Oakland Raiders get an up-close look at NXT and the WWE Performance Center
The kickoff of the 2018 NFL season is still half a year away, but four members of the Oakland Raiders witnessed plenty of hard hits this week — albeit not on the football field, but in the NXT ring.
At the invitation of WWE’s Talent Development team, Raiders offensive guard Jon Feliciano, offensive tackle Jylan Ware, defensive end Joby Saint Fleur and defensive tackle Justin Ellis (not pictured) joined members of the NXT Universe at Wednesday’s NXT taping at Full Sail University. In addition to watching the action of sports-entertainment’s hottest brand, the players met WWE COO Triple H before the taping.
The visit was arranged in coordination with the NFL’s offseason Player Engagement program, which provides resources to NFL players throughout their football careers and beyond, including assisting players as they transition away from active competition. The purpose of the Silver and Black’s offseason trip to the black-and-yellow brand was to expose the Raiders players to potential opportunities in WWE and NXT.
“With our ongoing efforts to build relationships across the NFL, it was perfect timing to have members of the Oakland Raiders visit the WWE PC and NXT taping to learn more about opportunities beyond the football field, whether it be as future talent, event production, talent relations, social media or many other different areas as part of their offseason player engagement program,” said Paul Fair, WWE Director of Talent Development.
Feliciano, Ware and Saint Fleur continued the excursion Thursday at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla. The players toured the facility, met Superstars and coaching personnel, including WWE PC Head Coach Matt Bloom, and even took turns running the ropes and performing rolls inside the ring.
For Feliciano, whose WWE fandom dates back to The Attitude Era, the experience was years in the making.
It might be too soon to say whether the players will someday follow in the footsteps of Raiders-turned-WWE Superstars JBL and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, but Ware said he came away with a new admiration for what Superstars must do to succeed in WWE.
“Seeing everything that goes into it — all the preparation of the wrestlers and coaches — makes you appreciate the sport, and this really is a sport,” Ware said.
The players weren’t the only ones who took something away from the visit. Events like these benefit WWE’s Talent Development organization, too, serving as a learning exchange with their NFL counterparts.
“It provided us the opportunity to share ideas, programming and best practices with their Player Engagement staff, which, at the end of the day, benefits all athletes involved,” Fair said.