Primed and ready: How NXT Athletic Trainers restore the Superstars of Tomorrow
It's a Monday morning at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla. The reverberating sounds of clanging weights and in-ring training can be heard in the distance, but the trainer's room maintains a different vibe. As part of the 26,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility, the room is a sanctuary where NXT Superstars and Divas spend their time getting healthy and recovering from the rigors of the ring.
"I enjoy this job because it gives me a chance to work with professional athletes on a daily basis," NXT Athletic Trainer Brian Duncan told WWE.com.
Duncan, who holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science from Nebraska Wesleyan University, has worked with athletes from all walks of life, from minor league baseball players to professional soccer stars. Duncan says working at the WWE Performance Center is especially rewarding.
"It is professionally satisfying, taking someone post-injury where they can't even walk, working with them every day and then watching them participate at an NXT Live Event or NXT TV," he said.
Duncan isn't alone in his task of keeping the NXT athletes healthy, as he is joined by fellow NXT Athletic Trainer Tara Halaby, who holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Therapy and a Doctorate of Therapy Degree from Arcadia University. Much like her counterpart, Halaby has spent considerable time in various sports realms, including NCAA Baseball, USA Gymnastics and wrestling.
"At any given moment, literally anybody with any possible injury could potentially walk through the door of the athletic training room," Halaby told WWE.com. “This job definitely keeps me on my toes and keeps me up to date on my skills.”
So what kinds of situations arise when NXT Superstars push themselves to the limit in the ring? Halaby recounts a situation she encountered earlier that day.
"I was stretching one Superstar, taped someone’s ankle, wrapped ice on someone else’s ribs, cleaned someone’s blood from his back and covered the wound. After that, I started shoulder rehab for a Superstar who just had surgery seven days ago, all in a 10-minute span. Life is good," laughed Halaby.
Laughter aside, the job that Duncan and Halaby do is pivotal to NXT. While their primary responsibility may be to keep the athletes healthy, Halaby admits the process can be just as difficult mentally as it is physically.
"Everyone reacts differently to treatment. In the beginning, there’s some anger, frustration and sadness that everyone experiences with any injury. During rehab, there are some athletes who follow instructions perfectly, some who do too much too soon and there are some athletes who need an extra push throughout the rehab process," Halaby revealed.
On any given week, NXT holds as many as three Live Events throughout the state of Florida. In addition to these, its athletes also take part in daily in-ring training and a weight room-based strength and conditioning program. Much like their Raw and SmackDown counterparts, bumps and bruises are to be expected, but some injuries tend to rear their dreaded heads more often than others.
"I would say the majority of injuries we see are knee injuries and concussions. We get a lot of chronic low back and neck pain, too" Duncan revealed. "We've seen dislocated shoulders, broken hands and a broken leg. We've had a couple ACL tears, which usually require surgery and six to nine months of recovery time. Knock on wood though; we haven't seen a great deal of the extreme injuries."
From stability balls to ice baths, dumbbell strengthening and compression therapy devices, the rehabilitation room is equipped to treat just about any situation that could arise. With NXT Takeover right around the corner, there's no doubt that Duncan and Halaby will be busier than ever as they ensure the Superstars of Tomorrow are more than ready to shine. As Duncan put it, it's a responsibility they wouldn't pass up for the world.
"When I first applied for this job, I figured it would be different than anything I had done before. I remember confirming those thoughts when I had my second interview at Money in the Bank a few years back in Chicago,” he explained.
“Honestly, I love what I do. I enjoy adjusting to the different personalities of the athletes we have. I always try to be up front and honest about an injury and in the long run, our reward is knowing that whomever we are working with trusts us. Our job is to keep the NXT roster healthy and add longevity to their careers for years to come."