Taylor Wilde as WWE Cruiserweight Champion? It could have happened.
Many of you probably don't know Taylor Wilde was in WWE, and with good reason -- she never made WWE TV. However, a pitch from a couple of WWE producers almost landed her with the WWE Cruiserweight Championship, which would have ended Shane Helms' year-long reign.
Taylor Wilde, then known as Shantelle, was brought up to the WWE main roster in January of 2007 and given an interesting gimmick on a series of house shows and dark matches.
"Yeah, I’d done a few dark matches with Jamie [Noble]. So, their idea for me was, I was wrestling as a Japanese boy. I wore a double mesh blacked out lucha libre masks, shoulder pads, big kick pads, big baggy Sabu pants and I was wrestling as a boy. I was hailing from Parts Unknown, Japan and yeah, I was fighting Jamie Noble and I guess the grand idea was to have me win the Intergender Cruiserweight title. But, whoever was champ at that time wasn’t into it. So even though this was Vince McMahon’s—whether it was his idea or not—we had a meeting, we had his stamp of approval on it and I had some pretty excellent people working with me at the time. Like I said, Jamie Noble and Dean Malenko were very behind it. It’s a political business. I had been in developmental for about a year and it was time to bring in some fresh meat, I guess," Wilde said.
Fightful surveyed the landscape of the Cruiserweight division, and noticed that Fightful Alumni Shane Helms was the champion at the time. He confirmed the pitch coming from Dean Malenko, and that Helms himself wasn't in favor of it. He said that that the plans never got beyond a pitch, but he was conferred with about it, being told that the idea for the the gimmick would be that nobody would know if it were a man or a woman in the ninja gear.
Others that we spoke to confirmed that the idea was more of a pitch than a plan, going as far as to say "Vince McMahon makes plans, everyone else makes pitches."
The character's name was Sensai, and we couldn't find any photos or videos of the gimmick. As mentioned, she also met with Vince McMahon directly to talk it over. She recalled the meeting when we spoke.
"You’re so eager to please. You want to be memorable and you want to make a good impression. He’s a very intimidating person. He was very fair. He’s obviously quite a persona, [so he gets through that character.] It was a very intimidating experience. One that I will not forget. I probably blacked out half-way through because I remember nodding and smiling a lot. So, I couldn’t really recreate the conversation for you," said Wilde.
After returning to developmental, Taylor spent the next six months there and debuted for FCW. She'd be released in the summer, but wouldn't be out of work long.
"I can’t remember exactly how it went, but I was doing house shows for Smackdown pretty regularly. I can’t remember if I was pissed off at my last house show or what was going on, but I was living in Tampa at the time, and I remember driving back from the gym, and getting some text messages from some other people in developmental that people were being let go. I just had this instant sinking feeling. I’m like, “I’m next.” That was kind of it. I got the phone call and they wished me best in all my future endeavors. I was pretty disillusioned. I had had some momentum going in developmental and for a few different reasons the idea that they had for me just fizzled out and that was kind of the end of it. Again, I needed a break at that point. I thought, “Okay. Screw it. Maybe this isn’t for me. I’ll go back to university, I’ll finish my degree,” and then six months later, TNA called," Wilde closed.
Editor's Note: We'd actually conducted this interview with Taylor ahead of her dropping the podcast she did this week that got some traction. However, we spoke to numerous other people involved, who provided more details.