Highspots Presents: Developmentally Speaking with Brian Myers (Curt Hawkins)

This was released on May 5th, 2015

The interview was conducted with Brian Myers and the guests are Tomasso Ciampa, Colt Cabana, and Chris Hero

It runs for one hour and fifty minutes long

Just to give you all a quick rundown of the concept, this features guys who worked in the WWE Developmental System as they all talk about their experiences and how they got hired.

The interview starts with Myers asking the guys about their experiences as extras on WWE television. He starts off by saying he got called to show up to Madison Square Garden with his partner, Zach Ryder, to work as extras for a RAW/Smackdown super show. Cabana joked about having around 15 matches on Velocity and Heat before getting signed. Hero then asked him about the wackiest experience he had as Cabana talks about wrestling Big Vito, who was wearing a dress at the time. At first, the match was going to be 60/40 in Vito’s favor then that changed to him getting completely squashed, which Cabana said should have been the original plan to begin with. Myers goes back to his story and how Zach and himself had no idea there was a separate dressing room for the extras so they sat in the regular locker room and saw Bob Holly staring them down looking pissed off then luckily for them Johnny Nitro came in and told them were to change as they also had to change in their too as MNM just debuted and despite being the Tag Champs, still had not earned the right to change in the regular locker room.

Hero then talks about his first experience at a WWE event. It was in 2004 as we was with Zach Gowen, Alex Shelley, Nate Webb, Jimmy Jacobs, and Truth Martini. They went into the ring before the show and chained wrestled with each other for like an hour without any supervision from the office. Hero said this was the night that Brock Lesnar threw Zach Gowan into the post and he bled like crazy. Hero then tells a story about how Arn Anderson went up to Gowan and asked him about “getting color” for the first time but Gowan was paying attention to the dark match on the monitor as it featured his trainer, Truth Martini. Gowan told Arn he was paying when in reality he was not so Gowan made himself a blade that was way too sharp and big and that was why he bled the way he did.

Ciampa now talks about his first experience as an extra. He was booked to face Jamie Noble, who just returned from Ring of Honor, and was told they want Noble to be extra aggressive as Cabana laughing about how they wanted Ciampa to get the shit kicked out of him. He then tells another stotry about teaming with Kofi Kingston (they both were wrestling in the New England Independent Scene) against Cade & Murdoch. Ciampa took their High/Low finisher but got his legs taken out first then got clotheslined and took a horrific bump on his neck and said that he felt a tingling for a minute then walked backstage, where Shawn Michaels ran up to him. Shawn first asked Ciampa if he was okay then told him he needed to be honest with him as they were going into a program with them and needed to know that they were safe workers. Ciampa told Shawn they were and once he got into the extras room, Ciampa told Kofi that he felt like he broke his neck and wonders if he should tell Shawn. After a debate on whether for not to tell him, Ciampa left the room to look for Shawn. He ended up running into Mick Foley, who told him that bump was the worst he has ever seen so after that, Ciampa decided just to pretend that he was fine and never tell anyone.

We get another story from Ciampa as he was selected to be the lawyer for Mohammed Hassan on a segment that aired on Smackdown. He talks about having to read lines in Vince’s office as HHH was making Vince a “Muscle Milk Shake.” Myers chimes in on how they no longer have indy wrestlers play those roles today as they hire actors.

The interview now moves on to when they all got signed. Myers starts by saying how its a lot easier to get signed today as they want to fill up the Performance Center but it makes it even harder to get to the main roster. Cabana speaks about being in Developmental when the company started FCW and how they had three rings at the time as the company started to hire as many guys as possible as they wanted to fill the place with bodies.

Cabana then tells the story of how he got hired by the WWE. He wrestled Eugene and they had an entertaining match. Jimmy Yang went up to him afterwards and said that he could not believe he did not get a contract offer after that. After that, John Laurinaitis looked him up and down and asked him how long he had been wrestling for but nothing happened. Cabana then said that CM Punk, William Regal, Ken Anderson, and Shawn Daivari among others kept going to bat for him to get signed but Laurinaitis kept saying no. One day, Cabana got a special tryout in a  Detroit and was supposed to get watched by Finlay, who ended up getting drunk with Dean Malenko instead. Cabana said he waited in the ring for three hours and no one came so Daivari kept on texting Laurinaitis, who was also getting drunk at the bar, then they finally got a hold of him as he spoke with Cabana and offered him a job for $750 a week, because he had a bit of a name on the Independents. Cabana said he made to sure to call him the next day and confirm that this was legit and it was. Cabana then talked about how Laurinaitis told him he was going to sign Matt Sydal (Evan Bourne) and Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro) next. He also said he was given the choice to go to OVW or Deep South and chose OVW because of the horror stories he heard about that place. Cabana said that OVW was also not that bad of a drive from his house and talks about how he got $2,000 to move and only spent about $50 as he got furniture from guys who moved.

Hero talks about getting signed. He was with Castagnoli and their contracts were expiring. They had tryout matches against the Usos before the show s Myers talks about how its the shittiest experience ever to wrestle in front of no crowd. Hero also said that Tony Nese and Papadon were with them. They wrestled both heel and face then HHH pulled them aside and told them they would be signed as individual talents as that is what Vince wants.

Myers talks about his first tryout. He was there with 13 guys and only five were trained wrestlers. He said just a few of them got matches while the rest watched. He said that he wrestled Tim Arson, the ECW Zombie, in a terrible match while Zack Ryder wrestled Mason Rage. Myers said that Jerk Jackson (Bobby Fish) blew everyone away but never got signed, even after Dreamer said that if anyone got signed it would be him. Myers said that the only reason he can come up with for how Zack and him got signed were because they looked together. Myers said he got signed but had to finish up his semester at college so basically partied while getting paid by the WWE. He then tells a funny story of how when they first reported to Deep South, Laurinaitis was there and put over new signees Kenny Omega and Chris Rombola then went over to both of them and saw there hair was no longer blond and yelled at him “why the fuck isn’t your hair blond, change that shit.”

Ciampa then talks about how he believes it is much easier for a wrestler just starting out to sign a Developmental Deal with the WWE than someone who has been wrestling on the indies for a few years and has an attitude that he should get signed because he is a good wrestler. Ciampa said he went to a bunch of tryout camps shortly after starting wrestling school and kept taking their advice and that was how he got signed. He viewed this as “college assignments” and did not have an attitude about anything. He talks about being in the same camps as Kofi Kingston, Damien Sandow, Chad Wicks, and Palmer Canon.

Hero talks about Ciampa’s point a bit and says the WWE loves “hunks of clay” that they can carve out and mold into what they want as Cabana jokes about how they emphasize on the “hunk” part. Hero then says that the company believes they can get 10 starts out of 100 guys they bring into developmental and how that does not always work that way as Cabana disagrees and thinks it does. Myers gives an example of Titus O’Neill, someone with hands-on WWE training only since 2009 and how he still sucks while Cabana says that WWE fans think he is a star. Myers says he doesnt believe the fans think he is good and knows the office does not think they are while Cabana says is barking act is over with the crowd.

Myers stays on this subject and says how the WWE gets these freak athletes who have no experience and pick up wrestling easily and how they think it can happen to anyone but that is not the case. Hero then talks about wrestling in developmental and how “green” guys can have an awful match but get applauded for not hurting anyone but guys with experience like himself would get yelled at for any little thing. Cabana then tells a story about Afa Jr. (Manu) and how he went for a tryout and acted like he did not know how to wrestle, despite wrestling since age 14. Myers then talks about Afa’s first day in Deep South when he got into the ring and busted out a Blue Thunder Driver on Zack.

Myers talks about going down to NXT and how he wrestled against Rusev at a live event and that Bill DeMott was on a headset basically calling the match and dictating when they could get heat as Myers said it was confusing and that the referees would usually get chewed out if things didnt go a certain way. Hero said they would first only do that at the FCW building but then started to do that at live events and would even do commercial break spots in matches to get the guys used to that before making it to TV.

Cabana talks about his time in OVW and how there was no curriculum or communication from the office and that Al Snow taught everyone how he thought they should be trained and thought he knew more than everyone. Ciampa then talks about a class Snow did as he would tell the talent to not do anything unless he told them too and the whole match was wrestled like that as Ciampa questioned what was there to benefit from this. Hero says that this might be the product of these guys getting trained in the territory system and not having a structured environment. Cabana also talks about how Developmental should be getting guys in shape for TV and cannot believe that the WWE does not have a sponsorship with a protein company as it would give them enough free product to give the guys in Developmental, who typically do not have much money. Hero also talks about how the trainers would contradict each other, making it confusing.

They now discuss the guest trainers. Myers talks about Greg Gagne and how he probably had not watched wrestling since 1989 and showed them stuff that no one does in wrestling anymore. Then after hours of training with Gagne, DeMott came out of the office and told them all to disregard everything they just learned. Cabana says that Brian Blair came down and told them they would learn stuff they had never seen before then proceed to show them all how to skin-the-cat as Cabana thinks that in Blair’s mind, he had to teach them something that he thought no one else was showing them. Hero takes it a step further and talks about how everyone learns through different ways and by teaching 30 people to do something one way, some people get lost in the shuffle. However, if you give more individual attention, you have a better chance at teaching as some people respond to tough love while others need to be spoon-fed.

Cabana then asks everyone who helped them out the most. He said it was Norman Smiley for himself, who always told him that he was better than he was. Myers said he got the sense from DeMott and Snow that they wanted to be wrestling and not training guys while Tom Prichard was really helpful. Hero said that some of the trainers would hold the fact that they have all of these resources in the Performance Center against them because they did not have those same things when they were breaking into the business.

Ciampa and Cabana talk about having to do a book quiz on Dr. Death. Myers said that heard Dr. Death practically called Nova up crying that no one read his book as Cabana tells the story. He said they were given copies of the book but never told they had to read it then got quizzed. Ciampa talks about the questions and remembers one of them was who did he have for a roommate in his Sophomore year at college as they laughed at the ridiculousness of the question, which was fill in the blank and not multiple choice. Cabana said everyone got yelled at and threatened to get fired so the next day he stayed up all night reading, thinking there would be another quiz but there was not as they all talk about the book for a minute.

Myers talks about the “Make a Deal” Friday they had in Deep South where they came up with some wacky idea to prevent them from having to practice. He then tells a story about one time when they raced shopping carts, Deep South was in a shopping center, and his teammate was Brooke Adams (Miss Tessmacher) and remembers this because they had to pick up quarters with their butt (as he says she has the best butt in wrestling) and walk with them and try to drop it in a solo cup that was on the ground. The others couldnt believe they did this stuff as Cabana asked them if the training was so hard they’d rather to that as Myers talks about how it was brutally humid there and everyone got shitfaced Thursday nights and come in the next morning for tape review. And instead of practicing hungover, they came up with ideas to get out of practice, which were all ways to humiliate each other. Later on, Myers learned that DeMott would bury them behind their backs to the guest trainers for doing anything it took to get out of practice, adding that the whole idea was DeMott’s.

They talk about the trainers as all the guys who had Steve Keirn talk positively about him. Myers said that Ricky Steamboat was very long-winded when giving feedback as Hero agrees. Cabana goes into it further how they trained all day and while the love and appreciate wrestling, they wanted to go home at the end of the day but Steamboat would go into 1.5 hour-long speeches. Myers then said he saw Steamboat at an Independent show and asked how his son was doing and he talked for so long that Myers’s entrance music started playing. Hero said you don’t mind those speeches at the beginning of the day though.

Hero talks about his time in NXT and how there were two classes: morning and afternoon. He was in the afternoon class, which had all of the diva’s and the second generation talent along with a few other guys. He said the more experienced talent was in the morning class. He thought it was cool as he got to know people he never met before and went in with an optimistic attitude but after that Terry Taylor came in and there wasnt much of a direction. Cabana adds to this and how the system will never be perfect and how they (besides Myers) never got called up might sound bitter and say it didnt work while those who made it would say it was great. Myers and Hero talk about how they would write up report cards on the talent yet never tell them what they need to improve on or what they are doing wrong as they think it is fucking stupid. Hero said he heard agents yell about guys doing stuff wrong while the person doing it thinks they are supposed to be performing it that way because they are never told the correct way.

Now, Hero talks about how he sat down with Bill DeMott one day, who had him run a class as they were busy. Hero said he had no idea how to run a class and after that guys would gravitate to him for pointers so he would help them out but after that got knocked by the office for teaching guys and that he needed work in other areas so he shouldn’t be passing on any bad habits.

Myers asks them who was the one guy in developmental they were sure would make it to the main roster but never did. Myers said it was Mike Kruel, as he was a focal point of some of the TV’s and Cabana said Laurinaitis came down one day and said he would put Kruel on TV right now but he ended up getting sent to FCW and buried until he was released. Cabana said it was Jacob Duncan (Ryan Wilson or Trytan in TNA) as he was a big guy with a great look who loved wrestling and thought if he couldnt make it to the main roster then he certainly could not make it himself. Hero said it was Briley Pierce (Dolph Ziggler’s brother) as he improved, had an amateur background, and also came up with a million ideas. Cabana said that before he was let go he had a show on WWE.com and was doing commentary and while he came up with a lot of ideas, the top officials never liked them as he suggested that Kevin Dunn didnt like him for being “chubby.”

The guys talk some more about the guest trainers. Hero loved Perry Saturn, saying that he told a ton of funny and crazy stories but also taught them a lot of technical wrestling as well. Cabana said that he loved Pat Patterson, as he would tell them to have fun, unlike Jim Ross who they all said was a downer. Ciampa talks about how easy it is to fall in the hole of hating wrestling when trainers constantly knock you and tell you that you are shit.

Hero talks some more about disagreements he has with the Developmental philosophy as you have to figure stuff out on your own and guys are only doing stuff because they are told to instead of incorporating what you learned into different situations. Hero said you cannot be good just by trying to copy Ricky Steamboat in the ring, which Myers comments that was basically how Steamboat himself acted as a trainer, as what works for Steamboat will not work for everyone. Myers said when he was a white-meat babyface throwing armdrags, Steamboat loved him but when they became heels, Steamboat did not care and never taught them anything.

We get another story from Hero when Vader was a guest trainer. Leakee (Roman Reigns) and Leo Kruger (Adam Rose) were wrestling in the ring. They both had long black hair at the time with similar builds. Hero was near Vader at the monitor and heard him say “Why the fuck is Sika’s kid doing an African Hunter gimmick?,” which was the gimmick that Kruger had at the time as Vader could not tell the two guys apart.

They talk about guys who spent a long time in developmental like Kruger, Damien Sandow, Konnor, and Viktor. Cabana talks about how they need experienced guys in Developmental as two “green” guys will not learn from wrestling each other and having veterans to work with them constantly and put them over, giving Chad Collyer as an example, will help them get better. Cabana says those guys are in their 30’s and about to quit wrestling because they cannot find work so hire them for the sole purpose of working in Developmental to put guys over and guide them through matches at house shows.

Hero talks about how one of the diva’s at the Performance Center ended up hurting herself while training in the ring unsupervised and after that there was a new rule that stated no one could be in the ring unless a trainer was supervising them. Hero said he understands that from a liability stand point but it hinders progress as you can learn in the ring with each other and sometimes trainers would say they were busy when asked if thy could watch them for a minute.

Myers asks them all if the Performance Center is for the best. Hero said it is in most ways as you have a million resources and can watch your own promos and easily pull your stuff from a database. They also put over HHH for knowing who everyone is while when they broke in no one really had a handle on anything. Ciampa says the new system is for the best as Cabana says when he was in OVW and FCW, guys who trained when Memphis was the Developmental territory probably thought they had it great and now he thinks the NXT talent has it great and how it will keep on getting better. Hero said the one thing missing the most is learning in matches and how to feel it out instead of doing the same matches over and over.

They then talk about doing the “Street Team” stuff as Cabana tells a story of how he had to drive 1.5 hours to Cincinnati and put up flyers to a show that no one was going to go to anyway and how he wasnt going to make money regardless then the next time he had to do it he took all the flyers and threw them away and took the rest of the day off. Hero said that it was a way to build camaraderie, as you all had to the same shitty tasks, but that came to an end when Canyon Ceman said guys who they were grooming as stars should not be doing this and that is when the Social Media team was developed.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this interview. As Myers said, the way they started in WWE Developmental is now a thing of the past with the new Performance Center. The guys all told interesting stories and spoke of how disorganized things were back then. They also agree that its much better with HHH overseeing things.

As far as the guys themselves in this interview, Myers is always great in shoot interviews. But as far as an actual host, he was solid. He doesnt cut anyone off and let his guests do the talking. Hero really dominated this shoot, especially the last half. He spoke for a majority of the time. I thought he was interesting here but a little too talkative at times. Cabana was a lot more quiet than I thought he would be. He offered a good amount of insight but I got the impression he hated being in the system. Ciampa was soft-spoken and told a few good stories but was practically silent for the last half-hour.

I hope there will be more installments of this series in the future. Its an interesting concept and plenty of guys you could feature.  Plus, you get to hear a ton of great stories.

I recommend this shoot and think it gives great insight into how the developmental system works.

You can purchase the DVD of this interview for $19.99 or the Digital Download for $14.99 by clicking on the links below:



Next week, I will be recapping the Kayfabe Commentaries 1989 WCW Timeline as told by Jim Cornette, which will be released on 5/19..

Here is my schedule for the next several days:

Friday: WWF Wrestling Challenge 6/14/87
Saturday: RoH Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies 8/16/03
Tuesday: WWF Madison Square Garden 6/14/87
Thursday: 1989 WCW Timeline as told by Jim Cornette