There is no other guest I’ve been more excited to get in touch with than who I’m sitting down with today. Being a huge pro wrestling fan since a kid, there has been many times I’ve turned the camera on to shoot a promo. Many times were I’ve eyeballed myself in the mirror, imagining I’m looking into the lens of a TV camera. I even went so far as to jump into a WWE Ring at a Smackdown house show dressed as a power ranger. Wrestling was one of my main motivators for starting to work out as a teenager. During my teens I attended Pro Wrestling training in a local town, unfortunately it closed down and I couldn’t find another in the area. Whilst my personal journey has led to a path of bodybuilding, which Im documenting in my NABBA Bodybuilding Show Preparation Journal, in the back of my mind, when I’m in bigger, and better shape, I like to think i’ll start up training again. Hey, who knows where it could take me? Bottom live, I love Wrestling (strong no homo)
I recently had the fantastic opportunity to speak with Gabe Tuft, more commonly known as Tyler Reks, former WWE Superstar, to discuss his times with WWE, life after wrestling, working out, along with his newest project, Body Spartan.
Thanks for taking part in this Gabe, wrestling is a huge passion of mine, so it’s great to speak with someone who has performed at the highest level in the industry. I could spend a full afternoon asking you about just wrestling, and a separate afternoon asking you about just fitness, so I’ll try and be selective in my questioning as to not keep you too long – haha.
First of all, can you give our readers a quick introduction to what Body Spartan is, and who is involved?
Sure thing, Adam. Body Spartan: Genesis is the title of the fitness book I’ve written. It includes all of my workout secrets that I’ve been asked about from guys on the main roster and from fans and followers on social media. I’ve gone into extreme detail on motivation, nutrition, supplements, and training. The book contains a full, 12-week workout program; a 12-week anabolic shredding nutrition program developed by Priscilla Tuft, Licensed Sports Nutritionist; and also an entire section full of cooking recipes to use with the nutrition program.
Also, www.bodyspartan.com is the website we will be using to launch and promote the book. However, there is much more involved than just the book. We are the first fitness website comprised entirely of a group of international TV superstars and professional athletes that have dedicated their lives to fitness and whose careers have always depended on their physique. Each member of the team has been carefully selected due to their specific strengths and knowledge as it pertains to workouts, fitness, supplementation, and nutrition plans. We will be publishing multiple, weekly articles on fitness and training and also selling custom nutrition plans on the site.
Additional team members include:
- Rycklon Stephens (whose stage name with WWE is Ezekiel Jackson): Professional Wrestler
- Jayson Paul (stage name with WWE is JTG): Professional Wrestler
- Brian Cage: Professional Wrestler, bodybuilder, and certified personal trainer
- Jemma Palmer: International TV Star better known as “Inferno” from the UK Gladiators TV show
- Priscilla Tuft: Former professional fitness competitor, professional fitness model, and licensed sports nutritionist
Our goal is to change as many lives as possible by passing on the knowledge that we have amassed through years of sculpting our own physiques.
Who is the most aesthetic member of Body Spartan?
If by aesthetic you mean “in shape” person that would definitely be Brian Cage.
How did this team assemble to form Body Spartan?
I needed a platform to launch the book and I knew that a collaborative, ongoing effort with carefully selected fitness pros had the potential to grow into something much greater than just the book itself. As I was nearing completion of the book, I began to contact the current team members, who are all good friends of mine, about the idea. Every single one of them gave a resounding “yes” to the idea.
What was the motivation behind the Spartan theme?
Honestly, by the time I was three quarters of the way done with the book, I still had no idea what I was going to title the book. I spent a month brainstorming names, knowing that the web address had to match. Everything with the term “fitness” or “training” was already taken. Finally, one day, by the luck of the draw I typed in bodyspartan.com at GoDaddy and it was available. Game, set, match – I had the name.
I can imagine the promo’s now “THIS …. IS…. BODY SPARRRRRRRRRRRRTTTTTTTTTTTTTANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN” (queue the crazy remix music) What is your take on the importance of having a solid physique in order to be successful in the WWE in this era?
I’ve always believed that physique is important to be successful in WWE. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I think everyone on the roster should be built like I am, or like Batista or Big E. Physique is a benefit of hard work and well, you can’t be out of shape and be a main event guy. Even someone with a smaller stature like Daniel Bryan has a good physique. He may not be big and shredded but his body is built to handle daily, 20 and 30 minute, intense matches – and his physique reflects that. So yes, physique is important.
Do you believe there is more or less of an emphasis on looking good in the WWE in order to be successful than what there was say 15 years ago?
I think it’s more about the talent’s character than anything else. As much as “gimmicks” are a thing of the past, “character” is what makes a talent a true superstar. Again, Daniel Bryan has an amazing character, Punk had an extremely well developed character, and Jericho has a finely tuned character. That, in my opinion, is more important that “looking good”. Although I do believe that having a decent physique plays an important role as well.
You started on the independent scene in 2007. What was your training, both fitness and wrestling, like back then?
As far as fitness goes, I had been lifting weights and in the gym since I was 14 years old. There’s a small section in my book that talks about this era in my life and the skinny little kid I used to be. By the time I was scouted though, in 2007, I was around 240lbs and surfing on a daily basis, with around 6% body fat. I never did get a chance to work the indies. I was literally in the right place at the right time. My friend Rick Bassman asked me to come to UPW one evening to let the scouts “have a look”. Next thing I knew I was off to a try-out at Deep South and then packing up and moving to Florida for FCW, with absolutely minimal in-ring experience. I had never worked a live match when I started at FCW.
Was it a culture shock stepping foot into the corporate world of the WWE compared to what you had been doing on the independents? We here all kinds of rumours about the WWE not looking favourably on guys who made a name for themselves in the indies. Is there any truth to this?
As I mentioned, I never worked on the indies so I really couldn’t compare the two. I don’t believe that WWE looks down upon guys who have made it successfully on the indies. I think what they are looking for is a talent that is capable of more than just spots and cool moves. They want a talent that knows how to tell a story and use those cool moves/spots at just the right point in the match.
What was your schedule like back in FCW?
I’d get to the arena at about 9:00am every weekday and lace up the boots and start stretching out. Practice started at 9:30am sharp. Depending on the day we would either run drills, have a seminar, run matches, or run matches on the fly where the trainers would randomly pick two guys to work a match with no time to plan anything out.
We had a Tuesday night show at Bourbon Street in Newport Richie for a while. Once that stopped and the arena opened for Thursday night shows, we’d run shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday nights. We’d travel as far to Miami or as close as St. Petersburg. No matter what though, we always had practice on Friday mornings.
Who were your buddies in FCW, did you stick together when being called up to the main roster, or did you feel like alone when first getting called up to the main roster?
I had become friends with just about everyone at FCW. So as we got called up one by one, it was always good to see a friendly face. I don’t think anyone really abandoned their true friends. Guys like Slater, McIntyre, Perez, Kidd, Hawkins, Trent, the Usos – they’re all like family.
What do you believe your big break was in order to get called up to the main roster?
I think it was timing. When I got called up I was the current FCW Champion and ECW was just being repackaged and they wanted some fresh blood on the show.
How much control does the WWE have over your creativity and personal life? Obviously they dictate your character name, entrance music, gimmick, at least in the early stages of a career. However you pulled your ‘Rekking Crew’ YouTube series from YouTube as you didn’t have permission from the WWE prior to uploading them. Was this your decision or theirs?
They have a lot of control. You basically sign your life away when you sign a contract. My attorney couldn’t believe that I was planning on signing the contract they gave me because I was giving up just about everything I could to their control. The Midcard Mafia series was pulled at mine and Hawkins discretion. Johnny Ace had told us not to make any more episodes and hinted our jobs depended on that. We made the decision to pull the episodes so that we wouldn’t take any more heat for them. They’re still there though, just marked as private 😉
Did you have much interaction with any of the main eventers during your time in WWE? Can you tell us about how you got on with those guys, both on a professional and personal level?
Sure – I spent a little time chatting with guys like Kane, Edge, Christian, Chavo, MVP, and Jericho on a weekly basis. They are all very down to earth people. These are the guys that have nothing to prove and were more than willing to offer up help and advice when they didn’t have to. I had some really fun matches with Kane, Christian, Chavo, and MVP and I learned more in a single match with those guys than I did at my entire stint at FCW. It’s just experience that you can’t gain anywhere else.
Vince McMahon, good boss, or ball ache?
Not sure. I didn’t have any real interaction with him other than the cordial handshake in passing. He always seemed like he was “on a mission” and extremely busy.
How much involvement did you have with Vince directly, or did you report more to agents?
You had quite a successful debut period on Smackdown, being part of both the bragging rights and survivor series teams, however fast forward to the Royal Rumble and you were booked as an afterthought. How does booking work backstage to feature a start prominently, only to then do nothing with them months later?
Yeah I’m not sure how that works. I’ve said this before, there just wasn’t a Talent Development Department back then and so guys just fell off the radar. The writers are so busy with the top stars that up and comers were just a back burner item. I think it’s changed quite a bit now though with Hunter stepping in and heading up Talent Development.
Who did you form your closest relationships with when in WWE?
Definitely Hawkins. For more than a year we rode in the same car, stayed in the same hotel room, and were inside each other’s heads trying to make our team successful. He’s like a brother to me.
Who did you not get on with at all in WWE?
I think that’s fairly well known and we probably don’t need to cover that again J
How much politicking really goes on backstage? How can a new guy to the main roster look to be noticed?
There’s a lot. It’s not necessarily what you know, it’s who you know. I found it was about making friends with the right people and having advocates in the production meetings for you.
How do the top talents act and treat the noobies backstage?
The guys I’ve mentioned in previous answers were extremely nice. Again, they had nothing to prove. There were one or two top talents who just wouldn’t give the noobs the time of day.
During your time with the WWE what was the morale like in the locker room?
It was bad when I first got called up because a lot of the guys were getting released and there just wasn’t any job security. There was definitely a shift as more and more of the FCW crew was called up. We had a sense of camaraderie with each other as we all wanted to help one another succeed. The cut throat days were gone and it was a new era.
Who was the ‘locker room leader’?
If you were on the main roster, you were at one point a locker room leader. That being said, I think guys like Zeke, Chavo, and MVP were the ones always cleaning up and trying to make sure that we left arenas in good shape. I’m sure I’m missing a few guys and if so, they know who they are.
What was the general feeling among younger talent towards a guy like say Cena, who had dominated the WWE, and continues to do so?
It really wasn’t an issue. We all knew he was the poster boy and there wasn’t much to say about it. I think everyone just wanted an opportunity to work with him to help elevate their career. A guy in his position has the ability to make a new star in a single match. I think everyone kept a little hope that they might be that person.
Something i’ve always wondered since I started lifting and eating a ‘bodybuilding’ styled diet is how the hell do you guys fit everything around your travel schedule. I can’t imagine you cooking a full week’s worth of meals and taking them with you on the road. How do you manage to eat right when travelling so much?
Now that’s tough. It boils down to staying away from fast food. To eat right on the road, and get the correct nutrition you have to spend more money than you want to. We would go to IHOP in the mornings and order egg whites cooked with as little oil as possible, steamed vegetables, etc. Lunch would be something like Subway and dinner would be whatever we could grab that wasn’t crap food. We all packed bags of protein powder and shaker cups and used it a few times a day. We never missed a workout on the road, either.
Did you find it harder to make gains due to your travel schedule?
Yup. Sleep and rest is extremely important to building new muscle. We were always exhausted and our bodies were always trying to heal from all the bumps we would take. I noticed as soon as I stopped bumping and travelling and started eating on schedule, I started putting on muscle mass again. I was around 245 pounds in WWE and before I started cutting for the photo shoot for Body Spartan I was just under 260 pounds.
Those are some awesome gains, and puts into perspective how important rest is when trying to build muscle. Having to maintain a balance of aesthetic physique, along with high performance for in ring action, did you training routine differ when you started wrestling compared to beforehand? Can you talk us through a typical week of training when you were on the road?
It really didn’t vary from what I do now. The in-ring training is the only thing that is different. You have to continuously run matches either before the show, if you’re not booked, or on the show to stay in good ring shape. As far as a typical week goes, I’ve outlined all that in my book and I don’t want to spoil it for the readers J
How much of an impact did the pain of wrestling have upon the performance of your workouts?
A lot. I had to constantly find new versions of exercises to work around nagging injuries. It forces you to be creative though.
How does your training differ now that you are no longer wrestling?
Again, not by much. Just better nutrition and rest.
What was the final decision for you quit wrestling, and move on in life?
My daughter was about eight months old and I simply didn’t want to miss another moment of her life.
Is Body Spartan something something you planned on doing whilst wrestling, or something you only considered after quitting?
Body Spartan was something I decided to do after I retired.
As you have mentioned, the Body Spartan team involves many WWE superstars, along with other fitness personalities. How is the division of labour split?
Each team member has committed to writing two articles a week. That’s all we’re requiring of each person. I’ve encouraged the team members to begin writing their own fitness books/workouts. The more information and knowledge we can pass on, the more opportunities for success our readers will have.
Do each of you have ‘specialised’ areas as part of Body Spartan, or do you all cover similar topics?
Most of us will cover similar topics, however Brian Cage has become quite the body builder and I would imagine he will be providing lot’s on insight on strength and power training. Also, Priscilla Tuft, our licensed sports nutritionist, has a passion for working with youth and pregnant women. I’m sure we will see lots of information on those topics from her.
Talk us through how the site will work. Will you have memberships to access content? Will there be specific routines for sale?
Membership is free and at this point will provide the member with a weekly digest of the top articles on the site, discounts and special offers, and early bird notifications of upcoming events.
We will also be selling an amazing, custom nutrition plan subscription that uses software to create a personalized nutrition plan for you. It takes about 10 minutes to fill out the assessment online and creates daily menus, a personalized workout, shopping lists including supplements, and is completely cloud based and mobile friendly. Every two weeks the user will do another assessment and the software will adjust the nutrition plan to their current progress. This plan will be a $49.99/month subscription usually. However, for the first two weeks we are running a special that includes the book for $17.95 and the nutrition plan subscription for only $2/month – indefinitely. We want people to succeed at their fitness goals so we’re pretty much giving away the nutrition plans for this short period of time.
How often do you change up your training routine?
Every four to six weeks, personally.
Is there a particular type of training you prefer such as strength training, high volume etc?
I love strength training. It’s probably ego-related and probably because it takes the most effort with fewer reps. I loathe endurance (high rep) training but I do it anyways because it’s essential.
What are your current, personal fitness goals?
I’d like to reach the 270-280 pound goal weight by the end of this year and then diet down for one more photo shoot. I don’t have any plans to compete in body building as of right now.
Talk us through your current routine.
Haha – you gotta buy the book for that one! I will tell you this, there’s no playing around. My headphones are in, I use the timer on my iPhone to time my rest, and I’m in and out in less than an hour.
What is a typical day of eating like for you?
Well, for the photo shoot, I was using the nutrition plan in my book. It involved 415 grams of protein, zero carbs, and about 100 grams of fat per day. I was topping out at about 4,000 calories even on this diet. Keep in mind, I set my goal weight at 260lbs so not everyone will need to ingest this amount of food if you’re following the book’s nutrition plan.
How often do you have a cheat meal, and how often would you recommend the average gym goer has a cheat meal?
Cheat meals and frequency are covered in the book. I absolutely recommend them though. We all need a brownie now and then.
On the road with WWE, did you find yourself reliant on supplements, more than you do now?
Not really. Supplements are a lifestyle and part of a good nutrition plan. I’ve dedicated an entire chapter to supplements in the book. I discuss which ones work and which ones don’t. I also have outlined, based on your finances, which ones are the most important and to use those first. There’s a lot of critical information on supplements and I literally wrote a chapter on them covering what I consider to be my ‘core’ supplement stack, and my recommendations.
Within the supplement industry, marketing plays a huge role. From marketing protein powder for women differently to men, to sticking the world ‘anabolic’ in front of whey protein. What are some of the biggest supplement cons you would make people aware of?
It’s the marketing. I’ve taken an example of a specific company and shown the lies put forth through marketing in my book. You have to be really careful when buying supplements and start with the ones that will make the biggest impact on your physique first.
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There is a lot of contradicting information in the fitness industry, and I personally believe there are a lot of ways to do something wrong, but in very few instances, there are times where the is only 1 right way to do something. How would you recommend a noobie gets started without being bogged down by information overload?
Honestly, that’s the reason I wrote the book. I wanted to motivate people to change their physique and change their lives. Having a good physique increases your self confidence and will be a launching platform for better things to come in your life. I would recommend reading the book as it’s written for noobs and for veterans.
Do you find that younger lifters place too much emphasis on supplements, such as pre workouts as opposed to getting the basics right. Such as training regularly and eating consistent?
Yes, yes, yes (Daniel Bryan pun intended)! I see this all the time.
Much like yourself I’m a bit of a gaming nerd. During college my life it was college, gym, gaming. The amount of hours me and my buddies spent on Rainbow Six Vegas, Halo, Call Of Duty, and SvR online was insane. Not to mention the amount of time I’d plow into single player and online rpg’s. Are you able to make the balance of work, fitness, family life and gaming fit?
It took a while to find that balance but I think I’ve finally found it. I actually haven’t picked up the controller in about three weeks. Video games are usually an escape for me when I’m feeling really stressed out. I do wait until my daughter and wife are asleep so that I don’t take away from time with them.
PS4 or Xbox One?
Have you got a subscription to the WWE network?
We’re just a few weeks away from Wrestlemania 30. Do you still continue to watch WWE? If so what are your thoughts on the current product?
Not really. I simply don’t have time. Although I have been invited to a Wrestlemania party as the guest of honour so I’ll be watching again soon.
Are we likely to see you ever return to wrestling, or is that part of your life over?
That part of my life is over.
What are your plans for Body Spartan? We’re looking forward to the awesome articles you guys will have, but will you also be producing videos, podcasts and other content?
Yes to all of the above. We have big plans for Quarter 2 for Body Spartan. We’re currently working on a huge initiative that includes a contest. I can’t give any details right now but just know that 90 days after launch we have something big coming.
Outside of Body Spartan what other projects do yourself and the rest of the team have?
I’m part owner in an internet marketing company called Local Marketing 2.0. That takes up most of my day. Brain Cage is a personal trainer and still works the indie scene quite a bit. Jemma has a few top secret TV items on the front burner too.
Do you think your profile and fan base from wrestling will help with the success of Body Spartan?
I hope so. I think I have some loyal fans and this book was truly written with them in mind. I’ve been asked on social media about my workout and diet more times than I can remember. I really want to give something back to them for all the years of support they gave me.
I’m genuinely looking forward to the site launching, what can we expect on launch day?
We already have six training articles on the site now. They cover everything from strength training, nutrition, and even fitness for post-pregnancy women. There is also an iPhone app that can be used concurrently with my program. It’s called Gym Genius. You can download it from the App Store and then upload the Body Spartan workout to the app.
The book and nutrition plans will also be live and available for purchase.
People that signed up on the site before the actual launch will receive two coupons in their inbox. One will be for the nutrition plan discount and the other will be a discount on the book.
If you were to give advice to someone who has a good physique, and wants to break into wrestling, what would it be?
Get as much experience with live shows as possible. Develop your character and learn to tell a story. If you can be the guy that gives everyone a good match, you have a good shot.
What 1 piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to get into shape?
Read Body Spartan: Genesis. It will motivate you to change your physique and your life.
Where can our readers follow Body Spartan?
Best of luck to you and team Body Spartan. Do you have any final words for your fans?
Thanks, Adam. For the fans: Thank you so much for your long lasting support! I hope that this book truly motivates you and changes your life. Don’t stop reaching for your goals!
For those of you who wanted to check out me jumping into a wwe ring dressed as a power ranger, you can do so below, along with following me at: