Working for the biggest wrestling promotion in the world is the dream of any aspiring wrestler. For Calgary’s Nattie Neidhart and T.J. Wilson, not only are they a step closer to achieving that dream by signing developmental deals with the WWE, it is that much better because they are doing it together.
A couple since November of 2001 (Wilson was signed on November 4, 2006, five years to the exact date of them first getting together), Wilson and Neidhart have seen many parallels in their careers. Both have worked in Japan, the U.S. and England. The two never toured at the same time, but in pursuit of their dreams they knew there would be times apart. To be heading to Deep South Wrestling in Atlanta together makes their signings that much sweeter.
“It makes it a hundred times easier and better. Having people with you makes it easier. I did five tours with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but the best time I had was the last 10 days of my last tour when Harry Smith was there, I had a lot of fun,” said Wilson, who along with Neidhart sat down with SLAM! Wrestling recently for their final non-WWE approved interview.
“Usually any of the breaks that we’ve gotten, it’s been alone. It is hard when you have to go alone without that rock in your life. I wish I could box up my entire family and all my friends and just take them with me to Atlanta. That is the kind of girl I am,” added Neidhart. “T.J. and I doing this together is really going to test us but it will also bring us closer together. I couldn’t be happier that we are getting to do this together because if we weren’t it could be difficult. No matter what we always know we have each other and will get through it.”
The road won’t always be smooth. Wrestling is a high-pressure business. Wrestling couples where both members are in the spotlight often end in divorce and bitter break ups. Neidhart and Wilson are positive they will not head down the same path.
“You have to separate business from personal. In wrestling it is very hard but you have to find that line. A lot of the couples that have split up in wrestling met while wrestling. I met Nattie way before we started wrestling and that will be the difference maker,” said Wilson.
Neidhart expanded on her belief. “You have to stay true to who you are. You can go and turn it on at night and be that Diva in the ring but at the end of the day you have to think about the relationships and connections you have in your life, those are the most important things that you have. At the end of the day that is all that matters, which is why my family and I are so close and why T.J. and I have such a great relationship. We’ve been together a long time and we have a lot of trust and communication. We have fights, we have a hard time wrestling together at times because we are so emotionally attached. It is hard to step away, but we have to. When we are in Atlanta and at work, we can’t be boyfriend and girlfriend, we have to be professionals, male and female wrestler, separate entities, and then we go home later. When you are at a show or in the ring, it is like any workplace you have to be professional and make the best of the situation. There are pros and cons, you get to be with the person that you love, but deal with the drawbacks. We take it one day at a time and do the best we can. I’m sure there are going to be times when I want to give T.J. (her finishing move) the Nattie-By-Nature.”
“I’d counter it anyway” Wilson shot back.
Friends and family is something that is very important to the couple. Neidhart is the daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and the first third generation female wrestler. Having the backing of the legendary Hart family has been a vital part of her success.
“They have always been very supportive. My Dad was rather skeptical, he was never angry with me being in wrestling but parents always worry about their kids and pro wrestling is a very hard industry so my Dad always worried about me. Now that I have made it through Japan and England and am doing well and my Dad sees how much I love it and how balanced I am in my life he is so happy for me. Same with Bret, he could not be more thrilled. My uncles and aunts have all been positive influences. I wish my Grandfather Stu could be here to see this.”
Another name standing in the background applauding is Tokyo Joe. The legendary Calgary-based trainer has worked extensively with Wilson, Neidhart and Harry Smith and was their link towards the opportunities to tour Japan and England. To see his charges going to the big time is all the reward he needs.
“Joe was so happy. His goal was just for us to be out there and successful. He is so proud of all of his guys,” said Wilson. Neidhart added “Joe just wants to know not only that we are happy but that his hard work and training continues. Joe has a legacy as a trainer and his spirit is being carried on with us. Joe has never been about recognition or getting patted on the back and he has never taken a dime from us for training. He just wants to know that he helped us for our future and made us different from other wrestlers. He knows that we have a big platform where we can display those abilities.”
Being able to wrestle full time is a big change for Nattie in that for the first time wrestling will be her sole focus. Until recently she was a server at a popular restaurant, which paid the bills, supported her and T.J.’s dreams and allowed her the flexibility to leave to wrestle. While sad to leave that part of her life she’s eager to move on.
“Now my work is wrestling so my entire focus is on that, which is what I have always wanted it to be on since I got involved in wrestling, however we have also had to pay the bills and it allowed T.J. and I to buy our first place together. T.J. has been very fortunate to have successful trips to Japan and England so he has been able to have more consistent work,” she said.
“I am so happy for both of us that we can both focus on wrestling. We are so fortunate for this opportunity, I get to have someone say ‘we are going to focus on Nattie and make her the best Nattie Neidhart that we can make her and she is going to be ready to go.’ You need someone to take you under their wing. (New DSW trainer) Tom Pritchard knows what he is doing and produces good wrestlers. The DSW trainers are going to be a great help to us. It is an exciting feeling to know you can chase your dream so hard and actually touch it and taste it. I can say when I am 80 years old I did it.”
Training in Deep South means a change in style. Both Wilson, who has been wrestling for 11 years, and Neidhart, who has been wrestling for five, will have to change their style to fit the WWE style. For now, the days of 25- to 30-minute matches are mostly in the past, but both were excited to learn new styles.
“Everywhere you go you have to adapt. Japan, England and different parts of North America are all different styles and different locker rooms. A true professional can adapt to any style and roll with the punches of that territory,” said Neidhart. “Going to Deep South and working for WWE is a tremendous opportunity for myself and T.J. I don’t feel that we will be compromising our work or our work ethic, I think we are just going to be stepping into different elements that we haven’t focused on before. We will be working on our presence and look and wrestling — repackaging ourselves and polishing up Nattie and T.J. and making us shinier. It’s just the next step. You can go to university and work your ass off to be a teacher but once you get in there with real kids it is totally different than all the schooling you did.”
It is likely only a matter of time before both wrestlers are brought up to the main roster in one of the WWE’s three brands. Nattie’s cousin Harry Smith is already signed to the main roster but has not appeared on TV yet. A ready-made angle seems to be there for the taking involving the next generation of the Harts. With some of the best wrestlers in the world as possibilities, Wilson and Neidhart talked about who they would like to square off against.
“Chris Benoit is number one for me because of his Dungeon history and he is such a big influence and a great wrestler. Shawn Michaels is someone I would like to wrestle, and Hunter obviously. William Regal, Finlay and Dave Taylor are established guys that I could learn a lot from. Then there are newer, younger guys like Johnny Nitro and Carlito, Randy Orton. It sounds stupid but I would like to wrestle the entire roster. Just for myself to see where everyone is at, how I measure up and what they can do,” said Wilson.
Neidhart has a long history of wrestling men on the independent scene, and her list is much the same as Wilson’s. It’s unlikely she will be wrestling men however, and can’t wait to get it on with her fellow Divas. “Trish Stratus is obviously someone I really wanted to work with, and it is unfortunate that she is not wrestling anymore, but she could come back. Mickie James is so passionate and fiery about what she does, as is Victoria. These girls have characters; they have a zest about them and are so athletic. Victoria is a consummate professional and for someone who hasn’t been wrestling that long she is fantastic. Some of these new girls like Maria, Candace Michelle and Ashley that have not been in the business very long at all have so much potential. When you look at Trish Stratus, when she started she was just a fitness model and she wanted to be more than that and had to take it to the next level. Trish left an impact on wrestling and will go down as one of the greatest women wrestlers of all time. She started out where these new girls are starting. Maria came to the Shimmer shows I did and was so focused and inquisitive and watched every match and was eager to learn. She is someone who is really cute and open to learning. All of those girls have potential they just have to want to take it to the next level. As much as I have been to different countries, we can learn so much working with these new people and they can teach us so much. I am looking forward to growing with them.”
Goodbyes have been said. Bags have been packed and arrangements made. After spending most of their lives and careers in Calgary, it’s time to move on. While both have a great deal to be proud of from their past, the future remains wide open.
“One chapter is closing but another is open, the book is still unwritten. Truly the sky is the limit, I think it comes down to what can I do? What can I bring out of myself? What level can I go to? It is in my hands. I’ve wrestled in the biggest company at the time in Japan, I’ve wrestled for at the time the biggest company in England, I worked hard there and tried to make a name for myself. WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion in the world, it’s all my accomplishments at a higher level and it is up to me if I sink or swim,” said Wilson.
“As far as wrestling, I trained in Japan for several months and conquered a big life changing experience and what I endured over there. With WWE now, Nattie, who I am, does not change. Where I am going changes but where I have been does not. It is up to me to stay positive to keep my eye on the road and keep focused. Most of all, I have to be happy,” Nattie reflected. “Wrestling makes us both happy, we are happiest in the ring or watching wrestling tapes with Harry for hours. We really do love it. As long as you can do something that you love it will never be work. I am so excited about growing and learning from WWE and so many places we haven’t been yet and people we haven’t met. Our job will never be boring, so this is a very exciting experience and is something I will never forget.”
Jason Clevett is from Calgary, Alberta and can’t think of anything to really state how he feels about Nattie and T.J. signing with WWE. He wishes them the best, thanks them for the memories and will miss them.