By Jeremy Peeples, WrestlingObserver.com
WWE and ESPN have teamed up for their first documentary feature - focusing on NXT. The show begins on April 23, 2015 with Adam Rose with his son. He wishes he had more time for him, and he sets up a feeding tube or port of some kind on him. Two years before, HHH came into an NXT classroom and said that some of them will make it, but most won't. The show intro focuses on characters - including Undertaker, The Rock, Stone Cold, and Hulk Hogan. Adam Rose says everything you know is about to change, while Xavier talks about still being pretty.
HHH tells the class that it takes a lot of work to make it in WWE. The narrator talks about HHH's corporate role and treats him like a retired ex-wrestler. Ray Leppan is shown and he says that everything he does is for his son. Austin Watson's shown and Matt Polinsky (Corey Graves) says he's torn his MCLs and suffered concussions, but hopes he hasn't had had anything that alters his life. The narrator says that WWE Network is where they're performing, and they're trying to fight to get to cable. Well, that's accurate now - it wasn't accurate for when this was initially shot.
The interviewer meets with Vince, who tells him that he's clearly overwhelmed being in a room with Vince. HHH talks to Bray Wyatt about his intro a bit - they go over the best way to use the lantern. The opening of the Performance Center is shown and we get a bit of training with Neville and Big Cass. The Ascension is shown briefly, and then we get a bit of an Ascension training tag team match. Leppan is shown in his Leo Kruger persona and he had a rough life. He slept in abandoned buildings and fought on the streets as a teenager. The thought of being a pro wrestler got him out of that life. As Z-Max, he made a small name for himself before signing with WWE.
A bit of FCW footage is shown and we see his wife Cassandra and hear about their history. Leppan and Bo Dallas chat a bit backstage and we hear about Ray's son. At 17 weeks, they found out something was wrong - he had an abdominal defect. His liver and intestines were in a sack outside of his body, and he may not make it. Ray plays with his son, who has outlived his prognosis at three years of age already. They talk about how he's fed with a feeding tube and Leppan says he's out to make a better future for his family. "After four years in NXT, that future is on the ropes".
Back at the Performance Center, Regal works with him in the ring. He's been learning for four years and DeMott tells him that it's better to do it 20 times here and get it right once later. At an NXT meeting, HHH says he's a good guy, and being a bad guy isn't in him yet. Michael Hayes says he's a mechanic, but he's not different. DeMott says that on the road, he is different. HHH says let's turn him face and see what happens.
Xavier Woods is shown with a wacky blue suit and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle backpack full of pogs and a Skip It. He runs into the room and gets a laugh out of everyone with a horse mask. He wanted to be a wrestler, so he took acting classes and became a cheerleader in college. We see him as Consequences Creed with a TNA promo photo, Xavier Shango, and finally, Xavier Woods. His educational history is shown and Watson says he wants to be the only wrestler with a PhD, who also got it while wrestling. HHH says that other than height, he has everything. Terry Taylor says he has a great attitude. Dusty says he shouldn't be in NXT. HHH says that it's not a fish or cut bait issue, he's creative, but he needs to try one thing and stick with it for a bit. Cole tells him that as a PhD, he can be a great guy to talk for the company.
Matt Polinsky says he always gave himself full sleeves of tattoos in video games. He's been wrestling since 14, and loved it since he was three. He wrestled as a freshman in high school and he was called Sterling Keenan. In 2009, he worked as a bouncer and met his future wife, Amanda. They got married later that year and he was hired by WWE in 2011. Polinsky says his character is him with the volume turned up - and he gets to work and do things you can't do in real life. It's like being James Bond.
He's home due to a series of concussions, and now he has two kids to support. His wife says she's worried about his career longevity. She worried about every call she gets from him in the middle of the day, and he says it's all he knows. We come back from a break with him cutting a promo on the Wyatt Family. Polinsky says that he hopes his story is the one that inspires people to never quit.
HHH says in a meeting saying that Corey's cleared and he's ready to go. Dusty says they can pull it off with him and Hayes says he loves the tattoos with a suit. We get handheld camera footage of training and are told he suffered another concussion. Polinsky says he's had a bunch of concussions, so he's not really sure of the timeline. Vince says that you're on the shelf until you're on the shelf, and he says they're way ahead of the curve when it comes to concussions, and were far ahead of the NFL. Vince says he's had a lot of concussions.
The interviewer talks about the wellness policy and Vince says that there's no off-season and they have an in-depth wellness policy. The company invests in characters and the people behind them - it makes for a healthy environment. "These guys are clean? Yes, we're far past that now". Polinsky's wife talks about her son making a card saying he's his hero because he's a wrestler, and she told him to not give his father that because of his health. Polinsky gets "some news" before a break.
He says if he's released, it would be the worst news of his life. It's September of 2014, and he hasn't wrestled in nine months. HHH told him that he's medically-disqualified for working as a wrestler due to his concussion history. Cole says you think you'll get a big paycheck, and then this happens. He's a family man, and it led to his wife going back to work as a teacher - they knew he was just hired as a wrestler. In December, HHH talks to Polinsky about his future and gives him a two year deal as an announcer.
Polinsky says that things didn't work out as he planned - but he's still working in the business he loves, and he can do this for a long time. He calls his wife and tells her about him getting an announcer's contract. She's overjoyed, and he tells her they have to move to Orlando now. For Austin Watson, things have changed.
He was called up to the main roster on November of 2013, and it's his WWE TV debut. Vince says that he might be too goofy, and what works on NXT may not work on a longer form. Road Dogg tells him this is the big time. We see his initial debut using Brodus's gimmick and beating Slater. HHH says the setup was great, but he needs to slow it down a bit. Watson says it feels great to have HHH's seal of approval. We go back to Ray Leppan, who feels that time is running out. He's thinking about failure, but knows he can't.
We return to Full Sail with Leppan talking about the last few months being very intense. He says the goal now is to find the thing that takes him to the next level. HHH says that Leo Kruger is missing something. Bill says Ray's an elder statesman, so they told him he had to reinvent himself, and he panicked. Leppan wrote down ten characters and ten bios, with one being like Indiana Jones and the other being Adam Rose. He's basically Russell Brand, and we see the tryout of the gimmick in NXT.
Leppan explains that the character is about life being epic, and the party following him. Dusty says it's outrageous - they'll either throw him out or keep him in. DeMott says Ray is worried about everything but what he should be - doing his job. Ray's wife says that they're worried because they have a child and another on the way, and Ray says he'll do what it takes to help them. DeMott says there isn't enough in Leppan for Rose to work - tomorrow's it for him.
HHH runs through Rose's intro a bit and says it's a big moment for Leppan. HHH says it's a big risk for one night, but they'll know if it works right away. Adam Rose's intro gets a "that was awesome!" chant and he wins his debut. He gets a standing ovation in the back and hugs DeMott. HHH says no one said Leo Kruger once, and he came over the hill in one night. DeMott and Leppan share a big hug and DeMott tells him to finally get a good night's sleep. He said he needed it, as did his family.
DeMott says he isn't sure how far it will go, but tonight, he made it. We see him promoted to the main roster and the theme from "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen plays. Watson is on the main roster and plans to finish his PhD in 2016. Poinsky and his wife had their third child and he has his own WWE Network show. Bill DeMott left due to NXT allegations, and NXT has promoted 21 wrestlers to the main roster. After the credits, Vince says he's the greatest character he's ever made - and then quickly takes it back with a laugh.
This was the kind of thing that WWE 24 wishes it was. It gave you a glimpse into the people behind the characters, and did so within a few minutes for each - so WWE 24 "only" having half an hour to work with isn't an excuse. There was a bit of WWE whitewashing for some things like the drug testing and implied success of NXT as a main roster feeder system, but a bit less than usual. In the end, it got talent over, and you were left rooting for Corey Graves and Adam Rose to do as well as possible over the long haul because they came off so well.
For a look at every screenshot taken for the show, just click here.