wrestling / TV Reports

411’s A Future WWE: The FCW Story Report

March 8, 2020 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
A Future WWE: The FCW Story

-Original air date: 03/08/20
-Run Time: 1:18:40

-I have been looking forward to this one as I am not all that familiar with FCW as it’s not talked about as much as the class they had from OVW and then what happened with NXT. Let’s get to it!

-Nice little opening covering all the people that went through FCW and what FCW meant to them.

-Steve Keirn takes us through the wresting history in Tampa. They had Championship Wrestling from Florida run by Eddie Graham that was part of the NWA. Steve got part time jobs in Florida and picked up the talent for shows when he got a license. He went to college and got into power lifting and Mike Graham told him he should be a wrestler now. He wrestled under his name in regional territories and then when he went to Tennessee he formed a team called the Fabulous One. He ran with that gimmick until the 90s when he joined the WWE and became Skinner. He says that character was part of him because he was an alligator hunter at one time. He then holds up a Doink action figure and says, “I became this goof.” He wasn’t the original one as that was Matt Bourne, but he was the second one and became part of the gimmick’s history.

-He got a call to be a road agent while he was in his 50s and after 5 years he started to burn out. He told Johnny L that his passion was teaching. Johnny L tells us the WWE had two developmental territories with OVW and HWA. Keirn asked if they could open a developmental in Tampa and they instead decided to close both OVW and HWA and combine them in Tampa.

-Heath Slater talks about the talent getting the news they were heading to Tampa and it was both exciting and nervous. Johnny L mentions that the WWE didn’t own any of the territories and paid those companies to train the talent. Keirn was in charge of everything and decided on the name Florida Championship Wrestling. He shows off some of the first logos they had.

-The Bellas, and Tyson Kid talk about the move to Tampa and how they had to wait for a building. They first used a batting cage place and had 20 people on the roster. It was a ring inside a batting cage and if you weren’t in the ring training, they had you hitting balls in the cages. Kids would be hitting balls and would be watching them train to be wrestlers. It was only temporary and they found a place big enough to hold everything. It was a warehouse that stored groceries for supermarkets. They had some space that was open and were able to fit two rings in there. They all talk about the canned goods being around the rings and they would often sit on the cans to watch the training.

-Keirn talks about teaching people how to wrestle. It’s not something that can be taught by one person as it takes several. The first coach they got was Tom Prichard and then they added Billy Kidman. They put him over for being a natural coach and next was Normal Smiley who was suggested by Kidman. Joey Mercury joined and they needed someone to handle promotion and interviews. Really there is only one person for that job and that was “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes. We see 2014 interviews with Dusty as he talks about FCW. They call Dusty the face of FCW and the kids were giddy being able to work with him. We see early promos from Sheamus, Kofi with an accent, Drew McIntyre, and Wade Barrett. Fun stuff!

-They have Graves watch his tryout match in FCW and the promo he cut after it. He laughs and calls it basic as it was wrestling 101. Rollins talks about making the drive to FCW and he was underwhelmed by what he saw. He was expecting the big leagues since it was WWE. Charlotte has a funny story as she had to fill out a form and it asked who she knew in the business and she wrote “Pops.” Norman came back and asked her how were they supposed to know who Pops is.

-Back to Rollins as he mentions working for ROH and that he was the ROH Champion when he signed his WWE Developmental contract. He talks about how most of the crew was hired on potential alone based on look and size. Not many people had the pedigree that he had.

-Hawkins talks about being with Edge at first and then he and Ryder were separated. He saw the writing on the wall and told them he was fine with going to FCW instead of losing his job. Drew was in developmental for only 3 weeks and then was called up to the Main Roster. He was so inexperienced that he had no clue what the ref meant when he was told about the hard camera. He then got to train in FCW while also on the Main Roster.

-They all talk about Dr. Tom and everything he did for them. Slater gives him all the credit for teaching him psychology and getting him out of his shell. Drew says that Tom was fine with letting people bury themselves if they didn’t have respect for him or the business and tells a story of him running a guy out of FCW. Rollins calls him a shoulder and ear for them when it was needed and calls him an unsung hero.

-They would start each day warming up with bumps and then split into the 3 different rings with Tom, Norman, and Kidman each controlling one. They talk about Kidman and everything he taught them. Rollins and Sasha put over Joey Mercury and how he was so key to recruiting. Norman was the one who got the kids just starting out and he was great at breaking things down to a basic level.

-The Bellas talk about the training and how they would go for 4 hours straight and have to stop to change the mats because of all the sweat. That gives everyone a chance to talk about how miserable it was because of the heat and The Bellas mention they had a ringworm outbreak and each got it on their face. Nasty! They best they could do was open a door and hope for a breeze. Steve didn’t want to put the air on because he didn’t want to pay for it and he liked wearing the kids out.

-They discuss the Man in the Middle drill as one person would stand in the middle and everyone would feed him for moves. Rollins calls it brutal as if you had non athletic guys it sucked and would take forever. Some people thought it was redundant, but Big E says it helped him because he needed the reps.

-Dr. Tom would work with them and do hour long matches. His thought was they likely would never work an hour, but perhaps one day they would. Heath worked one of those matches and broke Tom’s ankle 8 minutes into the match. They continue and he made Heath vomit from working him so hard. The next day he came in with a boot on his foot and then gave it to Heath as a trophy which he still has.

-Talk shifts to how they got their ring names. Bayley tells us you sent in a list of names you liked and they would go through all of them. The Bellas pitched being The Sun and Moon. Big E wanted to be a wrestling Mail Man named, “Mel Man.” Corbin wanted something epic like a Greek God and they rejected everything he sent them. Corbin was given the option of Baron Corbin or Colton Corbin and he hated Colton, so it made it easy for him. Dusty loved the name Seth and they went with that for Rollins and the last name came from Henry Rollins. The Bellas played off their Italian heritage. Big E was always called Big E because people couldn’t say his first name and of the list given, Langston was the best last name.

-We get Big E cutting his first promo where he just introduces himself. Dusty talks about wanting to see how they communicate. They show an early Daniel Bryan promo and that leads to a discussion about promo class. These are amazing to watch because of how cheesy some of them are and also shows how far some of them have come. Dusty was kind of annoyed with them at first until he realized they were young men and women just starting from ground zero. The early Charlotte one is pretty horrible and she does a great Dusty impression as he would lie and tell her it was wonderful and to take a seat.

-All the kids were shown Dusty’s famous “Hard Times” promo and that kind of seems like a no brainer. We get some awesome footage of Dusty working with the kids during their promos and giving them tips. He was able to see something special in all of them and they all felt like they could make it because of the confidence he had in them. They show Bayley breaking down during a promo and that is the emotion Dusty was trying to drag out of her. Sasha felt so comfortable in her own skin thanks to his help. Seth says Dusty was the guy who believed in him and could see the potential in who they all were without a gimmick. They all do their Dream impression and they are all great and this is making me smile so much hearing the love they all have for him.

-More promos and my god are they amazing for being horrible and hilarious. We get Ambrose, Big E dressed like Urkel, Aiden English crushing everyone on the mic with his voice. Nattie loved seeing Heath cut promos and Hawkins says he would wait for someone to cut a bad promo and then take his turn. We see some horrible ones and they mention Sweet Poppy Sanchez as a favorite to follow. They was a guy from Australia called The Mulletsauras (awesome) and he would he ramble on with crazy stories that Dusty loved. These promos from guys who never did anything are fantastic. They pick on a guy that would always do the same promo every week no matter what situation he was given and Dusty was always getting on him about it.

-They talk about some guys evolving before their eyes and that leads to Bray Wyatt. Shouldn’t be shocked by that! Early Bray Wyatt promos are shown and the charisma he had even then to draw you in is crazy. Sasha says it best that you didn’t know what he was saying, but you had to listen and pay attention. She believed everything he was saying even if she didn’t understand it.

-The Bella Twins are discussed next and they were seen as the models. They came from The Diva search and there were rumors about them being favored and already making tons of money. They paired up with Nattie and she would help them with wrestling if they would help her with fashion. RAW came to Tampa and everyone in FCW was told to be there backstage. Some of the main roster women gave the Bellas bad advice on purpose that caused them to get heat. We also learn that Brie could never impress Colt Cabana and apparently she bit him once while in a bar. I kind of want more details on that one!

-Rollins was amazed with the women that were coming out of FCW. Charlotte says that when she first got there they were still having the women doing bathing suit matches. Dr. Tom and Norman were advocates for the women getting more time and being treated like the men. They talk about Paige and how aggressive she was. For all the crap the Bella Twins took they came through it and put in the time and work. Naomi was crowned the first FCW Divas Champion and they put over her athletic ability. Charlotte was just eager to get in the ring and show how athletic she was.

-They talk about the kids that came through that were second and third generation talents: The Usos, Charlotte, Dibiase, Nattie, Curtis Axel, Roman Reigns, Wes Brisco. Wes wanted it so bad, but he got hurt and it took him out of the game. Just because you have a name in the business, doesn’t guarantee anything. They show a promo from Richie Steamboat. He had the talent and all the tools, but had some big shoes to fill. Rollins says it was hard for Richie to separate being his dad. He was coming into his own and then got hurt. He just never wanted to come back and they just didn’t know if he really had the passion to be a next level guy.

-They decided to take FCW on the road and went to a bar called Bourbon Street. They had shows there once a week and drew about 100 people in the smoke filled bar. Keirn says live events are the most vital part of training as you have to be able to feel the crowd.

-They discuss having a small budget in FCW and everyone had different jobs to do. Keirn ran the camera just so he could show the talent what they were doing. All the boys and girls had to setup and tear down the ring. They also had to do all the cleaning up with mopping, and tearing down all the chairs. They then started doing small shows in armories, flea markets, parking lots, biker rallies, and even next to someone’s wedding that they helped ruin. Seth calls it odd that they were part of the largest wrestling company in the world and nobody knew it.

-For promotion they took turns being part of a street team that would staple flyers all over the towns. Apparently it was illegal and they had to keep an eye out for the cops as they were doing it. Keirn did whatever he could to promote and says even if he broke some laws, he had good friends that were attorneys. The guy that ran street team was Alfred and he made all the posters. He would drive all over to make sure they weren’t just throwing the posters in the trash. Corbin says he wished he could have punched Alfred in the face. The program was a big part of their advertising and they would take pictures of the wrestlers in weird places. Rollins is embarrassed of the one they show of him standing with no shirt on next to a motorcycle. Pretty much everyone is horrified by the photos. Some of them are tremendous and brutal. Big E took it all in stride as to him it was what they would be doing on the main roster, but just on a smaller scale.

-FCW gets a TV spot, but it’s only shown in Florida. They made the decision because they didn’t want a lot of exposure for the talent. They just wanted them to get experience working television. They television program also gave them a chance to train camera people, referees, and announcers. One of the most important things for Steve was giving their show an identity.

-We get footage of Drew winning the FCW Title and it meant everything to him to be the brands top guy. They talk about the intensity he brought and how he always wanted to get learn and get better. Drew talks about being on last and how it helped him learn to work to the a crowd that had been sitting around for an entire show.

-They all joke that they felt like the red headed step child of the WWE. They all questioned if the WWE even knew who they were or what they were doing. They were on an island and it was up to the coaches and trainers to give reports to those in charge on the main roster. Graves talks about how it gave them hope to see someone called up and Cesaro was the first one.

-Next they took 8 of the guys and told them they were going to be called up for a game show in 2 weeks. Sheamus was called up and put on ECW. Serena Deeb was chosen for a role that requires her to shave her head (SES) and she was all ready for it. The Bella Twins got the call from Freddy Prinze who had just joined the writing team. Heath talks about the original NXT and how it was nothing like they thought and questioned what they were doing with obstacle courses and carrying around beer kegs.

-Seth was having problems in FCW as guys were getting called up that he knew he was better than. Dr. Tom says that they knew what they had in Seth and wanted to keep him there to fine tune. Seth says he got in some hot water and had to get a one on one conversation with HHH. He mentions he was one red X away from getting fired. They were all projects to HHH as there were rumblings that he was going to be taking over developmental.

-It happened so fast as one day FCW was shutdown and NXT was born in Orlando at Full Sail and The Performance Center. Keirn was okay with it as he knew HHH respected everything they did. Dr. Tom understood it as well. The people who where in Tampa for a while were kind of bummed about relocating, but the new students were ok with it. HHH’s goal was to get everyone in one place and teach the future of the business. The Performance Center became an easy way for them to recruit new talent. They had a gym, kitchen, and AC all in the same place. They also had WWE talent coming and going to train. The new place made everyone understand the magnitude of the WWE.

-The ending came when Steve’s contract wasn’t renewed. He was told he could relocate to Orlando to stay on, but he was past the point of picking up and moving. Big E has a soft spot for the warehouse and says there is a beauty in the way they all trained there.

-Steve and a bunch of the old FCW wrestlers head back to the warehouse which is now a place that has bounce houses and slides for kids. That just seems perfect! They all catch up with Steve and share memories. We get another great Dusty impersonation as Steve relates how Dusty told him the place was the worst he had ever seen. Awesome! Big E talks about being born in Tampa and how he took pride in FCW being there. Steve talks about everything he took from that experience and how he loves seeing all of them being successful.

-Graves says it is wild that they spent all that time in Tampa and now Mania is going to be there. It’s basically a fifteen minute drive from the warehouse to Raymond James Stadium. They would drive by the stadium often and never would have dreamed they would be performing at Mania there.

-FCW was the seed that grew into NXT. Hawkins says FCW saved his career and Sheamus puts over all the great wrestlers that came through the system. Slater says FCW puts a smile on his face and Rollins doesn’t think NXT exists without the success of FCW. Seth also talks about Juice Robinson coming through FCW and now making a name for himself in Japan. The legacy of FCW is that they can pass on the legacy and what they learned.

-We close with Rollins as Champion of FCW cutting a promo: “the future is now.”

-I loved every minute of this as there was no rewriting of history or slanting things like you get from some of these. It was straight to the point and touched on how important FCW was in the evolution of WWE’s developmental system. They really need to start releasing those FCW shows on the Network as they would be great to watch to see how far those on the roster have come and to see those that found success elsewhere. I love when the WWE taps into their massive library and gives us stuff we don’t usually see. Keirn was great here and again the love everyone had for him and for Duty was on full display. I will always be a sucker for these documentaries, but this one is clearly a must watch. Thanks for reading and look for the final episode of Ruthless Aggression tomorrow morning!