The duo of Darren Young and Titus O’Neil has gained a following in WWE with its ability and swagger.
Despite all the Prime Time Players have accomplished, they won’t really be satisfied until they have millions of dollars in the bank and tag team gold around their waste.
“Teaming with Titus is a big deal for me,” Young said. “He and I mesh together like peanut butter and jelly. The Prime Time Players without a doubt are the most entertaining tag team in WWE. I believe opposites attract. I believe if we were the same, there would be no fun in it. So it’s good to have variety. So Titus is different, and I’m different.”
When comparing personalities, O’Neil sees the contrasts.
“I’m the more boisterous and outgoing [one], not afraid to say what I want to say type of guy,” O’Neil said. “Darren is more laid back, but when provoked or if given the right situation, he will give a lot more attitude or humor or whatever it may. It has to be brought out of him, but with me, I just come in the room and am ready to go.”
The one thing the two have in common is their beginnings on WWE’s reality show competition NXT (now the name given to the company’s developmental program). After appearing on prior seasons, the up-and-comers were brought in for the “NXT Redemption” series where they were opponents early on. The company eventually envisioned a future for them as a tag team.
“Vince [McMahon] just liked how we worked together and saw something in us,” Young said. “Eventually, we got contracts to SmackDown and then ended up on Raw, and now we are on both brands. We are just trying to make moves just like our entrance music says.”
O’Neil came to WWE with a football background. He was on the University of Florida Gators football team and competed in the Arena Football League. The consummate athlete believes has grown as a performer over the years.
“When I first started I thought I had to play like an old time wrestler,” O’Neil said. “I thought I had to talk like an old time wrestler and be this big robotic guy, and that’s not what WWE is about. It’s about having entertainment. You can be entertaining in an intimidating way or you can be entertaining in a humorous way. I try to be both. Me and Darren try to be the most entertaining tag team this company has seen in a long time.”
O’Neil credits the WWE legends who he feels had a role in their evolution inside and outside the ring.
“Ricky Steamboat is one of my mentors,” O’Neil said. “The company assigned him to me. I had to do matches with him for eight months straight. I’m talking eight to 10 matches a day. Ricky Steamboat is a huge reason of where I’m at as a performer. It would be understanding things psychology-wise and what would work for me and what wouldn’t for hours and hours. To be able to spend that amount of time with a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest ever to be in this business is an honor to me. I’m honored to have him as a friend too and be able to call him to get advice on different things.
“Booker T. also gave me some great advice of not being afraid to take chances. Obviously, if people watch the product now they realize we do that with Rufus ‘Pancake’ Patterson and other stuff we have done. If you go on the WWE app, you will see Darren’s got a character too in Leon “Bonecrusher” Baker. He may show up with Rufus.”
Young adds a few more names that have influenced them.
“Mark Henry is one of our traveling partners,” Young said. “We travel with him up and down the road and pick his brain. From top the bottom, for guys backstage, Arn Anderson and Fit Finlay, these are guys who have been to the big dance and they have helped us out. We pick their brains, and they are nothing but great guys to us.”
A trademark of the Prime Time Players is their “Millions of Dollars” dance. O’Neil remembered it starting when he strong-armed Young to go left and right one night. He takes him back to his days on the gridiron.
“If you look at basketball nowadays and the Final Four, you’ll see huddles with teams swaying back and forth,” O’Neil said. “That’s kind of where I get it from. I just brought the sports background into it…It’s more about having swagger. If you’re confident in what you do nine times out of 10, even if the skill level may or may not be where it’s supposed to be, people see that confidence. They feed off that confidence and that energy. We look at teams like the New Age Outlaws and Harlem Heat. Even The Rock and Sock Connection, we enjoy their banter back-and-forth.
“They showed us that we can be entertaining and at the end of the day that is what it’s all about. The ‘E’ in WWE stands for entertainment, and that’s what the Prime Time Players are all about.”
O’Neil has also used what successful directors and actors have done in Hollywood and infused it into his own persona. This includes ‘Pancake’ Patterson.
“I get it from Tyler Perry and Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx and all these guys who were playing multiple characters throughout their career on different shows,” O’Neil said.
“It works, and it’s entertaining. Tyler Perry has made millions, so I don’t have a problem having ‘Pancake’ Patterson come out every once in a while.”
Even though the duo have developed a solid fan base and progressed in the last year, they aren’t where they want to be yet. For Young, the road to the tag team championship has had its obstacles.
“It’s the entertainment business,” Young said.
“There are ups and downs. You just have to take the good with the bad and make the most with it. I’m just so blessed to be doing what I’m doing right now, and that is performing for one of the greatest organizations in the world in WWE. I work smart and work healthy. I had knee surgery about a month-and-a-half ago. The internet said it was until October or November, but it was a quick scope, and I was back in three weeks, and I feel so much better.
“So the injuries do come with the territory, but you have to bounce back and take care of your body because your body makes you money. So take care of your body and promoting yourself and making yourself marketable, and that’s what Titus and I have done. The Prime Time Players are a brand, and we are just happy making moves.”
With the moves, comes new Prime Time Players merchandise. A few weeks ago it was surreal for O’Neil to hold his action figure.
“It’s awesome,” O’Neil said.
“You grow up as a young boy playing with action figures and to become one, it just shows you how great God is on my life. The things that I’ve had to go through to get to where I’m at today, it’s kind of like a reward here and there with the action figures and the merchandise. At the end of the day it’s about people being invested in something that I’ve helped create. I’m enjoying it.”
“I have a magnet on my refrigerator that says if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life,” Young added.
“I’m looking at that magnet everyday when I’m home. I just thank God that I’m part of the WWE family. Being with Titus, it has had its ups and downs, but in a good way because when you travel with someone all the time not every day is going to be perfect. We butt heads, but at the end of the day we hug and make up because we are best friends and we are a team. We are a unit.”
South Florida Connections
O’Neil’s mother lives in Boynton Beach with other family in Coral Springs and throughout South Florida. Darren Young is billed from the 305, but in actuality, that wasn’t really true until recently.
“I have some family in Hollywood, Fl, but it was all a gimmick,” Young said.
“I do live in Miami now. I’m from New Jersey, lived in Tampa when I got signed at FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling), NXT now. I moved to Orlando and lived in there for about a year-and-a-half and now I’m living in Miami now. It’s still a gimmick, but really not since I now live in the Miami Beach area. I wanted a change of pace…Tamina lives here too, and everyone thinks we have a relationship. We don’t, just to set the record straight. We are just great friends.”
• PTP-ers on Twitter
Follow Titus O’Neil and Darren Young on Twitter: @TitusONeilWWE and @DarrenYoungWWE.
• PTP-er Darren Young v ideo interview
YouTube (Jim Varsallone the jimmyv3 channel) video interview with WWE superstar Darren Young of the Prime Time Players before a WWE NXT show in March 2013 at the Miami-Dade County Fair.
• WWE in Florida in June
WWE will be at the BB&T Center, formerly Bank Atlantic Center, in (South Florida) Sunrise on Friday, June 7.
Bell time is 7:30 p.m. for this house show (no TV) with John Cena, Ryback, Sheamus, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan, The Miz, Brodus Clay, R-Truth, The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins) and more.
Talent subject to change.
Tickets, starting at $20, are on sale via TicketMaster online www.ticketmaster.com, outlets or by phone 800-745-3000, or you can go to the box office of the BB&T Center, home to the Florida Panthers hockey team.
• Be a STAR in South Florida, win WWE tickets
In an effort to recognize deserving South Florida youth who promote the values of the Be a STAR anti-bullying program, World Wrestling Entertainment in conjunction with The Miami Herald is accepting nominations for a special meet-n-greet before a WWE show at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
Be a STAR (Show Tolerance And Respect) was founded by The Creative Coalition and WWE in April 2011. The mission is to ensure a positive and equitable social environment for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation through grassroots efforts beginning with education and awareness.
Be a STAR promotes positive methods of social interaction and encourages people to treat others as equals and with respect because everyone is a star in their own right.
WWE superstars and divas often make school visits throughout the country throughout the year, discussing how they dealt with bullying and stereotypes growing up and even into adulthood. They encourage students to Be a STAR.
Teachers, coaches or family members can nominate a South Florida youth, describing how that youth has been a STAR. It can be helping a family member, a classmate, a teammate, school or something else. You may Be a STAR and not even know it.
Three youth - selected by random drawing - will be invited as Be a STAR finalists to the WWE show at the BB&T Center on Friday, June 7 in Sunrise. Each finalist will receive two tickets to the show and a WWE prize pack. One of the finalists will be drawn as the grand prize winner and participate in a meet-n-greet.
To nominate someone, e-mail Miami Herald Youth Sports Editor Jim Varsallone firstname.lastname@example.org.
• WWE invades the Lakeland Center in Central Florida at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 8.
John Cena, Ryback, Sheamus, Mark Henry, Daniel Bryan and more. Talent subject to change.
Tickets are sale via TicketMaster.
• WWE visits the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 22.
See John Cena, Kane, Ryback, Mark Henry, Sheamus, Daniel Bryan and more. Talent subject to change.
Tickets, starting at $15, are on sale via TicketMaster and the civic center box office.
• WWE will be busy on Saturday, June 22 with another show at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach.
Bell time is 7:30 p.m. featuring Dolph Ziggler, Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, Big Show, The Shield (Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins), Big E Langston, AJ Lee and more. Talent subject to change.
Tickets, starting at $15, are on sale via TicketMaster and the center box office.
• Ticket purchasing note
To avoid some service fees, you can purchase tickets directly at the arena, but check with the arena to see when it plans to sell tickets.
Sometimes the arena onsale differs from TicketMaster’s onsale.
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