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January 29, 2016

The Hits, Hype & Hopes of the WWE

Dean Muhtadi sat down in one of the folding chairs he helped assemble, stared at the canvas of the wrestling ring he helped put together and began to vent.

About the two-hour drive spent on desolate Florida highways in the August heat. About the tweet he sent to his 56,000 followers to let them know he would be performing tonight. About the text message he just sent his mother, telling her to turn around and drive home.

It was three hours before about 500 fans would come into Building B of the Citrus Springs Community Center, and a sheet of paper taped to the metal post behind the turnbuckle listed the competitors in eight matches. “Mojo Rawley,” Muhtadi’s in-ring character, would not be performing tonight. For Muhtadi, it was another reminder of the precarious path to pro-wrestling stardom.

Muhtadi, 29, turned down a contract with the National Football League and a six-figure job on Wall Street three years ago, and here he was, in a room normally reserved for wedding receptions and Zumba classes, eating his fourth meal of Boston Market chicken in four days. More than 80 miles from the closest major city, he was, in every way, far from where he wanted to be.

“It’s infuriating,” Muhtadi said. “Hopefully I’ll have the big payoff, but the reality is it’s not for a lot of guys. I’ve had a lot of friends come and go.”

As he watched the show unfold on a monitor backstage, he grimaced when a camera panned to one young fan wearing a T-shirt with Mojo Rawley’s catchphrase, “I don’t get hyped! I stay hyped!”

“It’s like twisting a knife in,” Muhtadi said.

At NXT, World Wrestling Entertainment’s developmental arm, bursting onto the scene as a superstar is about much more than body slams and biceps. The wrestler must achieve an all-encompassing lifestyle change to manipulate a global audience into believing characters and story lines that they know are created and decided by writers and executives backstage.

In NXT, WWE executive vice president for talent, live events and creative Paul Levesque centralized the training under one roof outside Orlando. The WWE Performance Center opened in 2013 and features rings, a mock entrance ramp and announcer table, green-screen rooms for filming vignettes and daily instruction from wrestlers-turned-coaches.

Elias Samson (L) practices kicking Dean Muhtadi (LR who wrestles under the name Mojo Rawley, during practice in Orlando, Florida in August, 2015 where World Wrestling Entertainment has its development facility for male and female wrestlers not on the organization's primary roster, called the Performance Center. (Andrew Innerarity for The Washington Post)

“Every single superstar that has come before you, as successful as they were, they did not have the tools that you have to get the job done,” Levesque tells new wrestlers...More?

source: washingtonpost.com

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