Developmentally Speaking Volume #1
Brian Myers (known as Curt Hawkins in WWE) was fired by the WWE back on June 12, 2014. Following his release, Myers remained active on the independents and was regularly competing each and every weekend. Eventually, Myers returned to the WWE on July 21st, 2016. While Myers was actively competing on the independents, he also teamed with Highspots to develop a series called Developmentally Speaking.
The premise of the show was to have wrestlers that competed in WWE’s developmental system. There’s been a wide range of wrestlers and a lot of stories shared. It’s actually a pretty insightful and enjoyable show. Thus, I’m going to cover the series which will also include several other series on Highspots.
Brian sat down with Colt Cabana, Chris Hero and Tommaso Ciampa for the first installment of the series.
Colt Cabana: Signed with WWE in 2007 and would work for OVW and FCW before being released in 2009. Since that time, Cabana has worked regularly for Ring of Honor and NWA. He continues to be a popular independent wrestler.
Chris Hero: Was signed by WWE in February 2012 and worked for FCW and NXT before being released on November 8th, 2013. Since his release, Hero returned to ROH and EVOLVE. He has since returned to WWE working for NXT, again.
Tommaso Ciampa: Worked for WWE in 2005 but didn’t get a developmental contract until February 2007 and was released in August for he same year. Ciampa most notably had success in ROH and has signed with NXT.
Myers starts the show talking about how they didn’t get the chance to work territories and their breed of wrestler doesn’t exactly exist anymore with development of NXT and the Performance Center. Myers quickly brings up the first topic to discuss and it’s their experiences working as extras for the WWE.
Myers: Dreamer called him because they needed him and his tag partner at Madison Square Garden. Myers corrects himself saying that Mikey Whipwreck got the call and they were sent that to the Garden. He met Hulk Hogan and Eddie Guerrero at the show. Along with Zack Ryder, they had no idea they had different locker rooms for extras and it pissed off Hardcore Holly. Myers recalls meeting Tony Jones from Beyond The Mat fame. This was 2008 some eleven years after the movie. Jones didn’t take his suit off and just collected the payday.
Cabana: Worked as an extra probably fifty times and notes that he had dozens of matches on Velocity and Heat. He thinks the most notable one was when he was the ECW fairy for a halloween episode of ECW programming. Cabana talks about a match he had with Big Vito where it started off as being 60/40, 70/30, 80/20 and then it eventually was just Vito squashing him. Cabana used his name a few times as an extra but then went by Chris Guy (Ace Steel’s real name). He depended on the extra work since it was an extra $250 on a Monday and Tuesday. He treated the work as an actual booking. After watching television for an hour and half he’d walk around and get notice before sitting down again. He actually watched two movies during a pay per view.
Hero: He did extra work in 2004 with Alex Shelley, Nate Webb, Jimmy Jacobs and Truth Martini. They were going to workout for Fit Finlay, but he didnt make it due to traffic. They chain wrestled for an hour and half. It was the same night that Zack Gowen got busted open big time by Brock Lesnar. Hero recalls Gowen watching Martini wrestle a match with Mortis instead of following direction on how to blade and cut himself badly as a result. The only other time he did extra work was when he had a tryout with Claudio.
Ciampa: He did five extra spots and three of them are memorable. He worked James Gibson following his return from ROH and he was billed as Tomarso Ciampa. The match was for Gibson to get over so he beat the crap out of Ciampa. He teamed with Kofi Kingston for a tag match against Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. Murdoch chose him because he had a nice singles match with him. He took a high/low finisher from the team and his neck was bothering him. Shawn Michaels ran over to Ciampa and asked if he was okay. Michaels wanted to know because they were going to work a program with Cade & Murdoch. Ciampa assured Michaels that he was okay, but told Kofi that he may have broken his neck. They debated about telling Michaels and was asked by Mick Foley if he was okay. Foley told Ciampa that it was the worst bump he had ever seen! Ciampa decided he couldn’t tell Michaels. Years later, he had disc problems in his neck, but doesn’t know if that had anything to do with it.
WWE reached out to Chaotic seeking someone under 6ft and dark hair. Ciampa went down with three other guys and he was chosen for the spot. Ciampa was on Smackdown posing at Muhammad Hassan’s lawyer. The whole day was insane as he had to read in front of Vince McMahon. He did a run through of the segment with Vince, Steph, Triple H and Undertaker. He had developed Tommy Penmenship just weeks before as it was his first character. Ciampa had to read the script in McMahon’s office while Triple H made him a protein shake.
Myers: He doesn’t think it is as hard these days to get contracts. WWE could sign whomever they wanted and as long as one makes it, then it’s worth it. He worked a dot com tryout thing and he believes that Mikey Whipwreck set it up for him and Zack Ryder. There was probably five trained wrestlers all together. Myers wrestled the ECW Zombie and Bobby Fish stood out in the tryout. It took place in ’05 or ’06. Dreamer was honest and said that Fish would get signed, if anybody. The next day, Dreamer called Myers. Dreamer wouldn’t let Myers drop out of college but still signed him. Myers was sent to Deep South and there were all kinds of problems. Ace came down and put over Kenny Omega big time as being the next Brian Pillman. Ace noticed that Myers and Ryder didn’t have blond hair and told them to change it.
Cabana: Colt got there when the WWE started to sign people just to fill bodies. He recalls they wanted one hundred people to just fill bodies. As OVW was closing down there was roughly seventeen guys under contract. Then when he got to FCW it was the opposite. There was a time he wrestled with Eugene and he feels like it was a good enhancement match. Jimmy Yang couldn’t believe that Cabana didn’t get a job. Johnny Ace asked him how long he was wrestling for and Cabana panicked and just said he loved wrestling. Cabana had a lot of supporters like CM Punk, Matt Hardy, Daivari, William Regal and Ken Anderson. Ace just wouldn’t sign him. Cabana had a special tryout in Detroit during WrestleMania weekend. However, Fit Finlay and Johnny Ace never appeared and he waited there for hours. A drunk Johnny Ace offered Cabana a contract and told him he’d be in developmental for three months, at least. Ace paid him $750 and Nova would give Cabana call. That’s how it happened. Cabana was scared to death that Ace was drunk and wouldn’t remember it. Cabana pestered them until the contract went through. Nova told Cabana that he wanted to get Matt Sydal and Claudio.
Cabana was given the option of OVW or Deep South and decided OVW because it was five hours from home and he had heard of Bill DeMott and the horror stories. Cabana got a $2,000 moving check and it cost him $50 to move. He packed everything in his car and waited for everyone to get fired and took their furniture. In fact, Cabana took Ciampa’s Lazy Boy chair. He took Jack Swagger’s couch and took Mike Mondo’s bed.
Hero: There isn’t much to his story as he had a tryout with Claudio working a tag match. They worked in Long Island and Providence. Later that week they got offered a contract. Their first match was against the Usos in front of the producers and other extras. The second one was Lucky Cannon and Connor O’Brian. Triple H told them if they signed them it wouldn’t be as a tag team but rather as singles. Hero held a conversation with Johnny Ace about NOAH wrestlers. Regal pushed Hero and Claudio to do interviews with Bill DeMott and Brooklyn Brawler.
Ciampa: Tommaso didn’t even know about independent wrestling when he started. He thinks there are three ways to get into WWE. Become good in a different field of sport, develop a name on the independent scene or treat it like you’re going to college. He had a business plan to get signed and it worked well for him and quickly. He thinks it is insanely easy to get signed by WWE. That gets a laugh from Cabana. If you do everything they ask of you, then you go. He went to three Mike Bucci classes in two months. Ciampa cut his hair and went to Harley Race’s camp. Within a week he got a call from Bucci. He viewed it as college assignments trying to get a job. Ciampa had been signed by Aaron Stevens and Kofi Kingston. They trained at Chaotic Wrestling. It never crossed his mind to reach CZW or ROH. As for today, he has no idea how the process is when it comes to being signed.
Hero and Cabana talked about working for IWA-MS and being told that they would never work for OVW in 1999/2000. The IWA-MS shows caused damages to buildings and thus the commission created a lot of rules which made it hard to run shows in Kentucky. Danny Davis and Jim Cornette really disliked IWA-MS for what they did. Myers remembers being told to not work for CZW as it was a kiss of death early in his career.
Cabana thinks that they can make anyone a star when Hero says that they probably don’t make one star out of hundred. Cabana believes that fans think that Titus O’Neil is a star even if management doesn’t think he is just because he’s on WWE TV. Hero thinks that some guys don’t get enough one on one focus when it comes to training. Myers agrees with Hero’s assessment that WWE prefers hunks of clay and they think they can make a star out of anyone. Myers notes that Kurt Angle was a rare breed and ruined it for everyone else considering he learned the craft so quickly.
Hero thinks that someone is green but doesn’t hurt someone then it’s seen as a success. But, if he were to go out there and the second gear isn’t very strong, then they might be screwed. Everyone has different expectations. Cabana recalls a wrestler pretending not to know how to wrestle and the Usos did the same thing to give the perception that they were picking up the moves and stuff quickly.
Myers talks about practice and if it was weird for veterans to do that. Cabana didn’t want to do it because his body hurt from all the years of wrestling. Ciampa had learned about Cabana through ROH DVDs and when Cabana was coming in he was really excited. Ciampa recalled practicing with Cabana and wanted to know how he could get to be as good as Cabana. Ciampa thought it would be easy for Cabana to be successful after seeing Caban debut in OVW and be greeted with a huge response. Ciampa tore a ligament in his ankle within two weeks and was out for five months and then was fired when he was healthy enough to wrestle. Ciampa almost got called up for his Dr. Thomas character. Ciampa was asked if he wanted to be called up as a manager and he was conflicted about it.
Cabana remembers Punk telling him that the days of going straight to TV were gone and that Cabana would have to deal with doing the same thing over and over again. Ciampa didn’t care about getting independent dates and wanted to get in good shape.
Myers is the only person to be at every developmental. He actually worked at the Performance Center for a month and was flown out for each week. He only wrestled one match during his time there working with Rusev. DeMott wanted to call the entire match through the referee, which was an odd situation to be put in. Hero recalls in FCW that eventually the live events were treated as a TV show. They would even put break spots in the match similar to a TV commercial.
Ciampa tells a story of working a guy named George and having to work a headlock match for a month straight. Ciampa doesn’t get out of the headlock until he delivered three elbow strikes, push George to the ropes, baseball slide and then hit a dropkick for the win. Ciampa wasn’t getting over and asked Al Snow to give him the same match with other opponents, but Snow wouldn’t do it as it was a lesson to teach how important one bump was. George was intent on learning on how to make the match work. Ciampa even says the headlock was stiff!
In OVW, there was no lesson plan but rather whatever vision Al Snow had for pro wrestling. Cabana thinks it was counterproductive way of wrestling. Deep South training was different than OVW. OVW was just listening to Al Snow speak. Ciampa remembers Snow calling a match for people in the ring and they had to follow each step. He didn’t understand how it was beneficial. Cabana can’t believe WWE doesn’t have a protein sponsorship to give people free stuff.
They talk about the guest trainer deal and how it contradicts what they are taught. Myers brings up Greg Gagne as a trainer at Deep South. Myers says that Gagne hadn’t watched wrestling since 1989. Greg had them doing spots from the late 80s. DeMott would come back over and tell the wrestlers to not do whatever Gagne taught them. Cabana told a story of Brian Blair coming to OVW where he would teach them how to “skin the cat”. The guest trainers have to have a reason to be there. Hero says wrestlers are learn in different ways. Everyone has that one teacher that impacts their life differently.
Cabana notes that Norman Smiley put him over as being better than him and even said that Colt couldn’t learn from him. That comment made Cabana respect Smiley as his trainer. Myers feels like a guy like DeMott wanted to be in their spot getting one more run. Hero recalls feeling like he got shamed for having so much to succeed and the trainers resented that because they didn’t have that.
Ciampa brings up the infamous book quiz with Tom Prichard. Cabana is pissed about it. Cabana recalls getting the book but was not told they had to read it. He hates reading and didn’t know of a test coming based on the book. Ciampa remembers a question from the quiz where it asked who was Dr. Death’s roommate his sophomore year in college. Bucci called them and said that he’d fire everyone. Cabana cheated off of Ray Gordy’s test and failed. He read the whole book thinking there would be a test, but there wasn’t. Cabana boycotted watching some kind of religious video but he knew they couldn’t bring religion into the workplace.
Myers talks about “Make A Deal Fridays” at Deep South where they had to race around the building. They’d have to put quarters in their butt and drop the quarter into a cup to get out of training. If you could come up of a way to embarrass yourself on Friday you could get out of training. Konnor from the Ascension is the only person from the original Deep South crew. Myers notes that it would be fun, but if you did it you’d likely get buried when wrestlers came down.
Hero talks about having to win over guys like Ricky Steamboat, Steve Keirn and Tom Prichard because others who were successful on the independents acted like they knew everything. Hero really respected those guys. They all agree that Steamboat is really long winded. The only time it would be good is when it would happen early in the day. Hero continues mentioning guys like Dusty Rhodes and Joey Mercury being in their as coaches. Hero was in the second class with all the girls and second generation wrestlers. He was confident he’d never get blown up on any of the exercises. He lived with Claudio and he gave him pointers on what to lookout for because Claudio started five months before him.
Cabana wonders if people who succeeded to the roster have a different perspective because they made it to the main roster. Hero thinks that a coach should work with five guys or five women for a month. Back at in OVW it was forty wrestlers and one coach.
Myers doesn’t understand why they would be given report cards since it was going right to the office and they wouldn’t be told about it. Hero recalls examples of talent not being told to do things because it’s not communicated. Hero had a good relationship with DeMott. Hero wants to be a leader and help out any way he can. Hero actually ended up running a class for DeMott while training. A lot of people came to Hero to show him moves and that caused him to get heat with the trainers. Hero knows he had a bad reputation for helping people because that wasn’t his role there. They didn’t want Hero to pass along his bad habits to other students.
Myers asked who were some guys that they were surprised never made it. Myers mentions Mike Kruel since when he was down in developmental the TV show was written for Kruel. Cabana remembers Johnny Ace saying that Kruel was ready for TV but never made it. Cabana says Jacob Duncan while Ciampa said Shawn Spears. Duncan was better known as Ryan Wilson or Trytan in TNA. Cabana puts over his size and says he wasn’t a dumb guy. Cabana was shocked he never made it to TV and made him think he’d never make it. Hero was surprised about Brady Pierce getting let go because he was improving in many different ways. Cabana recalls he was doing wrestling, commentary, WWE.com show and many pitches but was fired.
Hero says everyone has different tastes and you just need people in the right position to enjoy what you’re doing. Myers agrees because DeMott said everyone has different tastes, similar to ice cream flavors. Hero goes back to talking about guest trainers and says that Perry Saturn came down to the Performance Center quite a bit. Hero puts over Saturn’s in-ring ability. Cabana’s favorite guest was Pat Patterson while Jim Ross was a downer. Ciampa found himself having to remind himself that he loved professional wrestling. Hero thinks that you can have anyone teach but the wrestler has to make their own decisions based on what they feel. What worked for Ricky Steamboat doesn’t mean it works for him. Myers notes that when he was doing arm drags Steamboat cared about him but when he turned heel Steamboat didn’t care much.
Hero tells stories about Vader who could do a full split when stretching. Vader mistook Adam Rose as being Roman Reigns was confused about his character since they looked similar. They talk about guys who were in developmental for a long time, which included Aaron Stevens (Damien Sandow). Hero thought guys who would be rehabbing from injuries was good for them to interact with, too.
Cabana wonders what is the point of keeping someone in developmental for four years if they aren’t going to get a TV job. Ciampa talks about Gavin Spears and how he was there to mold Cody Rhodes and never got his chance to succeed. Cabana says that veteran wrestlers are needed in developmental to help groom green wrestlers. Having two green wrestlers wrestler each other doesn’t lead to improvement. Hero explains why trainers can’t get physically involved. Hero recalls a story about a female wrestler who injured her shoulder doing a stretch in the corner and that led to the rule where nobody could get in the ring unless a coach was there.
Hero remembers having practice matches with females after classes without coaches. He thinks it hurts development and creativity if a coach always has to be there. Myers remembers going to the Performance Center where there was a rule where you had to have sleeves on your shirt. Everyone must wear the same shirts at the PC.
Myers asks if they think the PC is a good thing. Myers and Hero think it’s a mostly positive thing. There’s just so much there for them to be successful. Ciampa agrees thinking they are going in the right direction. Cabana thinks in five years there will be a DVD like this for people who came from the PC. Myers couldn’t believe that Triple H had camera linked to his office to watch what was going on at the PC. Hero thinks the one thing that is missing is learning how to feel from the crowd and learn different kind of matches. Myers doesn’t think it will change as the main roster is heavily produced.
Hero talks about street teams and Cabana recalls doing a street team for a show in Cincy and the next time they asked him to do it he just tossed the flyers in the trash and took the day off from practice. Hero says that Canyon was the guy that made the street teams come to an end because he didn’t like the idea of their future stars putting flyers up.
Well, that was an overall fun release. Hero had a lot to talk about and it felt like he controlled a lot of discussion and where the conversation was going. I feel like Cabana had more stuff to talk about and he came across the most comical. Ciampa didn’t have a long run in the developmental system so he didn’t add a lot to the conversation and mostly just sat there it seemed like. Anyway, I’d give the show a thumbs up.
Thanks for reading.