The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Oct. 27, 2021

Tony Nese On Signing With AEW, 205 Live, Winning The CruiserWeight Championship at WrestleMania

Tony Nese On Signing With AEW, 205 Live, Winning The CruiserWeight Championship at WrestleMania

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Today's guest is "The Premier Athlete" Tony Nese. Tony is a professional wrestler for AEW (All Elite Wrestling) and is known for his time in WWE as part of 205 Live. He joins Chris Van Vliet from his home in Orlando, FL to talk about talking a contract with AEW, the opponents he'd like to face there, being released from his WWE contract, winning the CruiserWeight Championship at WrestleMania 35 against Buddy Murphy, when he started becoming interested in bodybuilding, why he eats ice cream every night, being a father and much more!


On bulking up:

“When I started wrestling, I was 120lbs soaking wet. I wasn’t going to get bigger over time, I think my body was done with height. But I had to get bigger if I was going to look believable on TV. I just started following tons of bodybuilders who had stories like that and needed to put on size. For a lot of them it was just eat, eat, eat, don’t worry about what, just eat. After a session, I would go to McDonalds and get a Double Quarter Pounder, 10 piece nuggets, a Fish Fillet sandwich and a triple thick milkshake. At night, I would make a stack of 3 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and I would set an alarm for every 2 to 3 hours. I would wake up, slam down a sandwich and then go back to bed.”

On signing with All Elite Wrestling:

“Thank you so much, this is awesome. It’s been a blessing, I am very happy. It’s funny, I got invited to go [to AEW]. They were like ‘Hey, we are in Orlando and we know you’re in Orlando…’ I’m like, yeah absolutely. I had been there before, during my 90 day non-compete just to hang out with my friends. I have tons of friends and people I have travelled with in that company. Everyone was super cool and super nice with me and I think they liked me. But then they invited me to Orlando, and it was literally 10 minutes before they went live on the air. I got pulled aside and they were like ‘Hey, would you be cool to sit out in the crowd, and we just keep showing you on camera?’ I’m like yeah sure, TV time, I’ll take it. So I just sat out there. At first I was like, is the house low? Then he explained it to me and I’m like that’s awesome. From there we got to discussing things, and it was super cool how they treated me off the bat and brought me in as a star. I am so appreciative of that.”

Credit: Instagram

On who is his AEW dream opponents:

“I mean there are the obvious ones. You look at CM Punk, Bryan Danielson and Kenny Omega. But I can’t wait to get back in the ring with Alex Reynolds, John Silver, Ethan Page, these are guys I have wrestled on the independents. We hit off there and our chemistry was amazing. I can’t wait to be able to have those matches we had in front of 100 people, but now in front of thousands. But it’s an open field, one week I could be wrestling an extra, but the next it could be CM Punk.”

On his time with 205 Live:

“Yeah it would get frustrating at times. To us it would never make sense. We would pitch all these ideas, we thought it would be awesome that every once in a while you bring a guy onto our show that’s a name. It would help the 205 Live brand and the talent. I would understand their mindset [on that], but they would do other things I don’t understand and it would get you frustrated. Why wouldn’t you want to help everybody? I kind of feel like they had that core group of people where these are the ones we are going to care about, the rest of you have to hang in limbo. That’s just how it felt, maybe that wasn’t what they felt, but that’s how it felt while I was there.”

On what 205 was like and what could have been:

“We would always say that we were in this wrestling purgatory. Even though I was there, when it comes to the company’s decisions, I’m on the outside looking in too. This is all speculation, but it seemed like they had an idea for the show. It was Triple H’s idea, it was his baby. He wanted the show to have a yearly tournament, win/loss records, all that stuff, he wanted it to be a different feel. As soon as it was announced that the cruiserweights would be a part of Raw, that was where Vince was like ‘No, it’s my show now.’ All that other stuff went out the window. We even joked about it, we said ‘This is Raw light.’ We got our backs against the wall and after all the stars had competed. So Vince had control, but after a while he was like I’m done playing with this toy. He gave it back to Triple H, who was like, you’re Vince’s boys now, you are tainted to me. This is my speculation, but it feels like Triple H didn’t care about it either. We were in this limbo of the show has to be booked, but they were just like whatever, put whatever on and just move on. No matter how much we would fight, they were just like have a good match, and that’s it.”

Credit: Instagram

Winning the Cruiserweight Championship on the WrestleMania 35 pre-show. Did it feel bitter that it wasn’t on the main card?

“Not necessarily. There were times where it would cross my mind of well it’s the kick-off show, but it is what it is. To WWE’s credit, they did very well in treating me and Murphy like we were on the main show as well. That whole week, I felt like I was a part of WWE and not on some sideshow. That was really cool. After the match, Vince was in Gorilla, he stood up and said ‘That’s how you start WrestleMania.’ I don’t care what people say, that’s cool.”

On if he knew he was going to be released:

“I had one year left on my contract, but I knew [I was getting released]. As soon as they moved us to be a part of the NXT roster, me and Ariya Daivari were like it’s just a matter of time. We got these new contracts to the Raw roster is a normal contract, but to the NXT roster is like a whoa contract. We were on the least cared about show in WWE history, and they just kept releasing and releasing. So we knew when it was time to look at NXT, we were going out the door.”

On what he wants his new character to be:

“So the premiere athlete is still going to be who I am and what I represent. But I do want it to be a little bit more of a serious thing rather than ‘Hey look at my abs.’ I love being booed and flexing, but at the same time, I switched up my look to where I am wearing more branded stuff. In WWE, I was just trying to pop by getting gear that just looked good. I wore a jacket because they told me I needed something up top. They said ‘You should wear something, but don’t cover up anything.’ For 1 show I wore a He-Man type thing, but nobody thought it looked cool, Vince said ‘Is he wearing a bra out there?’ Straight after I heard that, I threw it into the garbage. But now, I think this is getting old and it doesn’t represent me, I want to be taken more seriously. I want to be my own brand, that’s the attitude I’m going in with. I still will be kissing my biceps and flexing though.”

On nearly giving up on wrestling:

“Absolutely. The way it goes is the year before my try-out, that was my lowest point. I was working the same companies over and over, then do it again next month. Nothing was happening with WWE, so I started getting frustrated. I started talking with my wife and said this will be my last 2 to 3 years. It looked like I was going to be a personal trainer for the rest of my life, but my wife said ‘I would rather live in a cardboard box than have you give up on your dream.’ That was when I decided I would be with this girl for the rest of my life, but also it sparked me. I did one more push, this time with a whole new attitude. I reached out and got a spot as an extra in Buffalo in October. Scott Armstrong watched my try-out matches and said ‘If it was up to me, I would send you to Florida tomorrow. But it’s not up to me…’ I said ‘Can I tell people you said that?’ He said ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ I hit up everyone and said that to them, that’s when they emailed me back and said could I do a try-out in January. It all just turned around from there.”

On what he is grateful for:

“My family, my opportunities and my health.”