Respect in wrestling goes way deeper than storytelling, athleticism, and showmanship. There’s a special exchange of respect in that ring and behind that curtain when it becomes warranted. Through earning one’s stripes, giving back to the industry, and delivering that once-in-a-lifetime performance, there comes a relationship where respect is the foundation.
When certain names were brought up during my interviews for Journey of a Frontman, I got to witness the elation as these athletes shared stories and fond memories of their comrades. Their eyes lit up when they had the platform to talk about how much these individuals meant to them.
These stories of respect and friendship in wrestling go much beyond what is shown on TV.
1. Tommy Dreamer on Edge
"He got so swept up in how good the show was. He wanted to go out there and talk about the show, as well as myself.
“He wanted to go out there and just cut a little promo for the fans, which he’s never done outside WWE. He really put over the Young Bucks and Paul London and Brian Kendrick for tag team wrestling. He put me over for really, really caring about the business.
"Him endorsing the product gives you a nice stamp of approval and validation."
2. Sami Zayn on Cesaro/Claudio Castagnoli
Sami Zayn: "I think it’s very admirable on his part [that Cesaro/Claudio Castagnoli wrestled in both NXT and on the main roster]. It sends a message, and it was actually a smart thing to do in the end.
"I think it opened some eyes because, to be honest, around the time before we had the first 2 out of 3 falls match, I don’t think the powers that be in the WWE really saw what kind of intensity this guy can bring or just how good he actually is.
“In a way, wanting to come and compete in NXT shows his desire to compete and be great because he is great.
"It also enabled him to get a bigger opportunity in a smaller setting, he was given more time and freedom, and he was given a bigger spotlight.
“Yes, it was on a much smaller scale, but he gave him a bigger platform to do his thing. He did his thing, and it opened a lot of eyes.
"Obviously, that match was huge for me and opening a lot of eyes to me, but I like to think it also did a lot for him.
“Triple H was watching that match, and I know for a fact that he pulled him aside afterward, and he also said, ‘That’s the guy I wanna see on Monday nights. That’s the guy. That was awesome. I want more of that.’
"They were way more aware of what his capabilities were after that, which is great. I think it did quite a bit for him. I hope it did a lot for him. It certainly did a lot for me."
3. Kevin Owens on Juice Robinson
Kevin Owens: "[Juice Robinson] is probably the best guy we [had] here that [wasn’t] prominently featured on NXT, for whatever reason.
“He’s one of those kinds of people that no matter where they are or what they’re doing, they’re gonna find a way to make it work and shine. Eventually, he’ll have his time.
"Our match was ten minutes or so, and he made the best of it. He broke my nose two minutes in.
“A lot of people had a lot of things to say about him breaking my nose, but in a way, he made a huge statement.
“I think [Juice Robinson] is a big part of the future. He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been in the ring with, in all honesty."
4. Ken Anderson on Drake Maverick
“The guy knows more about the business than just about anybody I know except for Tommy Dreamer; that’s a shoot. He still lives, breathes, eats, shits the business. He always talks about the business. Sometimes it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s talk about something else!’
"And he gets it. He gets the fact that we’re telling the story of good versus evil. Sometimes you’ve gotta be the receiver of the shitstorm, and sometimes you’ve gotta be the giver. He knows when it’s his turn."
5. Eric Young on Jeremy Borash
“His knowledge of wrestling is vast. He’s been a wrestling fan since he was twelve. He’s watched everything. You name it; he’s watched it. He knows it, and he remembers all of it.
"Back in the early days when we were at the fairgrounds in Nashville, he would do the interviews and in-ring announcing. Then we’d all head to the bars, he’d go home and open up his laptop and taught himself how to edit. A lot of the early packages, the early stuff that you saw on pay-per-view and stuff- that was him. He did it all."
6. Rob Van Dam on NXT
“They have so many Divas, so many up-and-coming wrestlers, and they’re all at a level where they need to learn and get the experience. And they all have hopes of wrestling in WWE. And I also knew that most of the wrestlers in WWE have come through NXT.
"It’s a good thing, these guys are wrestling four years, and it comes across like they’ve been wrestling for ten years. It must be a combination of things, one of them being that NXT must be a damn good training center.
"Also, a lot of the wrestlers are second-generation wrestlers. They grew up in the business. And when I say a lot, I mean a lot.
“I counted seventeen families off the top of my head, and I used to work with their parents. That has a lot to do with what makes the caliber of a good wrestler. It’s come such a long way from my first run in WWE years ago."
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