Before the stars of wrestling hit it big, they're learning the ropes to varying degrees of success. Some you've seen well before you even realized, as they claw their way to a big break. Whether it be extra work, or getting crushed on cable TV, everyone has a different path. Now, they'll tell you about it.
These are Enhancement Stories
James Storm had some pretty sorry damn luck before he got to TNA, but it's all about learning.
Way before America's Most Wanted ran the TNA Tag Team Division, or Beer Money did the same, or before he became world champion, James Storm was a fresh faced youngster trying to make an impression. He was doing it in World Championship Wrestling.
It started out with some extra work that got WCW's eyes on him.
"It was one of those things where they actually needed security guards at that time that knew how to bump around because the story I heard was that [Hulk Hogan] got hurt in Colorado before we started going up. It was just a regular security guard that bumped into his knee that—they weren’t a worker, they didn’t know how to wrestle, they didn’t know how to bump. So they started hiring guys from [Bert Prentice’s] and [Bill Behrens’] [NWA Wildside] in Nashville organization and guys like me, and Chris Harris, and Abyss, and AJ Styles, and Air Paris and there was a lot of us that started going up being R&B security team," Storm recalls.
At just 22 years old, Storm became somewhat of a recurring character on WCW Worldwide in 2000. He competed in five matches in less than seven months, losing them all. He took on an array of competitors, and would often team with Cassidy Riley. He wasn't expecting anything momentous at the time, though.
"I kinda didn’t think anything would come of it just because I just knew at the time my size, I was only 170 pounds, I just knew they wasn’t looking for anyone. I know at one time they hired AJ and Air Paris to be Air Raid, but that didn’t last very long either," Storm said.
One match lives on through Youtube, which saw Storm, Riley and Air Paris taking on a trio of high flyers in 3-Count. Storm remembers Shane Helms -- eventually a backstage agent for WWE and TNA -- providing some advice, that unfortunately Cassidy didn't bother taking.
"A funny story with that is our buddy Cassidy Riley did a springboard and fell right on his face. And me and Shane Helms almost the entire day was like, “Man I don’t know if you should do a springboard, especially right there in the middle.” Later in the match those ropes are gonna be wet, blah blah blah. He was like “Oh, no, I can do it.” When he fell, me and Shane just stopped and was like “Stupid.” [Then I was like “Tighten in!”] and just went home," said Storm.
Working as an enhancement talent for Storm was an adjustment. He was used to a more old school approach of calling matches, which went right out the window. Fortunately, Storm got some positive reinforcement that helped lead him to later success.
"One of the funny things is when I first went up there and was working Chavo, they were calling all these spots in the back and stuff, and I’m used to calling stuff in the ring. I’m sitting there going, “Wait, I gotta remember every bit of this?” I was like “Uh, okay, I will try.” When we came back Chavo was like “Oh, you did really good for not having to call stuff out there.” But, Shane Helms and Shannon Moore, I knew them just because of Nashville. I knew them for a long time coming up. So they would always watch and give me feedback as well," Storm told Fightful. "It’s always funny when people are like “Southern wrestling is not gonna work, blah, blah, blah.” I’m like “Look, I wrestle more everywhere else than I have in the south, really.” I’m over in Scotland and England more than I am in the States, so."
Towards the end of Storm's appearances in WCW, things weren't as "light" as the matches with Chavo Guerrero, 3 Count and the Jung Dragons. Instead, he was tasked with facing notorious on-screen ass kickers in Kronik (Brian Adams/Demolition Crush & Bryan Clarke/Adam Bomb) and Rick Steiner. He still has positive memories of how the matches went and how he was treated -- well, at least be some.
"Those guys were super cool with me, too," Storm said. "They even told me before we went out there, “Hey, kid. This is gonna hurt a little bit.” I said, “Thanks for the warning!” I remember the deal with Rick Steiner, if you go back and watch it, there was another guy in the ring with me, too. It was a handicap match. It was me and this guy named Shane Eden against Rick Steiner. The reason that match came about is because they caught the other guy sleeping on the massage table. Terry Taylor came by, slapped him in the back of the head and was like, “Are we paying you to sleep?” The next thing I know, we’re in a handicap match with Rick Steiner that wasn’t booked earlier in the day. I was like “Whoa, wait, what happened here?” Rick said, “Hey, I gotta find a way to get rid of you to take business with the kid.” I swear I went, “Hey, you can pick me right up and toss me over the top rope and I’ll take a good hard bump for you.” He was like “You’ll do that?” I was like, “Yes, sir, I will.” Then Rick was in the ring and just stiffed the crap out of old Shane.
Many of his appearances saw him teaming up with Cassidy Riley, who wouldn't end up being one of his longtime partners when Storm would rise to fame as a tag team wrestler. The two do still keep in touch, and Storm even updated us on Riley's present-day gig.
"Yeah, and that was one of the guys that it was always fun working him ’cause I knew he was safe. He wasn’t out for himself. A lot of the guys are just out there trying to get over at someone else’s expense. I always say, “Guys, it’s a dance. You gotta get over both guys.” One guy goes over, one guy gets over as the saying goes. He’s a registered nurse. Me and him did a show like six months ago, we were on the same team against two guys in Memphis and this lady in the crowd starts having a heart attack. And Cassidy’s in the ring taking the heat and stops, rolls out and helps this woman. Then they call the ambulance and the lady lived and everything. The best thing was after the ambulance takes her away, he rolls right back in the ring, continues getting heat on him and then hot tags me," Storm remembered.
Check out past editions of Enhancement Stories!