Before he was on a weird, makeshift competition show and a member of Nexus, Darren Young was all over WWE TV anyway.
Real name Fred Rosser, Young's first appearances actually weren't on NXT. For several years, he popped up on programming numerous times, probably more than almost anyone would think.
"Yeah, I was probably an extra over 40 times with WWE from 2003—I started wrestling in 2002—2003 I was an extra," Rosser told Fightful. "From 2003 to 2009, just grinding away on the independents and it was Doctor Tom Prichard that would always say, “Anytime WWE is in the north east, just show up. If you work and do a match, you’ll get paid.” This was when they were paying guys cash, $500. It’s a lot lower now for extras. But, yeah, any time I worked I got paid. Any time I didn’t work I didn’t demand any money. I just went there for that experience."
From appearing in non-physical roles to wrestling, Rosser was gaining valuable face time with WWE officials. When he looks back on it, it was one of his fallen colleagues that he says actually provided him the most help.
"It was actually Shad Gaspard that would always see me and he would always corner me backstage and he would bring me, as an extra, into the male talent locker room and he would yell out to Ron Simmons, 'Hey, Ron! I got your son here.' Ron would look back, 'Oh, damn!' Because I had the afro at the time. It’s funny, I got the afro back now with this pandemic. Perfect timing ‘cause a lot of people recognize the afro. So, I’ll keep this for a little bit. But, yeah, it was Shad Gaspard that made it a lot easier for me to walk around there as an extra and for people to get to know me. Ultimately for me to get signed in 2009," said Rosser. "I’ll always remember the moments that he would kinda of embarrass me. ‘Cause I’m a shy guy. If I don’t know you, [I’m very quiet and keep] to myself. He always brought the best out of me. So, I always share stories like that of people that really made it easier for me to walk around WWE."
The in-ring matches usually featured Rosser as Fred Sampson working any number of veterans. Trevor Murdoch, Val Venis, Charlie Haas and others. One of his first was a 2005 contest on Velocity against Bob Holly.
Holly, then Hardcore Holly, long held a reputation for making younger wrestlers pay their dues physically. That reputation held up.
"Hardcore Holly backed me up in the corner and I could hear him breathing. He was breathing so heavy and he chopped me so hard I thought my heart stopped, you know? It was something I’ll never forget. He was physical. He was physical with not only me, but really with the one guy I was teaming with. His name is Mike Kruel. I don’t think he wrestles any more. But, he was vicious. I remember Charlie Haas, he and Mike were close because they came up in the Delaware area, this one promotion, ECWA. So, he knew I was from the ECWA / Delaware area wrestling and he told me before the match, I remember it like it was yesterday, 'You better lay your stuff in;' Again, I’m a nervous wreck, so I did what I had to do. But, yeah, Hardcore Holly chopped me so hard I thought my heart stopped," Rosser stated.
It wasn't always veterans. Sometimes Rosser would end up in the ring with younger talent like the Heart Throbs, who could hold their own in the ring. Other times....it was with the Dicks. Shane Helms once told us on a Fightful Podcast about the Dicks....fighting. Rosser remembers that, and says he's not surprised.
"I remember hearing about that story about them fighting," Rosser confirmed. "Yeah, I wasn’t there. But, I don’t even remember that match, to be honest with you. I wonder if it’s online. I’d have to look it up. Yeah, I don’t remember much about that match. But, the guy, Chad Wicks? Was that his name? Chad was a little weird, I think. Just something about him. I know he came from the north east area. He came from the Boston area. But, something about him was just… I don’t know. I mean, not a bad guy, but something was just off. But, again, we’re wrestlers. Everyone’s a little off, you know what I mean? Me? I’m quiet now, but when I hit the curtain I’m like a pitbull off the leash. So, we’re all odd and unique."
You can see our full edition of Enhancement Stories with Fred Rosser (aka Darren Young) at the top of the page.
Check out past editions of Enhancement Stories!