The well-known names from the independent and international scenes had already been announced - or in the case of Chris “Roderick Strong” Lindsey, already debuted on television - but WWE officially unveiled all nine members of its latest recruiting class.
Including performers from four different countries and backgrounds ranging from combat sports to military service, here are the members of the Performance Center’s Oct. 2016 class:
Alvin Abitz (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) — Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 285 pounds, Abitz is an Army veteran with a rugby and kickboxing background.
Theophilus Agbi (Brooklyn, New York) – At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Agbi attended Amherst College where he wrestled and was named to the NCWA All-American team in 2013 and 2015. Agbi graduated from Amherst College with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in French, as well as Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought (LJST).
Sarah Bridges (Sellersburg, Indiana) – Also known as “Crazy” Mary Dobson, Bridges trained out of the Kaientai Dojo in Japan. With four years of wrestling experience, Bridges has worked for Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW) in Scotland, HXC Wrestling in England, westside Extreme Wrestling (wXw) in Germany, and multiple companies in Japan. She was named to “Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s” top 50 list of female wrestlers in 2014 and 2015.
Demitrius Bronson (Gilbert, Arizona) – Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 215 pounds, Bronson played running back for the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins. Prior to his NFL experience, he attended Eastern Washington University where he played football and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology.
Tom Budgen (Amsterdam) – Also known as Tommy End, Budgen has extensive experience wrestling in the U.K., Europe, Japan and U.S. for Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW), PROGRESS Wrestling, westside Xtreme wrestling (wXw), EVOLVE, Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) and Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW), where he has held multiple titles throughout his career.
Taynara Melo de Carvalho (Rio de Janeiro) – At 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, Carvalho has a black belt in Judo and participated in the 2016 Olympic trials in Rio de Janeiro. She is fluent in Portuguese.
Victoria Gonzalez (Harlingen, Texas) – Standing 6 feet and weighing 175 pounds, Gonzalez trained out of the Gulf Coast Wrestling Alliance (GCWA) in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her father, Ricky Gonzalez, worked with WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels at the Texas Wrestling Academy (TWA) and made appearances for a variety of independent wrestling circuits. She is fluent in Spanish.
Chris Lindsey (Tampa, Florida) – Also known as Roderick Strong, Lindsey has trained with WWE Legend Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and has more than 13 years of experience on the independent wrestling circuits with Ring of Honor (ROH), New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), TNA, Dragon Gate, Pro Wrestling Guerilla (PWG) and EVOLVE. Strong has held multiple titles throughout his career including the world and tag team championships for ROH and PWG.
Damian Mackle (Belfast, Northern Ireland) – Also known as Big Damo, Mackle has trained with WWE Superstar Finn Bálor, WWE trainer Robbie Brookside and Johnny Moss of National Wrestling Alliance UK Hammerlock (NWA). He has had stints at Insane Championship Wrestling (ICW), Scottish Wrestling Alliance, New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and TNA, holding multiple titles throughout his career.
WWE notes these men and women will join the 65 wrestlers already training in Orlando.
Who are you most excited to see on a WWE screen? Who has the brightest upside? Chime in below, and join us in sending congrats to Roddy, Tommy, Mary and the whole class on a big step in their careers!
NOTE: Questions have been raised about Big Damo’s WWE bio, especially the last two “stints”. He appeared on a handful of TNA live shows in the UK, but there isn’t any record of working with New Japan.