WWF Tough Enough: Tazzby Mike DeGeorge -- 07/10/2002
Tazz, born Pete Senerca in Red Hook, NY, has practiced Judo since he was 9. He participated in football and amateur wrestling in High School, but nothing really seemed to fit him until his Judo Sensei told him he should be a wrestler. At 5’9” and 250 lbs with a tall mohawk, he sure looked the part.
Tazz’ father knew a guy who knew trainer Johnny Rodz, so Tazz started going to his Dojo in Brooklyn. A far cry from the wrestling schools you see on 20/20 today, Johnny’s gym was the back-alley “Rocky” type. Tazz’ class was small, he trained with two others who would become the wrestlers known as Big Dick Dudley and Damien Demento. Tazz got into frequent arguments with Johnny, and at one point was kicked out of the dojo. He attributes this today to being “immature and frustrated”, too cocky and stupid for his own good. He eventually returned to the dojo to continue training, and like Al Snow, wrestled for various independent promotions around the country and in Japan. Known originally as Kid Crush, people started referring to him as the Tazmanian Devil due to a tattoo of the cartoon character on his arm.
In between wrestling jobs, Tazz worked for a railroad company building railroad tracks. Many times he thought of quitting, but he refused, if for no other reason than to prove to himself that he could make it. While working a show for Smoky Mountain Wrestling he happened to meet Paul Heyman, who at the time worked for WCW. Paul tried to get Tazz hired into WCW, but it never happened. However, when Paul started up Extreme Championship Wrestling, Tazz was one of the first names on his list.
The Tasmaniac (the name was changed because he feared a lawsuit from Warner Brothers) debuted in ECW in October 1993. He had many matches with the “homicidal, genocidal, suicidal” Sabu, and by the end of the year the two formed a highly successful tag team. Months later, Sabu left for Japan which caused him to miss some ECW dates, and Sabu was fired. Tazz had decided not to go to Japan, and stayed with ECW.
It was around this time that the Tasmaniac dropped his caveman gimmick, shaved his head and became simply Taz, the straightforward wrestler. He had just gotten married to his childhood sweetheart when disaster struck. He was wrestling a match with 2 Cold Scorpio (the future JOB Squad member Flash Funk) and Dean Malenko when Taz took a move the wrong way, landed on his head and severely hurt his neck. There was extensive nerve damage, and doctors told Taz that he would never wrestle again. But Tazz was determined to come back. None of the surgeries or fancy methods suggested by doctors seemed to work, so Tazz started rehabbing himself with pure hard work and physical therapy. He came back to the ring in full strength after only nine months.
In the meantime, Sabu was welcomed back to ECW with open arms by fans and management alike. Taz felt (in the storyline) he got no respect, sympathy, or support while he was injured. So at the 1995 November to Remember card, he attacked Sabu and joined with heel (bad guy) manager Bill “Fonzie” Alphonzo, turning his back on the fans and ECW management in a profanity-laced tirade. The now-hated Taz was a “Path of Rage” and “The Most Miserable Son of a B**** on the Planet,” trusting no one except Fonzie and challenging Sabu to face him one on one. He literally spent the next 18 months waiting for Sabu to accept his challenge, beating the hell out of jobbers and fighters such as the UFC’s Paul Varleans.
Finally, in early 1997, Sabu vs. Taz was scheduled for ECW’s Pay-Per-View debut, named Barely Legal. Sabu ended up beating Taz when Fonzie betrayed him, aligning himself with Sabu and Rob Van Dam. Taz would go on to win the ECW TV Title and defend it for the better part of the year, eventually losing it to Van Dam. Frustrated, Taz created the “FTW” Belt, continuing to challenge all comers to “beat me if you can, survive if I let you”. He would go on to finally defeat Sabu for the ECW World Title in early 1999 before signing with the WWF in September.
Tazz (the extra Z was added to again ward off lawsuits from Warner Brothers) debuted in January 2000 at the Royal Rumble PPV, beating the previously undefeated Kurt Angle. Even though he won his debut match, Tazz had to start from the bottom in the WWF, and languished in the midcard until he began a feud with wrestler-turned announcer Jerry “the King” Lawler. In the type of plot twist that only seems to occur in wrestling, this feud led to Tazz co-hosting WWF’s Sunday Night Heat program on MTV, and later to co-host Thursday Night SmackDown on UPN.
WWF Tough Enough seems custom-made for Tazz. In fact, he ran ECW’s House of Hardcore training facility along with fellow wrestler Parry Saturn. Out of the hundreds of students over the years, the school only graduated FOUR wrestlers, which should give you a good idea of Tazz’ mentality. He has said in interviews that if people dislike him (and many people do, mainly because of his ‘attitude’), they’re REALLY going to hate him after watching Tough Enough. I like Tazz either way, and look forward to seeing his unique style in this unique environment.
Make sure you read the other articles in this set, following all of the WWF Tough Enough trainers:
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