Matt Striker – Life in the Classroom, Squared Circle, and Beyond

From tales of teaching in New York, his unceremonious departure from WWE, achieving his childhood dream as a commentator, forming bonds through tragedy, learning from old school legends, and more, this unheard interview of Matt Striker is not to miss!

In this unheard until now Pro Wrestling Stories interview, Matt Striker opens up about teaching, life in wrestling, tragedy, and more.
In this unheard until now Pro Wrestling Stories interview, Matt Striker opens up about teaching, life in wrestling, tragedy, and more.

Matt Striker – The Unheard Interview

In 2018, Pro Wrestling Stories editor JP Zarka and long-time contributor Bobby Mathews began recording interviews for a podcast series planned to launch later that year. Unexpectedly, life got busy for all involved, and the project was parked.

Digging through this extensive archive of unaired interviews (which we promise to release at some point in its entirety), we came across our conversation with Matt Striker.

At the time of this July 2018 interview, Striker was working as a commentator with Lucha Underground during the final months of the promotion.

He’s intelligent, friendly, and an often underappreciated talent with a great love of professional wrestling, which is on full display here. Although belated in release, we are thrilled to get this out there for you all to enjoy!


Hit play to listen and follow along with the article below!


Matthew Kaye on Becoming Matt Striker

Before arriving in the WWE in February of 2005 as a know-it-all teacher named Matt Striker, Matthew Kaye learned from some of the very best on the independent circuit. One of these men was Jody Hamilton, a man known in wrestling as Assassin #1.

Along with Assassin #2 Tom Renesto, Hamilton was part of the highly successful Assassins tag team who dominated the territories during the 1970s.

As a young boy growing up in New York, Matt never imagined he would get the opportunity to meet and even less have a chance to sit under the learning tree with such a legend from the territories. Just seeing him without his famous yellow and black mask took him a while to get accustomed to!

Jody Hamilton (center) alongside Paul Roma and the late-great "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff.
Jody Hamilton (center) alongside Paul Roma and the late-great “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.

"Listening to his stories and just watching the way he moved, to me, it was a really unique opportunity," Striker admits. "I loved it and I’m grateful for it."

When asked what Hamilton told Striker that carried through to his career, Striker replied that it wasn’t anything specific but more his mindset that he picked up on and how Jody carried himself in various situations.

The ability to get someone to do something for you is a skill he remembers from Jody’s lessons. He also stressed that another important skill is relinquishing responsibility in the various instances that may arise when working with others in the ring.

"It’s not about being an alpha male," declared Striker.

Having the adaptability to change things up when needed is key. And although he hasn’t seen Hamilton in years, he forever holds great respect for him.

Another wrestling legend who had a hand in Matt Striker’s training was "The Unpredictable" Johnny Rodz, who, during his tenure with the then-WWWF, became known as one of the gatekeepers who tested newcomers in the ring.

As a gatekeeper, he was tasked with seeing what prospective wrestlers were made of. He’d also evaluate if they were worth keeping around.

Johnny Rodz remains a strong influence on Matt Striker, who still remembers many of his teachings.
Johnny Rodz remains a strong influence on Matt Striker, who still remembers many of his teachings. [Photo: WWE.com]
Striker remembers hearing stories of his grandfather becoming incensed and throwing his shoe at the television screen whenever Johnny Rodz appeared. To work with Rodz all those years later was an honor and privilege not lost on him.

 

In the years since his days of training, each of the wrestlers he met through Rodz’s school has become a staple in his life.

Of these people, he emphatically mentions Tommy Dreamer, a man who Striker admits loves wrestling more than anyone else that he knows.

"We wound up in WWE together, and traveled together. All that is too perfect and cannot not be divine in some sort of way," believes Striker.

Striker always remembers advice imparted by the “Unpredictable” one, which became invaluable later.

"There are so many ‘Johnnyisms,’ like: ‘Leave a man how you found him.’

"Sometimes people don’t want to be told how to do anything, and if you become one of those people… say someone comes up to you and says, ‘Hey, I noticed in your arms drags, you’re putting your elbow down, and I’m afraid you might separate your shoulder one day.’ And you’re the type of person that goes, ‘No. No. I know.’ ‘Oh, do you know?’ ‘Okay, man. Well, good luck.’ Leave them how you found them. That’s a good one for me."

Striker continued, "And the best is, ‘It is what it is.’ Don’t try and change certain things. It is what it is.

"Here’s another: ‘Oh, if you’re so great, how come they’re not knocking down your door?’ Don’t walk around thinking that you’re the best, because if you were, they would be looking to sign you up, or use you more."

Whether in the indies, WWE, or the announcer’s table, Matt Striker applies himself in any endeavor he pursues and has earned the respect of his peers for always putting over the product and/or his opponent before himself.
Whether in the indies, WWE, or behind the announcer’s table, Matt Striker applies himself in any endeavor he pursues and has earned the respect of his peers for always putting over the product and/or his opponent before himself. [Photo: Wikipedia.org]
When Striker first began working shows, the northeast and the New York independent scene overflowed with talents such as Low Ki, Xavier, Reckless Youth, Amazing Red, and The S.A.T.

 

"It was super, duper saturated. We had everyone up here," he recalls.

And with all this talent around him, WWE went with him.

"I guess, in hindsight, it was because I was completely different. I was still new, still fresh, and I had a story in the newspaper about taking time off being a teacher to wrestle.

"Then I had a match against Tommy Dreamer for NYWC. He became such a thread through the blanket of my wrestling career. The quilt, the tapestry. So that was the process.

"I wasn’t looking to get noticed, I was just out there having fun. I know that sounds cliché, but I really was. And I think that resonated."

The conversation then transitioned to indie sensation wrestler Reckless Youth (Thomas Carter), who, during the mid-to-late ‘90s, was making waves and getting a lot of publicity in magazines.

“Reckless,” as he was normally called, was a coveted talent and loved by the tape-trading community. He was an innovator, and, sure enough, WWE or WCW wrestlers later adopted his moves. He then seemed to disappear from the wrestling scene.

Wrestler Reckless Youth.
Wrestler Reckless Youth.

"The last thing I heard was that everyone would steal his moves," commented Striker.

"He’d have the coolest moves, and guys would take them and tweak them a little bit, and that was a big thing in the northeast. I don’t know. I really don’t know what happened to him.

"It’s almost like it tells you people can go on and have a life outside of wrestling. And I see a lot of wrestlers where it concerns me. It’s concerning, like, ‘Wow, what is that wrestler going to do when he’s 55? Does he have social security? Does he have a pension?’ It’s a scary thing.

"I’m hoping Reckless Youth has a family, a nice house, a good job, and a 401k. [I hope] he’s very happy, sometimes watches the WWE Network, but doesn’t really pay attention to it, and that he’s a happy guy now!" [laughs]

Matt Striker heard that Reckless was supposed to play the Mikey Whipwreck role in ECW, but instead, John Watson became the eventual underdog champion known to take huge beatings in the ring.

Facing Kurt Angle and Becoming Matt Striker

ECWA in Delaware was where Matt Striker first faced Kurt Angle, and he recalls that because of this experience, he was given a shot to face the American Olympic gold medalist in WWE at the Kurt Angle Invitational on February 4th, 2005’s episode of SmackDown.

"The story was hot, and the divine wind blows," said an emotional Matt Striker while summoning the memories about his step into the big time.

"I could have easily been anything, but, they gave me that spot."

Striker says that even after a little over twenty years in the business, the character of the snarky, know-it-all, arrogant teacher, is still how many fans characterize him.

"I’m now a grown-ass man, and people still believe that I’m that persona!" jokes Striker.

He then shared a humorous story of how his character came to be.

After being overheard in the hallway, something struck a chord with Vince McMahon, and he relayed to one of his writers how he envisioned the Matt Striker character.

McMahon was certain that Striker would make a phenomenal heel. Vince wanted him always to smile and correct people often. While imitating a former very disliked teacher he dealt with as a youth, Vince McMahon painted a vivid picture of how he wanted Striker to bring to life this new overbearing character.

"I went out there, and all credit to [Vince], man, from there on in, I got it," recalls Striker.

"I understood what he wanted, and people hated it. They still hate it because parts of it still comes through on commentary even when I don’t mean to do it! And [the fans] still bite. That’s why Vince is so great."

This plays into a common wrestling thought process that adheres to the theory where successful gimmicks are personalities turned up to eleven.

Fans still associate Matt Striker with his heel persona from WWE. 
Fans still associate Matt Striker with his heel persona from WWE.  [Photo: WWE.com]
"It’s interesting because that was me many years ago. I’d like to think I’m a different person now.

 

"People that I know say, ‘You’ve changed,’ and once you’re away from ‘the mania,’ no pun intended, you’re allowed to become the person you were going to be before you got involved in wrestling. Wrestling really impacts people’s personalities, their life decisions, who they are, and who they want to be."

Life in the Classroom

As a teacher and later as a professional wrestler, Matt Striker dealt with strong personalities, gossip, and other strange occurrences.

Comparing the teaching staff room to the professional wrestling locker room, Striker explained that in the real world, often, you have to bear uncomfortable situations and hold your tongue.

“In the staff room, you can’t say to Mr. Fitzsimmons, ‘Hey man, do you want to go across the street? What’s up? Do you got something to say?’ You can’t do that in the real world.”

He continued, “If you are this kind of person and someone is giving you a hard time, then you say it. You just end it.

“If you’re in the ring with someone, it’s important to say, ‘I’m sorry I accidentally kicked you in the face.’

“To me, when you step between those ropes, that’s for the fans. That has nothing to do with us, so that’s the big difference. There’s more reciprocity and accountability in wrestling.”

Falling Back On The Old School

Although the WWE previously had characters like "The Genius" Lanny Poffo and Dean Douglas, the Matt Striker heel teacher persona was pesky and annoying instead of forceful and intimidating like the larger Douglas.

Striker doesn’t remember management comparing him to Douglas, at least not to his face. Triple H did suggest similarities with the Matt Striker character to Ari Gold from the comedy-drama television series Entourage.

When working for the eventually failed re-launch of the ECW brand, Matt Striker didn’t focus on what brand he was working for. He simply saw everything as a learning opportunity, focused on the positives, and didn’t muddle his thoughts with the politics involved. Neither was he obsessed with the locker room pecking order that is commonplace in the business.

This open-mindedness has helped him continue having a career in this volatile and cut-throat industry.

When asked how difficult it was at first to work on television night after night, having to layout matches to fit time cues for TV, Matt Striker inevitably falls back on the old school teachings instilled by Assassin #1, Jody Hamilton.

"We started our conversation with the Jody Hamilton discussion. One of the things that I referenced was allowing situations to just be. I was never very good at, as you say, ‘laying it out,’ because I don’t know, there needs to be a fluidity to the fight."

He continues, "If the crowd wants to take it somewhere, and my partner and I are willing to allow that, that’s a fun little ride.

"Who knows what this crowd here in Boston on this night is into because some nights they’re crazy.

"Versus if I come down to Dothan, Alabama, and I start throwing arm drags and drop kicks, man, we might have a hoop baby, and let’s get some old Southern. I’m making my fist right now while I’m talking to you! I’m doing my Eddie Gilbert, Jerry Lawler, fire up, because it just depends wherever you are. So that’s how I’ve always been, organic, and let it just go."

Wide-Eyed and Loving Every Moment

Debuting for WWE in his early thirties, Matt Striker couldn’t believe that he stood across the ring from stars such as The Undertaker, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and John Cena.

"I had no business being there," admits a humble Striker. "The kid from Queens, New York, the same kid that had no business knowing who’s under the Assassin’s mask."

"There’s no way logistically that this could happen if this was 1985," Striker admits while laughing.

Matt then opened up further about his good friend, Tommy Dreamer.

"There’s so much about Tommy Dreamer. It’s so hard to explain. You ever meet someone and they’re just so passionate about something and it’s infectious? Tommy just sucks you in with wrestling. He learned from Dusty Rhodes, and Dusty Rhodes learned from Eddie Graham and you’re into this vortex of wrestling and it’s crazy."

Each Generation Must Feed The Other

"I’m gonna tell you," Matt Striker changed the subject to a conversation he had with a friend around the time of this July 2018 interview, "I was talking to someone, and I said that in my mind, Cody Rhodes must win the NWA World’s title at All In (on September 1st, 2018).

"They were like, ‘Why? What do you mean?’

"I was explaining how there aren’t any more moments, great moments left. They threw Mankind off the cage, and The Rock and Hogan did the stare-off. And maybe in the future, we’ll look back at Ronda Rousey, but the moments are fleeting, but NXT is doing such a great job, I think."

Matt Striker is very vocal in his opinions, but they come from a place of respect and love for the business of professional wrestling.
Matt Striker is very vocal in his opinions, but they come from a place of respect and love for the business of professional wrestling. [Photo: Mandatory.com]
"I think the generations need to nurture the next generations. Those ECW guys realize that’s almost 30 years ago now. But that generation nurtured my generation, and my generation needs to nurture the next generation.

 

"My matches with Sandman were helpful because all the other ECW guys watched. You don’t think they weren’t going to keep an eye on their boy? They didn’t know me. They thought maybe I was going to stick my thumb in his throat, or maybe I’ll use it.

"No. Sandman and I to this day are still friends. We talk about weird space stuff that you don’t want to… like aliens and things like that.

"But that generation helped mine. And I think Cody needs to win that title because that generation, the Young Bucks and Cody, that’s the next one. And then the next ones are coming up. It’s exciting."

Cody would end up defeating Nick Aldis at All In. With this victory, Cody and his father, Dusty Rhodes, became the first father-son duo to win the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship.

Enjoying Wrestling But Born For Commentary

Matt Striker has proven his love for wrestling, but his fascination for commentary came at a much earlier age.

"I’ve been doing commentary since  was a little kid. All my life. I had GI Joe figures and I had a wrestling federation and I would talk about the matches into the tape recorder. My mother still has the tapes. It’s interesting because as a little kid you’re just doing it, and you’re passionate about it."

Matt Striker has felt very at ease with his various roles in commentary in wrestling and other sports such as MMA.
Matt Striker has felt very at ease with his various roles in commentary in wrestling and other sports such as MMA. [Photo: wrestling-news-net]
"And then they say, ‘Hey, someone thought you might want to try this. Put these headphones on. Three, two, one go!’

 

“You either become that little kid again, or you stare blankly into the camera and the opportunity is lost. I’d been preparing all my life. And again, it’s divine because when the camera went on, man, I felt like I’ve been doing it all my life."

"Now that I’m into it, it’s a challenge because I listen to my critics. I shouldn’t, but I do. I’m always trying to get better. I’m always trying to be better. That eight-year-old kid, all he cared about was that Destro hit the flying head butt, one, two, three!"

Although Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn are infamous for being hands-on with the production side of things when it comes to commentary, Matt Striker says that none of his experiences have ever been negative. And since he was never the lead announcer, but instead the color man for either Raw, SmackDown, or ECW, it was rare for him to get heat.

"You could look at having your boss in your ear as a positive or negative but let me spin it this way: I was able to talk to exclusively and learn from exclusively for three hours or four, five hours every week from Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn. You tell me anyone else that has had that experience. So there’s good and bad in everything. Thankfully, I did not have a lot of bad in my headset."

Although Vince McMahon can be a very polarizing figure in sports entertainment, Matt Striker saw it as a positive experience having McMahon as his boss.
Although Vince McMahon can be a very polarizing figure in sports entertainment, Matt Striker saw it as a positive experience having McMahon as his boss. [Photo: BleacherReport.com]
Matt Striker remembers Joey Styles, Tazz, and Brad Armstrong at one point did three-way commentary for the ECW shows. And when Tazz went to SmackDown, Striker did color for ECW.

 

When the conversation of the Armstrongs came up, Striker had nothing but praise for Brad and his whole family, which includes the late-great Bullet Bob ArmstrongRoad Dogg, and Scott Armstrong.

"Brad was so good and so nice. It’s amazing that you meet people, and you don’t know why you meet them. Again, you realize, ‘How’s this kid from Queens, New York ever going to be able to sit and talk to Brad Armstrong?’

“I’m thankful that I did. God rest his soul. That Armstrong family from top to bottom, they’re good people. There’s sometimes some people just bad people, the Armstrongs are just good, good people."

Once getting comfortable with commentary, Matt Striker realized that it was something, unlike wrestling, that he could probably do at an older age. As you get older, he confesses, working in the ring just gets more painful. This was an opportunity to save his body from more punishment while still having the ability to work in wrestling.

Lucha Underground and Making The Most of Opportunities

The opportunity to work for Lucha Underground was almost divine intervention when explained by Matt Striker.

"Again, these opportunities only present themselves so often. I’m sitting in my house, sitting on my couch and I’ve been let go from WWE. I’m doing math and looking at my finances, and I would just take a minute, and I stopped. I had to say a quick little prayer. I just prayed. You know? I would just say, ‘Please God protect me.’

"As soon as I opened up my eyes from the prayer, my phone rang, and it was the same writer that called me to say that Vince [McMahon] thought I’d be better off as an antagonist.

"It was a Thursday. Don’t ask me to say how I remember this stuff because I’ve had a million concussions and done some things in college that make me not remember stuff, but he says, ‘Can you come out tomorrow on a flight to Los Angeles? They’re doing this wrestling show, and Josh Matthews was our first choice.’

"They said that to me on the phone, and I felt terrible," Striker says while laughing, "‘but he can’t do it. Would you do it?’

"I knew, I knew. I just prayed. I’d just said a prayer. How could I say no? Okay. Absolutely guys. ‘All right. We’ll send you a plane ticket.’ And I went out there and the rest is history."

The ability of Matt Striker to see the often controversial Vampiro as his true self, and not only his wrestling persona, enabled them to work well together.
The ability of Matt Striker to see the often controversial Vampiro as his true self, and not only his wrestling persona, enabled them to work well together. [Photo: WhatCulture.com]
In Lucha Underground, Matt Striker had an amicable working relationship with Vampiro even when others like Chris Jericho have had less than flattering things to say about him.

 

"It’s funny because you really shouldn’t judge anyone. You should only take your own accounts in when reflecting on how you are about a person. I can see how Vampiro rubs people the wrong way.

"I know Ian [Hodgkinson, Vampiro’s real name]. I know the guy who has a daughter. The guy who moved back to Thunder Bay [Ontario] to live with his mom. I never knew Vampiro until that camera went on. And whatever it is about him that people don’t like, I haven’t experienced it. I do my job. I don’t shut up on that show. You know that. He does his thing."

"And then we’re out. But Ian and I get along just fine because I can say things like ‘Yeah, you’re full of s***, don’t make me come over there to slap you!’ It’s like a big brother, little brother thing.

"We talk about music. He plays guitar. I play guitar and drums, hockey. So that’s why I think I can get on with him. Because I don’t know, Vampiro, I know Ian."

The important transition from wrestler to announcer is that you must concentrate on putting the product over instead of putting yourself over. To some, like Matt Striker, the transition seemed to come naturally.

"Everyone’s trying to get themselves over, but the minute you learn, ‘You know what? I’m going to put you over. I’m going to make you feel like a million bucks.’ I still win, don’t I? Because whether I win or lose, you still want to play with me. I learned that early on. That’s a Johnny Rod’s thing. Build them up.

"Down in Deep South, Tommy Dreamer, again, put everyone else over. He put the match over. He put the move over. He put the crowd over, and he put the ring over. ‘Ow, that hurt!’ You’ll get over in the process.

"It’s so uncomfortable and unattractive when these people put themselves over. Social media, it’s just, it’s awful for that. They put themselves over, over, over. Let me like you. Don’t tell me to like you. It’s different."

Admiration of William Regal, Dean Malenko, and Others

Teaming with William Regal in NXT was another humbling experience for Matt Striker. Regal was a man that he felt didn’t even have any business knowing him by his first name.

"I love William Regal as a wrestler. Everyone else was watching these other guys, and whatever. I was watching William Regal, Dean Malenko, and Chris Benoit. So to team with him, to know him, to experience him, was surreal.

"They say, ‘Don’t meet your heroes because you’ll be disappointed.’ That’s not the case here. He was everything I wanted him to be and more."

"Another guy like that was Fit Finlay. When I grow up, I want to be Fit Finlay! He’s a man’s man, you know? You can’t mess with him! He’s 50 something and he’ll beat all three of us up. All three of us on this call, he’ll beat us all up." [laughs]

Matt Striker wants people to know that Dean Malenko had a career most weren’t exposed to in the U.S., but that doesn’t lessen his greatness.

"If you wanted a moveable sequence that 90% of the people hadn’t seen, or at least hadn’t seen in awhile, you’d go to Malenko and he’d help you with transitions, like players in other sports like baseball consult with each other."

Matt Striker on Unceremoniously Being Let Go By WWE

In 2013, in the middle of the year, WWE decided not to renew Matt Striker’s contract.

"I was on my way up there to renegotiate my new contract," Matt describes. "I put on a suit like that scene from Goodfellas, man; I don’t know if you remember it, but Joe Pesci walks in, and he looks on and ‘Ah s***!’ He knew he was getting whacked.

"I put on my suit, drove up there, and went up. The person I was supposed to meet, I heard, ‘You can’t meet him, he’s not here, but I’ll tell you what, you’ll meet with this person.’ That’s the death walk, man.

"He was a fairly new executive [in WWE] and he broke the news. They brought in a third person. I can’t think… it’s a corporate thing to do, you always want a witness there, but what if I lost my mind and stabbed him in the neck with a letter opener? No." [laughs]

He continues, "I went in my car, and I called the guy from talent relations. I was like, ‘Did you know about it?’

"[He replied], ‘No. We were just talking about this position that we were going to give you.’

" Whatever, even if he did or didn’t, who knows. I’m not afraid to admit it, and again, I’m a grown-ass man. I cried. Boy, I sat in my car, and I cried. I drove home and, your mind starts racing, ‘What am I gonna do? I don’t know.’ I’m a faith guy, so I immediately looked to God right away. And that’s how that went down.

"It was just such a right hook out of nowhere. At least, why did I have to drive all the way up there and put on my suit? Couldn’t you have called me and told me? Like c’mon! That was my big thing. I could’ve been home, it’s nice out, I could’ve been at the beach. Nope. That was it. And now that was five years ago. And here we are."

When asked if he ever wore that unlucky suit again, Striker believes that the pants got ruined either in the washer or the dryer, so he hasn’t had to don that ominous suit again.

New Japan Pro Wrestling

Fortunately, Matt Striker got straight back to work with Lucha Underground in 2014 and then New Japan Pro Wrestling.

"That’s the beauty of professional wrestling. It’s just worse if you’re not on television. I don’t care how good you are. Really, people don’t know about you. That little kid in Walmart wearing that Roman Reigns t-shirt, he has no idea about you."

"That’s where a lot of the money is. Even if it’s… it’s just crazy. When you look at it, being on TV that makes all the difference in the world."

Matt Striker went on to describe what he saw in New Japan that impressed him.

"I appreciate you calling me professional. I laughed. I was sipping lemonade. You have to look at every single wrestling company as a company or a corporation as you would on a stock market.

"What New Japan is looking to do is to create a product that they can sell here in the States on a widespread platform that can somehow take chunks of WWE’s revenue, right? WWE, if you notice, big new deal with Fox covers them, huge new deal in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia covers them. Huge deals across Europe covers them."

"It’s almost as if New Japan is looking and saying, ‘There’s a piece of the pie for us,’ but they have to try to modify their product. For me, I think that New Japan, its essence since 1977, still stands up today. It still holds up because it had validity. But I’m noticing just different colors, different sets and backgrounds."

"Yet, they still find a way to maintain the integrity of what that lion means and what New Japan Pro Wrestling means. If they can do that and balance carefully this line and market this product, they most definitely can take some of the pie that is available here in the U.S."

Bonding After Tragedy Strikes

Oftentimes, wrestlers deal with tragedy differently than many others not in the industry—bittersweet memories pepper wrestling lore. Matt Striker bonded and developed a brotherhood with his co-workers not often seen in other jobs.

Over the years, Tommy Dreamer has been one of Matt Striker’s closest friends and confidants.
Over the years, Tommy Dreamer has been one of Matt Striker’s closest friends and confidants. [Photo: WWE.com]
"I referenced how a lot of ECW guys try to look out for the next generation of guys. The night we found out that Chris Benoit had died, I think we were in Corpus Christi, Texas. Tommy Dreamer and I drove that night, and I think it was on our way to San Antonio, but I could be wrong.

 

"We didn’t say a word. We just drove, you know, dark Texas highways, no radio, nothing. Windows down, just driving, silent. Finally, we pull into a Sonic or something, and we ordered some food, and those were the first words we said was ordering the food.

"And then you have to sit in your car. So the food comes, and we’re looking at our food. I look up, and Tommy had taken a piece of lettuce and put it on his head. And also a ketchup packet and slammed it on his forehead, and shouted as loud as he could, ‘ECW!, ECW!’ We just started laughing so that we wouldn’t be crying.

"It was right there that," Matt paused for a moment with a sigh, "it wasn’t a rib. It was just a moment in the car, how two people dealt with something.

"Tommy knew him. [Benoit] slept on Tommy’s couch. I was just along for the ride there."

Matt Striker on Ribs and Practical Jokes on the Road

Matt Striker changed the conversation to a lighter topic: ribs and practical jokes.

"Tommy [Dreamer] used to have someone prank call me all the time. I still think it was Lou ‘Sign Guy’ Dudley, Lou D’Angeli, but he would have someone call me and pretend, gosh," Striker changes his voice, "he had to put this voice on and he said that he used to wrestle in the South, and he was hoping to get hooked in WWE and could I talk to Johnny Ace (John Laurinaitis, Head of Talent Relations) for him?’"

"At first, I thought it was some Southern guy or Ray Candy. I didn’t know who it is! The calls would come for months. Then finally, in a locker room somewhere, I heard Tommy snickering, like in a corner. That’s when I finally realized months later that he had someone pranking me the whole time. So there you go!

"[Ray Candy] was the voice that the guy seemed to have, [continues like Ray Candy] ‘You might not remember me, but I’m a big man, about 500 lbs, I could do a cartwheel,’ and I’m like, ‘big man, 500 lbs, cart…?!’

"So I do a pretty mean [changes voice] Johnny Ace. I do a big Johnny Ace all the time.

"‘Hey, it’s Johnny!’

"I also do a Stone Cold [Steve Austin]. I remember one time I called Jack Doan, the referee, as Johnny Ace. I don’t know why, but I fired him. [laughs]

"That was the stupidest thing in the world, too, because Jack Doan was a senior guy. He was such… bless his heart, he laughed at it. But looking back, he could have been like, ‘What’s this kid? Who the f*** do you think you are?’

"I would call a lot of people as Johnny Ace. A lot.

"I got [former WWE and current AEW ring announcer] Justin Roberts once. Somebody had lost a bunch of passports, and [former Senior Director of WWE Talent Relations] Mark Carrano had me call someone, and I pretended to be Johnny. Yeah, s*** like that.

"In my defense, I do recall that a lot of that was under the duress of Viscera. God, rest his soul, Big Daddy V. We would travel together too. To entertain him while he drove, he’d say, ‘Call so-and-so and be so-and-so, and put it on speaker.’

"So a lot of that I was almost being forced to do it," Striker jokes with a chuckle.

When asked if he had any good stories on Nelson Frazier Jr., the man who played the roles of Mabel from Men on a Mission, Viscera, and Big Daddy V, Striker gladly complied.

Matt Striker remembers the late Nelson Frazier Jr., who played the roles of Mabel, Viscera, and Big Daddy V.
Matt Striker remembers the late Nelson Frazier Jr., who played the roles of Mabel, Viscera, and Big Daddy V. [Photo: @PWMania on Twitter]
"He was the sweetest man, and he was very, very, humble. I think that it took him some time to get that humble. He came up through Memphis and Arkansas during a different time, and a guy like Visc, a guy like Nelson walking down the street, people’s heads are gonna turn."

 

"He would explain to me so many things about wrestling through that.

"A great thing I remember was he explained to me how, and I think Jim Ross furthered this, Bill Watts in his territory when he would have an Ernie Ladd or a Junkyard Dog on top, his Friday night house ticket sales would be through the roof because everyone got paid and everyone wanted to come and see old JYD put a whooping on that old Texan!"

"But then, when the economy would shift, Watts would have an old Texan on top. He’d have the shows at a different point, not so much on the first Friday of the month. Maybe it’s on the third Friday of the month so people could afford the tickets.

"Nelson would say, ‘They’re going to be all the way up top, and it’s going to be them old Texans shouting wanting that Texan to go whoop that dog!’

"I never thought of it that way. Who the hell thinks of it that way? He did. He lived it. And I might not be doing the story justice, but you get the point."

"What was also great is that [Nelson] lit incense sticks in the locker room. He played good soul music. It was just always a very relaxed environment when he was around. He was smooth and he would take me to barbecue and rib joints. Again, places that a kid from Queens should never be. I went a lot of places with him. With him, it was always a good night."

Once again, Striker broached the difficult topic of Chris Benoit. Specifically, what was the mindset in the locker room?

"I just- I remember I laid out the least masculine cry ever. It was like, whaaa! It hit me in the stomach.

"I retreated down a corridor. I’m a loner. When I’m Matt Striker, I could be the life of the party, but when I’m just Matt, I’m not anti-social, but I’m kind of awkward. So I’m okay being alone. I just wandered the halls a little bit.

"As I made my way back to wherever I was, people would just be leaving. They said, ‘You can leave if you want to leave. Those who want to stay then stay.’

" I don’t think we did the show that night. People were leaving, but it was, there was anger in the air. I remember thinking, ‘Where’s that anger? Who’s angry?’ From there it was just silence. That silence carried over into the car, carried over from one hundred miles down dark, Texas highways. Everyone processed it their own way, but I just recall everyone leaving and then getting into the car and just silence."

Disbelief in what happened engulfed both fans and wrestlers on that tragic day.

"The one thing that I can take from being on the fringes of the inner circle when that happened is that, and it still resonates to this day.

"I guess we’ve all become numb to it. Not everything that you see and hear is always exactly what it is. And then people take it for a game of telephone. Your neighbor tells you this, and this person puts this on social media, and then all of a sudden it becomes, ‘Hey, did you hear? Uh, you know, Matt Striker’s an alien.’ ‘Wait, what? No, it’s that he helped out an immigrant.’ You know what I mean? It’s like, ‘What are you saying?’

"A lot of the stuff that was on the news, a lot of us were looking at each other over like, ‘That, that can’t be,’ or, ‘Wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense.’

"It is what it is, like Johnny Rodz always says."

What is Matt Striker Up To Today?

In 2018, Matt Striker, as one of the announcers for the now-defunct Lucha Underground, wanted to emphasize that people had a choice between two types of wrestling. WWE is one choice, but he mentioned Lucha Underground, Major League Wrestling (MLW), House of Hardcore, Impact, and Ring of Honor. He stressed that these organizations appreciate and value the fans.

"As wrestlers, we hope to continue to entertain you. And as a commentator, I hope to continue to annoy each and every one of you!"

Matt Kaye (Matt Striker) in a 2020 "Labor of Love" promotional photo.
Matt Kaye (Matt Striker) in a 2020 “Labor of Love” promotional photo. [Photo: Quantrell Colbert]
Although Matt is no longer on social media, he has kept busy in the three years since the above interview took place.

 

In early 2018, he joined FITE TV. Matt can be seen on FITE analyzing combat sporting events such as MMA, Boxing, and Bare Knuckle fighting.

In 2019, he continued his work in sports broadcasting, hosting shows such as “The Fantasy Baseball Hour,” “Pro Football Rewind,” and “Diamond Bets.”

Matt also hosted the Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio program, “The Win Daily Show.”

In 2020, Matt was a writer and cast member of the “Labor of Love” dating game show that began airing on Fox on May 21, 2020. The eight-episode series featured fifteen men participating in challenges and dates that tested their parenting and personal skills.

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following articles on our site:


Want More? Choose another story!

Follow us:  Twitter / Facebook / Instagram
About Our Site / Meet Our Writers / Write For Us
Javier Ojst is an old-school wrestling enthusiast currently residing in El Salvador. He's been a frequent guest on several podcasts, has a few bylines on TheLogBook.com where he shares stories of pop culture and retro-related awesomeness, and his work has also appeared in G-Fan magazine. He can be contacted by e-mail at jojst1@gmail.com.