Wrestling & MMA

Good times with WWE in Central Florida for NXT on USA Network debut at Full Sail Live

In conjunction with the historic two-hour live show debut of NXT on USA Network, WWE hosted a media day on Oct. 2 at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando and at Full Sail University in nearby Winter Park.

WWE Performance Center

The event began with a tour of the WWE Performance Center, led by WWE head coach Matt Bloom (aka A-Train, Tensai).

Bloom’s voice is strong, deep, which makes for quality sounding banter on pro wrestling commentary. I enjoyed his astute and entertaining words during the NXT Combine (won by Bianca Belair and Riddick Moss) at the PC in May.

Speaking of sound, NXT Superstars Rik Bugez and MJ Jenkins showed off their chops in the Promo Room with Ryan Katz.

Like the combine and promo room, go big or go home, and WWE goes big.

Thus, expansion at the state-of-the-art PC is an integral part of the growing process.

That continual process includes the new Content Innovation Lab.

Plenty more to see here, and that will be covered in another story.

NXT Video Interviews

After the insightful tour, media conducted interviews with NXT Superstars as well as WWE Executive Vice President Talent, Live Events & Creative Paul Triple H Levesque, the mastermind behind NXT.

Here are some of my interviews with them.

NXT Game Day

Following an afternoon break, the schedule next listed its main event path — a drive to Winter Park, home of Full Sail University which facilitates state-of-the-art Full Sail Live, the weekly home of NXT on USA Network.

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Photo By Jim Varsallone

Outside of Full Sail Live, WWE built a set for the NXT pre-show. For those who watch “College Game Day” on ESPN, it delivered that kind of vibe. Fans stood in front of the set, cheering and booing and screaming, while broadcasters Charly Caruso, Sam Roberts and Pat McAfee previewed the showing.

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Photo By Jim Varsallone

WXW Dark Match

D3 and Vertigo from Afa the Wild Samoan’s WXW, a Florida wrestling school and promotion, wrestled in the first dark march before NXT on USA Network broadcast live. They competed against NXT Superstars Rinku Singh and Saurav Gurjar.

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Dark Match 2

The always-engaging and quite bizarre Dexter Lumis wrestled the impressive Isaiah Swerve Scott in the second dark match. Two talented talents, they did a good job, a solid match.

Your referee Team 3D Academy alum Jessika Carr.

It’s Time

The opening match on the historic live TV show brought fans to their feet as NXT Champ Adam Cole of Undisputed Era defended the belt against fast-rising superstar Matt Riddle.

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Your referee Darryl Sharma.

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After an outstanding match, look who made a surprise return as the audience erupted.

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Dream On

Velveteen Dream, one of the most charismatic wrestlers/sports entertainers going today followed — cutting an entertaining promo, flanked by some Florida indie wrestlers including Chloe Christmas, Brandi Lauren, Rocky Radley, Gia Roman, Tasha Steelz, Avery Taylor, and Marina Tucker.

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Mama Mia

Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix called the action.

Ranallo swiftly walked upstairs, above the broadcast table, to introduce the show from the platform, overlooking the scenic NXT set.

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The rowdy Florida fans packed Full Sail Live. It’s basically sold out through the end of the year.

Regulars like Izzy, Neil Glazier, Matt Maschler sat ringside.

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Photo By Jim Varsallone

Post-Show Ale House

With the inaugural two-hour effort in the books, time for the post-show media rectangle table at Miller’s Ale House, parallel to Full Sail Live.

A casual gathering with the Four Horsemen of Florida media Scott Fishman, Brian Fritz, Nick Mayberry and Jay Reddick, along with others discussing the show(s) and more in a casual setting. Hey, $5 appetizers after 10 p.m., I’ll have the Zingers please.

The bartenders wore WWE old-school related T-shirts — Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulkamania — to coincide with the (now) weekly Wednesday late night pro wrestling style patrons.

Paul “Triple H” Levesque did not attend this time.

WWE Giving Back

Before the inaugural WWE NXT Live two-hour show on USA Network, WWE and Full Sail University conducted a VIP Reception — across from Full Sail Live — with officials from WWE, Full Sail University and USA Network.

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Photo By Jim Varsallone

WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon and Full Sail University president Garry Jones spoke about the historic event.

The partnership between WWE and Full Sail University is a home run. Each side works together to help each other flourish. Talk about your win-win.

Jones noted the efforts of WWE executive vice president of special events John Saboor and WWE executive vice president talent, live events & creative Levesque.

Video below of speeches by Jones and McMahon.

Following the spoken word, WWE awarded $10,000 scholarships to Full Sail students Aaron Ryan and Maude Garrett, who have been working with WWE crew and staff.

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Photo By Jim Varsallone

WWE has awarded more than $500,000 to Full Sail students, since partnering with the university. Money from ticket sales to NXT shows at Full Sail goes toward those scholarships.

BTW, the scallops wrapped in bacon, excellent.

NXT on USA

NXT began as developmental for the company to harvest talent for the main roster (Raw and SmackDown).

It grew leaps and bounds and is now its own hybrid brand, inking a TV deal with USA Network.

NXT on USA Network is 8 p.m. EST Wednesdays live from Full Sail Live in Winter Park.

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Jim Varsallone covers pro wrestling, something he’s done since his college days in the late 1980s. Spanning four decades, he currently covers WWE (Raw, SmackDown and NXT), Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground, MLW, WOW, FSCW, AEW and the South Florida indies. He also writes MMA -- mostly profile stories and video interviews with American Top Team talent in South Florida. As for pro wrestling, he writes feature stories and profile pieces, updates upcoming show schedules in South Florida, photographs the action and interviews talent (audio and video) -- sharing the content here and via social media on his Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel: jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel).
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