In the summer of 2013 I achieved a goal I thought was unattainable. I interned for WWE. While every experience is different, here’s my account of what it’s like to hit the proverbial ropes for the pro-wrestling juggernaut.
Chapter One: The Application
Long story short, I needed to graduate college.
After a year and a half of applying for internship after internship, I was getting nowhere and was in a mild state of depression. To be honest, applying for this internship was a complete shot in the dark to humor a friend of mine (who happens to wrestle on the indie circut). After watching Raw one Monday, he informed me there were internships available and that I should apply (being a writer and all). I laughed it off and told him I didn’t have a prayer but I would apply because he told me to (and because he was willing to put me through a table if I didn’t). When I got home I threw my hat in the ring (no pun intended) and figured that was that.
How wrong I was.
A few weeks to a month later I got a literal wake up call from WWE’s Human Resources department about the internship. I don’t remember a whole lot about the conversation because I was still groggy but at the end I was told I would be meeting with then Executive Editor Craig Tello (who went on to write WWE Superstar Daniel Bryan’s best-selling biography in 2015).
I was so petrified of jinxing myself that I didn’t tell a soul until I was about to leave for my first visit to WWE Headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut (four hours prior to my interview with Tello).
To calm my nerves, I listened to Clutch’s discography for the entire duration of the three hour train ride (and 15 to 20 minute bus ride from Stamford’s Metro North stop to WWE’s Headquarters). When I walked in, it turned out I was an hour early. Being raised in a traditional Italian household, I naturally went to the deli across the street and ate to calm my nerves. It was then that I called one of my best friends and fellow WWE lifer to tell her the news.
To say I was quaking in my little space boots would be an understatement.
I once again walked into WWE Headquarters, resume and portfolio in hand and sat down in the lobby, admiring the golden life-sized Andre the Giant statue proudly residing there (as well as the giant banner boasting the upcoming Pay-Per-View). An escorted elevator ride later and I was sitting down in one of WWE’s many conference rooms.
After admiring the room and all it’s majestic memorabilia in a comfy rotating chair, Tello walked in and introduced himself. Unbeknownst to me I didn’t stand up to shake his hand because I was still basking in the glory of being in the building. When I realized what I had neglected to do, I thought I had already bombed the interview. Since I figured this was as close as I would get to the WWE, I no longer cared about my first impression and proceeded to say what came to mind (in the most professional way) after Tello asked his questions (which seemed very on-the-fly for the most part).
The conversation mostly revolved around re-iterating my resume, what I liked and disliked about the current product, what I would change and where I saw myself eventually (I kept pushing a magazine project I had done for a recent class I had taken, but since this was for digital content, Tello politely refuted my requests). He kindly escorted me to the door and I was happily complacent with the memory of being in the building once. On the way out, I placed my left hand in Andre’s hand and said goodbye (a weekly ritual I subconsciously kept).
A few weeks later, I missed a call from human resources during my shift at a deli for a local Key Food (which I hated and was the sole motivation for college graduation at the time). I figured the voice mail was just kindly telling me I didn’t get the internship, but an e-mail from Tello days later told me otherwise.
Memorial Day 2013 was a big deal.
After hammering out the details with Tello, it was decided that I would start May 28, the day after one of the many American holidays ruined by retail. I was stationed Monday through Wednesday and had the good fortune of having family in Connecticut. It was during this time I would become close with my cousin Tim, a retired Connecticut police officer. I stayed at Tim’s with his longtime girlfriend Debbie Mondays and Tuesdays for the duration of my internship.
I was going to be writing for WWE.com in WWE’s headquarters three days a week for practically the entire summer.
Chapter Two: The First Day
It was a rainy Tuesday in Stamford.
I gathered in the lobby with the other interns, stunned that I would be engaged in a three month passion project in the least likely place I ever saw myself.
We were a large group, so we were herded like cattle into separate elevators that brought us to the confines of the cafeteria, catered by Panera Bread. Inside, we sat down in assigned seats adorned with care packages from our “mentors” (mine happened to be Tello). What followed was a standard orientation. During introductions, fellow interns proudly announced the prestigious universities they attended, but none more proud than I, the scrapper from Brooklyn College who clawed his way to the top.
After the orientation, paperwork was gathered and mentors collected their youth for the day. It was then where I was given a brief tour of the floor by Tello, greeted by legendary ring announcer Howard Finkel and former ECW and WWE color commentator Joey Styles (who’s desk was directly in front of mine). As the shock settled, I was seated at my first desk ever, briefly introduced myself to my temporary coworkers (all brilliant in their own right) and given a choice of a Christian, Eddie Guerrero or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin action figure to emblazon my desk (naturally, I chose Austin – who is proudly displayed in my man cave).
Unfortunately, I was also introduced to my arch nemesis, Chris Buetra. Buetra was a spelling error of my last name the IT department made that has become my claim to blame whenever bizarre events occur. I was told of a Seamless account stipend I could use after a certain time. Since I was set to cover Monday Night Raw (WWE’s Flagship show) I qualified. For my first meal, I ordered a recommended Italian favorite from a well reviewed establishment. Unfortunately, Buetra ordered eggplant parmigiana from a Chinese restaurant and Tello informed me in front of the entire office after receiving a phone call from the restaurant.
Damn you, Buetra!
After the non-Raw coverage staff left for the day I met my Monday team, (also brilliant in their own right) rounded out by the voice of ECW himself (I made it a point to sit next to and ask questions as often as I could, absorbing his knowledge like a sponge). While watching the show, I naively conversed with Styles about storyline decisions I didn’t agree with before he politely told me to shut up and learn because this was after all, a learning experience. This was the first of many professional subtleties Styles would explain without having to.
Chapter Three: The Internship
Raw coverage would run smoothly (and mostly silently) over the next few months and my mind expanded to then unprecedented heights. The amount of talent in the entire Content department will destroy even the most prestigious of publications without blinking an eye.
Most Mondays would start with leaving my Brooklyn home three hours before scheduled and heading down to Stamford. If I was lucky, I’d catch WWE’s shuttle bus from the terminal and arrive 15-20 minutes early. On other days, I’d be forced to take the half-hourly city bus and cross my fingers. Upon arrival, I’d chitchat with coworkers and dive into whatever I had to do before Raw coverage. One of the big perks of interning with WWE is access to early and final drafts of scripts (I printed many for my private collection, but have never shared them out of respect for the company).
Tuesdays were interesting and busy. As always, it would start with a cup of coffee and a chat with coworkers in the action figure adorned cubicles while waiting for our computers to start up. We would then read the list of e-mails and I’d hit the bullet points for main stories up on the whiteboard. Shortly after, the content team would assemble into the conference room for a post-Raw meeting where we would pitch ideas based on events that occurred the previous night. After the meeting, I’d grab another cup of Joe and create whatever content was assigned to me for the day. At the end of my shift, I’d head down the hallway to the company gym – which is the size of a small Blink Fitness or local facility that screams 1988. It was here I would sporadically train with Mike – Vince McMahon’s personal trainer. Mike is one of the nicest and most humble people I’ve ever met and easily the most jacked. It was hard to tell what was and wasn’t muscle but knowing Vince, it was probably a requirement. After intense workouts, I’d head to the shuttle bus (if I was on time), hit the train to Tim’s and hang out with him and Deb.
Wednesdays was a bit more of the same, but the office would begin to dress up as figureheads were arriving to round out the week since all televised programming was finished until Monday (with the exception of monthly Pay-Per-Views). Content would have a weekly meeting concerning highlights and improvement areas while Creative would meet for the bulk of the day in a separate conference room on the same floor. On occasion I would run into tag team legends Brian James (better known as the New Age Outlaws “Road Dogg”) and Michael “P.S.” Hayes of the Fabulous Freebirds. During the afternoon, I’d meet with Tello to discuss my progress and the knowledge I had obtained. After my regimen I’d say my goodbyes, explore Stamford and head home to a very temporary job I disliked (fun fact: Key Food fired me on the Fourth of July after the deli manager tampered with my schedule, didn’t tell me and pretended I no-showed. I took it in stride, but would have preferred to have quit on my own after my internship expired. After non-stop work 28 days in a row, I was now technically unemployed).
Side note: To take a gig with WWE Creative requires an unparalleled iron will. This cannot be taught or learned. Positions rotate constantly for various reasons. If you have no prior knowledge of WWE or only view this as a resume booster you should apply for something else. Creative is not “just a job,” it’s a lifestyle.
Roughly a month after my unceremonious ties were severed with Key Food’s deli, my internship was set to expire. Throughout the remaining weeks of my internship, Tello and I would set up meetings with heads of different departments to help me attain a better grasp of how the company runs as a whole. While I wish I had recorded said meetings with Big Red, my trusty mp3 player and beloved recording device; I always had a small notebook where I jotted down every piece of information I could until my hands cramped up (tip for aspiring musicians/journalists: always stretch your hands). To quote journalism legend Mark McSherry (the professor of the above mentioned magazine class), I “got my tuition.”
I still have that small notebook.
Chapter Four: The “Dusty” Finish
My internship was expiring in a week and I didn’t want to go. I felt I had some sort of unfinished business to take care of, since my requests to cover live events and Pay-Per-Views were rejected by higher ups (though Tello fought for me). SummerSlam, one of WWE”s biggest and oldest events was two weeks after my internship expired. During one of our final meetings, I pitched covering SummerSlam in the building with the rest of the staff to see how it’s done since it was improbable that the company would fly me to Los Angeles, California where the event was being held. Tello approved and I felt a rare sense of importance.
The week before the internship expired, Human Resources arranged an intern only event with the Boys and Girls Club of Stamford. While it was fun schmoozing with the interns and participating in activities, I would have rather have been grinding it out in the office (plus, the kids thought they’d be hanging out with WWE Superstars instead of interns).
My last official week was bittersweet. While I finally was able to interactively participate in and manipulate an episode of WWE SuperStars (one of the smaller shows) via the then very new WWE App, I was unable to transcribe an interview with former Superstar and gigantic actor Kurrgan due to the Stamford bus and New York bound Metro North’s schedules; putting the only loss in my assignment completion column (much like The Undertaker’s WrestleMania record).
Two weeks later, my family and I had our traditional Italian Sunday dinner and I bolted to Stamford like a bat out of hell, for I’d be gone until the morning came. Unfortunately, Buetra beat me to it – making sure I had forgotten my key card and that IT ignored the sign on my desk and deleted my account.
It was WWE’s biggest party of the summer and my invitation got lost in the mail.
While I played the best hand with the cards I was given, I couldn’t quite shake off my questionable luck and was off balance with my tasks. Needless to say, I was not pleased with my performance. There is no doubt that Buetra was laughing manically on WWE’s roof (joke’s on him, I graduated the following year).
After a handful of apologies, handshakes, thank you’s and goodbyes, my arranged car was ready to take me home. I grabbed my gear, basked in the moment and shook Andre’s titanic golden hand for the last time.