Tino Sabbatelli was one of the older stars in NXT, as he worked in NXT from April 2014 to April 2020. He made his return to the company in October 2020 before getting released in June 2021 once again. In the midst of that, Tino also worked for AEW a bit, and he believes that Tony Khan didn’t appreciate that.
Following his first release in WWE, Tino Sabbatelli made his way to AEW. He competed in one match on AEW Dark, which was a tag team match. He would then return to WWE again.
While speaking on Chris Van Vliet’s Insight podcast, Tino Sabbatelli talked about his one match on AEW. Sabbtelli stated that he believes Tony Khan was upset because he went back to WWE after just that one match.
“So then AEW comes into play, AEW calls me. Billy Gunn calls me and says ‘Sabby, show up to Jacksonville.’ They don’t tell me anything, I show up and I see my name on the board. I’m like wow, I have a match? I mean OK I will do it. So I had this match on AEW Dark, it was a tag team match, but they didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t offer me anything, it was a vague trip. But that same week coach Bloom texted me and said congratulations. I shot him a text back saying ‘Thank you but I didn’t sign anything.’ The next day Triple H reaches out to me. It’s funny, Canyon and coach Bloom was trying to set up the meeting with Triple H for 2 months, but because he is so busy, it would get pushed to the back burner. I was getting so offended, but I know they were pushing for it, but it was funny that he reached out when I appear on AEW. So he reaches out and we meet and he says ‘You know what? You’re the only person we are going to offer to bring back.’ I was honored and privileged, but I asked for one thing, an opportunity. Everybody was saying ‘Wait until Vince sees this.’ And ‘Wait until you get that push.’ But it never happened because of the surgeries and just bad timing. But here we go, they sign me and they bring me back. Triple H goes ‘Tino, come back to the PC, get the ring rust knocked off.’ So I come back to the PC late 2020 and I am in every main event of the house shows in the PC to rehearse. They had me against Ciampa, Thatcher, every skillset. I kept getting put off like ‘Oh next week…’ I started getting a bit upset because I came back for the opportunity. Then I hear ‘You are not right for NXT. We are going to put you on Raw or SmackDown. You don’t fit on this brand.’ I just want the opportunity. Again, this is the first time in my career I felt confident in the ring. I can call matches on the fly and wrestle anyone. Triple H told me I looked and talked like a million bucks, now I think I can wrestle anybody.”
All of a sudden we have a match, Jamie Noble and John Laurinaitis came, so did Prichard. They wanted to see promos and matches of their best talent. So I cut a promo and I am in the main event and I crush it. Jamie Noble pulls me aside and says ‘That promo, you can’t teach it. That confidence, you can’t teach it. Best promo of the day.’ I ask about the match and he says ‘I loved it, I am going to tell Vince.’ I’m like great we have someone on the inside, let’s go! I heard for years that I am a Vince guy, OK well put me in front of Vince. Two weeks later I get a phone call from Canyon and I get released again. I’m like hold on, I thought the phone call was that I would be going to Raw or to SmackDown. For 3 months they were saying I was going right up. Me and Canyon had a great relationship, and I could tell that he couldn’t tell me the reason. He was like ‘I am sorry, this is devastating to me.’ Then he hangs up on me. I’m like hold on, I didn’t have to come back, it was a man to man handshake, and now I am gone? I didn’t get an answer, that was what hurt me the most. I was in the main event for the right hand men for Vince McMahon, where is the disconnect. I lost the respect because I didn’t get a call or text from Triple H, I don’t respect that. He and numerous other people told me I had main event star level talent. But I don’t get a shot, nothing?
So here’s the thing. I don’t know what happened or where it went wrong, this is the truth, that bridge was burned, and I don’t know how. Tony Khan knows me from football, and when WWE offered me that contract, I actually texted Billy Gunn about it. They [AEW] hadn’t offered me anything, Triple H was the one who offered me something. I sent a nice text to Billy Gunn to thank me for the opportunity and I thought it was all good. But when I got released again, someone reached out to AEW and said to Tony Khan ‘Tino is a free agent and he’s going to be a star.’ Tony said to him, and I am paraphrasing, but Tony is upset I went back to WWE. Then 3 months ago, Andrade approaches me and said that he wanted me to be in a group with him. Me and Andrade have always had a good relationship. But he texted me personally and we shot a vignette together. He wanted to bring a group like Evolution to AEW. We shot the video and spent the whole day in Miami. He texted me back and said ‘Tony Khan likes the idea but no Tino.’ I’m like what do you mean? I would love to sit and talk to Tony, he might have been upset that I had one match and then went back to WWE.”
Before his second release, Sabbatelli often headlined in-house live events at the Performance Center against Timothy Thatcher and Tommaso Ciampa. We’ll have to see what the future holds for the former WWE Superstar.