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Corey Graves Recalls the Early Days of NXT, Being Part of the ‘Street Team’ And When NXT Began to Catch On

August 24, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Corey Graves

– Speaking with Sean Mooney on his Prime Time podcast, Corey Graves looked back at the early days of NXT and how the brand started to really catch on with fans. Graves was part of the very early period of NXT as a developmental brand and recalled how the early successes led the talent to become energized over the brand, to the point that the focus was no longer on jumping to the main roster but to make NXT a success on its own.

Highlights of the discussion, and the full podcast, are below:

On going out into the community to get the word out: “Oh yes, we still joke about — Seth Rollins and I, that’s our constant joke with each other, is Street Team. Because it was miserable. Here you are thinking — the worst was when you would be on the posters, and you’re rolling through a small town in the middle of Florida, like a one stoplight town. And you’re out there with a staple gun, stapling posters of yourself to the phone poles. Trying to avoid the police, because most of the towns had ordinances against that. And all so you could have somebody to wrestle in front of. It’s August in Florida, so it’s 110 degrees outside, and you’re sweating and somebody was driving, and someone’s in the back seat with the posters jumping out. It was like this guerrilla marketing thing. I always joke, I said ‘I think that’s the difference between our crew and anybody that comes out of the Performance Center now, they should have to do Street Team at least once in their life.”

On the growth of the brand in the early days: “It was right around the time, actually it was shortly before we launched the WWE Network. I think it was on Hulu, maybe? We had NXT TV. And that was the first time we had seen just ourselves on anything that resembled WWE programming. Because FCW had TV that was somebody with a handheld camera and $20 in their pocket that made some sort of TV show. So when the NXT show launched and we had the slick graphics, and the music, and we did the ID shoots with the lighting and everything. That was when everybody started to go, ‘Okay, this is real.’ And even though it was very, very early goings, it kind of galvanized everybody as a team. Because it went, ‘Okay. We’ve all been through hell together at FCW … now, we’re all seeing the fruits of our labor. And it kind of drove everybody to step up their game.”

On why NXT really started to catch on: “We were still the best kept secret, and so the fans started kind of getting rumblings of, ‘You check out this NXT stuff? There’s some pretty good guys there!’ Obviously, the hardcores knew who Tyler Black was from Ring of Honor, and Jon Moxley, and all those guys who were the big time independent names. But, and FCW existed, but nobody had anywhere to watch it. And from our perspective, it was like ‘This is our time to shine,’ across the board. It was maybe the most unified, united I’ve ever seen a locker room, and sort of group of anybody in this business. Because we were all working toward a common goal, and it was like, we had Hunter and Dusty leading the charge, and everyone was behind it 1000%. And it was like, ‘Alright, you know why? You don’t have to give us the ball anymore, we got our own ball and we’re going to show you how to play.'”

On the wrestlers starting to see NXT as the brand they wanted to be on: “There was obviously, there’s a lot of freedom to even NXT TV. We were still learning. We were learning about hitting time cues, and different things that we’d never really been exposed to. But we had something that was ours. And at that point, I think the focus no longer even became, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go to Raw and Smackdown,’ It was, ‘We’re making NXT. This is our thing, this is ours.’ And all the way up through the first Takeover and Arrival and all that, when that first started happening, I think it was so organic because it was real to us as much as it was to the fans. The fans were excited because they had something different. It wasn’t Raw and Smackdown and they weren’t seeing the same faces week after week after week. And it was still good. It was good wrestling, it was good storylines. It was interesting characters, new characters that you’ve never seen before. And so the fans sorta latched onto it, and we were working just as hard as they wanted to watch it, because we didn’t want to — you know, this was our baby. It was truly like an organic, grassroots kind of feeling that we made this thing, and we’re not gonna let it fail. I think the passion from the fans and the passion from the talent kind of met in the middle, and created this perfect storm.”

If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Prime Time With Sean Mooney with a h/t to 411mania.com for the transcription.

article topics :

Corey Graves, NXT, WWE, Jeremy Thomas