It isn’t often that a wrestler can claim to have been part of two of the most intriguing and popular factions in modern WWE history. That air becomes even more rarefied when that same Superstar can proudly claim to have appeared on NXT, SmackDown and NXT UK, as well as laying on some outstanding solo performances during his tenure with the company.
Like a slew of other Superstars, that same wrestler found himself released from WWE in 2021 and heading into the unknown. But for some, the unknown can be something of a familiar stamping ground.
Our wrestling editor Andy Spoors, caught up with Axel Tischer (formally known as Alexander Wolfe) to discuss his time in WWE, missed opportunities, playing hide and seek with Vince McMahon, warming up for a match in a mosh pit and what the European indie scene looks like in 2022…

Here are some of the highlights of Andy’s interview with Axel:

Rushonrock: Talk us through the Imperium vs Undisputed Era match at Worlds Collide, as that was pretty eventful for you!

Axel: The match was great, but for me it was the least favourite experience of my entire career. So when I got injured and busted open at War Games it was great. It was a whole bloody ordeal and it was the War Games match but I wasn’t hurt, I wasn’t knocked out, I just got gashed open. Like a madman I got stapled up through the cage and I was staying in character.

I was like the Joker or a devil possessed and people got behind it. There was one point where the entire arena was chanting my name because I was crawling from one side of the cage to the other like a freaking zombie in my character. That was great!

But the Worlds Collide match, again, one of the worst experiences of my career. It was great for the other dudes, especially Fabian Aichner and Ludwig Kaiser (then known as Marcel Barthel). It was great for them and of course WALTER was the main guy, or GUNTHER as he is now, and we were his henchmen, but more as a team instead of just pure henchmen. For Fabien and Marcel that time was great, as they hadn’t been showcased as much, but because I had been taken out by getting knocked out (they did).

WWE’s a great company at taking care of their performers, especially the referees as they are well schooled and well prepared. So when something happens like what happened to me, the referee Drake Wuertz, he did a great job saving my in-ring career. Especially WWE not letting me go back (to the match), because five minutes after the accident I was almost back to 100, but I was concussed and on television. They do not let anything happen to someone who got knocked out. So kudos to those guys and kudos to WWE for being true professionals and I’m very grateful for that.

But in general it was very unlucky, as I was really looking forward to the match, and the match turned out great. I believe it would have turned out even better if I was still there in the mix, because all my parts that we’d talked about and were going to showcase, I missed. And I was so looking forward to that and working with Undisputed Era as we’d made house show runs (with them), and the program we had against them with Sanity was great. All of those guys are super awesome and I love to work with them.

So yeah, the whole day was kind of a mess! I wasn’t very sour at the time, because I know you can’t change anything and I was happy that I didn’t have a broken jaw and I was just knocked out. Because of that I had to go through the concussion protocol, I got back pretty quick and everything was fine and nothing happened, but my pride was hurt as hell! Still to this day when I talk about it, I get mad that what happened, happened. But hey, that’s life.

Rushonrock: You have a show up here in Newcastle for North Wrestling against Liam Slater. What can fans expect from you in 2022?

Axel: Fans can expect everything from me, wherever I go. I’m pretty full with my schedule, the two major promotions in WXW and GWF are my home promotions in Germany but one of the plans is to establish myself in Progress Wrestling more because I really love to perform there.

Of course it is the biggest promotion in the UK, but also just working here and there and collecting countries. Last weekend was the first time in Italy, and when I started in 2021 in October I debuted in Poland, then re-debuting in Brussels. So getting around and travelling around, wrestling with everybody. But most importantly the UK scene, as it is very dear to me. England or the UK and Ireland don’t really have anything to do with the European wrestling scene even if it is the same continent. It is very weird but I love that!

A lot of people I see in England that have been successful, a lot of the big names, nobody knows them in Germany. (And it’s the same the) other way around, nobody knows guys in the UK scene who are from Germany, who are not being featured in the big promotions like WXW for example.

So being on the show in Newcastle for North and wrestling against the champion is another big step to getting more exposure to everybody around the world, everybody in England, everybody in the UK and Ireland and so on. Just being out there and just showcasing myself.

What can people expect? I love professional wrestling but I learnt so much in those six years with WWE and I already have the tools with me that I want to showcase. So it doesn’t matter what kind of crowd, it doesn’t matter what kind of opponent.

I look to myself and I want to be the best possible performer and I want to be the best possible athlete on the day. I want to outwork everybody inside the ring and outside the ring. It’s the fun part, my passion is back up, the fire is back up. I’m very compatible, I have a compatible mindset especially in wrestling.

Of course, we want to entertain wrestling fans that have paid their hard earned money to come to the show but also I want to be the best version of myself. Not only looking the best version of myself, not only performing as the best version of myself, but competing for real. What is the creative process in the match with that one guy I’m wrestling right now? I know we have to put it together, but I want to outwork this person in the ring and mentally and everything without burying the person or making them look bad. (It’s) the other way around, make him look the best possible and in the end it will be the best match possible. I always have this mentality, that if I’m not the last match on the show, I will come back and kind of challenge people by saying ‘follow that motherfucker’.

It’s not possible every time. Not every match will be the same way from the opener to the main event, as every match has to earn the right to deserve their spot. But I want to produce the one that checks the 100% mark at the end and most importantly, give the people a great time to react to the match and just see it. People come to the show because they love wrestling and I want to give them something that will make them feel great afterwards.

Rushonrock: You’ll also be meeting back up with Scotty 2 Hotty too!

Axel: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it! The next day we are both at Carnival Wrestling, so we will probably travel together and have time to chat and catch up. The last time I was listening to an interview with him, I had to text him because his positivity and the way this guy is, is so contagious. I can recommend to everybody, especially wrestlers, if you feel depressed or whatever, just listen to an interview with him. He’s such a great person and he’s such a great dude.

He was one of the few guys in the Performance Center, from the coaching side that 100% had the backs of the talent. Sometimes you would do something and it gets down to the reports and you get chewed out for that. But he was one of the few coaches, there are some of them still out there, that stood behind its talents and gave them support. Some of the guys kind of no sell it and you take the heat, and of course you are professional so you take it on the chin, but he was one of the guys that stood side by side with us and I will not forget this.

Rushonrock: You were one of the guys that was very excited when NXT went to Download Festival, so what is on your playlist at the moment?

Axel: As you can see on this shirt (gestures to vest top), The Ghost Inside is one of my favourite bands. My favourite ones are Stick To Your Guns and Stray From The Path because I like the music, love the music, but because I have a good relationship with the drummer from Stick To Your Guns and their guitar player. The drummer is George (Stick To Your Guns) and the guitar player is Tom from Stray From The Path, they are great dudes and it’s awesome music. It’s the way you should go for workout music.

Most of the time when I’m listening to music it is during workouts and it depends on which kind of workout and exercises I do. So it’s a little bit silly, but for warming up and stretches it is more hip hop orientated, a little bit more chilled beats. But when it goes to weightlifting, it is just in your face hardcore music.

Just to give you a list? Of course Stick To Your Guns, Stray From The Path, The Ghost Inside, we have Terror, Trapped Under Ice, Every Time I Die, Knocked Loose, Evergreen Terrace and the list goes on and on. Kublai Khan are one of the great bands I discovered last year, it’s a band from Texas with great beatdown stuff. Lionheart is coming around to my hometown, so I will probably hit the pit right there.

I love everything that has to do when the stage and the people are very close, you can stage dive, you have the pit at the back and violent dancing going on. You can pass on the mic, you get sweaty, you probably get a bloody nose and it’s physical. I’ve used that in the past as a cardio workout. After that, I’m probably dehydrated, I’m in zombie mode, my eyes are like here (opens eyes wide) and I’m exhausted. The next day I will be sore as fuck, my ears are clocked as the only sound I hear is a beep because I hate ear plugs.

It’s silly but music is really like passion. That was one of the things I missed during the pandemic. Especially when I was living in Florida, some of the bands were coming down on tour and you just go to the concert. Most of the guys I knew, but I wasn’t the guy who would stand at the side of the stage because the sound is shit, I would be in the pit and say let’s meet up after the show or before. The majority of the guys are great dudes to hang out with. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about it!

Rushonrock: Have you got any stories from Download?

Axel: Yeah! Download was great, because you had the chance to see some live action. Let me think if I give you two or three, let’s go with two. The first one I had the chance, and I was never a big fan of them but since then, I listened to their music and I will never forget this experience.

It was the first Download in 2016 and the main event was Rammstein. Rammstaein are a world famous band, if they announce a tour or a concert somewhere close? (Clicks fingers) It’s sold out. This music is not for everybody and it’s great music, but I was never really into that. But then we stood a little bit longer and we watched the show and it was amazing.

It was the biggest stage there, the stage production and the fire, smoke and fog. It sounded great and also it felt great because I hadn’t been home for whatever time. I stood there near the stage and I could sing along with the lyrics even though I did not know the lyrics because it was German without even thinking about it. So it was very special to me.

But the funnier story is because it helped me create and establish the character with wrestling fans. A lot of times when wrestlers portray a character they are not authentic enough and they do things they wouldn’t normally do just for the sake of their ‘character would do it’. So I tried to get this mosh kid out, Alexander Wolfe Sanity version, that’s why beating the throwing fists thing, so that’s a part of me and love to do this and it’s authentic.

So the second Download when Sanity was already out there I was a bit established. I remember  Every Time I Die was at Download too. Andy Williams, The Butcher, he knew a lot of the boys in the back at the show and he was just hanging out so we met for the first time. I think he said something like, ‘You like that kind of music as well? We are playing at the same time, please come along and come back stage or on the stage and enjoy the show’. So I thought cool, why not? Awesome, thank you very much.

I remember they played before one of the blocks we wrestled there. I was the openers and there was still about an hour and a half left. I was dead tired. I was so tired, I kind of just wanted to go to the hotel and just sleep before I work. But sometimes you have to just suck it up and just do the work. Then I drank a cold coffee, black, I always drink black coffee as I do not need sugar and milk. Then I got a little bit of an idea of I need to warm up and one of the boys came across, I do not remember who it was, and they said ‘We are going over to see Andy as he’s playing at the moment’. I said, ‘He’s playing? That’s awesome!’. But I already had my gear on, so I took my boots off and put my trainers on and I went to the concert.

I did not go on the stage but in my Sanity outfit I went in the pit and just warmed up inside the mosh pit. And I really got crazy! You either have everybody just kind of going with it or you go full steam ahead and I went full steam ahead.

And people just spotted me in the pit, I remember some people spotted me and put out some articles saying oh he’s the real deal, the stuff you see in the ring is real because I saw him in the mosh pit for Every Time I Die.

But the best reaction was, I was in the crowd and you could see my gear because it was the one with the red and yellow stripes on the one leg, so the one I wore at the Takeovers. You could see Andy playing and he was like ‘what the fuck!?’ while I was going all over the place. After the concert was done I had around 30 minutes to get ready for the match, so I get back to the tent which was next to the Avalanche tent where all the hardcore bands play, got my boots on, had a quick chat with my guy, went out and performed.

I get back and Andy was just stood there and said ‘What the fuck dude? Are you serious?’ It was a great bonding experience and we are still to this day good buddies, so that was the first time I really got into the whole Download thing. Usually you just wander around and listen to stage performances but you do not usually go nuts because you do not want to get hurt or injured. But in that moment, that was one of the great experiences I got and was just like ‘fuck it, let’s go!’.

Keep up to date with Axel’s upcoming shows by following him on twitter @axeman3016. All photo credit to WWE