The NXT Interview: Heath Slater
At 6 foot 3 and with his trademark "sun-kissed red hair," Heath Slater certainly stands out in a crowd, and with The One-Man Rock Band's recent win over WWE Pro Carlito, he's beginning to stand out in the ring as well.
WWE.com's Aubrey Sitterson sat down to chat with Slater about what it feels like to have apple spit in your face, getting even with Carlito and learning from Captain Charisma himself, Christian.
SITTERSON: Congratulations on becoming the first NXT Rookie to pin a WWE Pro in singles competition!
SLATER: Thank you so much -- it feels awesome.
SITTERSON: It's a huge win, not only because you're the first, but because you've already had a few run-ins with Carlito.
SLATER: That is absolutely true.
SITTERSON: Do you feel vindicated now?
SLATER: Of course I do! What got me was that when he spit the apple in my face the first time, it was like I had no clue whatsoever that it was coming. Then when I finally got my one-on-one match with him, he's in the ring with me after he cut that little promo and he bites that apple and starts looking at me like he's going to spit in my face again. But there ain't no way I was going to let it happen, so that's when I used my little bob and weave method and started sticking him! [Laughs]
SITTERSON: [Laughs] You mentioned that you had no idea it was coming the first time … but you've seen Carlito before, you know what that guy does with apples. Who did you think was going to be the unlucky recipient?
SLATER: I thought it was gonna be his guy, Michael Tarver!
SITTERSON: So you were pretty shocked when he turned on you then.
SLATER: Yeah! I thought it was already water under the bridge. You know, Christian and I beat them … OK, life goes on, just keep looking forward and move on. But obviously, Carlito's a sore loser and didn't like Christian and I getting a win over them. So I guess he just thought that the one thing he could do to get me back was to spit in my face.
SITTERSON: On WWE NXT they were talking about what a demoralizing thing it is to have Carlito spit apple in your face. Were you embarrassed after it happened?
SLATER: Well, yeah! Just imagine someone taking an apple and spitting in your face on international television, so the whole world can see! I mean, I'm getting phone calls from my friends, from my family asking "What in the world? What's going on? Why'd he spit apple in your face? What are you going to do?" When it happened I was shocked -- I was just speechless. It was embarrassing but fortunately I got my redemption -- I got what I wanted out of him.
SITTERSON: So I imagine that Christian is pretty pleased with how well you're performing this early on in the competition.
SLATER: It's thanks to him -- he's been so helpful. Christian has been around so long and done so much for the company, and he's such a good mentor. He gives me such great advice -- I've been applying it all and it's been working so far.
SITTERSON: In the second week of WWE NXT it looked like there was maybe a little bit of tension between you and Christian in the back, but is that all in the past now?
SLATER: I just think I was so anxious, so pumped up, so just … in la-la land. I was just amazed by all of it and he must have been a little tired of hearing of it.
SITTERSON: So what specifically have you learned working with Christian so far?
SLATER: Ring awareness for sure. Etiquette in the locker room. Learning what he's been through in the business and how he's come up -- he tells me I remind him of himself back when he started. There's just so much knowledge there that I can't even list it all.
SITTERSON: What kind of locker room etiquette have you picked up?
SLATER: Just to be humble, be nice, say "thank you." Because we are rookies, and you know rookies can sometimes slip up when they don't mean to, or accidentally do something that someone else didn't like. He's been teaching me the ins and outs of how to interact with people.
SITTERSON: You mentioned how excited you are, as I'm sure all the NXT Rookies are right now. But you in particular are clearly really jumping out of your skin when you're out in the ring -- where does that come from?
SLATER: That's just my inner self. I've always been the center of attention. I've always wanted to be in the spotlight. I've always been that guy that's always stood out. Now that I'm in the wrestling business, it's just my inner core bleeding out, and the only thing I know how to do is just turn it up to 10 and keep going.
SITTERSON: Is that something that made you stand out when you were growing up in Pineville, W.Va?
SLATER: I think what made me stand out in West Virginia was that I was always into stuff. I was doing sports, winning state championships. I went to college to play basketball … I was always into something. If you were into sports in West Virginia, then you knew who I was. Even in school for pep rallies, I was the one guy people would talk about "Oh, did you see what Heath Slater did?" I've always been Mr. Standout, Mr. Center-of-Attention -- that's just me.
SITTERSON: So when did you make the decision to get into professional wrestling?
SLATER: Well, I was always playing basketball, football, baseball, whatever was in season all the way up to when I got a scholarship to play basketball at Potamac State, which is basically the farm league for West Virginia University. I've always been into sports, but the one thing I've always wanted to do is become a professional wrestler and entertainer. With wrestling you've got to do it all: you've got to get people's attention, showcase your athleticism, you've got to be able to talk on a microphone, all of which I love doing. It's like every piece of the entertainment business rolled up into one. You've got drama, you've got suspense -- it's all in wrestling.
SITTERSON: When you were starting out, you were trained by [former WWE Superstar] Curtis Hughes, right?
SLATER: Yes, at WWA4 Pro Wrestling School in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a good experience. He's the man who taught me a lot of my moves and to put it all together. Curtis Hughes really helped me out getting in there and learning the craft. Then when I got signed to FCW, Dr. Tom Prichard, Steve Keirn and Norman Smiley basically just polished me up from what Hughes taught me to make it smoother and better. I had the tools, but they were dull -- they just sharpened them for me.
SITTERSON: So do you feel pretty prepared for what you've got ahead of you on WWE NXT?
SLATER: Yeah, but the one thing about WWE NXT is that you have no idea what's going to happen. So you've got to be on your toes and be ready for anything, or you're going to get out there in front of millions of people and look stupid.
SITTERSON: …Or have apple spit in your face.
SLATER: [Laughs] Exactly!
SITTERSON: So who are you looking forward to facing on WWE NXT?
SLATER: If I could step in the ring with someone, I'd like to face The Miz, just because of his arrogance and cockiness. Some people would say that I'm arrogant and cocky, but I'm just confident. I might go off that way a little bit, but I don't mean to at all. When I see The Miz out there running his mouth though … that's the one thing he does best, just talk. All that talk really gets under my skin and sometimes I want to put my fist in his mouth just to shut him up. I'm pretty sure a lot of people agree with me when I say that.
SITTERSON: [Laughs] I would imagine. Are there NXT Rookies that you're looking forward to facing one-on-one?
SLATER: Probably Justin Gabriel. He's really good out there with great ring awareness, great skills and I think he and I could put on one heck of a show.
SITTERSON: With all his high-flying maneuvers, are you concerned about facing him at all?
SLATER: No, not at all. I can go against anyone I put my mind to. It doesn't matter how big they are, how smart they are, if they can get on the top rope and flip…it doesn't matter to me, I'll adjust to their style. That's the one thing I can say about myself, that I can adjust to anyone.
SITTERSON: Is there anyone on WWE NXT that you're worried about facing?
SLATER: No. The only person I might possibly be worried about is my own mentor just because I could see me and him being so alike. I think it'd be really good, but it'd be so weird, just because I'm learning so much from him and he's got so much to teach that I don't know if I could get the upper hand on him or not. But it'd definitely be a challenge that I'd one day like to face.
SITTERSON: Aside from Christian, who else on the WWE Roster would you like to square off against down the line?
SLATER: Shawn Michaels. He's done it all. He's the man in WWE who has done everything, held every title, been in every main event and showcased his skills for years. If you want to know how good you are, I think that's one man you can get in the ring with and really find out. He and Triple H are the two that I'd love to face someday. One just to get the feel of them, two just to say that I've been in the ring with them and threeand three to see how really goodgood I really I am.
SITTERSON: To make sure you get that opportunity one day, are you doing anything to try and get votes from the WWE Pros?
SLATER: Not at all. I've never been a guy to kiss butt, so I'm just going to let my skills speak for themselves.
SITTERSON: Are you worried at all that you might have thrown away a vote from Carlito after this past week?
SLATER: I didn't want his vote anyway after he spit in my face. [Laughs] Honestly, he can take that vote and swallow it. I'm pretty sure I'll get a few votes from the other guys.
SITTERSON: [Laughs] Sounds like a plan. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the WWE Universe?
SLATER: If you watched the beginning of my match when they said there might be a spot for this young Rookie down the road at WrestleMania … trust me, I'll be there, and I promise you it will happen. Because I am The One-Man Rock Band Heath Slater and the one thing I love doing is blowing minds.