Reader’s experience: My All-Access Pass Inside The WWE Performance Center
My All-Access Pass Inside The WWE Performance Center
by Anthony Santa (@PinkShirtGuywwe)
My brother and I grew up on wrestling! From the days of Hulkamania running wild to the days of Austin 3:16 foam middle fingers being waved around. We never missed a Pay Per View and have broken several beds, couches, and of course tables along the way as we often reenacted our favorite superstars. When I saw the opportunity that we could get a behind the scenes backstage tour of the WWE Performance Center with the All Access Experience in Orlando, FL we jumped on it immediately!
It was finally Thursday – March 30th, 2017 and we arrived at 9:00am sharp. We had a few moments to connect with a few of the other attendees as we waited in line outside the door. It was Wrestlemania weekend so there were people from all over the world – Australia, Japan, England, etc. In total there was close to 25 of us. At 9:15am, the security team came out and welcomed us in. We we’re immediately given our official backstage pass and lanyard. Then one by one we entered into a conference room where Matt Bloom (Prince Albert/Tensai) and Sara Amato along with several videographers/photographers greeted us with a handshake and a one-day contract that we got to sign. Pretty awesome way to start the day! We were asked our preferred role for live event at the end of the day. There were several options such as manager, ring announcer, post-match interviewer, and ringside commentator. This was a no-brainer for me, manager it was!
I was then escorted out of the conference room and led right into the lunch/break room where they had a breakfast buffet along with several NXT superstars sitting at each table. The first wrestler I ran into…none other than Shinsuke Nakamura! We chatted briefly, snagged a few pics then I began circling around to meet a few of the other wrestlers. I ran into Live Morgan next! She was cool, we got a chance to talk about her upbringing (New Jersey) and how she landed her character and song selection. Sonya Deville was next, I followed her through the days of tough enough so it was interesting hearing her discuss the transition from cage fighter to professional wrestling. I’ve never cared for DIY and have pretty much always rooted against them but it’s funny how quickly things change after having a 5-minute conversation with Tommaso Ciampo. He was great and was super down to earth/humble. Hence the reason I’m now a DIY fan. Breakfast finished and we made our way down to the Performance Center.
I was amazed at how many wrestlers were training, there were five separate rings with at least 15-20x wrestlers in each one. It was pretty sweet seeing all my favorite NXT superstars all in the same room at the same time working with each other. Even the United Kingdom superstars were onsite. The wrestlers welcomed us in and sat us down in front of the main ring positioned in the center of the room. Ryan Katz (Creative Producer) kicked off the mic work by hyping us up for the day! By the way, if you don’t know who Ryan Katz is do yourself a favor and look him up, his GQ Money YouTube highlights are priceless. Truly awesome guy! A few other wrestlers followed him and cut promos leading up to the live event to hype up the match ups. Following the promos Matt Bloom took over and announced the lineup for the show and what roles the attendees would have. Another bucket list got checked off as he announced that my brother and I were going to be headlining the main event as No Way Jose (managed by my brother) would take on Kona Reeves (managed by me)!
We broke off into two separate groups. My group went into the green screen room to cut our promos. Ryan Katz was joined by Steve Cutler to help coach us up. Side note, I was pumped Cutler was with us because I think his promos as a heel are very entertaining. One by one each person got the opportunity to cut their own promos. My brother and I had dreamed of the day we
could cut a promo in front of the WWE Universe so we knew we had to go big or go home. The Mega Power promos were always a family favorite so we went ahead and cut our promo together as the Brothers of Power! We called out the current tag team champions – The Authors of Pain!
Watch The Promo Video Here:
After our promo was cut we went into another room where ring announcer Vic Joseph teamed up with my brother and I in calling a recent match between Heavy Machinery and some no-namers. I didn’t realize how difficult ringside commentating was until I was in the hot seat and noticed how much dead airtime there was that I felt I needed to fill-in. Since it was Heavy Machinery I knew to throw out a few boom shaka lou’s, aaaasssaa chants but that’s about all I had in the tank. Vic helped point us in the right direction throughout the match so that was helpful. After we wrapped up calling the match we went to the weight room with head athletic trainer Sean Hayes. Sean was as high intensity as it gets! He was full of energy and the energy in the room as the wrestlers were working out reflected that. He provided us the insight into their workout schedule and lifting programs. I also learned that Riddick Moss is a beast in the weight room according to the workout leaderboards.
Sean then escorted us out of the weight room and back into the performance center where Matt Bloom was waiting for us. The two groups switched and now it was our turn to perform an in-ring entrance! Before we got started, Matt approached my brother and I and noted that word got out about our “Brothers of Power” promo and asked if we could reenact it in the ring in front of all the NXT superstars! My brother and I looked at each other without hesitation assured Matt we were 100% in! Kassious Ohno approached our group and gave us all a pep talk encouraging everyone to go have fun! Matt went around asking everyone what entranced they’d like to do, my first choice Tye Dillinger was already taken so I went with my second choice Triple H! The coolest takeaway from this experience was how involved and enthusiastic the wrestlers were when each attendee was announced, it felt like we were coming out to a sold out arena it was so loud. It was time for my brother to go so I trailed him backstage behind the curtain. His music hit, Ultimate Warrior! The crowd went crazy as he circled the ring about 4x times while high-fiving everyone along the way. Then it was my turn, Triple H’s music hit and luckily I had a jacket on that I felt fit the right look. I came out to a ruckus crowd (as expected), I had a water bottle in hand and felt I was as prepared as possible especially since I’ve probably shot water out of my mouth in front of the mirror at least a thousand times growing up. As I approached the ring Matt came over and affirmed that I would NOT spit water out. I followed those orders and still delivered the best Triple H impersonation I could!
Now it was time for our in-ring promo Matt wanted us to perform again, this time with a legit microphone and in front of the entire WWE NXT Roster! I stayed in the ring since I just finished my Triple H entrance and my brother came back in to join me. The ring announcer approached us and we delivered a majority of our promo until it was cut short when the Authors of Pain approached the ring immediately after we called them out. They flipped off my brothers sweet pair of glasses and removed the mic from our hands for a good ole fashion stare down. I quickly realized how big and intimidating they were and began to back up LOL. Then Matt shouted “CUT”, Rezar & Akam (AOP) gave us both high-fives and said they enjoyed the promo attack on them. At this point we were halfway through the day so we broke for lunch.
Watch A Glimpse of the Face-Off On This Promo Triple H Posted on Social Media:
My brother and I snagged a seat next to one of our favorites, No way Jose! He shared so many stories with us from how he got his start (born and raised in Dominican Republic), who some of his boys are on the main roster (Apollo Crews), how he is expected to constantly be in a high-energy fiesta mood wherever he goes even if its 3am fresh off a red-eye flight, and even gave some insight on my favorite wrestler on the main roster – Enzo Amore #HowYouDoin!? Jose described his attention to detail as unreal since he would always be working on his craft and spend hours and hours writing down his material. We got a chance to connect with several other wrestlers during the lunch break like Mandy Rose, Asuka, and even reunited with the Authors of Pain after our altercation in the ring. They were great, we got a chance to learn both of their backgrounds as they were former wrestling and rugby standouts in college. Surprisingly they’re not related at all and are from different countries. After taking photos with everyone lunch was over, so we made our way back to the performance center for the live event!
The event was great, we got to see several of the superstars perform alongside the other attendees who performed various roles during the show. We also got to sit in the crowd with all the wrestlers, which was very entertaining because they were very into the matches. Steve Cutler and Blake were awesome in the crowd, they brought a lot of energy. It was finally time for the main event! Ember Moon helped us get backstage as we waited for our wrestlers to come through. No Way Jose came over first and mentioned during the match he’s going to start a congo line that I would interrupt. I loved the idea! Kona Reeves music hit and we came out together, since he was heel I felt I needed to add a little flare so when I got into the ring I gave my best Razor Ramon in-ring taunt. Then my brother came out alongside No Way Jose, as they came out Kona instructed me to follow his commands throughout the match. The bell rang and the match was underway! The crowd was really into it since it was the main event. Kona took control early, there was even a moment he asked me to come up to the side of the ring to distract the ref while he used the ropes to choke out Jose. The match went back and forth the first five minutes then suddenly No Way Jose took control and started the congo line with the crowd. I knew that was my cue to go over and stop it! I ran over and yelled for everyone to stop dancing and broke up the congo line as promised LOL. The match ended quickly after that and the all then wrestlers and attendees participated in a massive congo line to signal the end of an awesome day! We took a group photo and then was given about 15 minutes to go around and meet the wrestlers. I was able to snag pictures with Bobby Roode, Authors of Pain, Heavy Machinery, Tino Sabbateli, Billie Kay/Peyton Royce, Steve Cutler, Ember Moon, Kona Reeves, Tony Nese, Vic Joseph, and Matt Bloom!
All in all the WWE Performance Center All Access experience was everything I wanted it to be! Easily one of the top things I’ve ever done. Like I mentioned before my brother and I grew up on wrestling so to be able to cut a promo inside the squared circle, perform our very own entrances, and be a part of a live event while hanging out with our favorite wrestlers was a dream come true! I was always told growing up never put a price tag on fun so if you’re tossing up the idea of attending this experience I highly recommend it, you will not be disappointed! Bucket List Item has been officially checked off!
Contact Anthony Santa at email@example.com for photos of the event
Follow on Instagram: @PinkShirtGuywwe
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Watch The Full Highlight Video Here: