The recent WWE hirings of top quality independent talent like Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Bálor and Hideo Itami, and the subsequent improvement in the quality of the NXT product has helped fans forget the horror stories that came out about Bill DeMott's training in 2013. However, these stories are back in the spotlight again after the publication of an internal WWE memo was published on Wreddit earlier today that complained about the unprofessional working environment DeMott had created in NXT at the time.
The allegations of DeMott's bullying and his unsafe training practices leading to unnecessary injuries first surfaced when Kevin Matthews, a former trainee of his in Deep South Wrestling in 2006, started trolling him on Twitter. Matthews argued that DeMott was a corporate leopard that hadn't changed his spots. Apparently his reckless drills had led to a spate of injuries in NXT and fearful of the consequences DeMott at one point even asked his talent to stop reporting injuries to the office.
The pressure on DeMott increased when a developmental wrestler complained to human resources about his practices and two recently fired NXT wrestlers Chase Donovan and Chad Baxter independently corroborated the claims Kevin Matthews had made, along with their own accusations of DeMott using homophobic slurs to talent and telling the women wrestlers not to complain to WWE management about NXT's new strength coach Matt Wichlinski behaving like a "sexual predator" towards them.
The heat on DeMott got so bad that WWE conducted an internal investigation into these matters and concluded that there had been absolutely no wrongdoing whatsoever:
"There have been no sexual harassment complaints filed against any employee at the WWE's training facility in Orlando. Instead there have been baseless allegations made by disgruntled talent recently released by WWE. Regardless, WWE takes these issues seriously and investigated this matter, concluding that there was no wrongdoing."
This internal investigation is back in the news after former NXT talent Judas Devlin (aka Austin Draven, real name Austin Matelson) posted on Wreddit today an email he sent to WWE's Senior Director of Talent Development Canyon Ceman, their Vice President of Talent Relations Jane Geddes and their Senior Vice President of Human Resources Dorothy Brill complaining about Coach DeMott:
I am composing this memo today because I have had a number of serious concerns about the actions and words of head coach Bill Demott during my employment as talent for WWE developmental. Many of these actions I have tried to ignore or hope that they would cease but because they have now put me in a dangerous situation not only for my career but for my personal health and safety I feel the need to speak out to someone of a higher authority. In this memo I will provide details on a series of incidents which underlie my concerns.
I would like to request that this remain in strict confidence as I am afraid that if Coach Demott were to know I spoke out he would find ways to punish me for it. In fact the entire process of writing a letter to human resources has been called a "faggots" way of dealing with problems by Coach Demott.
Physical Injury Due to Imprudent Coaching: The action that has led me to finally speak out happened Thursday February, 28th following our house show. I had taken an awkward hit to my knee in a match and was being examined by Brian Duncan. This hit aggravated a previous injury, one that should never have happened, that I had sustained during a practice drill orchestrated by Coach Demott after practice had already been completed. An MRI revealed a partial tear of my PCL and a strain on a ligament in the back of my knee. I have been told that I can work through it but it may aggravate here and there. This injury can be enduring as many of the superstars on the main roster wrestle their whole careers with it.
I should never have had any issues with this knee but on that particular practice day, after a 3 hour morning session had ‘ended’ at 11 AM, Demott put 280lbs Gary Jackson back in the ring at 11:30 and forced 8 of us to give him 10 takedowns each. After Gary had bumped 60 times in a matter of minutes, I entered the ring and was asked to give him 10 fireman takedowns. On the first one he collapsed from exhaustion while on my back, driving my knees into the mat where I sustained this injury.
The hit I took aggravated it and Coach Demott pulled trainer Brian Duncan and I into the training room and said without any knowledge of my actual injury, "This injury can’t keep flaring up. It doesn’t look good perception wise to us (the office) or for your career going forward." This injury was treated after the match and I was cleared by Duncan at the time.
Based on Coach Demott’s statement I feel that I am in a position where I have to cover up any injuries I may have otherwise I will be punished or fired. The following week I was in severe discomfort but fearing repercussions I attempted to work through it. Coach Demott has not only instilled this fear in me but I have spoken to several other members of the roster who have been made to feel by Coach Demott that their current injuries are signs of weakness as men, and could potentially lead Coach Demott to advocate for their firing.
On two separate occasions Coach Demott forced me to perform dangerous moves without properly warming up. One incident followed my first evaluation where Canyon Ceman asked me to start working on my parkour and gymnastics moves. It was 7:30 am before practice and he saw me standing in the ring with Enzo Amore and said, "Do a takedown let go of him and do a back flip then go back to him." The idea made no sense, I was not properly warmed up, and I nearly landed on my head on one attempt. The second incident was before a live event he wanted Oliver Gray to test out his finisher on someone so he grabbed me and forced me to take a high bump on my neck without warming up. I had missed a week of practice because of a neck strain prior to this and Coach Demott was well aware of that.
I have also watched and participated in drills that were hazardous to our safety. He has made us do squats on the top rope including some students who had never been up that high in their careers. He made the beginners group perform monkey flips without a crash pad and the first six who participated landed on their heads and necks and were lucky not to have been seriously injured. The aforementioned drill in which Gary Jackson injured my knee also saw Memo Montenegro injure his neck and shoulder. He was on his 40th bump in 5 minutes and got dizzy before his 7th consecutive hip toss and landed on his head.
Unprofessional Work Environment: The issue of physical well-being is not my only concern. I am an educated individual who worked at Cal State Northridge with Professors and students. I know how one is suppose to conduct one's self in a professional sense. I also understand that this is a unique business and the lines on proper behavior may be a bit blurred. Yet there is no question that Coach Demott, on a daily basis, not only makes unprofessional choices in words and actions, choices that go against many policies of this company, but choices that have created a culture of fear and negativity in this system. Showing up each day for training is mentally agonizing because of the comments we are all forced to hear. He routinely makes fun of anyone sitting out because of injury and also makes rude comments about people’s names and personal lives and has established a hostile work environment through verbal assaults. To wit:
- Demott constantly refers to Oliver Gray as Joel Pedophile which personally enrages me because I used to help a Psychology Professor in Los Angeles do lectures for sexually abused children.
- When Dante Dash referred to his finishing move as the Davey Boy, as it was utilized by the late Davey Smith who died tragically, Coach Demott makes the following comment, "The Davey Boy? What turning blue and dropping dead on the lawn?"
- Coach Demott told student Enzo Amore that he hopes he dies.
- Demott also told our entire morning class and Ricky Steamboat's class to kill themselves just days after we tolled the ring bell 10 times for the late Mike Graham a former star FCW wrestler, who committed suicide.
- Coach Demott routinely bullies Enzo verbally as well as physically. I have seen Enzo on several occasions be slapped in the face by Bill. During one practice he decided to show Enzo how doing a slam wrong could hurt someone, so he picked Enzo up and dropped him without warning directly on his head and neck. He then decided that each time a student slammed his 100lbs heavy bag with bad form that student had to slam one of his peers the same way. Demott found this drill amusing yet each student was put at serious injury risk.
- Demott has grabbed an injured David Harwood by his neck pulled him to the office door and verbally chastised him for standing by the ring during practice when he wasn't cleared, even though he was simply listening to a lecture by Ricky Steamboat.
- Demott has kicked Memo Montenegro in the groin and laughed as he crumbled into a heap. Memo being a Mexican immigrant to the United States has a heavy accent, which Coach Demott constantly criticizes and makes fun of.
- He routinely will attempt to bust students lip on the bottom rope when they stand to close to the ring. On several occasions he has punished students for mistakes in practice by making them bend forward putting their face near the ropes so that Coach Demott can bounce the rope off the bridge of their nose.
- He routinely calls Gary Jackson a fat tub of goo, tells Osmund Cherry who is of African descent, to go back to Africa and most recently has made derogatory remarks about sexual preferences to Brandon Traven.
- Coach Demott insinuated that Traven is gay and used the derogatory term "half a sissy" to make fun of him simply because he sat out practice and has had several injuries in the last couple months. This is not the first time he targeted Brandon either. In December I witnessed Coach Demott question Traven about a head injury in the trainer’s room. After Traven explained that a blow to the head in practice had made him dizzy Demott slapped him in the head and left the room.
- I witnessed a similar incident a few months ago when Alexander Russev was recovering from neck surgery. Coach Demott saw Russev wearing a NY Jets shirt at practice and not liking that sports team proceeded to physically grab Russev by the collar and rip the shirt off him. Russev was not cleared for any contact at that point and clearly showed physical pain after the incident. Following this incident a group of students were discussing how this sort of thing happened before with an injured Briley Pierce. Briley had a broken leg and Coach Demott kicked him in his medical boot. This happened before I was under contract but it nonetheless seems to fit a pattern of negligent and abusive behavior that I have observed with Coach Demott and is worth investigating further.
- According to Oliver Gray, he was once told that if he sat out practice to rest a very bad low back injury that Coach Demott would pull him from the NXT tapings and from attending the Royal Rumble, even though the trainer had requested that Oliver sit out just one practice.
I have been in this system under Coach Demott for 8 months now and was recently told that I am not improving at a rate that is acceptable. I have made concerted efforts in the past to practice more often and work on the parkour moves requested by Canyon Ceman. However Bill has routinely kicked me out of the building after practice including a day when WWE superstar Alex Riley asked me to work on some parkour moves with him. This along with his constant interrupting of practices just to put people down and make negative comments has all but killed any motivation I have to spend extra time around him.
It should be stated that I am not a vindictive person. I am open-minded and do not have a problem with off-color jokes or difficult practice drills. I was signed to this company after Steve Regal told me he saw tremendous improvement in my ring work between tryouts. I told Mr. Regal that I could only imagine how good I could become working 24/7 for this company. I have always been intrinsically motivated and will practice something until I perfect it. Yet I personally feel that coach Demott creates an environment that hinders my opportunities to improve. Coach Demott restricts our practices, instead opting for dangerous and unproductive drills, while constantly verbally assaulting our appearances, personalities, sexual preferences, injuries, and character it seems impossible for me to maximize my time in the ring. In fact even as recently as training on March 4th, guest trainer Lance Storm went out of his way to demonstrate moves to me that Coach Demott had kicked me out of the building for not doing correctly. When I asked him how to do them Coach Demott said, "That was shit Judas, get out of the building."
Is this the type of work environment that the WWE desires? When can we set up a time to discuss this matter?
In closing I would be remiss if I did not clarify to you that this is solely a problem with Bill Demott and not a problem with the fine coaching staff that has been assembled around him. For example, Ricky Steamboat has been a terrific help to me and always provides me with positive reinforcement and quality examples to learn from. Terry Taylor has gone out of his way to pull me aside and give me helpful advice. Billy Gunn has been an amazingly refreshing force bringing knowledge and enthusiasm that has been extremely beneficial to the system. The changes that have recently occurred in the WWE have been excellent and I am excited for the future plans of WWE Developmental. It is because of these positive attributes that I am expressing my concerns to you. I want to be a part of a solution to the problems that I have listed, one that will lead to future success for the developmental system.
Draven started talking about his issues with Bill DeMott's NXT training on Vendetta Pro Radio last week, where he also accused WWE's doctors of misdiagnosing and mishandling his hip and back injuries which led to him spending a lot longer on the disabled list than he needed to be, and also botching the investigation into his complaints about DeMott. According to Draven, his fear that DeMott would be tipped off about the memo became true, resulting in him being ostracised in NXT and his complaint going nowhere when no-one would back him up in a public meeting held by Ceman and DeMott on the matter while he was out injured.
Draven claims he's speaking out now not out of any ill-will towards WWE, but because he's concerned about the health and wellbeing of NXT trainees while Bill DeMott is still in charge there.
My story, my letter it was never meant for public eyes. It was an internal cry for help when I truly felt I had nowhere to turn.— Judas (@JudasDraven) March 3, 2015
A lot of people wonder why Triple H has kept Bill DeMott around when he's a heat magnet and brought his company tons of bad publicity it doesn't need, but it reflects badly on him personally if his hand-picked head WWE trainer had to be fired for being an unprofessional bully, especially when DeMott's track record made it a questionable decision to begin with.