Today episode #267 of The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling welcomes the former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the WWE and the WWE Performance Center, Matt Wichlinski. Matt has been responsible for helping the first major class of the WWE PC keep themselves in top physical condition and build them to become future WWE Superstars. We are also joined by former WWE Superstar, Kevin Thorn / Mordecai. Kevin joins John and Chad to discuss his association with Matt Wichlinski's Strength Shop and what he has done to transform his body and get into the best shape of his life. The full episode download link.
Transition from FCW to NXT and The Performance Center
"It was really tough when I first started. I actually started while they were still in Tampa. So I was in Tampa for the first three or four months before they came to Orlando at the "PC". The building was still getting built out and we did not have a gym to go to so I tried my best to find a facility and I would go around town trying to find something and would go to places like the local Powerhouse Gym or to try taking the groups into a place would have cost an arm and a leg so I found a space that was perfect for us in the area where we were located."
"In the time that it took to do all that in that month I would take the groups to a local park and they hated me for it. They thought I was the biggest assh*ole that didn't know anything because I had them doing pull-ups and pushups and basic calisthenics in a park. I had a little Kia at the time and I would load it up (riding dirty) from the apartment to the park and I'd have some of the guys help me unload and they thought that it was stupid sh*t but with me I think lifting the sandbags and doing the kettle bell work and the pull ups and the dips and that stuff is some of the most important stuff for them but they wanted to be "getting a pump" and they felt goofy and they didn't buy into any of it. There was a few guys that loved it and who would say; "Are we really getting paid to work out in the park and get some sun?" But for me it was not having any other options at the time as I was waiting to get a gym and maybe build some repoure and a relationship with people that I didn't know."
Was it a hard sell to get people to trust that he had their best interest in mind:
"It was a really hard sell to get people to buy in and of course with the majority of them, they are there for a reason. They don't hire people that look like absolute sh*t for the most part and 99 out of 100 people that they hire already have amazing looking bodies. The 'divas" are coming in and most of them are like models if you look at them. The girls are already hot, the guys are all good looking studs and they are not bringing in clowns that we just have to mold from nothing. They are already 8s, 9s and 10s across the board thinking what is this guy going to teach me."
Breaking through and getting talent to respond:
"The ones that I was able to help the most were the ones that were open minded and wanted to learn and they didn't want to just do their own thing, they knew that there was something else that they could learn. Every day was like a sponge and these are some of the best athletes. Look at Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, they want to learn and they want your input when they are training. If they are doing some Olympic lifting and they want another eye and they are asking you. That is how you know you really helped somebody. There were other people that if they had their preference would just put their earphones on and just go in their own little world. Where that might be fine in some cases, you don't do that at the "PC". You can't learn while you are drowning everything out and you have headphones on doing your own thing."
Talent opposed to some of his teachings:
"An obvious one would be Enzo Amore. He trained with Joe DeFranco for several years before he came into the "PC". Joe DeFranco is Triple H's personal trainer. Joe is an amazing guy and a brilliant strength coach and Enzo trained with him for a couple of years but he is a guy that just doesn't listen very well. He has some decent athletic ability (he played college football) but he is very hard to coach. Not just in the gym but in the ring as well. In talking with his other coaches and he worked with all of the coaches (since he was there) for three or four years and Norman Smiley, Bill Demott and all of them thought he could be a real pain in the ass. Sometimes he can be awesome and other times he could be a pain in the ass. He's one of those guys that thought he trained at DeFranco's so he knows everything. I do a lot of things very similar and somewhat the same as what DeFranco does but certain things may be different and just because you did it one way, I'm asking you to do it different right now and if am asking you for a certain reason it's because I want to see you do it this way because I am building to something else. Everyone that knows Enzo knows he is a hell of a character and a good guy but he can be a pain in the ass to work with sometimes, not all the time."
"I know this for a fact. If you try and coach somebody and you tell them what to do 10 or 12 times and they don't listen and they don't fix it or they only fix it while you are right in front of their face. Even it is absolutely terrible technique they just feel comfortable in what they are doing. Charlotte was another one. Charlotte wasn't necessarily a pain in the ass but because she is such a good athlete, Charlotte was not just the best female athlete but one of the best athletes there. She can do her flips and all that stuff but sometimes you'd want something specific from her and she would just not be in the mood and just do her own thing. What was I going to do with Charlotte? She was already an athlete as good as she needs to be. She's very lean, very talented and sometimes you just have to know what battles to pick. The biggest issue was if you let one person slide (no matter how good) then other people start to slide."
The structure of how to internally handle an issue and Triple H's involvement:
"I didn't just go texting Triple H saying "so and so" isn't doing his push-ups. I would have to deal with it with all the coaches who have a weekly meeting and if it was something that could wait until the weekly meeting than you might want to bring it up. All the coaches know and you are all on the same page as to what is going on in the ring and what is going on in the gym or in the physical therapy room and what is going on behind the scenes with Ryan Katz as they do their promos or when Dusty was there."
"Anything that was to come up it goes into your weekly reports so if it's an issue that I can't handle myself than yes you do bring it up. I brought it up to my boss, either Bill Demott or to Matt Bloom and share it with their coaches so that they knew to address it and that was everyone is on the same page. But it was never a main thing (with Enzo) where I wanted to dropkick his face and you've got to realize anytime you are in a position like that just look at what these guys are doing. They are being told what to do constantly so I can't really blame them. I started calling him Sinatra towards the end and once he went up, I was just calling him Sinatra because he did it his way. A lot of sh*t he did was f*cking wrong. Blatantly wrong. Whether it was his selling or this or that but look at him now. He did it his way and he's up there and making his money and he has got a hell of a life. He's just laughing it up and having a great time so kudos to him. He was one of these guys that would kind of get away with doing things his way and it paid off for him. Somebody else may have gotten fired, who knows and I'm not trying to pick on him."