Touring the WWE Performance Center
December 9, 2014
By: Adam Martin of Wrestleview.com
Pulling up to the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, I didn’t know what to expect. For over a year I’ve observed videos, photos and articles about the opening of this groundbreaking facility in Florida. You can listen to interviews and hear those involved talk about it. It’s another thing to actually find yourself walking in the front door.
Stepping inside the lobby and entering a long board room area with a giant metal table nicknamed The Titantic in the middle, it took only moments before I was greeted by head trainer and former WCW/WWE star Bill DeMott. DeMott certainly has a reputation among wrestling fans and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. What I instead found was an individual who loves his job and couldn’t stop smiling when discussing all the different aspects of the Performance Center.
The first thing that caught my eye when walking through the building was a reminder of history. These reminders were photos of legendary wrestlers that paved the way in this industry for those hoping to creative the same magic. DeMott was quick to point out a series of Pay Per View framed posters that proudly displayed talents he helped mold to become the WWE Superstar they are today.
I was told I’d be taking the tour in reverse as two big double doors opened revealing the largest portion of the facility filled with seven WWE rings. At this point WWE production was in full gear filming a vignette for the pending debut of former Ring of Honor star Kevin Steen, who was preparing for his debut as Kevin Owens at the next NXT live special on the WWE Network. I immediately realized that not only was this facility a place for the future stars of WWE to learn, it was also a secondary production option.
“The process has changed. So something that could have taken a month or two to develop and get eyes on, we can start on a Monday and get done by a Friday (with) finishing touches,” said DeMott. “Adam Rose was born in the Performance Center. One promo was sent up. Boom. Can we dress it up? We dressed it up. It aired. We go. Boom. Adam Rose is gone. The same (applies) for Bo (Dallas), Paige and Bray Wyatt.”
Full interview with WWE head trainer Bill DeMott
As DeMott quietly paced around the first big WWE ring, he was quick to point out that not just anyone jumps in and gets going. “We are in no hurry,” said DeMott as he explained the process behind signing a talent, making the talent comfortable with the physical nature of the job and why taking your time is of the upmost importance. Headgear hung from all four steel ring posts and DeMott noted that safety was another important thing they are constantly monitoring during the training process.
As the tour continued, I entered a dimly lit workout room filled with everything an athlete could need to train at the highest level. DeMott noted that while others may use a day off to decompress, other full-time WWE stars instead choose to stop by the Performance Center and utilize some of the most modern workout equipment available on the market today. “These guys want to be here,” added DeMott.
Rounding the corner, I was immediately impressed with the type of medical and on-site care talent are provided with at the Performance Center. Briefly shaking hands with medical staff, it became clear they took this very important aspect of the industry seriously and spared no expense. A giant ice tub used for cold therapy was in one corner, while tables to monitor the rehab process was in another.
The timing of this observation was quite interesting as days later, former WWE star CM Punk (Phil Brooks) took the company to task over his own personal medical care while on the road. While I found these statements by Punk troubling to say the least, they were also extremly contradictory to what I observed inside the Performance Center with a very compotent and professional medical staff.
In-house production was again on full display in the next area of the building. Production for all weekly NXT shows, including commentary, is quickly accomplished on just a few computers. DeMott pointed out how a camera back in Stamford directly links the commentators up with other personalities like Michael Cole to further assist in the always busy production process of WWE programming.
Walking inside an elevator in the lobby, I was both interested and surprised to hear the tour was still continuing. As the elevator doors opened, DeMott proudly displayed something he never had the luxury of having during his wrestling career – access to a quiet kitchen area filled with endless entertainment possibilities courtesy of the always live WWE Network.
Adam Martin with Bill DeMott inside the WWE Performance Center
One room featured a special promo area where talent could film themselves and review footage at any time. I glanced over to see a tablet on the wall and a stool in the corner. DeMott quickly talked about how that stool is often occupied by the legendary Dusty Rhodes, another trainer at the facility, providing talent with instant feedback. Computers lined the wall giving talent access to footage of promos and training sessions.
“At any given time, Dusty Rhodes can pull up any promos that are cut and he may have not spent time with that talent that day, but leave instant feedback. They know the direction that Dusty is looking for or character wise. Or at least creatively,” said DeMott. “Same with the creative team. Same with Paul (Triple H). Same with myself. Instant feedback is monumental here. It just keeps you going. That’s what drives the Performance Center. Everything is here and we are built to succeed.”
Preparation is certainly a key aspect of the Performance Center and one way WWE wants to accomplish this with developmental talent is by getting them acclimatized to the same environment they will find themselves in at arenas across the country and overseas. Walking inside the locker room, you are instantly reminded of a background normally seen on Monday night during WWE RAW. It looks like the backstage area of a major sports arena and NXT talent will feel right at home on the road instantly.
Before exiting the top floor, DeMott was sure to point out an important piece of history hanging above the door. The ring bell from the first WrestleMania in 1985 at Madison Square Garden hangs proudly above the doorway and is another example of the reminder of what these talent are striving to work towards as they begin the path to a possible one-way ticket to the main roster. Walking down the steps, WWE Hall of Famers again remind you where you are and why honoring the past is so important.
As I shook hands with DeMott and other WWE staff to end the tour, it became very clear how much time and effort was put into the concept of the WWE Performance Center. DeMott’s excitement for his job creates an exciting atmosphere for not only future WWE stars, but others working behind the scenes.
WWE’s future has arrived and has set a new standard for the sports entertainment landscape.
Follow me on Twitter: @adamwrestleview