Independent wrestling standout Austin Theory, former UFC fighter Matt Van Buren among prospects at WWE tryout
Thirty-seven athletes arrived at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., this week for a three-day talent tryout, WWE’s first such camp this year.
The prospects began in-ring drills Thursday under the guidance of Matt Bloom, WWE Performance Center Head Coach, and William Regal, WWE Director of Talent Development, Head of Global Recruiting and NXT General Manager, as well as other members of the WWE PC’s coaching staff.
The camp features a diverse group of WWE hopefuls from around the globe, including athletes from Canada, the United Kingdom, Cameroon, Hungary and Israel. A wide range of athletic backgrounds is represented at the tryout, with candidates coming from the worlds of mixed martial arts, amateur grappling, gymnastics, bodybuilding, strongman competitions and football. The camp also features several top prospects from the independent wrestling scene in the U.S. and abroad.
Candidates at this week’s camp include:
- Austin White, aka Austin Theory, a 20-year-old independent wrestling standout who has wrestled for EVOLVE Wrestling and currently holds the Full Impact Pro Heavyweight Title, a championship once worn by Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roderick Strong. A pro bodybuilder as well, White placed first in the 2015 NPC Georgia Teen Men category at age 17.
- Former UFC fighter and Ultimate Fighter finalist Matt Van Buren. Among other accolades, the 6-foot-6, 233-pounder is a former Barbarian Fight Club Heavyweight Champion and Modern Gladiators Heavyweight Champion.
- Kailey Dawn Farmer, a 5-foot-10 wrestler who competes on the independent scene as Kamilla Kaine. Prior to sports-entertainment, Farmer played Division I softball and was a member of the Atlanta Steam, a team in the Legends Football League.
- 24-year-old Stacey Ervin Jr., a decorated gymnast from Michigan. Standing 5-foot-8 and weighing 180 pounds, Ervin was a member of the 2013 NCAA Championship University of Michigan men’s gymnastics squad, and he has medaled in in numerous competitions.
- 6-foot-3, 227-pound Kaliq Elliott, who comes to the camp with a background in MMA and extensive training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu
- Susan Cashdollar, a fitness model and stuntwoman who played in the football organization now known as the Legends Football League
- Monique Jacqueline Williams-Jenkins, who wrestles on the indies as MJ Jenkins. She has learned the ropes under such luminaries as WWE Hall of Famer Johnny Rodz and 2018 WWE Hall of Fame inductee D-Von Dudley.
- 6-foot-4, 355-pound strongman David Vieru. He played football at Oregon State and has six years of amateur wrestling experience.
- Juan “The Kraken” Adams, a 6-foot-5, 283-pound collegiate wrestler-turned-MMA fighter who holds a 3-0 pro fight record and is 4-0 in amateur competition
- 25-year-old Brianna Rae Sparrey, a former college softball player from Illinois. Under the alias Kylie Rae, she has competed for SHIMMER Women Athletes and is the reigning Diamonds Champion for Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling.
- 22-year-old Tal Bar-On, a 6-foot-4, 245-pounder from Petah Tikva, Israel, who has competed under the Israeli Wrestling League banner
- MMA veteran Derrick “Caveman” Mehmen, a 6-foot-4, 255 pounder who has fought in Strikeforce, Bellator and the World Series of Fighting. A two-time junior college All-American wrestler, Mehman has 29 pro fights under his belt and was awarded the KO Punch of the Year in 2013.
- Dominic “The Dominator” Boulanger, from Longueuil, Quebec. Boulanger played semi-pro baseball and hockey in Canada before training for the ring under Quebec wrestling stalwart Dru Onyx.
- 23-year-old Elias Evan Markopoulos from Massachusetts. A young veteran of 10 years, he has learned the ropes under Al Snow and legendary trainer Rip Rogers, as well as at the Massachusetts-based Chaotic Training Center. He is the current Chaotic Wrestling Heavyweight Champion, a title formerly held by Tommaso Ciampa and WWE PC recruit Chris Dijak.
- Nicolette Burton, a 6-foot-tall bodybuilder who was an NPC Women’s Physique and Figure competitor
- 2014 Miss Saskatchewan Amanda Ruller. Ruller played running back in the Legends Football League for the Los Angeles Temptation and is the in-stadium gameday host for the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
- 27-year old magician and wrestler Evan Cloyd, better known by his ring name Jarek 1:20. Trained by The Brian Kendrick, Cloyd has wrestled for EVOLVE, Beyond Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Hollywood and Combat Zone Wrestling, among other groups.
- Cody Croslin, aka Tyler Bateman, a 16-year independent wrestler veteran based out of California
- Powerlifter and fitness model Aline Elkin, of Netanya, Israel. Elkin is a four-time Miss Bikini Israel.
- Independent wrestler Laszlo Fogarasi. Originally from Hungary, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder co-founded the first wrestling promotion in Hungary before coming to train in America. He also played amateur ice hockey in Hungary and was a member of the country’s national floorball team.
- Five-year wrestling veteran Ryan Greeness. Competing under the names Moonshine Mantell and “The Raging Bull” Maverick, Greeness has received training from Funaki and Taka Michinoku, as well as Rudy Gonzalez.
- 25-year-old Summer Hilliard, an event emcee from North Carolina who has a background in performing arts
- 6-foot-3, 250-pound Kevin Kesar, who competes under the ring alias Kevin Kross. With a background in a variety of combat sports, including catch wrestling and sambo, Kesar has wrestled in India and Mexico, and he received the Cauliflower Alley Club’s 2018 Rising Star Award.
- 20-year-old Maria Nicole Spiro, aka Maria Manic, a 5-foot-9 powerhouse who has wrestled for organizations including CZW, Beyond Wrestling and Northeast Wrestling
- Rob Kimball, aka Rob Ryzin, a 10-year wrestling veteran who has competed on NXT against the likes of Tyler Breeze, Baron Corbin and Drew McIntyre
- 23-year-old Hyowon Roscoe Lihinag-Tam, originally from Yaoundé, Cameroon in Africa. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder played football and rugby in college.
- 28-year-old Michael Lilly, an MMA fighter who holds a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has 15 years of amateur wrestling experience
- Dylan Bostic, a 26-year old who has wrestled for organizations throughout the Midwest, California and Canada, and competes regularly in Ohio Valley Wrestling
- Aaron Machbitz, a former first baseman for the South Dakota State University baseball team. Machbitz has wrestled in independents throughout the U.S. and competed on tour in Germany under the name Jaxon Stone.
- Rebecca McMonagle, a 5-foot-10 gymnast-turned-wrestler from the United Kingdom. She counts U.K. legend Marty Jones among her wrestling coaches.
- 28-year-old independent wrestler Brittany Quintana, who has more than 20 years of dance and choreography experience
- 6-foot-5, 275-pound Dallas Rogan, a bodybuilder from Colorado who also played college football
- 21-year-old Alexia Nicole Romano of Ontario, who competes under the nickname “Bubblegum Princess” on the indies. She holds a second-degree brown belt in karate and was a rival and former teammate of NXT Superstar Aliyah.
- 6-foot-3, 285-pound Daniel Sikes. Sikes has won wrestling titles through the Midwest under the ring name Marc Houston.
- U.S. Air Force veteran Nickolaus Barnes of Utah. A bodybuilder and former bobsled/skeleton competitor, Barnes first trained for sports-entertainment in England.
- Nathaniel Wright, a U.S. Marine Corp veteran and personal trainer from Ohio
- Indie wrestling veteran Brian Balch. Over the course of his 10-year career, Balch has competed under the aliases Earl Cooter and Bryan Idol, and he has stepped in the ring against the likes of Tony Nese and Goldust.
Coverage of this tryout continues today and tomorrow on NXT’s official Instagram account, via Instagram Story.