Brad Maddox reflects on Vince McMahon, WWE’s concussion policy
Brad Maddox’s creativity cost him his job in the heavily scripted world of the WWE.
During the opening non-televised match for Smackdown, which was filmed on Tuesday, November 24, Maddox strutted into the ring and cut a promo designed to irritate the local crowd in Indianapolis.
“My job is to go out there and get the home crowd worked up before the good guy comes out,” said 31-year-old Tyler Kluttz, who played the role of Brad Maddox on WWE television for the past three years. “I’m trying to wake the crowd up for the night.”
Maddox was scheduled to wrestle R-Truth, and he succeeded in getting under the skin of the live crowd.
“I made a reference to how bad the Colts are,” said Maddox. “I was throwing out insults left and right, and I thought that ending with, ‘You cocky losers’ was lame, so I called them ‘cocky pr----.’
“It got people booing, and people in the back said, ‘I don’t know if you can say that.’ I was a little worried, so I checked all the social media outlets, and there was zero feedback. Absolutely no one reacted.”
Looking beyond the fireworks and television appearances, pro wrestling is often a cold and insensitive business, which Maddox learned first-hand. He was fired a day after making his comment, which was the day before Thanksgiving.
“One of the talent relations guys called me the next and said I was being let go,” said Maddox. “I tried to talk to Vince [McMahon] that night, but I wasn’t able to. The decision was made. I would have liked to apologize and explain I didn’t think it was anything [offensive], but there was no discussion.”
Maddox had been off WWE television since July, but explained that he had a positive relationship with McMahon. He does not believe that McMahon or Paul Levesque were seeking a reason to fire him.
“Vince isn’t a guy who wastes his time, so I don’t think they were looking to cut ties with me,” said Maddox. “I was let go because of what I said. WWE works very hard to maintain a certain image, and Vince has a concept. This didn’t meet that concept–especially when it was not told to a writer beforehand–but I didn’t think of ‘pr---’ as a curse word. I think it’s not as bad as saying ‘ass,’ personally.”
Rumors persist that there a separate set of rules exist for wrestlers in the WWE. Maddox dispelled the idea that his fate would have been different had he been a “Paul Levesque Guy.”
“I didn’t have much of a relationship with Hunter,” said Maddox. “He always feels like he’s one of the boys, yet he’s the boss. He was always accessible.”
Maddox does not believe the WWE or Levesque play favorites when pushing certain superstars.
“They’re going to push who they think is going to make them money,” said Maddox. “The difference between me going out and saying something they considered a cuss word, and someone saying ‘ass’ on TV, is that they strategically planned for someone to look cooler or meaner, so they’ll write that into the script.”
Maddox was asked if Roman Reigns or WWE champion Sheamus would have dealt with similar consequences had they uttered an unscripted curse word, but he was diplomatic in his response.
“I can’t comment on that,” said Maddox.
Despite his dismissal from the company, Maddox remains thankful for his time with WWE.
“I’m absolutely grateful for my time with the company,” he said. “They gave me a platform, and they don’t owe me anything. I had a good three years.”
Maddox also shed some light on the roles and responsibilities of wrestlers who are not actively performing on television.
“Those are long days,” admitted Maddox. “If they don’t need you, they don’t need you. Every Monday and Tuesday, I tried to talk with Vince about an angle or something to do. It’s frustrating when you are not doing anything on TV, not contributing, not helping, and not feeling like a part of the locker room. I didn’t do anything when I was there, except go to catering and try to talk to people about future ideas.”
An exciting opportunity appeared for Maddox this past November on The Tonight Show. The Undertaker was appearing in a skit with Jimmy Fallon, and Maddox was used as the sacrificial lamb–or, in this case, turkey–during the segment.
“I don’t know why I was picked,” said a laughing Maddox. “They were doing the overseas tour at the time, so I might have been one of the only guys left in the States. I had assumed I’d have a full turkey head, and it ended up being more like a hat, but I had fun with it. I got to go to 30 Rock, and even talked with Jimmy for a while when I was in my turkey suit. I said, ‘Jimmy, your turkey is here!’ And he laughed and said, ‘This is how you know you made it in show business.’”
The Undertaker also offered some advice to Maddox during their sojourn together in New York.
“He was telling me the story about some stupid character they were thinking about using, and he was pegged for it, instead of the Undertaker,” said Maddox. “But Vince ended up not wanting to do the character. Other than that, I walked around him once or twice in costume during the rehearsal and we tried not to laugh, and then he said, ‘This is the point where I’m going to tombstone you.’ We really didn’t have to practice, because it’s the Undertaker and he’s tombstoned a thousand different people in his career.”
Another memorable behind-the-scenes moment from Maddox’s time with WWE occurred during the 2014 Royal Rumble as he sat and watched the event with Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella.
“I happened to be in a room with the two of them, and we were commentating on how the match was going,” said Maddox. “We thought Batista would be more liked than he was. I remember saying, ‘They should waited have until ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ came out.’ It was a really cool comic book, and you knew Marvel was going to do it well. If they had waited until after the movie came out, there would have been a completely different reaction for him.”
While Maddox could not offer any update on the health of Daniel Bryan, he did stress that the WWE is extremely conscientious of the dangers of concussions. He recalled the time the Concussion Legacy Foundation executive director Chris Nowinski spoke to the WWE roster.
“[Nowinski] gave an eye-opening presentation to the wrestlers,” said Maddox. “There were slides of a brain that actually turned gray when it deteriorated. He was very explanatory that the brain can only heal with time–there is no other method. If you let your brain heal properly after a concussion, you could be OK. When you don’t give it time to heal, and you come back too soon, that’s when you kill brain cells permanently and cause lasting issues down the road. So WWE takes it very seriously and are very active in making sure concussion protocols are following. We were tested every month or so, and there was a lot that went into it.”
Maddox, who graduated from the College of Charleston, is looking into his next move. He is open to wrestling with Ring of Honor or TNA, but also wants to pursue a career in Hollywood.
“I have a 90-day non-compete clause and I haven’t spoken to anyone yet, but all doors are open,” said Maddox. “I’m ready to jump into acting. I grew up watching wrestling, but I graduated with a business degree and got a sports marketing job with the [minor league hockey] Charlotte Checkers. It took me about two weeks to realize I didn’t want to be in an office, I didn’t want to wear a tie, and I didn’t want to live a normal life. Moving to LA to pursue my acting dream seemed a little too far-fetched at the time, so I dove into wrestling.”
Maddox constantly pitched McMahon for a role in one of WWE Studios’ upcoming films. At one point, McMahon actually agreed.
“I asked Vince a couple different times to use me in a movie if he wasn’t going to use me on Raw,” said Maddox. “He said yes, but I never did.”
The WWE has a history of producing straight-to-DVD films, but Maddox explained he would have been thrilled to have had the opportunity.
“They’re still young to that aspect, but they’re consistently improving as they progress,” said Maddox. “I always thought I could help WWE break more into the movie industry. That’s one of the directions they’re pushing. I’m not a real tall or big, I’m not weird looking, and I’m kind of clean-cut, so I always thought I could go onto Jimmy Fallon as a guest–and not as a turkey–and no one would guess I was a professional wrestler. I always thought I could change people’s perception on what a wrestler is, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to help in that aspect.”
As for the future of WWE, Maddox believes that the next face of the company will be Sami Zayn.
“Sami Zayn is one of the most talented babyfaces I’ve ever seen in-person,” said Maddox. “He’s really believable as a good guy–you just want to cheer for the guy and pull for him. I’m excited to see him on the main roster.”
Zayn was one of NXT’s stars before suffering an injury on his Raw debut last May. Fans have criticized the difference between NXT and the WWE, but Maddox said there needs to be a difference between the two.
“NXT and WWE are different products,” said Maddox. “Raw is a drama, and they tell different stories.”
The saddest part of no longer working with WWE, Maddox explained, are losing the friendships he built within the company.
“It still hasn’t hit me,” said Maddox. “There are a lot of people who I’m never going to see again. Some people have texted me, and some haven’t, but I’m just going to move on.”
Maddox is very pleased to see his closest friend, Xavier Woods, finally reach a new level of success with the New Day.
“Xavier Woods is one of my best buddies,” said Maddox. “I spent a lot of time with him in Florida in developmental, and we have been around each other for a long time now. He came in at a tough spot, but he has officially made it. I’m really happy and proud for him. He’s one of the best people I know. He’s always out-going and nice to everyone, and he’s just one of the good people on Earth.”
The New Day’s Woods, Big E, and Kofi Kingston are so skilled, Maddox said, that they make their job look easy even though it is extraordinarily difficult.
“Those three guys put that concept together, and they’ve worked really hard at it,” said Maddox. “They cut some of the best three-man promos you’ll ever see, and that is really hard to synchronize. It just doesn’t happen, and it’s successful because of the work they put in on a weekly basis. That’s the segment in the back when everyone stops and watches the monitor.”
Despite meeting the end of the road with WWE, Maddox is optimistic for his future.
“I’m excited about the possibilities now of having unlimited options,” said Maddox. “I am free to pursue whatever I attempt to pursue. There are some nerves about entering the unknown, but I’m excited about the possibilities.”