Last week, the WWE career of Brad Maddox came to an end. And it was somewhat fitting that it happened when he wasn't on television.
After all, when Maddox was called up to WWE in 2012, the promotion came after a promising run in the company's developmental territory, Florida Championship Wrestling, where he had won the tag titles twice and was the final holder of the FCW 15 title before the NXT rebranding. So it was a surprise to some when he debuted as a referee in WWE. Still, he made the most of the moment, shifting into the role of a corrupt official before letting his charisma shine as the general manager of Raw.
But after being "fired" from the GM position in 2014, he disappeared from TV almost immediately – save the occasional cameo as a turkey on The Tonight Show – until he was released last week after working a dark match in Indianapolis. All in all, a man who was a promising developmental wrestler managed to work just eight televised matches on the main roster.
But Maddox isn't mad. In fact, when he spoke to Rolling Stone, the man now known as "Mad Braddox" admitted that his firing was probably a good thing. Here's what he had to say about getting released by WWE, the frustrations he felt backstage and where he goes next.
What, exactly, led to you being released from WWE last week?
I had a dark match in Indianapolis and I called the Indianapolis crowd "pricks." I didn't think anything of it. That's never been a bad word to me. I didn't think it was inappropriate. Vince [McMahon] was watching and did not like it. That was pretty much the reason.
Did you get a chance to sit down with Vince and try to explain your side at all?
No, I didn't get a chance to talk to him before I left. I wanted to, but I didn't get a chance to. When I came to the back, people seemed split on it. Half the locker room didn't think I could say that, the other half didn't see a problem with it. To me, it's like saying "screw you." I didn't think it was inappropriate at all, especially for a dark match. I was out there trying to work up the crowd. It's not for TV. I'm making fun of the hometown and their football team and talking to them directly. I was just trying to warm the crowd up, that was my role. It just didn't work out.
Do you feel there's a bit of hypocrisy involved here, because sometimes you see people on TV saying much worse things than "prick" and nothing happens to them…
No, just because those things are cleared ahead of time. You could call this "going into business for myself." Which I really didn't do. I didn't think that I'd go out there and call them pricks and get noticed more. That's not what I was doing at all. My words weren't cleared ahead of time though. That's the real difference.
I'd like to talk a bit about your career in WWE. You had been in FCW for a while, doing well there, but when you were called up, it was as a referee. Did you know that was going to be your role?
I was told that it was going to move into a wrestling role. That was a concern of mine. I liked the creative idea of doing something different and unique, but I didn't want to become a full-time talker. I wanted to wrestle. I did all the things in developmental that they said you have to do. They put trust in me by giving me several different championships in FCW. They gave me the Jack Brisco FCW 15 Championship, which was their real wrestling title, the equivalent of the Intercontinental Championship. I had the FCW tag titles with Rick Victor. I expected it to morph into a regular wrestling role.
What I didn't know at the time was that it was a gimmick just to win CM Punk another match. I should have been more proactive about that. I should have gone to Vince right off the bat, asked if he knew who I was and knew that I could wrestle. I should have asked where this was going and what they were going to do with me now that I was here. I just kind of expected the writers to have some grand plan for Brad Maddox, and I certainly shouldn't have assumed that. That would probably be one big regret, assuming that it was going to turn into something bigger than what it was.
Would you consider that the biggest regret of your WWE career?
When I heard about the angle, I just thought that this should be a really big deal. If you're watching the Super Bowl and a Seahawk is returning an interception for a game-winning touchdown, and the referee trips him up at the 15-yard line and the Broncos win, that's going to be the entirety of SportsCenter and ESPN for the next two months, right? That's a huge thing. I thought they would do more with it. I should have made the push and knocked on Vince's door and asked if we're going to make the most of this. I should have asked if he knew if I could hold my own, and had been trained in your developmental system for three years. But I didn't do that. I talked to writers about it, but they weren't the right people.
Was that because you were new and didn't want to overstep your bounds?
I thought that I could get stuff done without going to Vince directly. More, it was just being afraid to do it. After they "fired" me off of TV, off the general manager role, it was shortly after that they stopped traveling me, and I sat at home for eight or nine months. It was during that period that I decided that I didn't care how things were supposed to go or supposed to work, if I got my chance to get back there that I would go straight to Vince, and I'd talk to him as much as I could. I would take things into my own hands – which I did when I got back on the road. If I had done that at the right time, when I was hot, things probably would have gone a lot differently.
When they transitioned you to the GM role, what were your thoughts?
I missed wrestling the whole time. As soon as I came up and started transitioning into a referee, I missed it immediately. I kind of felt like I was at the peak of my wrestling abilities when they brought me up. So I immediately missed it. On the other hand, it was pretty surreal getting to work directly with Vince and Triple H and Stephanie every week. I have awesome experiences just going over promos with Vince in his office. It was really cool. It held me over, but I've missed wrestling for about three years now.
It seems like from what you're saying, you had a pretty good experience working with Vince. Do you feel like he's more accessible and open-minded than his reputation leads people to believe?
If that reputation is still around, then it's a myth. He likes guys who knock on his door. He's a creative mastermind, so he likes it when you come in and pitch him an idea so he can sit there and think about it with you. You can talk about the creative side of wrestling with him. I think there's a stigma that Vince's door is more intimidating than he is. When I came back, I wasn't afraid to knock on his door anymore, but I was delighted that once I did, he was really easy to talk to. He was really easy to pitch ideas to, and he was listening to what you just pitched him, and he would give feedback. He might give you different ideas. He was really cool to work with.
After the GM angle, why do you think it was so difficult for you to get you back on television?
I really don't know. I think it was partially that I needed to pitch a little bit stronger ahead of time. I needed to work with Vince at that time. I had heard that one of the reasons they wanted to get me out of the GM role was so I could start wrestling again. But you can't leave your fate in other people's hands. And those writers, they have their hands full. They've got a full roster of guys that they have to plan out every week. Then everything has to be run through Vince. It's really just a matter of knowing that since I wasn't one of the more important guys, I had to pitch harder at the right time.
What were some of the ideas you were pitching to get back on TV?
I did this one thing where I acted like I was lost in a cave, in Mexico. I put these videos out online. Then it turns out that I wasn't lost, it was just a publicity stunt. It turns out that I had lost my mind, but it wasn't because I was stuck in a cave, it was from being stuck at home. I wanted to turn into a guy who just flipped out from falling off his mantle as being the most important man on Raw to a guy who lost his dream job and everything else with it. A guy who became mentally unstable, though not in a Dean Ambrose way. I messed around with some split-personality stuff as well. I like to try to get creative, and sometimes I go too far outside the box. Those were some of my favorite pitches.
Even though it was mainly in dark matches, how did it feel to get back in the ring this summer?
I always love it. The problem was that I would have dark matches for one week, or two weeks and then I'd be off for a month. They would be random matches. I was enjoying it, but I like getting in a rhythm. I want to work three or four matches a week, enough where cardio isn't an issue. It was just so totally different. I had prepared to get back in the ring, but it's just so different from actually being in the ring. You have to have a lot of matches to get that muscle memory back, and I lacked the repetition over the past three years.
Why do you think you weren't given more of an opportunity to wrestle?
It was just the way that I came up, I think. They pegged me for the referee thing because I was a clean-cut guy. I wasn't too big for the role. It really just morphed into it. That's the time I should have gone to the right people and told them that I wanted to wrestle. It was just how I was brought up, and the lack of communication on my part. It just morphed into that, probably in part because I can talk fairly well.
It's been a week since you were released. Have any other companies contacted you about coming in and working for them?
People have been contacting me. I'm still working on my game plan. By no means do I think that I'm done wrestling. I'm also focusing a lot on acting, which is my other passion. I'm sure I'll be doing a bit of both. Acting has been a growing passion of mine over the past five or six years. Before then, it was something that I was a bit too nervous to get into. Now I really enjoy it. That's one of the reasons I make so many YouTube videos on my own. I like to be creative and try out different characters. Actually, in Dusty Rhodes' promo class, I got bored with the standard wrestling promo pretty quickly, so I just started doing weird things. I'd come out with a different character every week, or I'd try doing an emotional or a dramatic scene. I just played around with it. That was my stage, and that's where my passion for that developed.
I bet Dusty must have loved that.
He did. At least on five different occasions he said, "Baby, you need to get out of this wrestling business and go to Hollywood." I said that I appreciated it, but I was trying to get a job here right now.
Do you think you'll take indie dates as you pursue your acting career?
I'm not done wrestling. I also need to make a little money while I'm still relevant. So I'll be taking advantage of that over the next couple months. I'm going by Mad Braddox right now. It's easy to remember that one. No doors are ever closed for me. There's no telling what will open up. I'm not opposed to anything, so we'll see.
If Vince came back to you, say three months from now, and asked if you'd come back, would you?
[long pause] We'll see. It really depends on what I'm doing.
While obviously you didn't want to be fired, with everything that happened beforehand – sitting at home, struggling to be on TV – is there a part of you that sees this as a good thing?
Oh yeah, completely. Now I have opportunities ahead of me. It's a little nerve-racking, because there's such a change in routine. It was kind of nice flying to work on Sunday, not work for two days and then fly home on a Wednesday. That wasn't bad. I had a lot of time to raise my three year old. So the change in routine is a little nerve-racking, and the unknown is a little nerve-racking, but other than that I'm really excited about it.