NXT invades Ohio and the Arnold Sports Festival
WWE NXT, the breeding ground for the Superstars and Divas of tomorrow, has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year. Previously seen solely as WWE’s developmental territory, NXT has evolved into its own brand, thanks to weekly television and a series of critically acclaimed live specials on WWE Network.
While the exploits of WWE’s next generation have mainly been confined to Florida for years, NXT is busting out of the Sunshine State and hitting the road for the first time ever. This week, the Superstars and Divas of NXT are invading Ohio for a weekend of action-packed festivities surrounding the Arnold Sports Festival.
“The Arnold Sports Festival is one of, if not, the most popular international bodybuilding expo in the entire world,” NXT Diva Dana Brooke, who joined WWE from the fitness scene, explained. “[Fitness and sports-entertainment] go hand in hand, and the Arnold Sports Festival is a place where you can get the best knowledge and meet the best trainers, bodybuilders and athletes.”
For the first time ever, WWE will have a major presence at the Festival. On Saturday, March 7, and Sunday, March 8, fans can take part in the WWE Experience. There will be live matches featuring the Superstars and Divas of NXT, Q&A sessions with WWE Legends, and NXT autograph signings. Plus, hopeful WWE Superstars and Divas will see what it takes to earn a spot at the WWE Performance Center when they take part in live tryouts on the show floor. Brooke, who went through the grueling process herself, knows what the prospects are in for first-hand.
“It’s like a brutal beatdown,” she told WWE.com. “You might think you’re used to working out and training, but there’s a different kind of stamina you need to have in the ring. I think they’re going to be shocked at what we do every single day.”
NXT’s Ohio invasion begins on Thursday, when they take over Columbus’ sold out LC Pavilion, where, in another first, NXT’s weekly show on WWE Network will be taped. With NXT Champion Kevin Owens, NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks and NXT Tag Team Champions Blake & Murphy in the house, the WWE Universe is sure to be in for a fun-filled night.
On Friday, NXT heads to Cleveland for a second sold out Live Event at the Agora Theatre. That night, fans will get to see NXT Superstars like Finn Bálor, Hideo Itami, Adrian Neville, Charlotte, Bayley and more.
The Ohio homecoming is slightly bittersweet for Brooke, a Cleveland native. She won’t be able to join her NXT colleagues in her hometown because she will be competing in the Arnold Sports Festival’s Fitness International competition.
Brooke is one of 14 competitors lucky enough to receive an invitation to the event and has been training hard for the past 10 weeks to get ready.
“It’s been different than anything I’ve ever done,” Brooke said.
A typical day begins at 5:30 a.m. for Brooke, with a cardio session, before heading to the WWE Performance Center for in-ring conditioning training with coach Sara Amato and strength workouts with coach Matt Wichlinski. She follows that up by going to a nearby gymnastics facility in Orlando to perfect her fitness routine, which has to include tumbling passes and strength holds. Brooke gets in another intense workout and more cardio before hitting the sack around 11 p.m.
It’s a tough schedule, but Brooke says she’s feeling the benefits in and out of the ring.
“I feel better, I’m at a good bodyweight and my strength has definitely increased. I feel healthy all around,” she said.
While she won’t be joining the rest of the NXT roster in her hometown, Brooke is confident that the Superstars and Divas of tomorrow will make a big impression on the Buckeye State this weekend.
“We’ll blow it out of the water there and hopefully, we can show that NXT is coming,” Brooke said. “We’re expanding and becoming our own brand.”