Exclusive interview: How TM61 continue to push past adversity
“It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.” — Rocky Balboa
This much-heralded quote from Rocky Balboa has been a staple of our society for decades. Sure, on paper, they may just be words, but for NXT’s TM61, those words must now become a way of life.
“We’ve been working so hard to get over the setbacks and roadblocks of 2017 and were looking forward to starting off 2018 rolling,” Nick Miller told WWE.com. “Fate stepped in, and we ran into the biggest roadblocks in all of NXT.”
Referencing TM61’s elimination from the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic last week courtesy of The Authors of Pain, Miller expanded on the heartbreak of the loss.
“AOP is a monkey on our back,” he said. “We lost to them in the finals of the 2016 Dusty Rhodes Classic, and when we saw that we had them in the first round of this year’s Dusty Classic, we trained as hard as possible. We were so focused, yet to go in and lose in the first round hurt a lot, both physically and mentally. It’s been tough.”
Miller and tag team partner Shane Thorne have a history that dates to when both were mere teenagers trying to break into the Australian wrestling scene. After seasoning themselves around the world for seven years, the lifelong friends earned an opportunity to make a splash in NXT’s Tag Team division in May 2016. Since then, their road to NXT championship glory can simply be described as tumultuous.
“In NXT, both of us have been injured at times where it cost us some major momentum,” Miller said. “While frustrating, you really learn a lot about yourself and your partner when you are standing still and unable to compete.”
We are relying less on power and strength, and more on our experience to give us an advantage as more new talent joins NXT.
One of those frustrating moments? A severe knee injury suffered by Thorne, which sidelined the TM61 member for the better part of a year. Only a couple months into his comeback, Thorne was candid about the hardships of his recovery.
“The worst part was just how long it took,” Thorne recalled. “I was always taught to be tough and keep going, but with this kind of injury and recovery, I couldn’t. Even when I felt like my body was good to go, I still had to wait and slow myself down so it could properly heal.
“The trainers at the WWE Performance Center would work on stretching and flexibility with me, getting the motion back,” he explained. “Then, slowly, we did more and more things to improve the strength. It took about half a year before I was getting back into more regular gym-based exercises for my knee. The injury forced us to expand our minds and work on strategies and techniques that could work around the fact that I might not be as strong as before. We are relying less on power and strength, and more on our experience to give us an advantage as more new talent joins the ranks of NXT.”
Will their new strategy help TM61 finally take that next step to NXT success? Miller & Thorne agree that brighter days are ahead in their careers.
“Shane and I have asked ourselves recently how we’ve changed in the last year,” Miller revealed. “I can tell you that we've watched tape of ourselves from last year, and we don't even recognize who we see. We were hurt, our confidence was shot and we weren't in rhythm. We felt like we were being who we thought we were supposed to be, and not committed to being ourselves.
“The TM61 of today? Our eyes have been opened, and the TM61 that you see now is the one finding its lane. It’s been a tough road, but we know who we are now, and we know where we want to be and exactly what we need to do to get there. We say it all the time, and believe me when I tell you it’s not just some throwaway line: We are The Mighty, and The Mighty don't kneel.”