Byron Saxton may be one of the voices of “Monday Night Raw” now, but his on-screen success didn’t come right away.
Saxton has been on “Raw’s” announce team for quite some time after initially working on commentary for “NXT.” However long before he stepped into his current role, Saxton — who had started working on the independent scene in various roles, including both wrestling and ring announcing, in 2003— landed a tryout for the reality show “Tough Enough,” in which aspiring superstars attempted to make their way through challenges and obstacles to win a contract with WWE.
“They flew us out to Venice Beach, California,” Saxton said on the “Out of Character” podcast with Ryan Satin. “I actually did it half-blind, because at the time I was wearing contacts and for whatever reason, my eyes were messed up … I guess I had a slight infection in the eye, and so I had the masterful idea of going, ‘Okay, since I know, like, my eye is going to be infected with this contact, I’m going to wear one contact per day, so if I make it to the second day of the tryout, at least I got one good eye’.”
Sadly, we’ll never know if Saxton’s plan would have worked. “I didn’t make it to the second day,” he admitted. That particular “Tough Enough” contest was eventually won by Daniel Puder, though Puder’s brief WWE career was far eclipsed by that of the runner-up, a former “The Real World” star named Mike Mizanin.
Undaunted, Saxton would return to the indies and eventually get signed to Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in 2007. He would go on to take part in the spiritual successor to “Tough Enough,” a clearly fixed “reality show” that, like “Tough Enough,” promised a WWE contract to the winner. This was the original incarnation of “NXT,” and Saxton would actually participate both in Season 4 and “NXT Redemption.” He would eventually be eliminated from the show and return to FCW, where his transition to commentary began.
“That was Dusty Rhodes,” Saxton revealed, putting on his best American Dream accent. “Dusty approached me and he was like, ‘Hey baby, we want to have you do commentary. We’re going to have you do commentary, we’re going to have you manage a little bit, but I want you to really hone your craft behind the microphone, if you will.'”
As with so many of Rhodes’ ideas, this one paid off. In 2012, FCW folded and “NXT” became WWE’s developmental program, with Saxton frequently in the announce booth. Ironically, however, it was “Tough Enough” that would get him a permanent job on the main roster. When “Raw” commentator Booker T joined “Tough Enough” as a coach in 2015, Saxton was chosen as his temporary replacement. And he must have impressed someone because when Booker came back, he was sent to do commentary on “SmackDown,” while Saxton locked down the “Raw” job for good.
Saxton will be on Monday Night Raw tonight, which takes place from the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, IA.
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit the Out of Character with Ryan Satin with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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