TEGA CAY — For fans of professional wrestling, life is seen just hours at a time in the storylines carried out through various productions on TV each week, but for former Tega Cay resident Tyler Kluttz, life as a professional wrestler is an everyday thing.
Kluttz, aka Brad Maddox of the WWE, gave his first local interview since bursting onto the scene in 2012 as a rogue referee turned wrestler. Kluttz, 28, graduated from Fort Mill High in 2002 and the College of Charleston in 2006 with a business administration degree.
Going behind a desk, however, wasn’t exactly what he had in mind after college.
“I had always watched professional wrestling growing up before I got into sports in high school,” he said.
“And working toward my degree I kind of got back into it. After I graduated I got a sports marketing job sitting in an office making calls trying to get people to come watch the Charlotte Checkers. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t want to be in an office. I had always been attracted to athletics and entertainment. So I decided I was going to give a shot at what I really wanted to do.”
Kluttz didn’t take the average path of becoming a professional wrestler by toiling in the “minor leagues” for years; Knowing where he wanted to be, he started out for the top by getting the best training possible.
In 2007 he packed up his life, including a newlywed wife, and moved to Kentucky to be trained by and become part of Ohio Valley Wrestling.
“I don’t remember what my expectations were,” he said. “I got married a month before we moved to Louisville. OVW was the development ground for the WWE at the time and I decided if I was going to do this I wanted to go to the best place possible. I didn’t want to go to any small independent promotions and waste my time.”
Once enrolled in the program, Kluttz was trained by Joey Matthews, a former tag team wrestler for the WWE. And life went from hard to very hard through all the training.
However, Kluttz didn’t quit when the rest of his class did. In fact, he was literally the only person to make it out of that group of 40.
“He (Matthews) was the first guy who broke me in,” Kluttz said. “He wants to make sure his kids want to be in the system. He made it as tough as he could have and I was pretty stubborn. He would push and I would resist and the more he pushed the more I resisted. The physical training was extremely tough. Thousands of squats and pushups and jumping jacks and all kinds of calisthenics.”
For many wrestlers it takes decades to get to the top of the entertainment business and work for a company like the WWE, but Kluttz said he was that confident in himself; He never expected anything else.
“Knowing what I know now, I don’t know if I would have even started,” he said. “But I have always been that confident in myself that I was going to be able to do it and do it well. Also, I didn’t waste any time. I went right to the training grounds for the WWE. I looked at it as much of a business thing as anything else.”
Not only was the physical aspect of the business hard to come by, but there were other aspects of the business that Kluttz had to master as well – like talking on camera.
“The physical part came really quickly to me,” he said. “I always took to the physical part really easily. Working the mic, that didn’t come natural to me. I had to work really hard at it. I knew I had to pick that part of my game up. I am not that big of a guy or that physically imposing, so I knew I had to talk well. Now I can go out and talk to a crowd off the top of my head and not feel nervous.”
A couple months after moving to Kentucky, the WWE switched promotions and started using Florida Championship Wrestling as its training grounds, leaving Kluttz and his wife, Ryan, stuck in Louisville. But he made the best of it and stayed with OVW.
“It was a little bit nerve wracking, but it ended up being a positive situation because the TV shows they ran still needed to run, because all the guys were still contracted so guys like me had to step up and got some playing time early on,” he said.
Kluttz eventually made the switch to FCW and then the WWE. He also started coming up with ideas on how to best get his character on TV while in FCW. Kluttz still lives in the Tampa area with his wife and their daughter. That is, when he isn’t traveling, which is pretty much all the time.
The traveling is something Kluttz said he had to get use to being in the WWE.
“It’s tough, but it’s a lot of fun going to different city every week,” he said. “I like to travel and go different places. It’s not too bad for me.”
Now that his role with the WWE and his appearances on TV are starting to become more regular, Kluttz is becoming more recognizable in public. And he is getting approached more in public by fans. Once that happens he said he doesn’t feel like he has to slip into character, as he used to.
“People usually just want a picture or an autograph,” he said. “And it’s nice to make someone’s day.”
During 2012, the storyline of having a referee turn bad guy came up and Kluttz was picked to carry the torch by WWE officials.
“It was given to me,” he said. “I was excited. It’s a good fit for me. I’m not one of the bigger guys. I am a normal-looking guy, so when it was brought up I thought it was something I can fit into well.”
Thus, Brad Maddox was born.
Being Brad Maddox vs. being Tyler Kluttz wasn’t that much of a stretch, Kluttz said.
“Well, it’s not a lot difference,” he said. “I can be a jerk as much as I want to be. In society you are expected to act certain way, but I don’t have to be that way in the ring so it’s a lot of fun. The meaner I am and the more people hate me the better I am at my job. That is probably my favorite aspect of what I am doing. Basically, it’s just me with the volume turned up. All the rude qualities I keep stored inside of me I kind of release, so that is about it. I am a much better bad guy than a good guy. It’s a lot more fun.”
Kluttz said despite it being a competitive business, he has been pleasantly surprised at how nice everyone has been on the WWE roster.
“It’s a competitive environment,” he said. “Everyone wants that TV time, but at the same time we are all kind of friends, so it’s nice.
Kluttz said he isn’t sure what the future holds for Brad Maddox because storylines are kept so tight that he doesn’t even know what he is doing sometimes until the day of events. Kluttz did give a potential spoiler away saying he “hopes to make an impact” at this month’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view event from Phoenix.
At a young 28 years old, Kluttz said he feels like he can have a nice long career as a professional wrestler.
“I don’t see it not being fun,” he said. “As long as I am physically healthy and am having fun I am going to keep doing it.”