Elias had to fail multiple times before he finally made it to WWE.
Making his independent debut in 2008, Elias spent the majority of his independent run in International Wrestling Cartel, flying under the radar from the larger independent promotions. He had dreams of making it to WWE and was willing to spend to get there.
"I saw FCW having tryouts. All you had to do was pay $1000 to get there and you could have a tryout," Elias told Lilian Garcia on Chasing Glory. "It was a lot of money, but I paid it, I flew to Florida, had the tryout, it was maybe three days where they just grill you and have you go through the whole ringer. When I was done with that, they just destroyed me. 'You look bad, you can't talk, you don't understand psychology, you need experience.' They really laid into me. I thought you just tryout, get a chance, and are made a WWE superstar. That did not happen and was a rude awakening. I was reading over the notes and thinking, 'This is what I have to work on.' I had high hopes that I'd walk in and they'd be like, 'That kid has got it, bring him in and make him a star,' but it wasn't the case. I went through the notes, saved up my money, and two years later they were doing another tryout. I have the tryout and feel good about this one. I showed them and improved on everything and they were like, 'nope.' They said no, but they did note that I improved on everything. They said, 'Keep working, keep going, keep at it.' It was back to the drawing board. I never once thought, 'They told me no twice, maybe this isn't for me.' I continued to work on all the things they told me and thought 'what could I bring them next time?' I was back it, got to wrestle D-Von, I was an extra at Raw and SmackDown. Eventually, Dean Ambrose was about to debut with The Shield and was doing dark matches. He needed someone to wrestle and they picked me. We had a match, when i came to the back, Pat Patterson was like, 'You looked like an athlete out there.' Two weeks later, Canyon Ceman called me and was like, 'We were impressed with you at TV. We would like to fly you out for a tryout and pay you for the week and give you a shot.' Of course, I was in. It was the first paid tryout they had done where they specifically picked people."
Elias continued, noting that he once again did well at the tryout and that he was going to be offered a contract.
"After, Canyon pulled me aside and was like, 'You did a great job, a lot of us said yes, some of us said no, so we're gonna keep you in the maybe column.' That was the hardest one to take. One of the best pieces of advice came from this tryout where Shawn Michaels was a guest speaker. He said, 'some of you will make it, some won't. Just remember sometimes no means not yet.' That stuck with me big time," he recalled.
Sticking with it, Elias continued to do extra work and was ready to audition once more when William Regal had seen enough.
"I continued to be an extra and thought, 'I'm going to learn how to be Italian' just to have another little thing on my resume. I go to TV, Regal is with the extras. We go into the room to do promos, I walk into the room and Regal is like, 'I think you aced the tryout and deserve to be in WWE. You don't have to do the promo or anything to impress me, you've already done it. There will be hiring in a few weeks and I will put your name on the list as a recommendation.' Two weeks later, Canyon called me and said, 'I would like to offer you a contract,'" said Elias.
Elias was signed to a developmental contract in 2014 and made his NXT debut in August 2015.
Elsewhere during the podcast, Elias revealed how not everyone in NXT was a fan of him when he first signed. You can find his full comments by clicking here.
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