It’s a fact of life that WWE is inking wrestlers to developmental deals on a regular basis, always on the hunt for the Next Big Thing. But what goes through the mind of the friends and colleagues of the signee?
The wrestler getting The Call could be a close confident or just someone that you met in the locker room; it could be someone you perceive as being talented and deserving of the opportunity — or not.
“It’s a mixed reaction,” confessed Brian Cage, who had a couple of WWE deals of his own. “There is jealousy, ‘What? What did that guy…'”
Recently signed to a WWE developmental deal is Sean Ricker, a Californian star like Cage, who is currently appearing on The Rock’s reality show, The Hero.
“For Sean, I’m happy for him. I’ve been pulling for him for a long time. Quite honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened [sooner],” said Cage. “Sean shot himself in the foot a few times, just choices he made on other opportunities that he had. I think he belongs there and I think he could do well there, but a lot of people could do well. Unfortunately it’s not always up to you how well you do there.”
There is a nationalistic aspect to supporting those that have left the United Kingdom for America, said Erin Angel. “It’s nice to see people doing well from England. You want people to be successful,” she said. In particular, she has been watching the progress of Paige in NXT, Saraya-Jade Bevis, who wrestled in England as Britani Knight. Paige and Angel are long-time friends. “You can’t help but be proud. She’s one of our own, and she’s gone all that way on her own and is really, really doing well,” said Angel. “You definitely get proud, and definitely support each other in that respect — and become a bit patriotic too.
At a recent Smash Wrestling event in Toronto’s west end, a few notable stars shared their feelings as well.
In one corner was Tyson Dux, who many consider the greatest unsigned talent out there. But at 34 years of age, with 16 years in the business, time is not on his side.
“Still no one has given me my proper due. I still don’t have a deal anywhere,” Dux said during the post-show press conference, only partly in character. “So let’s change the pace, is what I say to everybody out there, let’s change it. I’m here in 2013 to shake and make waves like my buddy Michael Elgin did in 2011, 2013. I plan on doing the same in 2013 — and getting my job and getting what I deserve.”
Right beside him at the table was Michael Elgin, a current Ring of Honor star and someone who looked up to Dux on the Ontario indy circuit through the years.
As Dux started to answer the question, “How do you feel when someone you know gets signed?” Elgin did a run-in.
“I think you’re asking, ‘Are you bitter?’ Because most people are bitter people. Why I’m saying this is because Tyson is a guy who isn’t bitter and he likes the guys that get brought up and it makes him work harder. I felt the same way when I saw guys go up,” said Elgin, who now lives in St. Louis. “We all know guys that you were buddies with growing up, and one of your friends gets a job somewhere, and we’re like, ‘Why did that guy get a job? I deserve it.’ I just wanted to say that Tyson’s not one of the guys like that.”
Dux followed up on Elgin’s thoughts, and the word “bitter” came up again.
“I’ve never been bitter at another man for getting a job, doing what he loves and supporting his family,” said Dux, who is based out of Windsor, Ontario. “To be a part of this business and be as deep and involved as we are, it’s more of a brotherhood. It’s something that’s magic; this business is magic when you’re on this side of it.”
He sees friends getting deals and uses it as motivation.
“The mixed emotion isn’t bitter. The mixed emotion is I’m happy and I wonder, I’m down on myself because I feel as though, ‘What do I have to do to improve? What do I need to do to stand out more?'” said Dux. “So you change your look, you change your style, you change your attitude. I think in this day and age, being the age that I am, the maturity level that I have compared to what I had when I was 24, all I want is for these guys to be safe and take a little money home before they’re done. Before their careers are done, I hope that they get their star, I hope that they get to reach their dream.”
Johnny Gargano of Cleveland, Ohio, is seen as many as a star on the rise. He’s the current Dragon Gate USA champion and recently saw WWE poach Samurai del Sol and Sami Callihan from the DGUSA/EVOLVE roster.
“I’m nothing but happy for them, honestly. Samurai del Sol and Sami are friends of mine, and I consider them friends,” Gargano said. “The thing that I love is the fact that they’re well-known for Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE, the company that I represent. Every single time that a guy from our company, the company that I work for, goes on, that’s awesome for us, because people look at them and see where they came from, and they look to us. My goal has always been to be one of the top independent professional wrestlers in the world, if not THE top independent professional wrestler in the world. Every single time somebody moves on, I’m nothing but happy for them. That means that other spots open up and other guys get a chance to step up and fill it … That’s the cycle of independent professional wrestling. Guys need to move on in order for new talent and a new crop of guys to come up. I think the best talent in the world is in Dragon Gate USA and we have some of the best young guys in the world.”