In a rare interview, Byron Saxton joined Corey Graves on After The Bell, where they discussed Saxton's transition from an in-ring competitor to a behind-the-scenes role. Saxton said that as leadership changed in WWE developmental, there was a point where Saxton could continue as a wrestler in a different company or continue with WWE in a different role.
"2012 was my final match in NXT. We had already transitioned, of course, from FCW, and at the time, I had been in developmental longer than anybody," Saxton noted. "I was there for five years and change, and this was a time where, again, it was a lot of transitioning happening from FCW to NXT. We had a new coaching staff come in. Bill DeMott, funny enough, had come back into the fold, and I gathered just from the outside looking in and using what smarts I have I guess, I think the new administration probably came in and went, 'okay, who do we have on our roster here in developmental? How long have they been here? What's their career trajectory?'
"And that ended up translating into a phone call that I received one day from talent relations, and I was basically told, 'listen, if you would like to continue your professional wrestling career with this company, that may not be possible. But if you would like to pursue something else behind the scenes, you might still have an opportunity.' And that was that. So I, trying to be a smart forward-thinking businessman, said to myself, 'well, I'm not opposed to learning a new skill', and part of that is my faith and just letting God kind of take control of my life.
"I still wanted to wrestle. That bug never goes away, as you know, but I said, 'I mean, it's a risk. I don't know where this road is going to take me, but if the company is basically telling me I'm going to be fired if I want to continue being a wrestler, let me see what this other option is'. And that's how it came to an end."
Saxton talked about his time working with Dusty Rhodes and helping many WWE Superstars, including Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. Graves and Saxton talked about how the two have changed so much since their time in developmental.
"I know we spent a lot of time working with Sasha trying to get her outside of her comfort zone, because when she came in - you know, super talented," Saxton said. "You knew there was potential there but she was extremely shy.
"It's funny to think about that. The person that she is now versus when we all met her," Graves added. "I mean, a complete 180. She was like a shy little child to the point where a lot of us thought she had this ego problem, and meanwhile, she was just, like, uncomfortably shy.
"It's sort of like you almost have that parental feeling when you see someone like her come in, and then see what she's become, which is essentially one of the trail blazers in the women's division," Saxton explained. "Charlotte's another example of someone who came in with so much pressure.
"The first day she walked in, you could see people alienate her because her last name was Flair. 'Oh, she got here because of her dad. She got here because of her legacy,' but she had to work her butt off, and that's someone else who, like the Charlotte Flair, 'The Queen' today was not 'The Queen' back then. She was struggling to figure out who she was, and bam! Just, you know, skyrocketed from there."
Saxton also recalled the transition from ECW to the early days of NXT in 2009. Saxton says that while he was still in developmental, he technically wasn't contract-wise. He talked about getting a new contract and a pay raise only for that to be reversed back in to a developmental contract.
"I got signed in September of 2007. I think it was October of 2009 I got called up to ECW," Saxton recalled. "I came into that show and it only lasted for two and a half months before they transitioned to the original version NXT, which was the game show format. So ECW transitioned into NXT and, at the time, I was taken out of developmental. I was told, 'you're called up'. They changed my contract, gave me a raise, like, everything. I was still going to developmental and training, but on paper, I didn't have to be there.
"So then I was told, 'hey, we're transitioning to this new show called NXT. You're going to be one of the co-hosts.' I was like, okay cool, like, a different role is fine. Well then the day of, literally, I'm in the hotel the day that we're going to do NXT and then I'm called and told, 'change of plans - you're not going to do NXT. You're going back to developmental.' So, I went back to developmental. They put me back on a developmental contract which meant a significant pay deduction and back to training every day."
One of the most iconic moments for Saxton this year was the 3:16 Day in celebration of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Saxton said that his biggest worry about the segment was the beer drinking part since he is not a beer drinker.
"So 3:16 Day, Stone Cold Steve Austin [is] a special guest, and then next you know, I find out I'm actually going to be involved in a segment with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Yet another butt-puckering moment for me and my career," Saxton described. "Oh, 'and you quite possibly could receive a Stone Cold Stunner'. So the fan in me is like, 'whoa, I'm ready for this,' and the other side of me was like, 'oh my gosh. Will this go well? Will this screw this up?' On top of that, the thing I was most concerned about was that I don't drink.
"Going in there, I'm like, 'oh my gosh, I'm going to have to drink beer. What if I get drunk? What if I collapse?' I was freaking out. How am I going to do this? So we're, like, we're guzzling a beer, and again, for someone that doesn't drink beer, now I have to guzzle it? Like, I don't know how to do that. So I'm hoping I don't start choking on the air, like, all these thoughts are going through my head."
Saxton took a Stunner from Austin, but in the process, Austin accidentally gave Saxton a low blow, which Austin apologized for. Saxton revealed that the worst part came after when RAW went off the air because Austin delivered more Stunners to Saxton and The Street Profits. He said he got hit right in the face when Austin failed to catch a beer, but Saxton was still honored to be part of that segment.
"[The beer is] like dripping all over the place. All of a sudden, boom, there's The Stunner. Bam! And then, of course, if you watch back the video, you'll see that the initial kick was a little low into the discos. I got the kick, I got The Stunner, I'm laying there. Stone Cold comes by, 'ah, sorry kid.' Proceeds to drink some more but, see, everyone's like, 'oh my gosh Saxton got hit there.' Which hurt, but that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was when RAW went off the air and I think I had a total of, like, three or four Stunners between Stone Cold and Becky Lynch, and a couple happened off air.
"And, at one point, Stone Cold's catching more beer cans. Well, I'm laying in the center of the ring and he misses the beer can, and boom, [the can] gets me right in the face. That was the worst part of it all because I ended up having a black eye afterwards. I kind of gingerly turn my body over, like, oh my gosh. This is so cool but it hurts so bad, and then afterwards, of course, my suit is drenched. It smells like beer, and I call my mom.
"She's like, 'you better not drive home. Your suit smells like alcohol. They're not gonna let you go. To this day, I still have that suit and I'll never wear it again because it's all stained up. But I tell you what man, that is definitely such an honor. It was such an honor just to be in that position and to share the ring with Stone Cold. Gosh, 15-year-old me was like, 'no way this is happening'."
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit After The Bell with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.