One of the most rewarding aspects of Tyler Breeze’s newfound fame is that he can become anyone he wants to be.
For now, the 27-year-old WWE phenom is having a blast playing the role of a modern-day version of Gorgeous George, trading the sequined orchid robes, gold-plated bobby pins and perfume-scented disinfectant for a fur coat, selfie stick and self-proclaimed monikers including “Prince Pretty,” “The King of Cuteville,” “The Definition of Delish” and “The Sultan of Selfies.”
“In the same vein, just modernized,” says Breeze, who credits the late trend-setting showman for providing inspiration for his character.
“He was a big influence as far as presentation and mannerisms,” says Breeze. “I watched a lot of his stuff when I tried to put this character together.”
It’s not every line of work that allows you to become a larger-than-life character plying your trade in front of thousands of spectators. For Breeze, separating the character from the individual is a challenge he embraces.
“It’s kind of cool. While there are some similarities, there are some big differences as well,” says Breeze, who was born Mattias “Matt” Clement in British Columbia, but has seamlessly morphed into his current cocky, narcissistic wrestling persona.
“Everything that I can’t do in my real life, Tyler Breeze can do,” he says. “He can literally do anything. He has no limits. If I want to get mad at someone or throw a tantrum or beat someone up, I can do it. It’s kind of the yin to the yang of my life. It’s very fulfilling.”
Breeze’s WWE career also appears to have no limits. Only a month after landing on the main roster in October, he defeated Dolph Ziggler at the Survivor Series pay-per-view, sending a clear message that the company has big plans for him.
Breeze, who will be part of WWE’s Monday Night Raw show at the North Charleston Coliseum, is far from a mat novice. A workhorse in the ring, he spent four years on the independent circuit before arriving at WWE’s developmental training facility in 2010. In all, he honed his craft for nearly five years in FCW and later NXT, where he used a variety of gimmicks and ring names before settling with his current self-obsessed, narcissistic character.
It’s been a major transition for Breeze, but one that he relishes.
“I did the independents for about four years ... some cross-Canada stuff. I was kind of hidden away on the west coast of Canada. I was working regularly, but I wasn’t on anything televised and really wasn’t getting noticed.”
That’s not a problem anymore for Breeze.
“It’s been a big change for me. As much fun as NXT was, it totally took a different turn up here. Working in front of sold-out houses and at events like Survivors Series, and working with someone like Dolph, makes it a real pleasure to come to work.”
Breeze had the advantage of learning the ropes from Lance Storm, regarded as one of the top trainers in the business, and even got the opportunity to work a match with ringwise veterans Storm and Jerry Lynn. “That was experience enough for me,” says Breeze. “You can’t really argue with that.”
After four years toiling on the indy circuit, says Breeze, “it was time to see either what I was missing or see if I was ready to go.”
Unlike many others working in WWE developmental who had made names for themselves on the independents, Breeze was cultivated into more of a homegrown WWE commodity.
“They really didn’t have to train me from scratch, but in terms of being a homegrown talent and having had no real name value before FCW and NXT, they put the finishing touches on what you’re watching now.”
Breeze says he is grateful for all the help he received along the way in developing his character and working on his mat skills.
“You go through so many different phases when you first get there. You’re kind of intimidated and excited, and you’re trying to learn everything. You’re trying almost too hard, to the point where you’re not even absorbing the stuff you need to see or the stuff you need to know because you’re overwhelmed.”
His first group of trainers included Dr. Tom Prichard, Steve Keirn and Norman Smiley. “They were a big part of me getting hired in the first place,” he says.
With a strong mat background, Breeze’s initial training consisted of polishing off any rough edges.
“They already knew that I knew how to get through a match. I could be in front of a crowd and have a match. Lance got me ready for that.”
Next step, Breeze notes, was getting him ready for what WWE looks for. Billy Gunn played a big part in character development.
“He showed me the character and showmanship part of it. He is so over the top and helped bring that out of me. I wasn’t very much like that before. I wanted to wrestle. I liked the wrestling moves and the athletic part of it. But I didn’t really know the showmanship part of it, and he helped bring that out of me.”
Breeze says Terry Taylor, who enjoyed a WWF run as The Red Rooster in the late ‘80s, helped him learn how to conduct himself as a professional.
“He really has a different mentality of how to be perceived and how to give credit to yourself. A lot of guys either don’t know it or haven’t had a chance to do that yet. Terry clued me in on stuff. Unless you have someone like that telling you, you have no clue that part of it even exists. It’s almost a subliminal thing.” “There really were so many hands in it,” Breeze says of his training. “Dusty (Rhodes) helped me feel comfortable talking in front of a camera. A lot of people behind the scenes helped me. Without the production staff and all of the others, Tyler Breeze wouldn’t exist today.”
With Breeze spending nearly five years in developmental, there were some in the company who were skeptical whether his NXT character would translate to WWE.
“It’s a big thing going from the more intimate NXT audiences to WWE,” says Breeze. “I think Tyler Breeze is one of them who can (make the transition). People get it. As soon as I walk out, you’re going to wonder something or feel one way or the other. You’re going to love it or hate it, or least get a first impression from it ... from the way I look, the way I act. The more matches I get and the more time on camera I have, the more people are going to sink their teeth into it.”
Breeze also likes the fact that he’s given the chance to explore the social media side of the business.
“The fact that I get to play with technology also helps,” he says. “Whether it’s Periscope or Facebook Live, any kind of new things that are happening, I get to be at the forefront and get to test it out. It’s kind of hard to be the first person to do anything in WWE just because we have so much product and so many years of doing it, but I get to do something that’s new and cool.”
Working in front of the much larger WWE audiences, says Breeze, has helped him sharpen his skills.
“As much as I like the small, intimate audiences, you really can’t beat an arena filled with people. For the most part, NXT is being watched by people. But when you get into this (WWE) arena, you realize that half of the arena knows who you are, and the other half doesn’t. You need to kind of backtrack and fully remember what you did two years ago when you established this character and rediscover the roots of it. You have to show it to people from first impression again. That part’s exciting because it’s revamping my thinking on it. It’s new challenges, and I always enjoy new challenges.”
With less than two months on the main roster under his belt, it’s also a pretty good day at the office being positioned in a program with Dolph Ziggler.
“What’s better than that? First pay-per-view, being in the ring with someone like that, and I beat him. There’s been so many comparisons between the two of us. It was one of those things that people wanted to see. They got to see that, and I think they’re going to see a lot more of that.”
Monday Night Raw returns to the North Charleston Coliseum for the first time in more than two years with a show highlighted by a six-man tag-team match pitting Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Kane against WWE world heavyweight champion Sheamus, Intercontinental champion Kevin Owens and Bray Wyatt.
The last televised Raw at the Coliseum was on June 24, 2013.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at 843-937-5517, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMike Mooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham.