It’s been a little over a year since the state-of-the-art WWE Performance Center officially opened its doors in Orlando.
Celebrating its one-year anniversary this summer, just how are things going?
Well, Bray Wyatt & the Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan), Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Lana, Bo Dallas, Summer Rae, Adam Rose, Emma, Xavier Woods, Rusev and Paige transitioned from developmental to developed, reaching WWE status via sports entertainment training at the center. The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor), Bayley, Tyler Breeze, Charlotte, Adrian Neville, Mojo Rawley and Sami Zayn are currently standing out in NXT while training WWE style at the center, and recently, WWE signed Fergal Devitt, Kenta Kobayashi and Kevin Steen, three talented wrestlers who will train the WWE way at the center.
The vision of Paul Triple H Levesque came to fruition on July 11, 2013 with a special ceremony to showcase the new WWE Performance Center, where WWE’s future began.
Levesque’s idea was inspired by the Timex Performance Center, the main headquarters and practice facility of the New York Giants at Meadowlands Sports Complex, where WWE held WrestleMania 29 in 2013.
Levesque visited the facility prior to WrestleMania 29 Week, and that’s how WWE’s center evolved.
The WWE Performance Center is above and beyond most -- if not all -- pro sports teams’ centers. Since its opening, personnel from the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers as well as other pro organizations visited WWE’s crown jewel for facility and training tips. All were impressed.
With 26,000 square-feet, seven training rings, a world-class strength and conditioning program and cutting-edge edit and production facilities, the Performance Center allows WWE the ability to train more potential performers than ever before through a comprehensive program including in-ring training, physical preparedness and character development.
“The WWE Performance Center represents the guaranteed future success of our company, providing the next generation of WWE superstars and divas with a world-class facility to call their home,” Levesque said during the opening in 2013. “The venue offers our developmental talent a full training experience with real time feedback from WWE coaches, trainers and directors, giving them the resources they need to develop their talent both athletically and creatively.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott even attended the grand opening in a non-election year.
Talent can also perform, wrestle in a quality facility at Full Sail Live at Full Sail University in Winter Park, near the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. Full Sail Live provides hi-tech production capabilities for NXT shows on WWE Network. That gives NXT superstars and divas a Raw or SmackDown feel, preparing them better for working a TV broadcast (live or taped) for WWE.
In an interview in May, Levesque said: “I look at the opportunity for NXT from a learning perspective for everybody who touches our business, top to bottom. We [also] train camera guys. We train audio techs. We train lighting crew. We train directors and producers, all of it. For them to have the opportunity to work side-by-side with our key players and also have the opportunity to do it live on a quarterly basis, there’s a whole different buzz level.”
The WWE Performance Center features a Dream Team of coaches, trainers, producers and staff, including Dusty Rhodes, Terry Taylor, Sara Amato and Bill DeMott.
WWE NXT Head Coach Bill DeMott
WWE NXT Finishing Trainer Terry Taylor
NXT superstar Mojo Rawley
NXT superstar Corey Graves
Trainer Nick Dinsmore- NXT superstars training, fun
WWE NXT Trainer/Producer Sara Amato
WWE NXT Divas Champ Charlotte
Trainer Sara Amato - NXT Divas training
Since Triple H, the WWE superstar, transitioned into Paul Levesque, a leader behind the scenes with the company, the WWE Performance Center is just one area of improvement.
WWE offers college tuition free to WWE superstars and divas. WWE superstar Xavier Woods and former WWE Raw General Manager Vicki Guerrero are taking advantage of it. Woods graduated from Furman University in 2008 with two degrees — a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and philosophy. He earned a Masters in psychology, and through WWE, he is currently working on attaining a PhD.
WWE partnered with Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando to provide a stellar home at Full Sail Live for NXT broadcasts/tapings.
WWE awards $10,000 scholarships to various Full Sail University students who assist/work NXT broadcasts/tapings at Full Sail Live.
WWE provides free assistance for WWE superstars and divas, past and present, dealing with substance abuse, mental health issues and physical ailments. What company, any business, pays for help for their former employees?
WWE mended fences with legends Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior.
WWE inked Sting to some projects (and maybe more). Sting was the only big name from WCW to never work for WWE.
WWE signed Sara Amato, formerly wrestler Sara Del Rey, as the first female trainer in the company, working with the diva prospects at the center.
WWE utilizes legends on WWE Network and various projects.
WWE legend Kevin Nash said: “I’ve been to NXTs. Me and Bret [Hitman Hart] did some commentary, and I love it.
“I think what Paul’s got going is they include the legends in a lot of things. I just got a call from one of the guys in merchandising. There’s a Topps card set that’s coming out, and they’re including me. They’ve always had Diesel cards, but I don’t think they’ve really ever had a Kevin Nash card. Three of the 500 are going to be signed, and they said, ‘Would you participate and sign these cards?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’
“It’s just nice to be included in almost everything now. They take good care of the guys who put the time in for the company. For me, I’ll do anything they need me to do, because they treat us well.
“For a long time there, when you were done, you were done, and now you’re still part of the team.
“The thing you’ll miss the most. You absolutely will always miss the crowd, that electricity when you come down the ramp. There’s not a drug on the planet that can replace that. The second thing is the comradery with the guys in the locker room. We’re all athletes. We’re all jocks. It’s that jock mentality, hanging out, talking crap, seeing the boys.
“Me and Stone Cold [Steve Austin] spent most of WrestleMania  in a suite sipping wine and reminiscing. He had a couple of people doing his podcast. It was nice to hangout. Lita did the podcast, and it’s nice to catch up with old friends. WrestleMania is like a reunion for all of us now; we can be part of one of the biggest spectacles on earth.”
All this thanks to Levesque, the WWE executive vice president of talent, creative and live events.
“It’s amazing. When [Paul] first got into the office, we sat down, and he kind of gave me his vision, what he wanted to do,” Nash said. “[Paul] said the biggest problem we’re going to have moving forward is... Talent is always going to be. It’s a talent driven entity... We’re going to produce our own talent. We’re not gonna bring in talent from other places who have bad habits and have to correct them. We’re gonna build an actual productive farm team. Then he said the NXT arena will look just like a miniature Raw, so when they walk down that ramp... because that’s really what you see. You see the ring, the barricade around you, and when you’re in the ring, maybe 50 rows of people. Where you see the vastness is when you come out at WrestleMania; your walk to the ring. Once you get in the ring, it becomes a very intimate experience, and Paul’s recreated that to a tee.
“From a production standpoint, we had guys at WCW who shot Monday and Tuesday WCW, and then Thursday and Friday they shot NASCAR or an Atlanta Braves game. [Pro wrestling/sports entertainment] is very job specific camera work, especially doing the hand helds. To almost be able to know through experience, when you watch a combination where that next move is going to happen and be ready for that shot.
“[WWE Executive Vice President Television Production] Kevin Dunn has been inside the truck calling the shots and doing the production for WWE for 30 years. You’ve got guys lugging hand-helds around for 25 years. Sooner or later, they’re going to retire.
“So when they built NXT, not only was that place to refurbish your talent but to also refurbish your complete production crew. That whole crew at NXT is a different production crew than the one doing WWE TV programs. They’ve really built the infrastructure deeper. They’re getting people ready to plug in now.
“Paul’s done a really good job from a personnel standpoint both wrestling and production. Making sure that happened, that was all his insight. Those are things he wanted to accomplish, and he did it in a very short time.
“The next thing was he wanted to build that Performance Center. He wanted to be close to NXT, and he wanted to have a ring where people could practice high flying stuff but also have a degree of safety. So they built that ring, almost like a wire ring, and when you land or over rotate yourself, you won’t kill yourself.
“When I broke in, there wasn’t even a doctor. We taped our own ankles. Now there’s trainers, doctors.
“Here’s another thing. About [four] months ago I got a letter from WWE. I read it. They’re offering scholarships to guys who’ve worked for WWE that no longer work for them. It’s available for wives of guys who are deceased. It’s financial assistance for their education. So guys who didn’t save their money, they’ve got a chance to go back to school and get a degree and do something else. The company doesn’t have to do that, but they do.
“Every year, by January 3rd, you get the Wellness Program letter [from WWE]. If you or you know anybody who has a drug or alcohol problem, the company will pay for [that person getting help].
“All these things they do for the guys who’ve paved the way.
“People say, ‘Well, you don’t have pensions. You guys don’t have this. You don’t have that,’ and it’s true. We don’t. We don’t have a pensions like the NFL and like Major League Baseball does, but we’re also 1099s. We’re independent contractors. That’s your job to set up your finances. Though, now the company also has people who are financial planners. If you don’t have a financial planner, and you’re one of the young guys breaking in, the company can take care of that for you.
“They’ve really done a good job taking care of talent since Paul’s been there.
“One of the things is as soon as you put somebody who was and still is a top talent in that position of being your personnel director, in charge of talent relations, then things get done, and Paul’s done a fantastic job.”
Levesque and WWE Senior Vice President of Special Events John Saboor tag teamed to find and work a deal with Full Sail University, home to NXT broadcasts/tapings at Full Sail Live in Winter Park, near Orlando and the WWE Performance Center. Through Levesque, WWE awards college scholarships to various Full Sail students who work hard and demonstrate improved efforts while working with the WWE production team at NXT broadcasts/tapings at Full Sail Live.
Levesque also did the impossible, bridging the gap between the company and legends Bruno Sammartino and Ultimate Warrior. And it’s under Levesque’s direction, the WCW Icon Sting is now appearing at WWE events.
WWE developmental moved across I-4 from the three-ring facility in Tampa to the bigger and better WWE Performance Center in Orlando in the summer 2013. More than 40 superstars and divas currently on WWE’s main roster traveled through the doors of developmental, FCW/NXT, to hone their craft en route to making that roster.
They include Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, Alicia Fox, Cesaro, Fandango, Summer Rae, Bo Dallas, Adam Rose, Natalya, Tyson Kidd, Justin Gabriel, Emma, Big E. Langston, AJ Lee, Curtis Axel, Titus O’Neil, David Otunga, Paige, Primo, Kofi Kingston, The Bella Twins, Damien Sandow, Sheamus, Cameron, Naomi, Ryback, Heath Slater, Tamina Snuka, Jack Swagger, Jey and Jimmy Uso, Rosa Mendes, Darren Young, Rusev, Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Lana, Bray Wyatt & The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) and Xavier Woods.
Watch the future of WWE with NXT Takeover live on WWE Network on Sept. 11 from Full Sail Live at Full Sail University in Winter Park, near Orlando. WWE Network is available for $9.99 a month and includes NXT shows as well as all WWE pay-per-views.
In an interview in May, Paul Triple H Levesque said: “When we come to one of these specials at Full Sail and it’s live, it’s like a WrestleMania to these guys and girls. It’s just an amazing opportunity. Live presents a whole different ball game. There is no net, no safety. You live or don’t on your own. That’s really exciting to them, but it’s a whole ‘nother level of challenge. Let’s face it. When they get to Raw, that is the challenge every single week. A little bit less on SmackDown [because it’s taped], but when you’re on Raw, it’s live. When you’re at pay-per-view, it’s live, and they have to get used to that.”
Adrian Neville is the NXT champ, and Charlotte is the NXT divas champ. The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor) is the NXT tag team champs. They will be on the card on Sept. 11 as well as WWE superstar Tyson Kidd and more.