Last December during a WWE Live Event, Tyson Kidd sustained a severe knee injury - including tears in his right ACL, meniscus and MCL - that threatended to sideline the mat technician for as long as a year. Thanks to renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews and the same tenacity that earned Kidd a "workhorse" reputation among his peers, the Hart Dungeon-trained grappler has stepped back into the square circle sooner than many expected, dazzling the WWE Universe on RAW in tag team action alongside his wife, Natalya.
Before taking us through his entire recuperation with an exclusive video series on the WWE App and WWE.com, Kidd recapped his tough road to recovery, described his "Total Divas" experience and looked ahead at what he calls his "second chance."
WWE.com: Tyson, first off, welcome back to WWE.
TYSON KIDD: Thank you very much. Those words mean so much to me. It's been almost a year in the waiting to hear those words.
WWE.com: What was it like to not only return to action, but to do it alongside your wife?
TYSON KIDD: It was a very unique experience. Obviously, we've done mixed tags before with The Hart Dynasty and things of that nature, but now our relationship is very open and public thanks to "Total Divas." I think the only way it could have been better would be if Nattie and I got Fandango and Summer Rae in a double Sharpshooter to top things off [laughs]. But, looking back, it was as close to perfect as anything I could have ask for.
WWE.COM: After your sugery in January, you went into rehab with an optimistic outlook. Was there ever a time during your recovery that doubts started to creep in?
TYSON KIDD: At around the midway point, I thought my knee would never be the same again. After about three or four months, I could go to the gym normally and I could start to run on a treadmill, but I knew I couldn't wrestle and take impact. I coudln't jump off the one foot and stick a landing. I knew it wasn't there. But I remember thinking, "Is my knee ever going to be 100 percent?"
I went so long - 17 years - without getting hurt. And I always thought one of two things would happen I got hurt: It was either going to hinder the hell out of me forever, or I'd heal fast from it. And during rehab, I remember thinking, "Uh oh. This is going to be the 'hindering me forever' type of scenario." Then, month five kicked in, and all of sudden I had these dramatics improvements.
I got medically cleared to train in the ring at the seven-month mark on August 5th in Green Bay, which is actually where I got hurt last December. So I really came full circle. It was bizzare.
WWE.COM: Have you had to alter your in-ring style in any way in light of your injury?
TYSON KIDD: I orginally thought I would, but I'm very, very stubborn. I'd been doing cardio since week six of my rehab, and after two minutes in the ring the day I got cleared, I was done. It felt like I'd wrestled a 30-Minute Handicap Match. I was dying. I mean, this sounds bad, but in terms of my conditioning and my wind, I may as well have been sitting on my couch for eight months. There's only one way to train, and that's being in the ring. And even in practice, it's not the same as performing in front of a crowd. You're constantly feeding off their energy and their reactions and trying to feel them out. It's a different aspect than practicing in the ring on your own. That's been my limitation. But the only way to improve is to run that tank on empty, and then refill again. If you're afraid and don't let yourself get to empty, you'll never build your conditioning. I learned that from my Japanese trainer, Tokyo Joe, a long time ago.
But I'm not going to let my knee alter anything I do in the ring. My move set is part of what makes me unique and there's no way I'm going to throw that away out of fear.
I'm thinking, I might be brave where I'm sitting right now, but that fear switch is long gone. WWE and Dr. Andrews took such amazing care of me, and the way technology is today, it makes me feel invincible. If I tore my other knee tomorrow, I already know the process.
This has prepared me almost for anything, to be honest. That might be a bad thing, I don't know. Sometimes I'm too hard-headed for my own good, and this could be one of those times.
WWE.COM: What support have you received from your fellow Superstars since your injury?
KIDD: I don’t really want to put anybody on the spot — but I’ve received a lot of texts and phone calls from guys. There were quite a few, but I’ll throw Mark Henry out there as a guy that’s actually called me. With most guys, we just text. I’m not really a phone guy. But Mark actually called me a couple of times and Rey Mysterio as well, just seeing if I was OK. When I was in physical therapy I texted Rey, because he tweeted something about needing surgery, and then he called me right away.
WWE.COM: Another Superstar who’s shown support for you has been CM Punk, even giving you a shout-out as a “workhorse” back in January. Did that stick with you during your rehab?
KIDD: Absolutely. When I got hurt, before I got the MRI, I was going down to the school at NXT [now the WWE Performance Center] and doing some pre-surgical therapy on my knee. Punk was down there too, rehabbing his knee. I told him about my MRI, and the same day I got the MRI I went to my doctor, and Punk told me to text him as soon as I was done to let him know how it went.
Punk and I have always gotten along and he’s always been friendly to me. I met him in Ring of Honor on the independent scene in 2003. When he said that workhorse thing, it blew up my Twitter, and now I have people tweeting me every day using #workhorse. That was definitely going through my head the whole time.
I remember thinking, “if my knee is never the same again, but I tried my hardest, then that’s just how it is. But if my knee isn’t the same again because I didn’t try my hardest, then that’s me letting everyone down — including myself.” And that’s just not the kind of person that I am.
WWE.COM: And while this is all going on, you were also involved in the first season of “Total Divas” and actually got married to Natalya on the show. What was that like?
KIDD: It’s funny. These cameras are in your house and you know they’re there. I don’t know if this because I’ve been in sports-entertainment for almost 18 years now, but after a couple of hours, I honestly forget the cameras are there. The next thing I know, I’m watching “Total Divas” back and I see things like my mom playing with my hair while we’re eating and I’m like, “I honestly don’t remember that happening.” I’m not saying they’re sneaky — I know they’re there — but they’re so good at what they do that you just feel so comfortable.
I love that. It wasn’t being on the road, but I still felt like I was in the mix even though I was hurt, and it made me want to get back out there even more. “Total Divas” kind of fell in my lap. Obviously, it’s Nattie’s story and I’m part of it, but the fact that I was at home injured and was still able to contribute to something within the company meant the world to me.
Watch Tyson & Nattie’s wedding highlights | More “Total Divas”
WWE.COM: What do you hope to accomplish now that you’re back in action?
KIDD: My main goal is to leave everything I have out there in that ring at every arena.
This is a second chance for me. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect, and a lot of time to think about things that I’ve liked so far and things I’ve let fall to the wayside. I won’t waste a single opportunity — even the ones that don’t look like opportunities at first.
This injury has given me the chance to sit back and study the product for almost a year, and I feel like I’m more aware of everything now. But I’m done watching from home.