The Architects of Tomorrow: Inside NXT’s Braintrust

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With the news today of former Impact Wrestling jack-of-all-trades Jeremy Borash had left Impact and signed with WWE caused major shock waves in the online community. Borash has long been one of Impact’s most underrated and underappreciated minds (by the fans mostly), whose handled everything from backstage interviews and announcing, to multi-media and video editing, to working in creative. An employee of WCW starting in 1999 and jumping to TNA/Impact Wrestling when it launched in 2002, Borash has been around the block and seen it all, good and bad.

Photo: Impact Wrestling

What added intrigue to the news was that Dave Meltzer reported that the current plan is for Borash to join the NXT brand in some capacity, although his exact role is yet to be determined. If these reports are true, adding Jeremy Borash’s mind to the WWE Performance Center is a major coup for the WWE – it bolsters what is already the most impressive braintrust in wrestling. The minds for the business, from psychological to technique, that NXT has in their “gene pool” is staggering. Here’s a look at who Borash will be joining in Orlando.

Inside NXT’s Braintrust

TRIPLE H, Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, NXT Creative Director

Photo: WWE

He’s the father figure of the whole concept, “The Cerebral Assassin” and 14x WWE World Champion. When Paul “Triple H” Levesque took over WWE’s developmental system, then based out of Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), in 2012 and rebranded and relocated it to what is now NXT, many thought it would be a disaster. But now, six years later, and NXT is praised as WWE’s best wrestling product, creating the majority of the stars you see on WWE television now. But while Triple H may be the visionary, it’s his full team that makes his vision become the reality of NXT.

WILLIAM REGAL, Vice President, Talent Development and Talent Scout

Photo: WWE

Triple H’s right hand man and one of the sharpest wrestling minds on the planet. He travels the world, usually with Canyon Ceman, to scout indie wrestlers and athletes, to find the cream of the crop for the WWE. He runs the tryouts, hosts seminars, and in his down time, is the acting General Manager of NXT on television. While it’s safe to say there’d be no NXT without Triple H’s vision, there would be no NXT without William Regal’s execution and direction either.

CANYON CEMAN, Vice President, Talent Development and Talent Scout

Photo: WWE

He’s been seen on several WWE Network specials, as the Talent Relations guy who’s either hiring or firing someone. But Canyon Ceman is a vital part of the NXT machine. Ceman is a former NCAA collegiate and 15-year professional silver medalist volleyball player (he won Silver with the US Team in the 1997 World Championships). While Regal handles the majority of the indie wrestling talent, Ceman specializes in the athletic hopefuls, such as collegiate wrestlers, fitness athletes, Strongmen and Olympians.

GERALD BRISCO, Talent Scout

Photo: twitter.com/Fgbrisco

This WWE Hall of Famer is still working for the WWE, working alongside Regal and Ceman as a talent scout recruiter. A legendary grappler in the 1970s, where he was a multi-time tag team partner to his brother, Jack Brisco, he joined the WWF in 1985 when he sold Vince McMahon Jr. his Georgia Championship Wrestling. He’s best remembered by younger fans as being one of Vince’s “stooges”, alongside Pat Patterson, during the Attitude Era. Brisco scouts a lot of collegiate wrestlers.

JOSEPH BELCASTRO, NXT Head Writer, Promo Class

Photo: http://aitamparoughcut.blogspot.ca/

When NXT’s former head writer Ryan Ward moved up to Smackdown Live in 2016, many wondered how NXT would continue to be so cutting edge and maintain the momentum of its growth since 2012, especially when his replacement was just a former writer for the Tampa Tribune (and lifelong wrestling fan). But Belcastro has proved to be a solid replacement, starting with his first major project, the WWE Cruiserweight Classic. NXT has continued to blossom since Ward’s departure, with Belcastro still firmly at the helm.

GABE SAPOLSKY, Creative Consultant

Photo: twitter.com/BookItGabe

It’s been one of the worst kept secrets in wrestling of late, but it was finally made official a few weeks back that WWN booker Gabe Sapolsky (EVOLVE, Full Impact Pro, SHINE) signed with the WWE to work as a creative consult for NXT. Sapolsky started his career with ECW in 1993, becoming one of Paul Heyman‘s most valuable men behind the scenes. When ECW shut down, Sapolsky co-founded and booked Ring of Honor in 2002, positions he held until departing the company in 2008. He started Dragon Gate USA, a sister to the Japanese Dragon Gate, in 2009, although it closed down in 2014. But Gabe still had his wrestling, as he was still running EVOLVE, which he formed in 2010 (and continues to run).

MATT BLOOM, Head Trainer, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

A former WWE Superstar (as Prince Albert and Lord Tensai) who became a massive star in NJPW (as Giant Bernard), Matt Bloom quietly retired as an active wrestler from the WWE in 2014 and began coaching at the WWE Performance Center. When head trainer Bill Demott departed in early 2015, Bloom was promoted to Head Trainer, a position he commands to this day.

SARA DEL REY, Assistant Head Trainer, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

One of the true pioneers of women’s wrestling, Del Rey was a standout during the early the 2000s, working with SHIMMER, Ring of Honor, CHIKARA and throughout Mexico and Japan, providing inspiration to many of the women wrestlers working today. She joined the Performance Center in 2012 as their first female trainer and in 2015, she was promoted to Assistant Head Coach alongside Matt Bloom.

NORMAN SMILEY, Trainer, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

While he’s best remembered for his comedic stint in WCW from 1997 to 2001, Smiley is a highly underrated technical wrestler. He got his training from Karl Gotch and The Malenkos (Boris and Dean) and spent the early 1990s working for CMLL in Mexico and UWF in Japan – he’s a former CMLL World Heavyweight Champion. Prior to joining WCW, he also worked for ECW. In 2007, he joined the WWE in FCW as a trainer, a position he maintained when the developmental moved to NXT in 2012.

ROBBIE BROOKSIDE, Trainer, Beginning Class, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

Liverpool’s Robbie Brookside was a near 20 year veteran of the squared circle, debuting in 1984 and working with All Star Wrestling (ASW). During the mid-80s, he was part of the tag team The Golden Boys, with NXT’s William Regal. A multi-champion wrestler throughout the UK, he also had a brief stint with WCW in 1997 with another of his UK tag partners, Doc Dean from The Liverpool Lads. Brookside joined the Performance Center training staff in 2013, after already working as a UK talent scout.

 

RYAN KATZ, Trainer, WWE Performance Center, Promo Class

Katz started off working with Xtreme Pro Wrestling (XPW) in 1999 as GQ Money, before moving on to become Fabian Kaelin, a host/announcer with Wrestling Society X (WSX) on MTV in 2007. As Rak Rixelplix, he was part of Championship Wrestling From Hollywood (CWFH) in his final years as a performer. He joined WWE Performance Center in 2015, working in the Promo Class department.

SCOTTY 2 HOTTY, Trainer, Middle Class, WWE Performance Center

One of the most popular mid-card talents of the Attitude Era as part of Too Cool, with Rikishi and Brian Christopher, Scott Garland (aka Scott Taylor and Scotty 2 Hotty) returned to the WWE in 2016 as a trainer at the WWE Performance Center.

STEVE CORINO, Trainer, Advanced Class, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

Former ECW World Heavyweight Champion and Ring of Honor star Steve Corino left ROH in late 2016, following a guest trainer spot at the WWE Performance Center. In January of 2017, he was officially signed as a new full time trainer.

 

JOHNNY MOSS, Trainer, WWE Performance Center

Another UK wrestling great, Johnny Moss was a star with NWA Hammerlock in the UK in the early 2000s, as well as IPW:UK, ICW, and most recently, as tag team champion with WCPW (now Defiant Wrestling). He left his own school in England to move to Orlando and become a WWE trainer last fall in September of 2017.

SETH PETRUZELLI, Striking Coach, WWE Performance Center

Photo: twitter.com/silverbackseth

A veteran of the MMA scene, Petruzelli has fought for UFC, Bellator, EliteXC and more in a career that last 13 years. He retired in 2013 with a professional record of 14 wins and 8 losses in 22 fights, 12 of them by knockout. He joined the WWE Performance Center in 2015 as the new striking coach.

KASSIUS OHNO, “Player/Coach”, WWE Performance Center/NXT

Photo: WWE

Okay, so he’s not really employed by the WWE Performance Center as a trainer or anything, but in his recent WWE profile video from WWE.com, Ohno is referred to as a “player/coach” by NXT Superstar Johnny Gargano and Terry Taylor says Ohno has a “teacher’s heart”. It’s obvious that the 19-year veteran is helping the new recruits on their journeys as he continues to build on his own.

SEAN HAYES, Strength & Conditioning Coach, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

A former college linebacker with the Harvard Crimson, he was also part of the Houston Texans coaching staff with the NFL, as assistant strength and conditioning coach. He joined the WWE Performance Center in 2015.

TERRY TAYLOR, Finishing Class, WWE Performance Center

Photo: twitter.com/finnbalor

Over 25 years as a professional wrestler, working for the WWF (in his infamous Red Rooster gimmick), the territories (Mid-Atlantic, Mid-South) and WCW. In the mid-90s, Taylor began working as an agent and writer with WCW (a position he’d flip flop with both WWE and WCW during the Monday Night War). In 2003, he started work with TNA/Impact Wrestling and was Director of Talent until his release in 2011. He returned to the WWE in 2012 and became one of the senior trainers at the WWE Performance Center along with Dusty Rhodes in the finishing classes.

SHAWN MICHAELS, Finishing Class, WWE Performance Center

Photo: WWE

It was inevitable that one of the Kliq would join up with Triple H in NXT and it may have well been his real life best friend, Shawn Michaels. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall have both had guest trainer spots in the past, but in November of 2016, Michaels closed up shop in Texas and moved to Orlando to begin working alongside Terry Taylor and Triple H at the Performance Center.

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Jamie Greer is the Managing Editor and lead writer for Last Word on Pro Wrestling. A lifelong wrestling fan who started with the WWF in the early 80's, he now follows everything from the smallest indie to WWE. He's also written for WrestleZone, The Windsor Star, Windsor Independent and other publications. He lives in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and son.

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