Highlights from Dan Matha and Tino Sabbatelli’s sit-down interview about their runs in WWE

Former NXT talents Dan Matha and Tino Sabbatelli sat down for a two-hour interview. In their chat, they discussed their respective releases from WWE. Dan Matha confirmed that he asked for his release. Tino dove into his career with NXT, tearing his pectoral muscle and his second surgery that derailed his return to the ring.

If any of the quotes from this article are used, please credit ‘The Drop’ podcast with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions. 

Former NXT talents Dan Matha and Tino Sabbatelli sat down for a two-hour chat about their respective runs in NXT and being released from the WWE as a part of the mass furloughs/releases. After being released from WWE, Dan Matha took to social media and shared that the weekend prior, he was involved in a car accident that left him with multiple cuts and a gash in the back of his head.

Matha told the story of when he was rushed into the trauma center to be treated and how he was able to walk out of the hospital the next day, during his ‘The Drop’ podcast with guest Tino Sabbatelli. He said that he’s appreciative of the fact that his injuries were not worse than they could’ve been. He weighed those options and said he could’ve been in a vegetative state or only been able to communicate with a portion of his body.

“They rushed me to that trauma center. I got in there at like 8:30 at night on a Saturday and I walked out of that place at 11:30 AM the next morning. Walked up out of there. I had my boy come pick me up, and it was crazy when I was walking out of there, the nurse that was taking care of me that night, she goes, ‘Darling, I’ve been on this floor for about 16 months. You’re the first person to come in here that hasn’t had to have multiple surgeries or go ahead and die on me,’ and when she said that to me, it was just like… not that I needed more to put everything in perspective because the weeks — I mean, dude, it was not even a month ago. I’m still thinking — I’m not shook about what happened, but I definitely think about all the scenarios that could’ve happened and there’s literally a thousand scenarios that could’ve happened and the only one that happened has me sitting right here, right now able to talk to you and everybody else that’s listening to this.”

As far as his run in WWE, Matha did become frustrated towards the latter portion of his career. He said he requested his release and is just grateful to be alive right now.

“Well that’s like when — with everything that’s going on in the world and then everything that’s happened with work with WWE, with all the releases. When I got released, people were reaching out to me saying, ‘I’m sorry to hear that,’ blah, blah, blah, which, one, I asked for my release, so it’s like, I didn’t really feel that bad. The frustration was months before which it culminated to me asking for my release. But like, even if I didn’t ask for my release, that wouldn’t even [have] been the worst news I got in two weeks. I’m grateful to be alive right now. I’m here talking to you, and not just alive. Like honestly, there’s things that could’ve happened to me that would be worse than death. I could be only able to communicate through moving two fingers or being in a vegetative state right now.”

The conversation then turned over to Tino Sabbatelli’s career in WWE. Tino was candid about the early stages of his wrestling career and admitted that it was extremely difficult for him to adjust from the NFL to pro wrestling. Tino said he went from having a private escort to his vehicle after games to setting up chairs inside a venue that was going to hold 50-70 people. He talked about how bad he was at wrestling and being overwhelmed with happiness when he had what he feels was his first good match and that was against Tye Dillinger, now known as Shawn Spears of All Elite Wrestling.

“As that transitioned started, it was hard because I was horrible. I don’t know how your experience was but for a year or two, I was not good and that messed with me a little bit, and you take the coaching, you take the criticism. I don’t read the media. I don’t know about you. I stopped reading the media in ‘09 when I was the face of the [Tampa Bay] Bucs and I was blamed for everything. I just got bashed so bad. I was 25 and I wasn’t ready for that so I just got scarred that I said, ‘I’ll never Google myself again. I’ll never read the media’ so, I didn’t read any of that but that wasn’t the hard part for me. The hard part was all the coaching that I wasn’t good, in the sense where it was baby steps to have a good match and I remember the first good match I ever had was with Tye Dillinger. I’ll never forget, Perfect 10, and I remember I went back through the curtain and I actually cried. I cried because I was like, ‘Wow, that was actually an okay match,’ and I was like, ‘I did it. Two-and-a-half years of the struggle was tough.’”

In April of 2018, Tino Sabbatelli suffered a pectoral injury that ultimately kept him out of action until February of 2020. The injury occurred during a house show match against Velveteen Dream in the main event. Tino was not supposed to be on that show, but he was called by Performance Center coach Terry Taylor, who was impressed with Sabbatelli’s recent house show match with then-NXT Champion Aleister Black.

Sabbatelli detailed when he knew something was wrong after he took the dropkick from Velveteen Dream. Also, Tino revealed that it was during this time that he was having conversations with Paul “Triple H” Levesque about the next steps for him in NXT.

“I was laying in bed Saturday morning. I’ll never forget and Terry Taylor calls me again, and I was supposed to be off and he says to me, ‘Hey Tino! What are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m just getting up coach.’ He said, ‘Aye, you wanna be in the main event again tonight against Velveteen? I was so happy with your performance last night [against Aleister Black], I’m gonna put you in the main event tonight.’ ‘Yes sir, absolutely.’ Go up to Largo, [Florida], face the amazing Velveteen Dream, freak accident man. Probably never happen again if you do it a thousand more times. He went to dropkick me in his comeback and he put his foot right in between the muscle junction in my pectoral muscle right here and he pushed off as I tensed up to give him a good brace and I just felt something, didn’t even hurt. I just felt it almost disconnect and spaz out, and I was supposed to get up and bump and feed in the terminology we use and I couldn’t get back up and I remember he knew something was up and I said, ‘Just go to the top rope. Hit me with something.’ Match was over, I roll to the back. Long story short, tore a pec, and it’s just one of those things where you look at the timing, you’re like, ‘Wow…’ Literally, the best I’d ever felt, physically, mentally, wrestling-wise. I had a long talk with Triple H maybe three weeks prior about — we were literally in a room for about 45 minutes and he just spoke [about] how he saw me, how he saw Tino, how he saw me in the company and it was a one-on-one, man-to-man conversation because he knew I was there for three years and I just asked him straight up. So this torn pec comes and I’m just, ‘Wow man, the timing can’t be worse.’”

Tino went to go have surgery for that torn pectoral muscle and the surgery was a success. He knew he’d be out for quite some time so he went to WWE and told them about getting some work done on his elbow that had been bothering him from his days of pro football and weightlifting. Tino went to get the bone chips in his elbow removed and the surgery was supposed to be 30 minutes and after the surgery, he would be able to leave the hospital. During the surgery, a piece of one of the tools that the surgeons were using broke off and that piece fell into Tino’s arm. Despite the complications, Tino did go on to have a third surgery and after that, it turned into a waiting game.

“During this time, I was gonna be out six to eight months with a pectoral tear. So, just from wear and tear, NFL football, lifting, I had about eight or nine bone chips in my right elbow. I approached WWE, I said, ‘Listen guys, I’m out for six months, six to eight months. While I’m out, let’s clean up my elbow, pec will be great. I’ll come back 100 percent. I’ll feel great.’ They said, ‘Yeah, great idea!’ Called my doctor who was the head doctor for the Bucs at the time. He’s actually the head doctor for the Tennessee Titans at this time. He was in Miami. I call him up, I say, ‘Doc, can you slip me in for a quick elbow scope?’ ‘Yeah, anything you need. Come down here Wednesday, we’ll slip you right in. I’m busy, but we’ll slip you in’ — give him my CD, looks at it. ‘Okay, we’re gonna slip you in tomorrow. 30 minute surgery, in and out, no problem. You’ll be home in two hours.’ Well, 30 minute surgery turned into about a five-hour nightmare. Literally the last piece of the bone, the tweezer they were using snapped off inside me and vanished. They were tugging around in my arm for four and-a-half hours trying to get a little metal piece out. They got it out. They got the piece out. But in the process, they compressed my arm nerve. So I wake up, and I hear the doctors tell me, ‘Listen Sabbi, something went wrong but we’re okay. It’s not gonna affect your recovery. Just a little longer than what we thought’ and I was still coming out of my state, but I wasn’t comprehending it yet. I wake up and I am in tremendous pain. I can’t feel my hand, tremendous pain. I demand for the doctor to come back in. I said to the nurse, ‘This is how I make my living. I’ve been working out since I was born.’ So I made him come back. He sits down in the room for like 20 minutes, tells me what happened.

I said, ‘What do you mean a machine broke off in my arm!?’ ‘Yeah, broke off in your arm.’ Didn’t think anything of it. He said, ‘You’ll be fine, promise.’ About two months goes by, I can’t feel my hand. Hit your funny bone, times that by ten, all day long. I couldn’t sleep. I literally woke up in the middle of the night three nights in a row crying. I’m not even afraid to admit it. I was crying because it was that much pain.”

Tino Sabbatelli and Dan Matha were a part of the mass WWE releases and furloughs and a list of those names who were also let go from the company can be found at this link. The video version of the interview with Sabbatelli and Matha can be found below:


If any of the quotes from this article are used, please credit ‘The Drop’ podcast with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions. 


About Andrew Thompson 394 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.