Throughout my wrestling career when doing radio shows, podcasts, online interviews and even having casual conversations with wrestling fans around the globe, I have always been asked some of the same questions over and over again.
“How did you get into the WWE?”
“Does it hurt when you get chopped?”
“How come Cryme Tyme never became WWE Tag Team Champions?”
“Will you and Shad ever go back to WWE?”
“Is it true you taught Kofi Kingston everything he knows and you beat him for the THQ 2010 Smackdown vs. RAW championship and made him cry on stage?” (The answer to that one is, ‘Yes and Yes!’)
And then there’s the one question that catches me off guard every single time: “Do you feel that Cryme Tyme perpetuated racist stereotypes? And do you feel you guys portrayed Black people negatively?”
The reason why I have difficulty answering this on the spot is because this particular question needs to be broken down and articulated in the right fashion. When asked this question I usually do not have all the time I need to break it down. But, now, I do… right here, on The Floor Seat (in my Mick Foley voice)!
*Insert cheap pop here*
But here’s my truth. No, I don’t feel Cryme Tyme’s image and persona was racist. Absolutely not! Shad and I were a tag team down in Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) in Louisville, KY. It was actually us who came up with the characters and our look, as it was an extension of our personalities with the volume turned all the way up. We were authentic and that’s the reason we were so over with the crowd.
Shad and I both are from Brooklyn, NY. We were born and raised there. We both grew up in a low income, single-parent household and had similar experiences being raised in the ‘hood. Even though I didn’t meet shad until I was 18-years-old, we made a great team as soon as we paired because of the chemistry we had outside of the ring.
Shad and I had shot a few comedic training videos down in OVW, exactly like the ones they showed prior to our debut for RAW. I was told that the first time WWE Chairman Vince McMahon saw Shad and me together, we made him laugh. He asked if I was already under contract — and I wasn’t. Vince then wanted to hire me on the spot! The man never even saw me wrestle!
Vince saw something in Shad and I that he knew his audience would love. His vision for Cryme Tyme after watching our tape was that of an urban fun-loving babyface tag team that could get away with acting like heels — the bad guys. We could lie, we could cheat, and we could steal! Sound familiar?
Vince gave us the blueprint and a platform and we ran with it. Shad and I took everything we loved from that moment in our lives — all the way down to our childhood — and we incorporated it into our characters.
With our image and ring gear, my look, in particular, was a composite of all my favorite hip-hop artists from my era.
I got the bullet-proof vest from 50 Cent. Of course, the one pant leg rolled-up was from LL Cool J. Souljah Boy inspired me to write “Yo! Yo!” on my shades. I almost wore a “Yo! Yo!” band-aid under my eye like Nelly, but when I consulted the homies back home they roasted me, so I ditched the idea immediately.
Last but not least, we paid homage to our hometown by rocking a fresh pair of Timberland boots to the ring. There ain’t nothing more New York than wrestling in a pair of Tims!
Our backstage materials were also a compilation of all our favorite movies and TV shows from our childhood.
We took skits like the Homeboy Shopping Network from “In Living Color” and put our own little twist on it. Our infamous catchphrase, “Money, Money, Yeah Yeah!,” we actually got from Bernie Mac in The Players Club. All we did was add a catchy melody to it and made it our own.
Cryme Tyme was a fun-loving tag team that all age groups enjoyed. When Shad and I stole items, it was done in humor and it allowed us to engage with the live audience with our auctions.
I’m saying all this to say Shad and I entertained wrestling fans through extensions of our personalities. We had fun on-camera being ourselves and the WWE Universe fell in love with us. If anything, I would say we took the stereotypical image of street thugs and made it less intimidating.
There will always be individuals that will feel offended by our characters but to the fans that enjoyed Cryme Tyme, we appreciate you guys. Thank you for your support and continuing to show us love on the indies. We love you.