Tye Dillinger is making the most of a rare second life in WWE.
His ‘Perfect 10’ gimmick has ‘Yes’ potential, and with it, he is climbing the NXT ladder.
A breath of fresh air, the Perfect 10 causes reaction from the crowd.
Whether it’s Chris Jericho on “Dancing With the Stars” or gymnast Ashley Sebera trying to impress the Russian judge, scoring a ‘10’ is the ultimate, and Dillinger is doing that with fans in NXT.
He’s come a long way from those early days learning and wrestling in his homeland, north of the border.
What football is to American, hockey is to Canada, and growing up in Ontario, Dillinger spent plenty of time on the ice.
“I played on a pretty competitive level, but in Canada, you got to be among the best of the best to play with the best,” he said. “Unfortunately, I came up a little short in that department.
“I played hockey when I was very, very young, and I think your goal as a child is to be an NHL hockey player, but I did it for fun. I had a great time. We had great team comradery, and it was a great experience. ”
Dillinger loves the Vancouver Canucks. His favorite hockey player was the speedy Pavel Bure, a top goal scorer who ironically wore No.10. Always a treat for Dillinger to watch the Canucks, especially when featured during “Hockey Night in Canada.” It is the hockey equivalent to America’s “Monday Night Football.”
“’Hockey Night in Canada’ means a Perfect 10 evening, if you ask me,” he said. “Being from Canada, hockey was a huge thing, and I spent 13 years on skates; so I’m a big fan of ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’”
Also, he is a big fan of WWF/WWE programming.
Dillinger, 34, noted: “Growing up, my first love has always been sports entertainment, WWE. That’s always been No.1”
Trained by Cody Deaner, Derek Wylde and Eric Young at the Wrestleplex in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, Dillinger wrestled for some of the top indie promotions in Canada and the United States from 2002-05.
Deaner said: “There’s a lot of talk in wrestling about guys who have ‘it’ - that intangible and unteachable quality and charisma. The first thing I noticed about Tye Dillinger was that he had ‘it.’ It's impossible to describe, other than to say that after the first time I saw him get in the ring, I just knew he was going to succeed. He just had that quality about him.
“Not only does Tye Dillinger have ‘it,’ he also outworks everyone around him. Charisma can only take you so far in the tough world of professional wrestling. You have to have an undying work ethic, and Tye Dillinger definitely has that type of work ethic.”
Through Deaner’s motivation and Dillinger’s efforts, Dillinger landed a tryout with WWE in Buffalo.
“I remember encouraging him very early in his career to send a tape to WWE.,” Deaner said. “We had a match together, and I told him to videotape it and send it. He was reluctant, but I was adamant that he was good enough. I knew he was. So, he sent it. And guess what? He got a tryout. And guess what that led to? A contract. I was right.”
Dillinger said: “It was an invite only tryout. I was among about 14 others out of maybe 5,000 applications. Right place, right time, and I seized the moment as best I could.”
He sure did. Shortly after, Dillinger signed with WWE in January 2006. He trained and wrestled for WWE developmental groups, Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville and Florida Championship Wrestling in Tampa, winning FCW tag team gold with Nic Nemeth (Dolph Ziggler), before getting the call to WWE’s ECW in 2008 as Gavin Spears. He was released in 2009.
That did not deter Dillinger, who continued his wrestling/sports entertainment journey, before obtaining a rare second opportunity with the global leader.
“Very rare,” he said. “It took about 4 1 /2 years to get that second opportunity with WWE. I think that’s what any athlete who has dedicated their life to a specific thing hopes for, and I was very fortunate enough to get that.”
Dillinger wrestled in Canada, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States, before re-signing with WWE in 2013.
“The second opportunity came again through a tryout, after constantly knocking on the door, trying to get my name out there as much as possible, traveling to Mexico, Japan, Puerto Rico,” he said. “Any outlet I could get work in order to get my name bigger and broader was the game plan. Luckily enough I caught the attention of a few officials at WWE for the second time and again got the opportunity for a tryout, where I left everything I had out there.
“Leaving the tryout I was very happy with myself, but my fingers were crossed.”
Deaner said: “It’s an honor to say I had a hand it helping train him and help him develop as a performer. He might have looked up to me and looked to me for guidance for a number of years, but I'm proud to say that he has now surpassed me and my abilities. I'm proud to say Tye Dillinger is better than me. I’m so proud of him and what he’s accomplished thus far in his career. I can’t wait to see what level he goes to next.”
Dillinger is an integral part of a growing NXT. What started as WWE developmental has turned into a successful brand.
Learning from an incredible staff at the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Dillinger said: “The shear size of how WWE has grown, how NXT has grown is the biggest difference that I’ve seen thus far [from his first go-around].”
Dillinger has grown, too. Stands to reason, his favorite wrestlers -- The Model Rick Martel, Ravishing Rick Rude and, of course, Mr. Perfect -- inspired him. Thinking of the characteristics of those characters, you can surmise each played a role in The Perfect 10 persona.
“The Perfect 10 was in my back pocket around this time last year,” he said. “I had been thinking about it, trying to piece together ideas, possible ways of debuting it to the audience. There were a few key people who had a hand in that, giving me that platform to get it out there.”
Dillinger noted WWE NXT Head Coach Matt Bloom [A-Train, Tensai] and Ryan Katz of WWE NXT creative were instrumental in that process.
Dillinger added: “Luckily, thankfully, through many, many hours of hard work, it started to catch on a little bit.”
The Perfect 10 persona continues to evolve and progress, ‘catching on’ more and more.
Dillinger not only rates himself and his opponents with cards numbered 0-10, but he also sports various sizes of cards. If an opponent discards one of them, Dillinger pulls a smaller version to hoist, and the crowd laughs.
“I thought it was funny, too,” Dillinger said. “I was sitting at home one day, and I thought, ‘What if I have a bunch of different sized cards.’ Very obnoxious. Very flamboyant. If it’s funny to me, then hopefully the audience finds it funny as well.
“That’s what I think about, when it comes to the Perfect 10 character. How can I entertain the audience to the best of my ability? How can I take this to the max to get them involved, to get them to come back the next time?”
The Perfect 10 Tye Dillinger is an extension of himself “dialed up a millionth” from real life.
“I have quiet moments. I like to play video games, go to movies,” he said, “but I also like to be the center of attention at times, at parties. I like to make laughs. I like to have a little fun. I like to joke around as much as possible. I’m a terrible dancer, but you better believe that I give it a 10-fold effort.”
Dillinger is looking forward to giving a Perfect 10-fold effort for the special NXT TV tapings on Friday, Jan. 22 at the CFE Arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando during Royal Rumble Weekend.
“When I first started here [NXT] over two years ago, we were wrestling in front of 40 people locally in Florida,” he said. “Within a year, it multiplied 100 percent. A year later after that, we were traveling out of state. We were going all over the place in front of thousands.
“NXT is expanding at an astronomical rate, and to be on the ground floor of that is huge. Being around this industry for as long as I have and seeing how big it’s getting, I know when something is hot. I know when something is catching, and I think I have a pretty good idea of where it’s going.
“Do I one day hope to make it to the [WWE] main roster? Of course. Do I want to headline WrestleMania? Of course. But I also want to be the NXT champion. I want to stake my claim here in NXT. So when they go back in time and they go, ‘During this time when NXT was first breaking out and first going out of state, these guys were the main guys who were carrying that brand.’ I want it to be Tye Dillinger the Perfect 10. I want that name, when they look back at that time.”
Website: CodyDeaner.com http://www.codydeaner.com
Twitter: @CodyDeaner http://www.twitter.com/codydeaner
- NXT at UCF
To drop kick-off Royal Rumble weekend, NXT TV tapings are Friday, Jan. 22 at the CFE Arena on the campus of the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
NXT women’s champ Bayley defends her title against No.1 contender Carmella. Also, Samoa Joe faces Sami Zayn with the winner earning a future title shot against NXT champ Finn Balor. More TBA.
“The fans can expect to see on Jan. 22 a show that they’ve never seen before,” Dillinger said. “As far as the Perfect 10 goes, bring your 10 signs. Don’t be carrying too much in your hands, because you’re going to want to put them over your head. I’m going to put on a performance like they’ve never seen before.”
A Perfect 10 performance.
Tickets ($20, $30, $40, $75) are available at Ticketmaster.com.
For information and tickets, go to
The CFE Arena, home of the NCAA Division I UCF Knights basketball team, offers a 10,000 seating capacity.
To see NXT in a city near you, check
- NXT on WWE Network
WWE NXT is 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays on WWE Network.
- Pro Wrestling On The Web
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