ESPN E60: WWE 'Behind The Curtain' Inside NXT

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ESPN got a rare chance to go behind the scenes at WWE's Performance Center to see how it trains it next generation of "Superstars."

This special edition of the news magazine pulled back the curtain on the usually secretive process and allow fans to see the difficult training that goes into making a performer WWE-ready.

"We create superheroes and super villains, we put them in the ring and they clash," said WWE Executive Vice President Paul "Triple H"Levesque.

Levesque believes that with the WWE being such a strong business, the company needs to ensure that they are investing in the right talent to move forward.

This is where WWE NXT -- the company's developmental brand, whihch has its own weekly show -- shines because Triple H along with his team can mold the next generation of WWE superstars based off of their own success.

NXT features a mix of stars from the indie scene trying to translate their minor league fame to the WWE with raw recruits from other sports the WWE has identified as having the right potential.

The contracted performers are paid -- generally much less than "main roster" performers and their job is essentially to learn the business being an in-ring performer.

That's a mix of physical, verbal and even psychological skills that can prove shockingly difficult to master.

The next generation of Superstars

WWE calls its performers Superstars for the men and Divas for the women.

The E:60 special focused on the paths a number of NXT recruits took to find their way to the WWE's main roster -- where the money gets a lot better and the fame can be enormous.

"NXT really guarantees the success of our future," said CEO Vince McMahon to open the show.

The wannabe Superstars, include Ray "Leo Kruger" Leppan, Autstin "Xavier Woods" Watson, and Matt "Corey Graves" Polinksy -- all who took different paths to where they are.

Watson has actually made it to the main roster as part of "The New Day," a group of "heels" or bad guys who currently hold the tag team championship. For Watson, his ride in wrestling has been a long one including stops in TNA, a smaller-scale WWE rival, and time on the main roster as a character who did not connect with the audience.

His current role has him tenuously grasping at stardom as part of an act that has made the rejection of he fans part of its schtick.

(E:60 was taped before that fame occurred and the show focused on his earlier characters and his efforts to earn a PHD).

Leppan plays Leo Kruger, a sort of creepy character which has not gotten a shot at the main roster. In real life he has a sick child who serves as his motivation.

He has about ten years of independent wrestling experience under his belt and has been at NXT since 2010.

The show portrays him as being on the verge of being cut from the program. The company plans to switch his character from a bad guy to a good guy to give him one more chance.

Leppan took on a new persona as "Adam Rose" with which he made the main roster and kept his job.

Polinsky, known in NXT as Corey Graves, has a distinctive look with an enormous amount of tattoos.

He also has an independent wrestling background.

He has yet to make the main roster, but he has appeared as a commentator on various pre-game shows for WWE events on the Network -- partially because he has had numerous concussions which have kept him out of the ring.

About the Performance Center

The company has 70 wrestlers working at its Performance Center making between $45,000 and low six figures. About 20% of those performers will someday make the main roster.

At the center the trainees build their characters, learn wrestling moves (if they are new to the profession) and how to handle interviews. They take acting classes in addition to working out.

NXT tapes a weekly show at Full Sail University in Florida which airs on the WWE's digital streaming network.

The show is actually really well regarded because many of its performers were well-regarded indie wrestlers.

The show offers a mix of unknowns and indie stars who deliver a high "work rate," which is the insider term for being good performers.

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