young talent have no idea what travel entails. The majority of people think Monday and Fridays are the only days we work. It is a schedule that is, the for the most part, the same as with my first run, as we typically spend 250 days or so on the road a year. Friday through Tuesday is the typical schedule. That doesn’t include personal appearances on our off days.
WWE.COM: What have been your career aspirations?
TENSAI: To become a champion. Anyone who says that their aspirations are not to be a champion is flat out lying. We all want to be the best and holding that championship proves that you are. When I first started wrestling that was my dream. When I won the Intercontinental Championship, it was a dream come true but I was not close to being satisfied. I also wanted to be in a video game and have my own action figure and I achieved that. But as time passes by, my goals change, and today, my aspirations have changed, as well.
WWE.COM: You recently made your debut behind the NXT commentary desk. How did that come about?
TENSAI: Not really sure what got me into the world of commentary. It is an entirely different field that I never even considered trying. It started when I had the chance to be a part of a live Kickoff panel for a WWE pay-per-view. Michael Cole and John Bradshaw Layfield were two people who helped me prepare for that. I made the most of that opportunity, and I suppose someone thought I could be good at it with practice. Little did I know, I would need loads of practice. It is an entirely different monster. I never realized how difficult it was to be a commentator. Each and every week you need to imagine that this is the viewer's first time watching WWE. You need to explain the Superstar or Diva and tell the story of why he or she is doing what they are doing while keeping it entertaining. The last thing you want is for a viewer to change the channel because the commentary is dull, vague or boring.
WWE.COM: What have you enjoyed the most about your work on NXT?
TENSAI: What I really enjoy about working on NXT is having the chance to help someone’s career flourish and blossom by bringing the next generation of talent into other people’s living rooms.
WWE.COM: What are your goals for the future?
TENSAI: As far as my future goals, I hope to be a regular commentator on NXT. From there, I hope to be part of a team to call Raw or SmackDown. I would also like to be a trainer and producer for WWE at some point. I like to set lofty goals and tackle them a day at a time.
WWE.COM: I understand you have a life motto that you utilize to reach your goals?
TENSAI: Absolutely. “Setting goals is the first step in turning invisible into visible.”