The WWE officially announced its latest class of recruits to the WWE Performance Center on Tuesday, a group that includes four big names from the independent wrestling world, a former NFL running back and an Army veteran.
The most recognizable name among the nine is Roderick Strong (real name Chris Lindsey), who already made his debut on the most recent episode of NXT on the WWE network on Wednesday.
"WWE is constantly scouting the world for the most talented athletes and entertainers," WWE executive vice president Paul "Triple H" Levesque said in a news release Tuesday.
Strong, 33, is a 16-year wrestling veteran who spent the vast majority of his career performing for Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. In ROH, he was a one-time world champion, a one-time world tag team champion (with current Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic partner Austin Aries) and a two-time world television champion. In PWG he was a one-time world champion and a three-time tag team champion (including one run with WWE superstar Neville).
Another notable addition to the roster is Demitrius Bronson, a 26-year-old former running back who spent time in the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins organizations. Bronson also played football at the University of Washington, and later Eastern Washington University.
Along with Strong, three other recognizable names from the independents have joined the ranks of the WWE. Dutch pro wrestler Tommy End (real name Tom Budgen), Irish wrestler Big Damo (Damian Mackle) and Crazy Mary Dobson (Sarah Bridges) have all started training at the Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
End, 31, has a long history in the business, predominantly in the UK for Insane Championship Wrestling and Progress Wrestling, along with stints in the United States with Evolve and Pro Wrestling Guerilla. Big Damo, 31, trained with WWE superstar Finn Balor and current WWE trainer Robbie Brookside during his time in the UK, where he also appeared for ICW and several other companies, along with appearances in New Japan Pro Wrestling and TNA. Dobson, 23, was initially trained at the Kaintai Dojo under former WWE superstar Taka Michinoku and has appeared in shows all over the world.
"This new class will have every opportunity to fulfill their dreams of becoming a WWE Superstar, as they train out of the WWE Performance Center in Orlando," Levesque said.
Also among this class:
Alvin Abitz, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound Army veteran with a background in rugby and kickboxing.
Theophilus Agbi, 6-foot-5, 270-pound former college wrestler from Amherst College, who was a two-time NCWA All-American.
Victoria Gonzalez, a 6-foot wrestler who was trained at the Gulf Coast Wrestling Alliance in Corpus Christi, Texas. Her father, Ricky, worked with Shawn Michaels at his Texas Wrestling Academy. At that height, Gonzalez is one of the tallest women ever to be under WWE contract.
Taynara Melo de Carvalho, a 5-foot-6 black belt in judo who participated in the 2016 Olympic trials in her native Rio de Janeiro.
There are now more than 65 men and women training at the WWE's Performance Center, a 26,000-square foot space with seven training rings, dozens of trainers, high-level strength and conditioning and a dedicated space and training for character development.