What a fun-filled, action-packed night of pro wrestling via WWE NXT in Fort Pierce

WWE NXT Superstar Cora Jade returns from injury to cut a promo on Saturday, May 18 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. PHOTO BY JIM VARSALLONE

On a late Saturday afternoon, an Uber Eats driver drove to the front of the Havert L. Fenn Center to deliver food inside. When he made the hand-off of bagged eats and then departed the venue, he asked some people already waiting in line outside, what they were doing, why they were waiting. 

One exclaimed “NXT,” and another added, “a pro wrestling show.” 

WWE NXT Heritage Cup Champion Tony D’Angelo of The Family signs autographs for fans on Saturday, May 18 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. PHOTO BY JIM VARSALLONE

Fans lined-up in front of the Havert L. Center for some “Fun at The Fenn” as WWE’s NXT brand made its own delivery, with another action-packed, family friendly event. 

NXT is the development arm of the world’s largest and most lucrative professional wrestling company World Wrestling Entertainment (better known as WWE). WWE main roster prospects, developmental talent, train at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. 

There, young adult athletes from various sports learn the WWE way of wrestling and entertaining from an established group of coaches under the direction of Matt Bloom, Sara Amato and HBK Shawn Michaels. 

The wrestlers cut their teeth, develop their skills, in front of smaller crowds on what’s dubbed the NXT Citrus Circuit, aka the NXT Coconut Loop, touring Florida periodically on weekends on house shows (no TV). They work with established NXT superstars who are featured on WWE NXT TV (8 p.m. Tuesdays on USA Network) and NXT streaming specials on Peacock. 

Working the NXT TV show is the next step in the process of possibly landing on WWE’s main roster for either WWE’s weekly TV series “WWE Monday Night Raw” (8 p.m. USA Network) or “WWE Friday Night SmackDown” (8 p.m. Fox) and WWE streaming specials like “The Royal Rumble,” “SummerSlam” and WWE’s Super Bowl “WrestlieMania” on Peacock. In the fall, WWE NXT will move its weekly TV programming home to The CW, same night, same time. 

Since 2012, the Havert L. Fenn Center continues to be a regular stop on those NXT Florida tours. That translates to 59 shows there which featured NXT developmental talent who became WWE main roster superstars, i.e. Alexa Bliss, Andrade, Angel Garza Jr., Angelo Dawkins, Apollo Crews, Asuka, Authors of Pain, Baron Corbin, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, Blair Davenport, Bron Breakker, Bronson Reed, Carmella, Carmelo Hayes, Chad Gable, Charlotte Flair, Chelsea Green, Corey Graves (commentator), Cruz Del Toro, Dakota Kai, Damian Priest, Dexter Lumis, Dragon Lee, Drew McIntyre, Finn Balor, Giovanni Vinci, Io Shirai, Jason Jordan (agent), Joaquin Wilde, Johnny Gargano, Kayden Carter, Kevin Owens, Kiana James, Ludwig Kaiser, Lyra Valkyria, Kairi Sane, Liv Morgan, Montez Ford, Nia Jax, Omos, Otis, Pretty Deadly (Elton Prince and Kit Wilson), Raquel Rodriguez, Rhea Ripley, Roman Reigns, Sami Zayn,

Shayna Baszler, Shotzi, Sonya Deville, The Viking Raiders (Erik and Ivar), Tommaso Ciampa, Valhalla. 

Locally acceptable 

Current NXT superstar Jaida Parker — who grew up in Port St. Lucie, about 15 miles from the Havert L. Fenn Center — is a newcomer working the Citrus Circuit within a heel faction OTM (Out The Mud) with Bronco Nima and Lucien Price and Scrypts, who is no longer with WWE. Fans boo them, which is a normal reaction by fans toward heel wrestlers, battling their favorites. Sometimes they cheer the heels. Fans can celebrate or rail whomever they want. 

“That’s part of the business [as a heel wrestler]. You’re gonna get booed. If you’re not hated, you’re not doing something right,” Parker learned. “My biggest haters are the little kids [Lol].” That doesn’t stop Parker.

WWE NXT Superstar Thea Hail of Chase U with fans on Saturday, May 18 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. PHOTO BY JIM VARSALLONE

She said: “I have a little nephew. I know how to talk trash to a little kid. [Lol]. I’m not scared of them.” 

And kids are not scared of her either, which was evident in March at the Havert L. Fenn Center, when OTM competed on that card. 

All in good fun. 

“[WWE] has everything that I love to do,” Parker said, “and I love coming here [Havert L. Fenn Center] and seeing my family, because it’s like I’m home. I get to show them I left as a little girl ‘Titi,’ and I came back as a grown woman Jaida Parker. It’s full circle for me.” 

Parker is no stranger to talking trash, which is an important attribute in pro wrestling. On the soccer field, where she starred at Jensen Beach High School and NCAA Division I LSU, trash talking was common, especially during her collegiate playing days. 

She noted: “You have to be able to talk it and back it up all the time [which she did on the pitch], and I just brought that here [WWE]…I love it.” 

WWE NXT on May 18 in Fort Pierce 

As for the latest NXT endeavor at The Fenn on May 18, Parker was there but not part of the show this time. Fans still cheered, boo’d, heckled, high-fived the combatants. Some even brought signs to signify their support of an NXT superstar or disdain toward another. Those cheered wrestlers showed their appreciation, like new NXT Heritage Cup Champion Tony D’Angelo of The Family (with Adriana Rizzo, a member of The Family). They posed for some selfies and signed autographs ringside (NXT trading cards, NXT stationary, NXT belts, NXT photos), after defeating the No Quarter Catch Crew’s Damon Kemp (with former Heritage Cup Champion Charlie Dempsey) in a solid match.

Kemp is a former amateur wrestling standout whose brother Gable Steveson is also a WWE signee and former U.S. Olympic gold medalist. Dempsey hails from a pro wrestling lineage. His father is respected WWE and WCW alum William Regal. Dempsey and Kemp are very good, two to watch. 

Chase U knows how to excite a crowd, opening the show to the delight of the fans. With audience members making The U sign with both hands, Chase U teacher Andre Chase along with Duke Hudson and Thea Hail demonstrated the action, energy, skill and passion (and teachable moments) needed in this avocation — from ring entrance to post match celebration — thus, connecting with the masses. 

WWE NXT Superstar Je’Von Evans on Saturday, May 18 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. PHOTO BY JIM VARSALLONE

Newcomer Je’Von Evans initiated “oohs and aahs” from fans with his explosive aerial assault. Mad hops for Mr. Evans. The J’s would be proud — MJ and Dr. J. 

Evans teamed with Wes Lee, a huge crowd favorite, in a tag match against Edris Enofe & Malik Blade, a tandem worthy of more opportunities. They are thinking of ways to entice a crowd reaction, especially with their ring garb designed to capture the essence of the season — holiday or other. 

Young Cora Jade, a very promising prospect who is recovering from injury, is on her way back to the squared circle. With people booing, she cut a promo in the ring, demanding a title match with NXT champ and former friend Roxanne Perez. 

Perez, who is also not well-liked by fans, had other things on her mind, successfully defending the championship against the bizarre Tatum Paxley and impressive Karmen Petrovic in a triple threat matchup. 

Gallus, a Scottish villainous professional wrestling stable consisting of Wolfgang and real-life brothers Joe Coffey and Mark Coffey, was a big part of the show, drawing major heat from the crowd. The quick-witted, smack talking Joe Coffey had an excellent match with powerhouse Ridge Holland, Match of the Night consideration. Wolfgang and Mark Coffey interfered, helping Joe Coffey score the win. 

The main event saw Gallus members Wolfgang and Mark Coffey challenge Axiom and Nathan Frazer for the NXT tag team titles. Joe Coffey tried to reciprocate his fellow Gallus teammates, but Holland prevented the interference, and Axion and Frazer won to retain the titles. After the match, Frazer took the mic and thanked the crowd, which is one of the biggest and best crowds on the NXT Citrus Circuit, and then he and Axion posed for selfies and signed autographs ringside. 

WWE draws talent and fans from around the world. 

Gallus and Stevie Turner are from across the pond. Turner, an English pro wrestler, is a newcomer to the WWE NXT brand. Where Joe Coffey exclaimed he owns Fort Pierce during his matchup, Turner took the mic before her tag match and berated the fans and the city of Fort Pierce, which drew many boos from the locals. 

WWE NXT on May 18 results 

Chase U (Andre Chase & Duke Hudson) (with Thea Hail in their corner) defeated Joshua Black & Anthony Luke.
Jakara Jackson (with Oro Mensah in her corner) defeated Wren Sinclair.
Tank Ledger (with Hank Walker in his corner) defeated Skylor Clinton.
Carlee Bright & Kendal Grey defeated Stevie Turner & debuting Derrian Gobourne.
Joe Coffey (with Mark Coffey & Wolfgang interfering) defeated Ridge Holland.

NXT Heritage Cup Champion Tony D’Angelo (with Adriana Rizzo in his corner) defeated Damon Kemp (with Charlie Dempsey in his corner).

WWE NXT Heritage Cup Champion Tony D’Angelo with Adriana Russo of The Family during his energetic ring entrance on Saturday, May 18 at the Havert L. Fenn Center in Fort Pierce. PHOTO BY JIM VARSALLONE

Intermission with Teddy The Merch Man
Thea Hail (with Andre Chase & Duke Hudson in her corner) defeated Izzi Dame.
Wes Lee & Je’Von Evans defeated Edris Enofe & Malik Blade.
Cora Jade returns and cuts a promo (talks to the crowd) from the middle of the ring.
NXT Women’s Champ Roxanne Perez over Tatum Paxley and Karmen Petrovic in a triple threat match.
NXT Tag Team Champs Axiom & Nathan Frazer defeated Gallus (Mark Coffey & Wolfgang) with Joe Coffey in their corner.


More locals in NXT 

Blake Howard, who is from South Florida, served as the ring announcer and show host, keeping the action moving and crowd invested in what’s next. Howard is also a commentator for “WWE Main Event” and “WWE Level Up” on Peacock. 

Howard under the ring name Blake Chadwick is an alum of long-standing South Florida indie pro wrestling promotion Coastal Championship Wrestling where he worked as a ring announcer, commentator and interviewer. In its 20th year, CCW, under the direction of Nelio Cuomo Costa, Dan Evans and WWE alum Gangrel David Heath, runs shows in Port St. Lucie at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Event Center. CCW’s next show there is June 15. 

Also, current NXT superstars Lola Vice (Valerie Loureda) and Channing “Stacks” Lorenzo (Jake Tucker) of The Family trained/worked with CCW, too. 

NXT in Fort Pierce 

NXT returns to the Havert L. Fenn Center this summer in Fort Pierce. Date and time TBD.

NXT Battleground in Vegas 

WWE NXT Battleground is the brand’s next mega-event, and it occurs Sunday, June 9 from the UFC Apex, home base of UFC in Las Vegas.

WWE and UFC joined forces last year to form TKO Group Holdings, a massive combat sports and entertainment company, traded publicly on the stock market. 

At WWE NXT Battleground, Port St. Lucie’s own Jaida Parker is in a battle for the inaugural NXT Women’s North American Championship, competing with Sol Ruca, Lash Legend, Fallon Henley and two more opponents (TBD) in a ladder match. 

For tickets to all NXT shows, go to https://www.etix.com/ticket/o/6017/world-wrestling-entertainment-nxt 

WWE NXT on USA Network 

WWE NXT is 8 p.m. Tuesdays on USA Network, before moving to The CW.

WWE NXT on The CW 

The CW Network launches its 2024-25 primetime schedule in the Fall of 2024, including its continued expansion of CW Sports with the network debut of WWE NXT on Tuesdays from 8-10 p.m. EST. 

Plus, ACC football, Pac-12 football, ACC basketball, & NASCAR Xfinity Series on Saturdays.

Attend NXT Tuesdays in Orlando 

WWE NXT is broadcast live on TV at 8 p.m. Tuesdays from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. To find out more information on how to attend NXT free at the WWE PC, visit wwe.com/nxtlive

Photos by Jim Varsallone


*A longtime South Florida resident, Jim Varsallone (jvarsallone@herald.com) works part-time for the Miami Herald Sports Department and is also a freelance feature writer/interviewer, covering pro wrestling, preps and MMA. His YouTube channel for pro wrestling and MMA interviews and more: www.youtube.com/@jvarsallone.

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