INTERVIEW: Shane Haste talks NJPW appearance, reflects on NOAH run, SLAPJACK-WWE

Shane Haste chats with Andrew Thompson about his NJPW STRONG appearance, his tag career with Mikey Nicholls, being in RETRIBUTION and more

Photo Courtesy: SP Media Graphics

In 2016, as a part of ‘The Mighty Don’t Kneel’, Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls made the decision to join WWE after a run in Pro Wrestling NOAH that included two GHC Tag Title runs and being named the 2013 Tokyo Sports tag team of the year. They were the first double-foreigner tag team to achieve that honor since Stan Hansen and Vader in 1998.

Throughout their time in NOAH, Shane and Mikey were able to mix it up with the likes of Naomichi Marufuji, KENTA, Takeshi Morishima and on top of what they were able to accomplish there, NOAH gave them a farewell tour.

While interviewing Shane, he told me that it was difficult to leave NOAH, but he and Mikey knew they were at a point when they had move on to the next stage of their collective and respective careers.

Yeah, it was [difficult to leave Pro Wrestling NOAH]. We just had to — we just wanted to go on to — we knew it was time for the next stage of our careers. At that point of our lives, Mikey [Nicholls] was looking to get married and start a family and things like that and we just needed more money as well. It was just a thing of where do you go to make these next steps and we had such high aspirations of what we were gonna accomplish in WWE. We’re just naïve young boys. ‘Yay! We’re gonna go there and it’s gonna be good and it’s gonna be great and we’re gonna become millionaires and everything’s gonna work out great. Woo!’ But then, it’s the same when I did my last thing at EPW [in Australia]. They had this big sendoff for me and I’m just like, ‘Idiot. I’m gonna be back. You idiots. No one lasts forever.’ We always end up coming back so, the difference between that and what NOAH did and very much so in Japan, whenever you see someone’s retirement ceremony and things like that, they make such a great pageantry out of it that like I’m seeing a few retirement ceremonies, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna miss this person.’ I’m like they’re not dying. I can still see this person like all the time. Like [Kenta] Kobashi’s one. We were there for Kobashi’s retirement and it was people — grown men crying, everyone was just — everything going off, everyone was there, it was amazing and the ten bell salute and I’m like [takes a deep breath]. It’s like a week later, I went up to the gym in NOAH and he’s there, same guy, just working out, using everything. Pretty sure he was still working on his chops. Guy doesn’t stop so, it’s funny. In the moment, you’re like, ‘Wow, am I making the right decision?’ It’s cool. It was very special. I often look back at those photos and just laugh; us dicking around. I think I tackle-hugged [Hitoshi] Kumano to the ground and that’s another thing: It’s this serious moment and I just tackle-hug a dude to the ground.

At the NJPW STRONG ‘Rivals’ taping in California, Haste returned to New Japan for the first time since 2015.

Haste appeared at some point during or after the JONAH and Bad Dude Tito versus FinJuice (David Finlay & Juice Robinson) match. JONAH is a member of TMDK and Shane had been at past NJPW STRONG tapings and said the atmosphere has always been positive.

Our illustrious New Japan career that everyone remembers. I had one match [Haste laughed]. I had one match in [New] Japan. Mikey [Nicholls] had the few and he trained at the New Japan L.A. Dojo so him coming back to New Japan was a huge, like a real cool, huge thing. For me, it just was that’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and do a serious run at and then seeing how well JONAH’s been doing there and I’d go along to the shows and hang out and man, the vibe there, this atmosphere, the crowds, it’s awesome. I love it.

When the idea of Shane and Mikey entering the 2022 World Tag League tournament was presented to him, he said that sounds like a plan and that’s one of he and Mikey’s goals. On top of that, Shane wants to bring over fellow members of TMDK to compete in New Japan and hopefully wrestle inside the Tokyo Dome.

Yeah man, that’s our goal, that’s the goal. TMDK, me and Mikey [Nicholls], I’d love to see us in it [World Tag League]. I’d love to see other versions of TMDK as well; JONAH, Slex, Marcius Pitt, Damian Slater, we got Hartley Jackson, Kane Broadrick. We got some good members in that and I’ve said this many, many times, my goal now is to get — well I mean, stabilize myself and get my spot but to bring as many of those TMDK guys over, get them exposed on that national, international level of Japan where they deserve respect that they’ve — they’ve earned respect and deserve to be shown it in pro wrestling, where sometimes you know, you come to America and it’s a different kind of show, a different kind of vibe but in Japan, there’s so much more respect with it and I really want those boys to have a feel of that even if it’s just one tour, you know what I mean? That would be awesome because a lot of them have their jobs and their families and they’re pretty set in Perth. Like man, the world’s gonna open back up, Perth’s a direct flight to Tokyo, it’d be sick. So yeah, I wanna see all of TMDK at the Tokyo Dome.

Known in WWE as TM-61, Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste were rebranded as ‘Nick Miller’ and ‘Shane Thorne’. They were together for two years before Mikey departed NXT so he could be with his family in Australia.

Shane was then slotted as a singles talent and would filter in and out of tag teams at live events and on television up until his departure from the company. When he looks back on his NXT run, he tries not to think about the negatives. He does wish that he stuck to his guns more. He added that throughout his career in Japan and Australia, doing what you were told and being a company person got rewarded but that was not the case for them in WWE.

I look back at it with pretty fond memories [his run in NXT]. I try to forget all the negative stuff because once you get stuck on the negative, you just get dragged into the dark side. Things that I would have liked [to do was stick] to my guns a little bit more, especially knowing now how thriving the pro wrestling world is. I’m like damn, I really should’ve died on my sword more and been willing to, I don’t know, get fired over things. We were very — me and Mikey [Nicholls] made a career of ourselves before that by doing what the company wanted. We’re company men, we’re good workers, we’re good hands. We did — you ask us to do something, we’ll go do that better than what you think can be done and in Australia and Japan, that got rewarded in the right ways. I found that in NXT, they have ideas and you just go with it and sometimes that can be a detriment because not all ideas are great ideas. We had been proven in Japan that as ourselves, we were good and we were successful. When you go there, they wanna have their hands on it a lot more. They want more control, which I’m like, you know what? Billion-dollar company, you gotta know what you’re doing and so, we let them. Some things I’m like, ‘Eh, I don’t know’ but I’m like, ‘All right, we’ll do it. I’ll trust what you’re saying first’ and then obviously, I’m not a multi-time world champion millionaire so, it didn’t quite work out that way [Haste laughed]. You know, I’m doing fine.

Two months before Mikey left WWE, the company hosted their ‘Super Show-Down’ event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 60,000 people. The likes of Jessica McKay, Cassie Lee and Buddy Matthews were a part of the event.

Shane did not see an issue with he and Mikey not being a part of the show and related it back to if a famous band were playing in Australia, does that mean that an Australian act or band should be added to the tour just because they’re from the country. There was another Australia tour and Shane questioned how he and Mikey were not on it. They were told that they were not “big enough stars”.

Well this is the thing: My mom would always say stuff like that. ‘Well why don’t they bring the Australians to it?’ And I’m like, well, let’s say — what’s a big band at the moment? What’s the biggest band? BTS, let’s say BTS toured Australia. Do you think just because they’re coming to Australia, they should add an Australian singer to it? No. You wanna see — you wanna see the stars that you see on TV. You wanna see those big names and it’s a treat to see the Americans, the people from all around the other parts of the world, but, in saying that too, Australians are very proud and patriotic people as well so they do wanna see their own people and I can’t remember which Australia tour it was; I’m like, ‘How are we not on this?’ And they said, ‘You’re not big enough stars.’ I’m like, ‘Well you control that. Make us bigger stars.’ You see how quickly they can turn someone into a star. It takes a couple of weeks. You control this. You write it. Write us to be bigger stars.

When coming into WWE, Shane had high expectations for what could’ve come their way. They were hoping to follow the once-traditional formula of NXT which was do to six months to a year in NXT and then get the main roster call-up.

Shane is of the belief that they were not the in the best graces of the powers that be and it seemed like there was never a concrete plan for he and Mikey. He feels that if they had been a bit greedier like they were in Japan, things may have turned out differently, but they were asked to be more of a babyface team.

That was our first time going to either Raw or SmackDown [UpUpDownDown appearance in 2016]. It would’ve been in Florida so they had people go and just hang out and see what it’s like and then sometimes, they’d use people as extras or whatnot and we had met a bunch of these people before and a bunch of these guys knew that we could work. We’d done tryouts before, we’ve done a handful of tryouts and wrestled matches on those and with people who were like, ‘Oh damn. You guys are ready. You’re good’ and we knew plenty of people on the main roster and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, you guys will do really well here. You’re good workers.’ So yeah, we were thinking – our expectations, you wanna reach for the top. Our expectations, ‘Man, let’s kill it in NXT’ and at that point and beforehand, the NXT roster kind of changed every six months. It was six months for these people, the champions would change and then those people would go up to the main roster and then the new lot would come in so we’re like, ‘Yep. Six months, we’ll do that six months to a year in NXT, bam, move to the main roster, kill it there, be in a Royal Rumble, be on WrestleMania,’ you know what I mean? We’re like, ‘Yep. It’s just gonna snowball. Everything’s gonna work out. Sh*t is gonna be good,’ and then yeah, so… It did [happen] but if I didn’t have my knee injury, who knows what could’ve happened from there. I don’t think we were the most popular with the bookers and the writers and then, kind of like as I got — they didn’t seem to really care what we were doing or where to put us and whatnot and then they had their new toys, a lot of hot talent from American — fresh hot American independent talent which you know, those people get the views and it’s a TV show that has a lot of marketing so you go with the numbers. So, I’m not mad at any of it but, yeah, it would have been nice to get a bit more of like spotlight on us to let us do — but also when — when that spotlight did come on us, we were very company men and you have a lot of coaches there and a lot of people telling you different things and you’re trying to please everyone, where we should’ve been trying to please ourselves… so yeah, if we were a bit more greedy there to just be who we were in Japan, that’s what got us over. Things could have been a lot different but, they wanted a fresh babyface team, clean cut so that’s what we did and I don’t think people want — people, especially at that time, they didn’t want that, which was shown definitely by Undisputed ERA when they came in and they were — the people — they called them the ‘heels’ and I’m like no, this is a babyface team. This is a babyface team.

At NXT TakeOver: Toronto in 2016, Nicholls and Haste took on the duo formerly known as The Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) in the finals of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Haste previously shared that they were told they were going to win that tournament up until the day of the TakeOver show.

Shane recalled AOP being told not to let their opponents look too strong over them and on one occasion, while Haste and Nicholls were working with AOP, they were told not to duck their clotheslines because it’d make AOP look bad. Akam and Rezar wanted to take offense from The Mighty.

Well there’s that thing of saving it for the right moments [Haste & Nicholls displaying their power and athleticism in NXT]. That was a good payoff, especially with the AOP guys [at TakeOver: Toronto 2016] because we worked them so much and they were getting told, ‘Don’t get picked up, don’t get bumped,’ all this stuff so we — I remember once, they were like we weren’t allowed to duck a clothesline from them because it made them look stupid for them to swing a clothesline and me to duck it and give him something and they wanted to do stuff and they wanted to take stuff too so that TakeOver match and even the next year’s Dusty Cup then, they were more than happy to get bumped and lifted and things like that and because we hadn’t done it every single match, it did mean more. So there is that side of [it] and the other side of [it] is other people they were wrestling were doing it every single match with them and they were like, ‘Well if they’re bumping them,’ picking them up and stuff like that every single match, then of course people are gonna see that and go, ‘Yeah! Every single time.’

After the split of RETRIBUTION, Haste, who was known as ‘SLAPJACK’ at the time, had been moved over to the SmackDown brand along with Mia Yim. T-BAR and MACE remained on Raw with Mustafa Ali.

When he switched brands, Shane was informed that the company wanted to rid of the mask and present him as a babyface. He was looking forward to being in that role of the wrestler who could have good or great matches with anyone.

They were like, ‘Yeah, we want you to take the mask off’ and I just knew — SmackDown, at the time, it still is now, it’s a very fun product. There was so many characters and bits. Everything was quick because it was a shorter show. There were lots of bits where they’d just have you come in and out and more backstage stuff and shenanigans and I’m like, ‘Yeah man. Let’s f*cking go with shenanigans. Let’s have some backstage stuff, let’s have some fun. Let’s go out there, wrestle a fun match, wrap it up, go back.’ So I was looking forward to that and I really liked the roster at the time, especially when I started going there and hanging out with those boys and whatnot. It was real chill. It was a smaller roster, but everyone was pretty keen to work with each other.

Although he was released from WWE in November, Haste made the final roster for the WWE 2K22 rollout. His character ‘SLAPJACK’ is in the game and he shared his thoughts about that:

It’s just the way that they work. Everybody gets so mad at the talent roster [for WWE video games] and [gives them] sh*t for it because it’s really 2K21. It’s last year’s roster. They can’t predict the future of the roster, you know what I mean? So of course it’s gonna be the older roster.

I think Shane Thorne’s been in every single one [WWE video game] since 2017 I believe. So, people looking out for me there.

I think there’s 20 or something people in this game that aren’t with the company anymore. But like [I] said, it’s 2021’s roster. It’s fun, it’s fun. It just makes for a fun situation, you know what I mean?

While Haste was trying to find a way onto TV post-SLAPJACK, he began doing a ‘Crocodile Dundee’ character that he wrestled as in dark matches. Shane stated that he was trying to appeal to a different audience.

He received a push from T-BAR who told him he should just do the Australian-esque character and Haste was initially hesitant. He also broke down how his character would go from ‘SLAPJACK’ to a babyface character. He also shared bits and pieces of what he would have said if he had the opportunity to explain the switch on a platform such as Raw Talk or Talking Smack.

Yeah, I was trying more character-based stuff [with the Crocodile Dundee character]. A lot of my career, pretty much all of it, I’ve just wrestled as myself. So, when I first went to SmackDown, I had singles gear and stuff like that and I’m like, ‘All right. I’m just gonna be this guy who’s been in NXT before’ and now — I really wanted to do like a moment on Raw Talk or Talking Smack straight after we left RETRIBUTION and I wanted to be like, ‘You don’t realize you’ve hit the bottom and the way Ali treated us, showed me that I was at the bottom so I’m done with that darkness and I’m ready to be a more positive person.’ I just wanted to be more positive about every situation that I was in and yeah, being in RETRIBUTION got pretty rough by the end of it and so I’m like, I wanna leave that behind and that’s kind of the real life — character reflecting real life and I’m like, ‘I didn’t realize I was at the bottom and looking at Ali and how mad and angry he was-was like looking into a mirror and I didn’t like what I saw so, you know, being away from him now on SmackDown is a fresh start for me and I’m ready to show the world.’

Just put me on Raw Talk where I can just freeform say this and if you don’t like it, it’s only on YouTube, no one really cares, and then there were a lot of wrestler wrestlers out there like [Bryan] Danielson and Cesaro on SmackDown so I’m like, I’ll just be a babyface who’s a good wrestler and we just put over I’m a good wrestler. I’ll go out there, have great matches then go have some f*cking fun in the backstage but that stuff just kept getting — not happening so then I was looking at more, just any way to get on TV man. Just any way to get my face on TV and Nikki [A.S.H.] started doing her superhero thing and I know that was her idea and it was just to be more marketable and be more herself. A huge — I think one of the biggest markets in WWE is kids. Everyone always goes like, ‘Oh, when — it was better back in my day when I was younger.’ I’m like yeah, that’s because you were younger. So there’s kids who are that age now who probably think now’s product is the best and they’re gonna go, ‘Back in my day…’ So, that was my thought; just being something more marketable. I’ve gone through a lot of different looks in WWE at the time by that point and I’d never gotten an action figure not being marketable in that way so, and there was so many guys who just wore wrestling gear. So I was like, ‘All right, I gotta take a different direction with this. What’s something no one’s doing?’ And that was like the authentic, outback Australian look and so that’s where I got the look from was Dijak [T-BAR] giving me sh*t about, ‘Just go be Crocodile Dundee’ and I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna f*cking –’ no, he’s like, ‘Be the crocodile hunter. Go be Steve Irwin.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna f*cking go be Steve Irwin, I don’t wanna be Steve Irwin’ and I was like, ‘Fine. I’m gonna be f*cking Steve Irwin.’ If that’s what you Americans want, I’m gonna stop being an Australian that Australians want to see because Australians, I don’t think they want to be seen as a joke and I’m like screw it. I’m not wrestling for Australians here. I’m wrestling for an American, my bosses are all American. So I’ll be the Australian Americans want to see.

The episode of NJPW STRONG that Haste is appearing on airs on 3/5 on NJPW World.

He can be found on both Twitter and Instagram @ShaneTMDK. Shane’s merchandise store link can be checked out here and our interview can be watched via the player at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 8251 Articles
A Washington D.C. native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.