‘Keep Your Mondays Open’: Tony Nese Explains How He Got In The Cruiserweight Classic, Signed With WWE In 2016
Tony Nese details how his WWE career ultimately started.
Tony Nese was a recent guest on the Wrestling Perspective Podcast and spoke about how he ultimately signed a contract with WWE after he won a spot in the Cruiserweight Classic in 2016.
Nese explained how the story going into the tournament was that WWE had been scouting talent and he didn’t get a call, so he thought the company passed on him. He explained how he ran into William Regal at an EVOLVE show and was told that his opponent had asked Regal to watch the match.
“Earlier that day I approached Regal and said, ‘I know you mentioned that Cruiserweight Classic…’ and he was just like, ‘Listen, I understand, but they pick their guys and they pick the top 15 and there’s a bottom 15, and we don’t think we’d want to waste you in the bottom 15.’ Which to me, whatever, that’s just a nice way of saying we don’t want to use you, so I was just like, ‘OK…’ And then I had the match and after the match, we go up to Mr. Regal and he’s critiquing the other guy, not even saying anything about me, so afterward I [asked] ‘Was there anything on my end?’ and he’s like, ‘No, no…’ and just kinda walked away.”
Co-host Lars Frederiksen noted that he’s pretty good friends with Regal and that he often struggles to hear him due to Regal’s soft speaking tone. Nese agreed that you almost have to lean in to hear him, then shared a funny story about how Regal was giving him advice on being successful at an event, but soundcheck started and it drowned him out. Getting back to the EVOLVE event, Nese said Regal ultimately pulled him aside and asked if he cared about his spot in the Cruiserweight tournament, and Nese said he didn’t because he just wanted a spot.
“[Regal said], ‘I really think you need to get in front of the right eyes’ and I said I appreciate that. A week later, I got a call that ‘we’d like to use you for the Cruiserweight Classic’—or I think at the time it was called something else, World Cruiserweight something, I don’t know—but anyway, there we go and I got the gig for that.”
In the storyline, Nese won a spot in the 2016 WWE Cruiserweight Classic by defeating Lince Dorado, Drew Gulak, Johnny Gargano and TJ Perkins at an EVOLVE event in Orlando. After being eliminated from the tournament, he made his official RAW debut in September of that year.
“So we end up doing the Cruiserweight Classic, which was a blast and I thought this is going to help my indie bookings. And while we’re doing the Cruiserweight Classic, you kept seeing other guys in the tournament going into offices, and coming out going, ‘I just got a contract.’ And it’s almost everybody, actually, it was pretty much everybody that ended up doing 205 Live except for like me, [Ariya] Daivari, [Mustafa] Ali and [Drew] Gulak. So we were the ones, the whole time everyone’s getting a contract and we didn’t get anything.
“So then we hear rumblings that RAW is going to be getting the Cruiserweights and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s cool. That’s probably why they signed all of those guys.’ And then they announced it, I believe Stephanie [McMahon] announced it, and I was like happy for those guys, that’s awesome and I’m happy for my friends. It was the Friday before that RAW that I ended up doing, I wrestled TJP there, but I just got a text, I was at a Mets game with my wife, I get the text, ‘Hey, are you available for Cincinnati?’ And that’s not a local one, so why are they asking me to be an extra, and [I thought] that might be an actual booking here.
“So I said, ‘Yeah, I’m available’ and I fly in on a Monday, do RAW in Cincinnati and I wrestled TJP, after the match I said thank you so much, I spoke with Hunter and I was like ‘What does this mean?’ and he’s like ‘We’re just bringing in Cruiserweights, guys that did the Classic’ blah blah blah… and he said ‘just keep your Mondays open.’ So then I would say for three or four months, I’d just get booked on a Friday to go do RAW on a Monday, same for Gulak, same went for Daivari.”
Nese explained how it was weird because they kept getting booked without contracts, which not only allowed them to continue taking indie bookings, but he was working his ‘shoot’ job in the beginning. He says they continued to be told that they needed to keep their Mondays open, with one excuse for not getting signed being that there was too much talent down in NXT. Nese was finally offered his contract in October 2016, noting that it was a weird up and down story where he didn’t know how things would end, but luckily it ended up going in the right direction.
Asked if he knows what took so long to offer him a contract, Nese couldn’t say for sure but said he thinks it was pending on 205 Live going from a concept to reality.
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