WWE Monday Night Raw announcer Byron Saxton is the guest on this week's episode of "After The Bell" with Corey Graves. Saxton was on the show to talk about he early life, how he got into wrestling, FCW and much more.
Here are some highlights:
Byron Saxton talked about being a “dirt sheet writer”: “I just got the internet in 1997. I got AOL and started entering the chat rooms and learning about the inside of sports entertainment. I started my own wrestling newsletter called the Wild House of Wrestling. My pen name was Mark “The Wild Child” Cade. My social life suffered because that’s how I spent my Friday night every week planning out this newsletter. I had a whole staff of writers all over the world who I met online. They had different roles to fill on my staff. I made connections to interview guys in the business who I grew up watching so that became my indirect education to what our industry was all about.”
Saxton talked about Tough Enough: “Back in college for the second Tough Enough, I submitted a tape. No response. Fast forward to when I was actually working in TV news at the time, before I became an on air talent, I was working as a production assistant. This was around 2004 and they started a Million Dollar Tough Enough. I sent in a tape for that and actually got a call. They flew me out to L.A. I did the tryout on Venice Beach. From there I had another tryout in 2005 in Daytona Beach. It was before a live event or house show. Again, another opportunity but it did not shape out. A year after that, I did an indie show with Bill Demott. Bill at the time had just left the company because Deep South closed down. Bill was at the Tough Enough tryout in Daytona and now we just happened to be working the same indie show in Daytona. He said, hey, I remember you. Send me your stuff. I sent him a DVD of all the stuff I was doing, whether it be wrestling, ring announcing, commentary. A couple weeks later, I got an email from Myspace from somebody in the office and they said they wanted me to come to Atlanta. I think the PPV was Unforgiven. I spoke to John Laurinaitis. We had a second meeting in Orlando at a SmackDown taping and I was offered the deal to join WWE.”
Saxton explained what happened on his first day in FCW: “I remember my first day coming in. I had my last match on the indies probably a week before. Against my better judgment, I tried this new move. It was like a modified running X-Factor and I pulled my groin. I remember hobbling into FCW the very first day thinking, oh my gosh, I’m going to get fired and I just got started. I couldn't even walk. I go up to Dr. Tom. I said I have a little tightness here, but I’ll be fine. We were running through drills the first day or two, and immediately he said get out of the ring. You can’t go.”
Saxton told us how his in-ring career came to an end: “2012 was my final match in NXT. At the time, I had been in development longer than anybody. I was in for 5 years. This was a time where there was a lot of transitioning happening from FCW to NXT. They had a new coaching staff come in. Bill Demott came back into the fold. I gathered from the outside looking in that the new administration came in and said who do we have on our roster here? How long have you been here? What’s their trajectory? That ended up translating into a phone call I received from talent relations. I was told if I would like to continue my professional wrestling career with this company, that it may not be possible. But, if you would like to pursue something else behind the scenes, we may have an opportunity. I was trying to be a smart forward-thinking businessman. I’m not opposed to learning a new skill. I said it’s a risk. I don't know where this road is going to take me. But, if the company is basically telling me I’m going to be fired, if I want to continue being a wrestler, let me see what this other option is. That’s how it came to an end.”
Saxton told us about working with Dusty Rhodes and how Rhodes saved his job: “At the time when they said to me you’re wrestling career is ending and you will be doing something behind the scenes, I didn’t exactly know what that meant until I walked in the office that day and found out I was going to be Dusty’s assistant. To sit under the learning tree of one of the most creative and influential individuals that our industry has ever seen. Sitting next to him every morning as he planned out promo class and being able to help teach promo class with him. Being able to help with character development and come up with names and entrances. Dusty saved my job. There was a time in FCW where I knew for a fact that it was basically me or someone else that was going to go and I know Dusty spoke up for me to keep me around. I am forever in debt for what he has done for me.”
Saxton was asked how he got to the main roster: “I came into developmental in September of 2007. In October 2009, I got called up to ECW when they were on the Sci-Fi network. It only lasted for 2 and a half months before they transitioned to the original version of NXT which was the game show format. I was told I was called up. They changed my contract. They gave me a raise. I was still going to developmental but on paper I didn’t have to be there. Then they told me they were transitioning to this new show called NXT and I was going to be one of the cohosts. The day of, literally, I’m in a hotel and I was called and they said we have a change of plans. I was not going to do NXT but rather, I was going back to developmental. They put me back on a developmental contract which was a significant pay reduction and back to training every day. From there, a year or so later was season 4 of NXT which I was brought up as a wrestler. We did that season. I got eliminated. We came back and did a redemption season. I got eliminated from that. When I was working behind the scenes, I was still doing commentary on NXT. I shifted over to doing ring announcing on NXT as well. I started talking to the right people to get some fill-in spots on live events on the road to be a ring announcer. That transitioned into them giving me an opportunity to go back on the road as a commentator back in 2014 or 2015. I came up and started doing stuff on the WWE app with Tom Phillips. I started doing Main Event, then SmackDown and then RAW ever since.”