Before They Were Famous: Dexter Lumis

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Dexter Lumis
Photo / World Wrestling Entertainment

All wrestlers have to start somewhere on the path to making their dreams a reality, whether it be a wrestling school, church basement, bingo hall, etc. From there, those wrestlers work their way up to the pinnacle of their dreams. For many, that’s a career in WWE or more recently AEW, IMPACT! Wrestling or even NJPW. But sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. In LWOPW’s newest feature, “Before They Were Famous,” we take a look at the pre-WWE careers of some of the company’s top current stars, following along on their road to superstardom. In this edition, we take a deep dive into the enigmatic, fear-inducing NXT star known as Dexter Lumis.

Armed with a thousand-yard stare and an ice-cold demeanor, Dexter Lumis can best be described as “unnerving.” A WWE Superstar that wouldn’t seem out of place in horror and thriller films such as “Silence of the Lambs,” the mystique of Lumis is undeniable. While the aura of many WWE stars attracts adulation, Lumis’ instills fear. In addition, he came into the company with years of experience under his belt in both small and large companies alike. Let’s take a deep dive into the pre-WWE career of the most unsettling Superstar in NXT.

The Beginning

Real name Samuel Shaw, the future Dexter Lumis began his professional wrestling career in 2007. He trained under Curtis Hughes, who worked around the world including for World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment, at the World Wrestling Alliance 4 Wrestling School. He debuted under the name “Sam Shaw” that September, for World League Wrestling. It was here that he teamed with Tookie Tucker to defeat the team of Otis Idol and Marco Cordova. In the few years that followed, he worked for other smaller organizations, including the Team 3D Academy in February of 2009.

The following spring, Shaw achieved his first major accolade in wrestling. In April, he debuted for Vintage Wrestling, based out of Florida. It was in May when he bested former WCW star Glacier to become the inaugural Vintage Heavyweight Champion. Shaw would become one of only two men to hold the title on three separate occasions. He was a successful champion during his time, defending the strap against the likes of Tyson Tomko and Tommy Dreamer.

Building a Name

In 2010, between his work for such organizations as Vintage Wrestling and American Combat Wrestling, he wrestled a dark match for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. This wouldn’t be his final appearance for the company, either. In August, at TNA’s Hardcore Justice event, Shaw made his first official appearance under the name “Lupus.” He attacked Tommy Dreamer during his match with Raven, and while his first appearance was as a supporting player, greater success awaited him in the company.

July of 2011 saw Shaw debut for Florida Underground Wrestling, where he competed for FUW Heavyweight Championship on a few occasions. The following year, in May, Shaw appeared for Ring of Honor, teaming with current All Elite Wrestling star QT Marshall in a losing effort against The Briscoe Brothers. 2012 was also notable for Shaw in that he not only returned to TNA but used the company as a platform to develop a more nefarious persona.

Taking a Gut Check

Under his real name, Sam Shaw participated in the first-ever TNA Gut Check. The purpose of this program was to recruit new wrestlers, which was done by a host of judges with extensive wrestling experience. Ultimately, Shaw was one of the talents that earned a spot on the roster. He was then sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling, TNA’s developmental promotion. Shaw made his official OVW debut in early October, winning a battle royal at the promotion’s Saturday Night Special event. From there, Shaw regularly teamed with fellow Gut Check winner Alex Silva; together, they became known as the aptly named Team Gut Check. They closed out the year with a bang, defeating Rudy Switchblade and Jessie Godderz for the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship, Shaw’s first taste of tag team gold.

In early 2013, Team Gut Check remained in the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship scene. Though they lost the titles to Jason Wayne and Crimson of The Coalition in January, Shaw and Silva regained them the following February. Team Gut Check’s second reign came to an end in April, dropping the straps back to Wayne and Crimson in a two out of three falls match. After being off of OVW programming for roughly one month due to a backstage attack, Shaw returned in May. He worked primarily as a singles star, picking up victories over such opponents as Godderz and Crimson. By June, Shaw’s time in OVW would end, as he found himself on IMPACT Wrestling programming with a persona that was far different than what fans had seen.

Wicked Ways in TNA

Samuel Shaw returned at the Turning Point edition of IMPACT Wrestling, which took place in November. He didn’t return in a match, but instead an interview, which saw Christy Hemme get to know the new star. From being asked to be referred to as “Samuel,” not “Sam,” to hinting at questionable artwork, this segment established Shaw as a more disconcerting character. This was heavily inspired by Patrick Bateman, the main character of “American Psycho;” given that this was one of Shaw’s real-life favorite movies, the similarities should come as little surprise.

Shaw had his first match in IMPACT in January of 2014, further establishing his villainous persona. He dominated Norv Fernum, all the while continuously directing his attention toward Hemme. Shaw became increasingly obsessed with the redheaded Knockout, even building a “shrine” that included various pictures of her. This ultimately led to Hemme confronting Shaw about the aforementioned obsession, which made him more violent. He also found himself involved in his first major feud with Mr. Anderson, who he attacked on numerous occasions.

From Gut Check to Mic Check

The feud between Shaw and Anderson became more heated. In March, at TNA Lockdown, Shaw bested his loudmouthed opponent in a steel cage. Their program continued after, as they faced each other in Street Fights and Straitjacket Matches alike. TNA also played segments that showed Anderson visiting Shaw’s family home. Anderson quickly learned that the proverbial apple didn’t fall from the tree, as Shaw’s seemingly sweet mother proved to be as alarming as her son. Shaw’s feud with Anderson officially came to an end at TNA Sacrifice, in May, when he lost to Mr. Anderson in a Committed Match. Per the stipulation, Shaw was forced to be sent to a psychiatric ward. From there, the next chapter of IMPACT’s most unhinged star unfolded.

Starting in May, IMPACT played a series of vignettes featuring Shaw, straitjacket and all, in the aforementioned psychiatric ward. He was visited by Gunner, who empathized with Shaw’s troubles and desired to help him. From sharing personal stories to playing card games to examining Shaw’s artwork, Gunner was instrumental in this chapter of Shaw’s career. By the summer, Shaw was released from the ward, albeit under Gunner’s supervision, and he began to reforge bonds with Anderson and Hemme. It seemed like he had finally turned a corner.

Final Days in IMPACT

In October, however, Shaw turned on Gunner. After a brief singles program with Gunner, Shaw entered a feud with Crimson, which saw them wrestle a few singles matches. In March of 2015, Shaw wrestled his final match as a contracted IMPACT star, facing Chris Melendez in a losing effort. By May, Shaw was back on the independent scene. The promotions he worked for included Full Throttle Pro Wrestling and Tried-N-True Pro Wrestling.

Though this period of independent wrestling was short for Shaw, he achieved numerous accolades. In addition to becoming the first Tried-N-True Champion in 2017, he won the FTPW Championship in 2018. In October of the latter year, he appeared on the National Wrestling Alliance 70th Anniversary Show. He competed for the then-vacant NWA National Championship, which was ultimately won by Willie Mack. By January of 2019, Shaw would say goodbye to the independents, aiming his sights higher.

The Birth of Dexter Lumis

In February, it was confirmed that Shaw signed with World Wrestling Entertainment. It wasn’t long after that he adopted a new ring name: Dexter Lumis. From there, he was announced as one of the eight WWE Performance Center members to take part in the NXT Breakout Tournament. Not unlike the TNA Gut Check years prior, this was designed to showcase stars of the future. In the first round of the tournament, Lumis lost to Bronson Reed. Despite this loss, Lumis would become one of the prominently featured stars on NXT.

In April, Dexter Lumis assisted Velveteen Dream in defeating The Undisputed Era in tag team action. Despite having the presence of a horror movie villain, this established Lumis as a fan favorite. He continued to focus on The Undisputed Era, which led to NXT TakeOver: In Your House in June. Despite not wrestling on the show, he interfered in the NXT Championship Backlot Brawl between Dream and titleholder Adam Cole. He attacked Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong, throwing them into the back of a car before driving off with them. This resulted in Strong becoming paranoid regarding Lumis’ presence. On the first night of The NXT Great American Bash, Lumis defeated Strong in the first-ever NXT Strap Match.

What is next for Dexter Lumis? The answer to this question can range from optimistic to fearful, depending on who provides the answer. Does he have aspirations of winning championship gold in the future? Is his focus solely on targeting the stars of NXT, utilizing mind games and fright alike to bend them to his will? Regardless, this blonde-haired star with the unfeeling stare will be one to keep an eye on.

Please Be Sure To Check Out More From Our Before They Were Famous Series

Stay tuned to the 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.

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