The WWE Network recently aired a FCW documentary showing fans the early days of the WWE developmental system before there was ever a NXT. Corey Graves and Baron Corbin reminisced about that time on After The Bell noting how Graves used to live on Corbin’s couch for a while during those times.
“WWE Network just dropped the FCW documentary which you and I were both parts of,” Graves said.
“I think you lived on my couch for part of FCW,” Corbin said.
“I did. I did,” Graves said. “I think it’s more part of NXT days I was living in your couch.
“Yeah. It was a good mix,” Corbin said. “We were on our way from you living on my couch.”
Graves talked about Corbin’s mentality coming into WWE where he boasted about his athletic background being a former Golden Gloves champion and a former NFL player. Corbin talked about how the “I’m an athlete” line got him into trouble with the coaches and trainers.
“It was funny because you said, ‘I’m an athlete. I’m an athlete.’ That quote got me in trouble actually on my tryout,” Corbin said. “It’s like my second day on a tryout. They brought me in for like a week-long tryout, and there were guys like Bray Wyatt in the ring and stuff like that. He [the coach] was like, ‘hey, do you think you can do a drop-down and a leapfrog?’ And I was like, ‘well, yeah. I’m an athlete. It’s easy.’ He goes, ‘oh, ok.’ Then he had me start running, and I’m doing drop-downs [and] leapfrogs. After about 10 of them, I’m looking over after each one like is he gonna tell me to stop? I was also 325-330 lbs at tryout, and by about 14, I go this is bad. All of a sudden I clipped my foot, and I face-planted. He laughed, and he goes, ‘huh, I thought you said you were an athlete?’ I just did 18 drop-downs and 18 leapfrogs. I was blown sky-high, so it’s always just funny when I think about that.”
Graves has had Roman Reigns on After The Bell before. Reigns gave praise to “Football Tom”, his nickname for Corbin, and Corbin talks about the mindset he had going in and the culture that he sought to learn that got the attention of Reigns.
“But walking in the door, it was eye-opening. I’ve been apart of athletics my whole life from boxing to jiu-jitsu to football to golf on my high school team. Every locker room is different and has an atmosphere. Nobody wants someone new walking in. If you’re a good, high-level competitor, you know that walking into the door. You know nobody is gonna want you there because you’re there to take a spot,” Corbin said. “In reality, that’s what you’re doing. FCW is a very small funnel into WWE. If one guy got called up, that’s one less guy that’s gonna get that opportunity.
“So walking in, I knew that. I spoke with Johhny Stamboli. He was actually in Arizona. I knew I was getting a tryout. I knew I was getting signed. I wanted to kind of figure out the culture a little bit because you don’t want to disrespect anybody. You walk into a football locker room and you do something stupid, you’re gonna get slapped. It’s just the way it goes, and I know this kind of has the same attitude like there’s a respect here and a level of respect that’s expected. So I met with Johnny, and he kind of walked me through from shaking hands to letting everybody get their spots, their lockers and then put your bag down where it fits. That kind of thing.”
Corbin has talked to Booker T before about the transition from the NFL to pro wrestling and the locker room heat he had in the past. He talked again about the most difficult part of the transition, the promos.
“The transition for me, the physicality: I dropped 65 lbs. coming in, that stuff was relatively easy. To understand the ring movement and balance and all that was in-ring, [it] was fairly simple to learn for me. It was the hand me a microphone, here’s your promo, make me believe it. That’s where I’m going whoa this is really hard because I’m just doing an interview like we’re just sitting here talking and it is what it is,” Corbin said. “But now I’m having to take this emotion that I’ve been taught to hide for so many years because in sports, you don’t want your opponents to know that you’re hurt, you’re tired, angry [or] frustrated. But now we want to take those emotions and we want to convey it to millions of people around the world, but you want them to understand every bit of things that are going through your mind, and you want them to feel what you’re feeling. If you’re hurt or if you’re angry or if you’re embarrassed, you want these people to understand that. You want to amplify it by 10 because there’s people that are up in the nosebleed sections that want to understand that and people around the world. That was the most difficult part of the transition for me into becoming a WWE superstar.”
Graves talked about Corbin’s reputation coming in from the perspective of the rest of the FCW roster. Corbin said that he used that reputation to his advantage to get more people irritated.
“The rumor went around that I was making all this money more than anybody else, so I was like OK, let’s add fuel to the fire,” Corbin said. “I think I brought about 10-20 grand in cash to a promo and was like, ‘yeah, I’m going on a date tonight. Maybe 2000.’ Just the worst thing ever. Just trying to irritate everybody.”
Corbin revealed where he learned about pro wrestling. Graves and Corbin talked about how they would watch pro wrestling together exposing Corbin to the world of American independent wrestling. Corbin said that he only knew about wrestling through reading Batista’s book in college.
“It was fun to learn all the aspects to it because coming in I wasn’t aware. I’m gonna admit this actually, and it’s really bad, but I wasn’t aware of this independent world of training in a sense. I thought it was Japan and OVW because I read Batista’s book,” Corbin said. “I’m admitting that. I read Batista’s book in college and was like I gotta go to OVW if I want to get there. I remember driving down there. That’s how I got my information on how to become a WWE superstar was Batista’s book. I just don’t feel cool admitting that at all.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.