WWE’s Tyler Breeze talks about his success and the NXT phenomenon

Scott Fishman

Tyler Breeze is an emerging A-list NXT talent ready for his big close-up in WWE.

And don’t let the fur, feathers and selfie sticks fool you. When the bell sounds, this performer can get it done in the ring.

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The Canadian, real name Mattias Clement, was signed to a contract in 2010. The Breeze character made his grand TV debut in the summer of 2013 and through his years on the roster, the talent witnessed WWE’s developmental expansion firsthand.

“I’ve gotten to see it go from FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling) and something that was very small,” Breeze recalled.

“We had FCW TV, but the audience wasn’t the same. A lot of people didn’t even know it was on TV. It was just local Florida stuff. The production wasn’t what it is today. I was watching these matches with Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. They were great matches then, but nobody was watching because nobody knew we even existed.

“There was no WWE Network back then, so you couldn’t even watch what you wanted to unless you were local. I was part of the initial pilot episode to test out Full Sail University to see if it would work for our NXT tapings. I watched the entire transition from something small to something that now millions of people can watch on WWE Network each week. Just the production alone is fascinating.

“Every time we show up for TV tapings or the live specials or anything, they always have something new added. A screen here or some sort of effect there. Everything feels big and important. To be a part of that from the start to what is now, it’s really cool for me to take it all in and watch it grow.”

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NXT is a hot property in pro wrestling today with sold-out shows and a growing audience for its television show. The product’s impact is even evident on Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-views.

“There were a lot more people as soon as the network came out,” Breeze said.

“I would go to Best Buy or Publix for groceries. I would get asked, ‘Hey, Are you Tyler Breeze?’ People started noticing. People are watching this. When I started doing live events on the main roster, you assume people don’t know who you are because you aren’t on Raw or SmackDown. Then you go out for something to eat and people are asking if I’m Tyler Breeze. They tell me they watch NXT every week. Everywhere you go people are talking more and more about NXT. We had the San Jose show with more than 5,000 people to see NXT. Just that alone is an idea of how many people are watching.”

The success of the “Gorgeous One” stems from his drive to adapt and not being afraid to try new things with the character.

“When I initially started it, the persona was totally going to be something else that it didn’t end up being,” Breeze said.

“From input here and there with ideas from different people, it sort of turned an almost opposite way that I was going for. At the very beginning of the character we had the pocket mirror. We did everything with the mirror. Then Triple H said we were past that and to move on to selfies. He suggested we use a cell phone. We modernized it. That was two years ago.

“Now it’s 2015, and everyone has a cell phone on them all the time. They are always checking Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. There is so much stuff that you could do with that. I’ve had the opportunity to be a first in WWE to actually do some things.

“My entrance streams from the phone to the big screen. At TakeOver we did the Periscope where thousands of people were watching from my cell phone as I was making my entrance. That is something nobody has done before. As technology advances and new things come out, I’m the one who gets to play with that. I see it as a huge opportunity for me.”

Breeze is also one of NXT’s longest tenured members of the roster. This means the athlete has looked on as others get called up before him, some in less than a year after signing. It has served more as motivation than disappointment.

“You can’t get frustrated by stuff like that,” he said.

“It’s been like that since I got down here at FCW. I was the one who had Cesaro’s first match. I’ve watched Seth go. I’ve watched Ambrose go. I’ve watched [Erick] Rowan and [Luke] Harper go. I’ve seen everyone kind of come and go. The thing is these are my friends. These are people who I am happy for. I’m not going to have any ill will toward them.

“They just happen to be ready quicker or what WWE needed at the time. It’s nothing that frustrates me, because it’s not like Harper and Rowan are taking a spot that Tyler Breeze would be in. We are completely different marketable assets to the company. It’s just a matter of time before Tyler Breeze is what they are looking for and need. Then nobody else is going to take that spot but me. So it’s not a frustrating thing for me, I’m happy for my friends who go on and succeed and make it all comfortable for me when I get up there.”

Despite his heelish persona, “Prince Pretty” has developed a solid fan following. This is built on respect they have for his abilities. The positive response has led to milestones for Breeze including an action figure.

“Stuff like that before was unheard of,” he said.

“It wasn’t even an option. We were here working on getting better. We were kind of unseen. I would say now we are on the same level or being viewed on the same level as people on the main roster. People on Raw and SmackDown are in video games and getting action figures. Now the NXT people are as well. Everyone wants to see it. Everyone wants to see Finn Balor, Sami Zayn. They want to see them in the video games and as action figures. WWE is very smart and listens to the WWE Universe. If they want something, we give it to them. Right now, they want NXT and to be a part of it and everything we are doing at the moment.”

When he isn’t doing his model poses or hitting the Beauty Shot finisher on opponents, Breeze likes to unwind with a good TV show. In the past, it has served as inspiration when observing nuances of a particular actor.

“I’m a big Netflix guy unless there is something I’m really watching,” he said.

“My girlfriend and I are watching ‘Devious Maids’ right now. It’s a little addiction of ours. On Netflix we watch ‘The Following’ and reruns of ‘Friends’ and ‘Parks and Recreation.’ There are also so many new shows out there and not enough time to watch them all.

“…There is always that one character in each show that I can always pull a line or mannerism from. There was a show a while back called ‘Blue Mountain State.’ Thad was kind of funny, loose cannon. He would lose his temper right away and say some funny stuff. I pulled a lot of stuff from him. There is stuff I got from Ben Stiller that I’ve taken and used. There are things that pop up that you don’t even realize. When you hear something and just realize it’s something you can use.”

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For Breeze, the same is true when it comes to pro wrestling.

“Earlier in my career it was very much Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and other guys in the ring who were untouchable,” he said.

“Everything they did was so crisp and clean. I loved the athletic part. I just wanted to see everything they did. As I kind of made the transition to Tyler Breeze, I decided to look at the other end of the spectrum. I looked at the character and the over-the-top flamboyant gestures and mannerisms. I watched a lot of Buddy Rogers and Gorgeous George and took from them. It’s certain things that have fallen by the wayside of how they did it. I don’t know if it was ahead of its time, but you just don’t really see it anymore. People just don’t do it. I started watching that and mixed it with my other influence to have a nice complete package.”

– Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.

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Photos Courtesy: WWE