The rumor that WrestleMania is coming to Raymond James Stadium is no longer a rumor. It’s happening. But the faces walking down to the ring won’t all be new to Tampa Bay wrestling fans.

Every month, pro wrestling fans hand over a $10 bill at The Minnreg Hall in Largo to see the wrestlers many will pay hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, to see at WrestleMania a year or two later. WWE has a training center in Orlando where up and coming athletes are brought in from around the world to literally “learn the ropes.”

WWE calls it “NXT.” My high school friend Scott Garland is one of the coaches at the facility. And as part of the students’ training, they are sent on the road to perform live in small arenas like The Minnreg Hall in Largo. Fans only pay about $10 to $20 for a ticket and get a sneak peek at future Monday Night Raw stars.

Scott teaches what he learned as he was a WWE star for a good 10 years as “Scotty Too Hotty” from the tag team Too Cool. Scott worked his way up and paid his dues, wrestling at tiny arenas like Minnreg for $50 a night… on a good night. Only a small percentage of the guys back then made it. It’s the same when NXT comes through Largo. Some wrestlers you see potential. Others may never get the call to the big leagues. Or league. Unlike other sports, pro wrestling really has only one team – the WWE.

Largo fans and those who attended Florida Championship Wrestling events on Dale Mabry before NXT was launched got to see many of today’s biggest World Wrestling Entertainment superstars. Have a photo of a WWE star wrestling in front of a small Tampa area crowd? Tag @WQYKGeno on Instagram or Twitter in a photo and I’ll add yours to these below!

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