Anthony Bowens confirms that he was offered the opportunity to go to NXT immediately after wrestling on AEW Dark for the first time.
Anthony Bowens is one-half of The Acclaimed in AEW along with Max Caster but before they joined AEW, both were singles wrestlers looking to make their dreams come true. Prior to the formation of All Elite Wrestling in 2019, the main place to do that was WWE.
Anthony Bowens had several tryouts with WWE and says he was ghosted by the promotion for 3 years and that all changed when he performed on AEW Dark during the global pandemic in October 2020 and the very next day, WWE gave him a call and offer him a contract with NXT.
Speaking on the latest AEW Unrestricted podcast, Anthony explains why being caught in such a fortunate situation for a professional wrestler led to a very anxiety-ridden two weeks for him before ultimately making the decision to sign with AEW in November 2020
“So coming into AEW was a bit of a journey and it took a little bit longer because of the pandemic,” Anthony said. “Once the company opened up, I kind of switched my focus to trying to get here. Around February of 2020, Shawn Spears was having the perfect partner search. I sent in a promo and it made I guess, the top three [finalists]. I was very excited about it because Blood & Guts was coming up in New Jersey, which is about 10 minutes away from my house, found out that I was booked for the show. So I figured hey, this might be my opportunity to you know, show the world show and AEW what I can do. Unfortunately, 30 minutes after I got that phone call, they canceled every single show due to the pandemic, which, obviously, there are more important things going on in the world. But I was extremely bummed. Then, I was supposed to come down in June and then the cases start rising again. So that trip got canceled.
“Then, we got to the point where I was like, ‘You know what, I just have to take a chance and I need to get down there.’ I ended up texting QT Marshall. I was like, ‘I know you keep booking me and everything keeps going wrong. I need to get down there. If there's any opportunity for me to come in October, please. I'd love to be there.’ I made it work. I came down and the rest is history.”
“I did the Dark match and the next day I was approached by NXT about coming down there. After they ghosted me for three years. Actually, I didn't hear anything back from AEW directly after the match. Because sometimes Dark airs about a week or two afterward, or at least it did in the pandemic world. I just said yes [to joining WWE NXT]. Somehow that trickled back to Tony Khan. Tony found out about it and then brought me down there. A week later, I had a long conversation with him and my tag team partner, and the next thing you know, I'm with AEW, which is where I wanted to be in the first place.”
He continued, “There's a ton of life happenings in there that made the decision a lot easier. But there was a very anxiety-filled two weeks trying to figure out, honestly being in a great situation, I guess where every wrestler wants to be in, but it was one of the most anxiety-induced two weeks I've ever had in my life. But I made the right decision and I'm so excited to be in AEW."
Regarding the actual pairing of The Acclaimed, Bowens says he was excited about the possibilities and the different flare that he and Max could bring to the promotion.
“First of all, excitement. One of the things that I didn't have coming in was like an established kind of TV-ready character. I had everything else, I was just trying to figure out what I can kind of dive into character-wise. Having a name and having somewhat of a vision was helpful for me, in the sense that I get to create and mold something into the way I would see fit and honestly, we didn't have a direct direction. We just knew that, ‘Hey, you guys gonna be called The Acclaimed and it's gonna be this tag team, you know, Max Caster…’ I think the original vision of it was, you know, Caster's, this acclaimed rapper, and I am this critically-acclaimed sports entertainer, because I do more than just pro wrestling, I'm a YouTuber, I'm a fitness model, I'm a commercial actor, I host things. I do a little bit of everything.
“So we were trying to go that route. But honestly, the entrances tend to obviously focus more on the insults in the rap. So, there hasn't been too much of a development on my end, in terms of who I am, and I'm still really excited to start establishing that on AEW television. But that's like kind of what the basics are the crux of what The Acclaimed are, or what we're aiming for.”
Anthony Bowens was recently afforded the opportunity to develop more as a singles competitor because of Max Caster going on hiatus following backlash from a pre-match rap. Anthony says that he enjoyed showing the world that he could be a singles competitor during that time. Learn more here.
Fightful spoke with Bowens in March 2019 about being a five-tool player in the world of wrestling. You can view the full interview by clicking here.
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