Jersey Shore Family Vacation fans have gotten to know Zack Clayton as more than arm candy for fiancée Jenni “JWOWW” Farley. Outside the MTV reality show world, the star has been on the grind giving reality checks to opponents in All Elite Wrestling.
Never one to pull the clout card, he instead relied on his own abilities. The performer honed built up the resume on the independent scene and was a reliable talent whenever AEW called for bookings. He even wrestled when called upon during the uncertainty of a pandemic. It’s the work in the ring and gym that finally paid off in the form of an AEW contract. Coming off the announcement a few weeks ago, Clayton sat down with TV Insider.
How does it feel to be officially signed to AEW?
Zack Clayton: Signing a full-time deal is something I’m very excited about. It has been coming I feel for quite some time…I’ve had conversations with them for quite some time. I figured it was coming when I was put on the road every week for about a month or two straight.
Who was the one to break the news?
Christopher Daniels was the one who offered me the contract and handed it to me. We spoke internally with a few other people. It was great. Everyone was very happy for me. I was appreciative of their help and support. I have plenty of support there, which is great.
Speaking of support, is there anything you did to celebrate at home with Jenni and the kids? How excited were they?
We celebrated privately. We were still traveling at the time for some MTV stuff. We didn’t get to go out. Our celebrations are usually at home and hanging out and spending time together.
What has the work-life balance been like now? How is it adjusting to this new normal?
With Jenni’s schedule, she travels a lot as well. I think it was August when I was home maybe for eight days. That was the first big hit of being gone a lot. With MTV and other obligations, we’re gone a lot. You take things as they are and go with the flow. That’s how we’ve been doing it. It seems to be working out pretty well.
How receptive was AEW to you continuing to do Jersey Shore Family Vacation?
That’s something I spoke to them about during negotiations for a contract. They were more than happy to fulfill that request because that was something I was doing previously. They have allowed me to do that and other things I do right now, which is great.
Do you find those who have got to know you on Jersey Shore have started watching AEW because of you?
What I’ve noticed is a lot of Jersey Shore fans were not wrestling fans. It became, “Hey, now I know what AEW is and now I like watching the show because you showed it a little on MTV.” That was a goal of mine. I really want to take AEW and make it mainstream and bring attention to it in other entertainment environments. There is a small crossing over to wrestling.
We saw you on Rampage working the mic and face Hook. You’ve been very active on the AEW Dark YouTube shows. How is it getting the chance to grow your onscreen persona?
It’s very important to be on camera as much as possible. Whether it’s formal TV or YouTube shows, which for all intention purposes get 500,000 views a week. More than most cable TV is doing. I’m having consistency now on the road. I’m really just starting. There are big moments to come.
AEW is coming off big shows in New Jersey with Rampage and Full Gear. It must have been nice having Jenni there.
She is a really big supporter of mine. It’s really important to me. She came along because she wanted to. She wanted to see how it was. She has been to shows before, but this one she came backstage and stayed the entire night. She got to see everything from start to finish. It was important to me because just like she brings me into her world, I wanted to do the same. When I had my match on Friday, she walked out to the crowd and watched my match, and hung out with everybody.
There is also a mutual connection with AEW’s partnership with KultureCity, a nonprofit that aims for sensory inclusiveness.
She has been a board member of KultureCity for four years. We are really getting KultureCity tied in with AEW. That’s another role I’m taking on as well. I’m really helping the tie-in connection and expanding on the relationship backstage. It’s a great cause and something we care deeply about. It’s something we want to work on in a big way.
Is Jenni becoming more open to managing or being part of a storyline? Is that something we will see down the road one day?
Perhaps. Funny enough, 150 people asked her that same question over the weekend, which is great because that tells me it’s something people want to see. That means it’s going to be good if it does happen, which I hope it could under the right circumstances. We’ll see. We joke that she is a little crowd-shy. There were some ideas I had in Newark. It didn’t happen this time, but maybe next time we roll around another big show. We’ll see what happens. I know we’re going to be on the West Coast for a while. We have a big start to the year, and maybe next time we come around we can make something work.
We have seen JWOWW in the ring before appearing for TNA Impact Wrestling. She was a natural in front of that crowd.
She insists she was tricked into doing that, which I believe her. It’s funny because she is really good at it. She doesn’t think she is but she is. I know it would be great if it does happen.
What was the story behind your meeting with the family backstage at the Atlantic City show?
AEW asked if we would be okay meeting this family. The daughter emailed us to surprise her mom because she was sick and going into surgery. That’s important stuff and relates back to what we do with KultureCity. We brought them back and made it work. They were really happy. Their mom was going into surgery the next day or two later. It’s all she wanted to do was spend some time backstage with me and a few other people she got to meet as well. It was cool to make that night special for them. The rest of the family didn’t know about it except the daughter which made it even better.
Now under the AEW roster, what are your initial goals?
My main goal now is to get on TV each week and build up some big moments.
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TBS
AEW Rampage, Fridays, 10/9c, TNT
AEW Elevation and Dark, Mondays and Tuesdays, 7/6c, YouTube