In 2019, 17-year indie wrestling veteran Michael Cuellari joined All Elite Wrestling in a mentorship/associate producer role. Cuellari, also known by his ring name of QT Marshall, was often seen backstage on the “Road to” video series, as he worked with Cody Rhodes and the rest of the production team on the ins and outs of AEW’s PPVs and later, weekly TV. After not wrestling for several months, the itch to get back in the ring came calling, and in October, Marshall, who’s worked for every major company including Ring of Honor and WWE, debuted for AEW. He wrestled just three matches for the promotion that year, his final match a tag team pairing with Rhodes. At this point, Marshall had become a part of the Nightmare Family, solidifying that status in 2020 when he began regularly teaming up with Dustin Rhodes as the Natural Nightmares. As a team, the Nightmares are an undefeated 3-0.
Marshall’s role in AEW is extensive but perhaps one of the lesser talked about aspects of his influence on the company has been through the One Fall Power Factory, where Marshall has served as co-owner and head coach, alongside co-owner and former WCW wrestler Glacier, since the school opened just over three years ago. But in a short time, the school’s reputation and results began to speak for itself. With state-of-the-art facilities including an Olympic style weight room, certified nutritionist and strength and conditioning coach on staff, a live events platform (1 Fall Wrestling), and guest trainers such as Jonathan Gresham, Cody Rhodes, Billy Gunn, and Tanga Loa, One Fall’s mission statement is “to develop the most well-rounded athletes, providing each athlete the opportunity to learn as they begin his or her quest to a career in professional wrestling and sports entertainment.”
It would seem that statement is well on its way to being fulfilled as in November 2019, a year after One Fall Power Factory served as one of four schools affiliated with Ring of Honor, Marshall’s school became the first such affiliated school for AEW prospects, even if it was done mostly unofficially. Having trained at the school himself and having partnered with them on several occasions, most notably for the American Dream Scholarship camp in 2018, Rhodes’ connection to One Fall was well known. His wife Brandi Rhodes had also trained there, as she worked closely with Marshall to prepare for her transition from ring announcer to wrestler.
With the relationship between the school and the Rhodes family having been a very positive one, Cody Rhodes announced that several of AEW’s young, unproven contracted talents would be training at the school going forward including Sadie Gibbs and Anthony Ogogo. A few months later in February 2020, Rhodes took the next step when he bought a stake in the school and became a co-owner. This led to a rebrand as the school now goes by the name of the Nightmare Factory and is planning to introduce new trainers and new developments soon as the school is temporarily closed for training due to the coronavirus. And while again, Rhodes was hesitant to say this school is AEW’s official developmental school (though the hope is one day it will be), many of the company’s top prospects are currently making their way through the Nightmare Factory including the recently debuted Preston Vance and Anna Jayy.
Jayy, who debuted on the April 1st edition of Dynamite in a loss to Hikaru Shida, was the first One Fall/Nightmare Factory graduate to sign a contract as a wrestler with any major company (Aja Perera signed as a referee for WWE prior), doing so with AEW. Vance, who debuted as the newest member of the Dark Order a few weeks later, after having previously wrestled on AEW DARK in March, became the first male graduate from the school to sign a contract with AEW. But those two are not the only wrestlers from the school that AEW has their eye on. In fact, many of the indie wrestlers who have been appearing on DARK over the past few weeks have connections to One Fall/Nightmare Factory and its head trainer, QT Marshall, as they are students of the school. Due to the proximity of where they train, it’s been convenient for AEW to utilize these wrestlers who are mainly from the Florida/Georgia indie scene to fill these spots. It also gives the company a chance to step into a talent evaluator role. Like with Jayy and Vance, there is no doubt AEW is looking at some of these individuals to become developmental signees, evidenced by the regular showcases these wrestlers are now finding for themselves on DARK.
It also doesn’t hurt that it was Marshall’s school, the One Fall/Nightmare Factory, that provided the environment for which AEW could hold a series of tapings due to the stay at home order that was in place for Florida at the time.
From the beginning, Rhodes has expressed his desire to not just sign top names but to be in the business of creating the next generation of wrestling stars as well. With his role in the Nightmare Factory and the connection the school is establishing with AEW, it would appear it won’t be long until that desire comes to fruition. It won’t be surprising to see more of Marshall’s students, including those who are given regular features on DARK such as Dani Jordyn, Shawn Dean, Matt Sells, and Alan Angels, join Jayy and Vance as Nightmare Factory students who become AEW wrestlers.
As the Nightmare Factory said in a Facebook post from early April: “Training consists of much more than the physical wrestling. Over the past 3 years, we’ve trained some from scratch, had to retrain others but most importantly, we’ve gotten our athletes opportunities that they’ve deserved. They’ve worked for every major company and some have signed full time contracts. The best part is, we’ve only just begun.”
Stay tuned to Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Dynamite Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on TNT and AEW DARK Tuesday nights at 6pm on their YouTube Channel.