During his recent appearance on The Wrestling Inc. Daily, JD Drake looked back on why his tryout with WWE NXT in Feb. 2020 didn’t lead to a full-time roster spot.
“I went down to the WWE PC for a week, and trained over there,” Drake recalled. “I wrestled Dio Maddin [MACE] on a house show, and even defeated him. I was supposed to wrestle Ridge Holland but I hurt my lower back sacroiliac joint during the match with Maddin. And I couldn’t stand up straight, it was the worse [feeling].
“There were talks, and they were into it [signing me]. However, that opportunity obviously fell through, and everything happens for a reason. I’m starting to really believe that, now more than ever. Because I’ve been blessed with opportunities that I wouldn’t have received otherwise – like the match with Daniel Garcia [for the Limitless World Championship].
A month after his NXT tryout, the global pandemic hit and Drake – like scores of other independent pro wrestlers – was severely impacted.
“It’s tough to talk about,” Drake admitted. “I was starting to hit my stride, and EVOLVE was about to do big things. I had 8 or 9 bookings during the Mania weekend itself, right before the shutdown. And then everything just went poof.
“At the time I had put in 18 or 19 years into the business. I poured my blood, sweat, tears and heart, everything into it, and then for this [pandemic] to just take it all way… I really thought I was done. I thought maybe its time to sell all my stuff and call it a career. Little did I know that my career would be reborn during the pandemic.”
Trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, Drake received positive news when several promotions contacted him for the role of a trainer. He started training at Highspots and his career was up-and-running again.
“By having my hand in the development of young talent, I really started to turn the volume dial up,” Drake said. “I was once again in love with professional wrestling. And I was suddenly moving around better [in the ring] because my mind and body had time to heal [during the shutdown]. I had so much wear and tear on my body for so many years, and I could finally do some soul searching and find myself again. The fact that I went down to Orlando for an opportunity, and it didn’t work out, spite is a helluva motivator.”
Drake, a former WWN and EVOLVE Tag Team Champion, was asked by Wrestling Inc. Managing Editor Nick Hausman to highlight the importance of the Limitless Wrestling Championship.
“It’s a title I’ve pursued ever since I started my actual singles run. Everyone knows I’ve been on the indy circuit for a long time as a partner of Anthony [Henry, presently signed with NXT] and had to branch out as a singles competitor. I immediately set my eyes on the Limitless title. I’m already the longest reigning WWN Champion, and held singles titles all over America. But this, to me, is a way to solidify a career that is taking off.”
Since making his AEW debut on the Feb. 17 episode of AEW Dark, Drake has been a constant fixture on AEW programming. He is presently in a stable with Peter Avalon, Ryan Nemeth and Cezar Bononi.
You can follow JD on Twitter @RealJDDrake. Drake takes on Daniel Garcia at Limitless Wrestling’s The Games We Play on Friday May 7 on IWTV. You can find the full video and audio from Drake’s The Wrestling Inc. Daily episode below: