By Keith Elliot Greenberg
Yesterday's Superstars often arrived at WWE with colorful origin stories. But since 2013, the majority of new arrivals have all come from the same place: WWE's 27,000-square-foot Performance Center in Orlando, FL. There has never been another facility like it in the history of the industry, training approximately 80-100 hopefuls at a time. Currently, 80 percent of Raw and SmackDown's rosters have come up through the Performance Center, which is actively recruiting new talent all the time.
In fact, just in time for the Performance Center's five-year anniversary, there's a new website where athletes who are interested in pursuing a career in WWE can learn about the recruitment process, get a detailed look at what day-to-day life is like, and fill out an application to pursue their dreams.
Dozens of Superstars have learned the ropes at the facility which continues to be the training home for more than 80 NXT Superstars and rookies hailing from all around the world. Ronda Rousey trained there for WrestleMania 34. Charlotte Flair, Ember Moon, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor, Andrade "Cien" Almas, Samoa Joe, Carmella, and Shinsuke Nakamura, among others, have also been through the Performance Center, competing at NXT, originally a developmental property which quickly turned into a third global brand. Even performers who were already seasoned from working for an array of international promotions have spent time at the Performance Center to master the unique traits that define a WWE Superstar.
Not only do future in-ring performers train at the Performance Center, members of the RAW and SmackDown Live rosters regularly train and rehab at the facility as well. Additionally, future referees, ring announcers, commentators, and backstage interviewers take advantage of the innovative green-screen rooms and technical equipment - all hoping to master the various nuances of the trade.
"The advent of the WWE Performance Center is one of the most significant breakthroughs to ever happen to WWE," according to John Cena. "The strength and conditioning program is as sophisticated as those offered to athletes from other sports organizations, and it's far more advanced than what's available to wrestlers performing outside of WWE."
Among the features of the WWE Performance Center: seven rings, a 12,000-foot training room, a 5,500-square-foot strength and conditioning room, where Sean Hayes, a former member of the NFL's Houston Texans coaching staff, trains athletes on how to avoid injuries, and a sports medicine facility featuring a sports physician and four PT's/ Trainers.
A single "show ring" is theatrically-lit with broadcast capability. While the WWE Performance Center's various coaches closely monitor the action between the ropes, the matches are also viewed, via closed-circuit, by WWE executives at the company's Stamford, CT headquarters, allowing them to provide immediate feedback.
The trainers and coaches at the WWE Performance Center are seasoned performers themselves, including Head Coach Matt Bloom, who was a WWE Superstar throughout the 2000s; Assistant Head Coach Sara Amato, who found success for several years as an independent wrestler; and one of the most iconic WWE Legends, Shawn "The Heartbreak Kid" Michaels, who recently joined the staff to help train and develop future WWE Superstars.
For any Superstar hopeful, checking out the WWE Performance Center website -- which includes step-by-step instructions on how to apply, as well as access to the official application form -- is a must. Who knows -- you might just be inspired to see if you have what it takes to step into the ring!
For information on the WWE Performance Center, including how to apply for the program, visit their official website: WWEPerformanceCenter.com.
Keith Elliot Greenberg is the co-author of the autobiographies of WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Superstar Billy Graham and "Classy" Freddie Blassie, as well as the third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia of Sports Entertainment.