Q&A: Inside Nicholls & Veryzer’s plan to ignite a tag team revolution in NXT
Michael Nicholls & Shane Veryzer are going to make you fall in love with tag team wrestling all over again.
The natives of Perth, Australia, headlined the WWE Performance Center’s newest class of recruits, announced last week. However, if their names don’t sound familiar to you, that can be forgiven. Competing under the aliases of Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste, the pair achieved their greatest success in Japan’s Pro Wrestling NOAH organization, as the team The Mighty Don’t Kneel.
Aside from rocking the ridiculously cool TMDK moniker, the duo — who have teamed together for seven years — have nearly perfected the art of tag team competition. Now that they have finally arrived to the Performance Center, Nicholls & Veryzer say they are ready to return tag team wrestling to the prominence it deserves.
WWE.COM: There had been rumors of you two joining WWE for many months. What was going through your minds as you finally entered the WWE Performance Center as members of the roster?
MICHAEL NICHOLLS: There was obviously a lot of anticipation going into it and it almost seemed like something that wasn’t real, that wasn’t going to happen because we’ve been doing this for so long. As soon as we walked through the door, it was a mixture of excitement and just looking forward to the future. The Performance Center is pretty much Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory — it’s amazing, every wrestler’s dream. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
SHANE VERYZER: For me, I think it was a bit of a relief. It has taken so long for us to get here. This is what we’ve been doing for our whole careers. This is the kind of place we love. In Japan, we loved training and working out, so this is that on a much bigger, more professional scale. It’s amazing just to be here, finally.
WWE.COM: You have spent much of your careers together. When did you begin teaming with each other, and how has it affected your development as Superstars, and as a tag team, to take the journey to WWE together?
NICHOLLS: We started teaming in 2009, back in Australia. We had both been trying to do singles stuff for a while and that plateaued, so we came together to see what we could do as a team. I think we’re a much more valuable asset as a team, and also much more fun, because we’re friends. That Shane has gone through all the same things I’ve gone through, all the rough times and the hard training in Japan, helped us grow as a team. I think it’s only benefited us to be a team as opposed to singles guys.
We want to bring tag team wrestling up and make it what it should be.
VERYZER: When we started as singles wrestlers, a lot of the times it was a feeling of loneliness, of needing someone to vent to and bounce ideas off. So we thought, let’s give it a crack together, let’s start at the bottom and work our way up. It’s worked out very well, and we’re here now because of it. It’s very much because of our collective as a team. In Japan, we know a lot of people who went there by themselves and the language barrier was very miserable, but we always had each other to talk to. You’ve always got a spot in the gym, too [laughs]. We get along pretty well, don’t we, Mikey?
NICHOLLS: We get along. We’re all right.
VERYZER: It’s fun being in the ring there with someone you’re having a good time with. You don’t always know your opponent, but we know each other, so we can always enjoy even our bad matches. Not that we have bad matches …
NICHOLLS: All of our matches are good.
WWE.COM: The TMDK team had a ton of success in Japan, and you received a big farewell on your last tour. Was it a difficult decision to leave there?
NICHOLLS: It was difficult because we were over there for about five years. Day in and day out, you’re surrounded by the same people. You train every day with the same people. You’re on the road with the same people. You develop a relationship with the fans, as well. And the interaction between the two made it worth it. But [WWE] is obviously the pinnacle and what, in the back of your mind, you’re always working toward. As soon as the opportunity came, we had to make the most of it, and the timing was right for us to move on.
VERYZER: Japanese fans are amazing. They’re so kind and caring, and they love you. And I think the boys in the locker room, when we came in to NOAH, there was a change in the locker room toward a lot of newer, younger guys who were around our age and experience level. We came to develop a bond with them, as well as the young boys who were starting out, like [Hitoshi] Kumano. He looked up to us like older brothers and spoke English to us. He speaks terrible English [laughs], but he’s like a little brother to us, so it’s hard to leave those friendships.
WWE.COM: Now that you’re at the WWE Performance Center, what goals have you set for yourselves?
NICHOLLS: Obviously, the end goal is the NXT Tag Team Titles. For now, that’s the be-all and end-all of why we’re here. But the best part of that is the process to get there involves such great coaching staff, and the Performance Center equipment and the whole atmosphere around you. I’m looking forward to and making the most of what we’ve got here.
VERYZER: Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve started at the bottom. We started in Australia at the bottom, started in Japan at the bottom and we’re coming here as fresh faces. We know what we’ve done before here does matter, but in another sense, it doesn’t. So, we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. Like Mikey said, the tag titles are our goal, but our ultimate goal is to main event a TakeOver for the NXT Tag Team Titles. We want to be in the first tag title main event, and if we’ve got to take a while to get there, then so be it. We want to bring tag team wrestling up and make it what it should be.
NICHOLLS: You wanna talk about the women’s wrestling revolution that started in NXT? I think it’s about time there’s a tag team revolution that starts in NXT. Shane and myself, TMDK, we’re ready to start that revolution.
VERYZER: My fist is in the air.
WWE.COM: It seems there is a heightened focus on tag team wrestling in NXT, between the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic last year and all the hype that American Alpha and The Revival have recently garnered. What’s your take on the state of tag team wrestling in 2016?
NICHOLLS: I think it’s almost on the cusp of being something really great. Just to use NXT as an example, the teams now are not just made up of two singles wrestlers who’ve been put together as a team. Now there are actual teams that start together and come up together, and build themselves up that way. Some of the teams that have gone from NXT to the WWE roster are just amazing, and it’s great to see. I’d like to think that Shane and I can bring a wealth of experience as far as tag team wrestling goes; we’ll be a shot in the arm to rejuvenate the entire division and hopefully, like I was saying, start the tag team revolution in NXT.
VERYZER: There has been tag team wrestling in NXT for a long time, and there have always been great, great teams. But what we’re going to do is put tag team wrestling in people’s faces. We’re going to force it into people’s vision and change their perception of what they can be. We’re going to take tag team competition to that next level.
WWE.COM: For fans that have never seen you, what can they expect?
NICHOLLS: We’re a little bit old school, a little bit new school. We’re serious, we’re dumb [laughs]. Me and Shane bring out the best in each other, but we also tend to bring out the worst in each other.
VERYZER: We’re not a tag team that’s buddy-buddy all the time. You know a lot of tag teams are like brothers. We’re even more like brothers in the way that we fight a lot. We’re not always on the same page, but we understand where we want to go.
NICHOLLS: We’re a couple of guys having fun, but not just that — we’re into kicking a**. We go full throttle.
VERYZER: Full throttle! [Laughs]
NICHOLLS: We have to prove to NXT and to all the fans what we’ve been saying for years now: We’re the best tag team in the world.