Many wrestling historians would look to February 10, 2009, as the date that TJ Wilson made his WWE debut. Of course, any evening that one is referred to as Bret Hart’s number-one protege on live television is one to remember; however, technically, those historians would be incorrect. While his first official match with the promotion took place that evening, the then-Tyson Kidd’s first time inside a WWE ring actually came nearly 13 years earlier on Oct 5th, 1996, when he teamed with Davey Boy Smith Jr against Teddy Hart and another wrestler to pay tribute to Matthew Annis, Teddy’s younger brother and a close friend of all four boys.
Wilson was kind enough to share the story of the tribute match with me as part of our upcoming conversation for Love Wrestling.
“Not only was it your first match with the WWF, but it was a tribute match to Matt, if I remember correctly,” I asked him. “Maybe just take me a little bit through that and how it came about if you could.”
“Teddy’s younger brother Matthew.” Wilson started after a brief pause. “We were wrestling probably the end of June . We were wrestling in the ring up at Stu’s. We would record our little matches that we had. At that time, we had started to experiment with, like, starting to learn how to do like a Frankensteiner off the top rope and stuff like that which [was] very, very against the Hart family rules and very against Stu’s rules.”
I was incredulous, but not for going against the grain when it came to the legendary Stu Hart. It doesn’t take a degree in arithmetic to realize that perhaps both Wilson and Smith were young by wrestling standards to be taking a bump, nonetheless knowing enough to break the rules of the Dungeon.
“Wasn’t [Davey] like 11 at the time?”
Wilson laughed. “Oh, man. Yeah, he was. He’s 10! He [turned] 11 in August, but [was] 10 at this moment.”
However, the conversation took a somber tone.
“We were wrestling a few days before, then all sudden, Matt just felt really sick,” said Wilson. “He said his groin hurt. And then, he had like something crazy, like [a] 104-degree temperature or something. He goes to the hospital. We went and visited him that night, and he was kind of delirious a little bit. He was just saying, like, odd things.”
Wilson paused for a moment.
“That’d be the last time that I would ever hear him speak, that I’d ever hear him speak,” he stated somberly. “He went into a coma that night or the next morning. He’s there for like two weeks or something. He went there on Canada Day, and then he’s there for 15 days, or 14. I’m trying to think. He just – at one point, his leg turned the color of your shirt, like completely black. And then his arm, and then his other arm, and his leg, and then he was on life support. It just was one of those – it was terrible. This was the first time I ever really faced death, but really the first time – and it was someone younger than me. I think it really put mortality into like, a very real-“
“Just a real scope,” I interjected.
“Yeah, for us as kids,” Wilson agreed. “Anyway, then, out of that, we wrestled at Rockyford that year, which we’d wrestle – like, every summer Rockyford would do two, we’d do two shows at Rockyford. So we wrestled Rockyford on the Saturday, and then Sunday, Owen [Hart] flew us to International Incident. We were in the ring lesson [that] day at that pay-per-view. I remember – I was just telling this story to somebody in the locker room – but we’re in the ring wrestling and like Jim Cornette and Vince [McMahon] end up walking down the aisle, obviously talking about the show. The guy who had us in the ring was this guy named Matt Miller. And he’s like, he trying to whisper like ‘guys, get out! Guys, get out! Guys, get out!” But like, we’re kids, and we’re so nervous, man. We’re just like wrestling this match. We couldn’t wrestle on the fly. We’re wrestling this match that we’d like rehearsed.”
“We can’t just bail out of it now!” I laughed.
The three-time tag champion agreed. “Yeah! Next thing I know, like, oh, Vince is at the ring and we roll out. So I don’t know. Somehow, then one thing led to another. We hung out with Carl DeMarco that night. And then, next thing you know, he wanted – he was a part of like wanting us to – Carl DeMarco and Davey Boy were big proponents of us doing this match at the Saddledome. It doesn’t feel real, man. Every day right after school we’d go up to Stu’s and we’d like, again, kind of rehearse this match. In our minds, it was WWF, so we had to go all out. So we were doing everything possible. At this point, we’d already come across Rey Mysterio. We came across Rey Mysterio, Bash at the Beach ’96. Ever since then, like, our style changed a lot. We started getting in trouble a lot more from Stu – so thanks, Rey! But, we thought like – we don’t know, like, wrestling rules at this time. We’re kids, man! I’d just turned 16. Harry had just turned 11. Teddy is 16, and our other friend is, like, 15. And he doesn’t even – our friend’s cool, he was a very good athlete, and he just kind of stepped in to help us so we can do a tag match. He didn’t – like wrestling wasn’t really his thing, but he helped us for these couple matches.”
“Anyway,” Wilson pivoted. “Dude, next thing you know, we’re at the Saddledome the morning of, and the ring’s set up and we roll in and we do this match that we’d practiced. It’s probably like 12 minutes long, maybe 15 or something. It’s like wild. I’m doing a dive through the ropes. I’m getting backdropped over the top rope. And, I can almost take, like, a 450-style bump. Like, it was so ridiculous. I think somebody saw us doing that earlier in the day and was like, ‘what are these kids doing?’ And they realize we’re on the show. And then, next thing you know, Jack Lanza is telling us that we only have five minutes, no two guys on the floor at the same time, and now like – but, man, fast forward 24 years, if I was the producer of a live event right now. And let’s say Roman’s nephews roll up and they have a tag match, and I see them in the day doing superplexes and stuff-“
“’You guys are going to have to tone it down,'” I said in emulation.
“JBL asked me about it one time,” Wilson laughed. “He’s like ‘hey, Tyson. Were you in that match with Harry when you guys were kids?’ And I said yeah, that was me. He’s like ‘man, you guys went out there and did everything, and it made no sense, but you did every move!’ I said ‘yeah, yep, exactly. We were 16. I was 16. He was 11. Yes, we did everything we could think of, and we have way more planned. We had to go to the finish, or Earl Hebner said he’s gonna ring the bell and we’re gonna look stupid.”
Thanks to TJ Wilson for sharing.
Please quote Spencer Love/Love Wrestling with any of the above quotations used.