Gabe Tuft, who competed in WWE as Tyler Reks from 2009 to 2012, offered some insight on his time in the organization in a Reddit AMA (short for “Ask Me Anything”) on Thursday. In the AMA, Tuft addressed rumors of friction between John Cena and Alex Riley, and explained why he left WWE just as he was starting to receive a push.
After breaking away from The Miz in May 2011, Riley became a promising singles wrestler who appeared destined for big things in WWE. By the end of the year, however, Riley was relegated to WWE Superstars and WWE NXT. In July 2013, Riley stopped competing at live events and transitioned to a color commentary role. Though he has since returned to the ring, he has yet to reach his prior level of success (he remains sidelined after undergoing surgery in May to fix degenerative arthrosis in his right knee).
PWInsider.com reported in August 2012 that Riley landed in the doghouse after a hostile backstage encounter with Cena. Sources in WWE claimed Cena was poking fun at Riley backstage in front of other wrestlers and he didn’t take it so well. He overreacted, which goes against the supposed code of the locker room and with that, his promising push ended.
Tuft was asked during the AMA, “Was there any truth in the rumour that Cena got Alex Riley and The Miz split up because Riley used to wear Cena-style jean shorts backstage?” He responded, “Ah, no, there’s no truth in that, but there is truth that there was some sort of unknown, unreasonable heat between Riley and Cena. To the point where everyone on the roster thought that Cena was treating him in a way that was totally uncalled for.”
Tuft continued, “No one approached Cena about it, but the entire locker room was on Riley’s side, a lot of condolences, and this is ‘ridiculous, bro,’ and it was every freakin’ day. Cena thought Riley did something wrong every single day.”
When asked what Cena was saying to Riley, Tuft said, “Like, it’s completely against the wrestler code to ever go through another wrestler’s bag. One day, Riley walked into an empty locker room and Cena was just going through his bag. He found some pre-workout vitamins and bitched him out for taking supplements, asking if he ‘thinks this is ok.’ Like, he was looking for a reason to get him fired.
“We had the match when Linda was running for Congress for the Stand Up For WWE charity shows, and it was a tag match, I think it was a six man tag match if I remember right. And it was me, Hawkins, and Ziggler vs. Riley, and two other baby faces. Cena had made it clear that he wanted Riley to act a certain way and do certain things. And we structured the entire match to his wishes and it went flawlessly as far as we were concerned.
“The second we walked backstage he came up to me and said ‘hey where’s numbnuts?’ And he sees the look on my face and tells me to go get Riley. So all six of us came back and he bitched out Riley in front of the backstage roster — about how he always tells him to do one thing and he does another, and Cena was ‘washing his hands of helping him.’ Even Ziggler was like, ‘What the hell, man?'”
Tuft himself had a hostile backstage encounter with Cena, who lashed out at him backstage for using a maneuver similar to the Attitude Adjustment as his finisher. In response to the story, he said, “Basically, after that incident, he and I didn’t talk. I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. End of story. There’s a couple of podcasts that describe this incident in detail.”
Tuft recalled the incident during an interview last year. Tuft had been using the Burning Hammer at events for months, which like the Attitude Adjustment, is a variation of the Death Valley Driver. According to Tuft, Cena chewed him out backstage one night over it and made him “feel like a six-year-old boy.”
Tuft said, “I used it at Bragging Rights 2010 and John was literally across the ring from me when I hit Santino Marella with it and never said anything to me then. I’d been using it for 8 months on Superstars and everything before all this. I come backstage happy after a good match with (Primo) all excited and John grabs me in front of everyone and says, “what do you think you’re doing? I thought I told you to get a new finisher.” I said, “yeah, I thought you were joking John. We hit it wrong last night. I’m really sorry.” He started yelling at me asking who gave me permission to use that. He belittled me, called me an idiot, and asked me if I enjoyed working here. I told him of course I do. He told me, “find another finisher or you’re fired.” I was humiliated, I was a full-grown man, why can’t we talk about this like human beings?
“I went outside to cool down, and I was ready to quit, to walk out. That didn’t seem like a healthy workplace environment. I came back in and John Cena was sitting there by the curtain and I figured that I’d cooled off and he’d cooled off so I’ll try to apologize one more time. I said, “John, I’m super sorry about this. I really thought it was just a miscommunication.” He looks over at me and says, “what was there to be miscommunicated? I asked you to stop using that finisher, are you stupid?” He wouldn’t even allow me to apologize. Finally I was just like, yeah, I’ll find another finisher. He and I never really talked after that. That’s the whole story of John Cena making me feel like a six year old boy.”
In the AMA, Tuft was asked, “Would you go to say that John Cena is all a facade. Doesn’t matter how much charitable shit he does in the end hes just a top guy throwing his weight around backstage?” He responded, “Yes. Totally agree. It’s unfortunate that that’s the case, and kids need heroes, and for those of us who are grown ups know far from that. Kids need heroes and their’s nothing wrong with that. He’s paid well for all that he does, he’s a work horse for sure, but he certainly throws weight backstage.”
In August 2012, Reks requested to be released from his contract with WWE since he intended to retire from wrestling to spend more time with his family. He and WWE parted ways on August 21, 2012, thus ending his partnership with Curt Hawkins one week after they had debuted new characters on SmackDown. Hawkins later said in an interview that he felt Tuft left him high and dry since they were starting to get a push after struggling for television time.
“I did leave him high and dry, but it was understood why I did it,” Tuft said. “I left so I could be with my family, but my daughter was eight months old and she was starting to recognize when I’d leave. And you cannot be a dad and be gone six days a week, especially a dad to a little girl. I might as well have not been there at all.”
Tuft also discussed life after WWE, whether he preferred being a babyface or heel, what he would do differently in hindsight, which wrestler he did not like working with, and more. You can check out the AMA here