In 2002, and early parts of 2003 I was in Louisville, Kentucky at OVW (Ohio Valley Wrestling). This camp was the principal development camp of WWE at that time. Under the teaching of Danny Davis, Rip Rodgers, and Jim Cornette, OVW had been pumping out star after star. At one point there we had Randy Orton, Bautista, Brock Lesner, Charlie Haas, Shelton Benjamin, John Cena, Eugene, Rob Conway, and The Basham Brothers, to name a few. It seemed like every month they were pulling a few guys up to the big show. For the majority of the guys pulled up, they were doing well and giving our camp an excellent reputation. So with every call up like a Brock Lesner, or a John Cena, the WWE continued to give young talent chances to make a name for themselves at the next level. My chance came in early 2003 when they flew me to the WWE headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, to speak with the writers and Stephanie McMahon about an opportunity they had for me. That opportunity was being a part of a new group, a super stable in the works made up of HHH, Ric Flair, and Randy Orton. And now me? What an opportunity!!
Before this was all in the works, I had made an acquaintance with Randy Orton. He had hurt his shoulder around the same time I had dislocated my ankle in 2002. So we found common ground at this time which grew into a friendship. When we heard that we were going to be in this elite group together, it was even that more exciting. When our injuries were healed up, we started traveling on the road together and putting thought into this. We thought of tag team moves, dieted heavily to keep in great shape, and bounced back and forth various training tips to avoid future injuries. It wasn’t something we took lightly.
However, I’m not going to lie, I was very immature at this point in my life. You can make your own accusations about Orton, but I would say he was immature at that time as well. When we got together there was a lot of joking around backstage, and WWE was amused by it but also a bit taken back. I think we had a different way of showing our love for pro wrestling. It wasn’t the conventional way that the WWE was looking for. While the majority of our workmates zoomed out of arenas to get quick to the next city, our road trips felt like vacations. We had a blast traveling from town to town, listening to southern rap in the rent-a-car, playing jokes, and enjoying the restaurants and malls in various cities. We weren’t late to shows or troublemakers off task. I really think WWE just frowned upon how we were perceived backstage as the jokesters who liked to have fun. We were supposed to be priming for an elite group but it seemed we were priming to join a fraternity.
On the road various wrestlers would travel together to help share costs of rental cars and simple company. Really, who wants to be by themselves for close to a 1000 miles of travel per weekend. However occasionally a wrestler’s travel partner wasn’t on the house shows a particular weekend and they ended up being the odd man out. This happened on two occasions that I can recall. One time Garrison Cade asked to ride with us and another Rosey the time he was tagging with Hurricane Helms. These poor guys. They must have felt like they were riding with a circus. Garrison, God rest his soul!! It looked like he wanted to rip his blond hair out trying to find a quiet moment to call his wife. Rosey, on the other hand, bolted on us and found another car a day into our trip. I think probably because it took us 4-5 hours to get to a city when it should have only taken 2-3 hours. There was no peace of mind for whoever was traveling in the same car with us. For example we would here a song we liked on a disc and would start yelling stuff out like “Overrrrr”. Or we’d say things like “this song blew the roof off the joint”. We’d usually be using old southern twang accents yelling and poking fun at the “carney talk” that goes around our locker rooms now and of the past. Funny stuff but we acted like 16 year olds…if that.
One classic story which sums up the way we rolled was also in 2003. We were at a Raw event in Boston. As sort of a tradition, a lot of the guys go to a restaurant called Kowloons after the show. The manager treated us well and had great food there. The fans knew this so there was always a turnout of a few hundred fans waiting outside to sneak a picture or grab an autograph. Well on this particular night we gave them something a little extra haha.
Randy and I, with the help of Maven, pulled off a great joke on this night. However it went a bit rockier than we expected. We were the last wrestlers in the place. There was probably 5-6 police officers outside to keep the crowd in check. There was one officer that was inside that we conversed with and saw that he was cool. So we asked him if he would step in and just break us up if we started a fake fight outside. He agreed and we set a whole plan up for when we got outside. Outside we started arguing back and forth until it turned to shoving. It was only supposed to be shoving but with the passion that Orton and I had for a great “rib”, turned to some pretty stiff forearms and punches.
The cop that was supposed to break us up, got thrown off to the side during the struggle which brought in the other police officers that were unaware it was a joke. When they tried to restrain us, we thought they were going along with us as well. So it really turned to mayhem when we threw them off us too. Maven was trying to stop us but he got wrapped up in the craziness as well. Finally they grabbed us and we all got on the same page. They put Randy in the cop car and told Maven and I to meet them at the gas station down the road. So we did and that capped off our joke. I think the best thing about the fight was our jumpsuits. A day before, we wrestled in Springfield, Massachusetts, home of the basketball hall of fame. Therefore we got a great price on some badass NBA Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics velour jumpsuits. Haha
As the group was ready to start, I remember HHH wanting for us to travel together on a few of the travel loops of house shows and Raw. I think he was looking to establish that bond like the Four Horsemen or DX had. I remember we thought it was pretty cool that we were gonna ride with HHH and occasionally Ric Flair. We knew we had to change our outlook on things and buckle down. In other words, we had to behave lol. So the big question was, could we tone it down when we hopped in the Lincoln Town Car rental of HHH?
The answer was pretty much no. It really felt like to me HHH was chaperoning a couple of teenagers to Wally World. The point of a couple youngsters traveling with a veteran was to pick his brain and ask questions. Me personally, I dropped the ball. I remember once I got comfy in his ride, I would ask stuff like “Hey Hunter, wanna listen to the new Lil Jon disc?” Or I would share with him the goofy stuff I did on my days off before we started this particular loop. Out of me, there was nothing pertaining to the upcoming task at hand which I think turned Hunter off. The more I got comfortable, the more my true side would shine through in terms of pure immaturity. HHH was a cool guy and shared in some of the ridiculous conversations but it just wasn’t the vibe he was on. He was all business and I see crystal clear now that I look back that he wanted the same out of us. Instead I think we drove him crazy as we did Garrison and Rosey. I can’t tell you how many times he called us “dipshits”or “jerkoffs” the few travel weekends we had riding together. That was also a bit of his tough love, and big brother like joking but as time passed, I really felt the truth was said in jest. I was a great athlete and the moves and logistics of pro wrestling came very easy. But in a group like this, it was about telling a story and building something slow and impactful. That part just went over my head. I didn’t understand. I just was too damn immature to realize the immense size of this opportunity.
We shot a vignette on June 16, 2003, in Dallas, before Monday Night Raw. We were getting closer to the full make up of the group. Randy had already been doing stuff on tv and vignettes with HHH and Ric Flair. This is pretty much was the beginning of the end for me. I believe in addition to the immaturity shown, there were two things that also hurt me. First, the “fourth member” was overhyped on tv. They started running polls during the Raw telecast as to who would be the next member of Evolution. If I remember correctly the poll included names like Kevin Nash, Jericho, Test, and a few others. I kept thinking why would you have a poll on consecutive weeks during Raw with established superstars when you know the person occupying the spot was not really known yet in the WWE Universe? I hadn’t really had any sort of run since my time in WCW in 2000 and early 2001. I remember this weighing on me in Dallas and the next week in New York at Madison Square Garden (06/23/03). I thought whenever they do put me out there the fans are going to be expecting a Jericho or Nash, and instead they get Mark Jindrak who hasn’t been regularly on WWE programming since he signed with the company. That was one thing.
The second thing that was really hurting me, as I look back, was the success of Orton. When we would goof around and display our antics it would be me that was more frowned upon. In that particular Raw in Dallas, Randy cut an incredible promo cementing himself in the group. His performances in other Raw events also showed the higher ups in WWE that although he may have been a bit rough around the edges, this guy had natural unbelievable talent. He had the type of talent you couldn’t teach. A talent you that could only be passed through blood for he was a third generation superstar. He could get away with being a jokester or having fun backstage. When you are producing, especially like he was, it’s acceptable. I was not in the same position.
On June 23, 2003, after Raw finished in Madison Square Garden, Vince McMahon wanted to see me in his office backstage. He had told me that he thought it would be in my best interest if they held me out of the group. He told me they had plans of putting me in a tag team with Garrison Cade. He thought I would be best suited as a babyface at this time starting out. I was upset being pulled from this group, but immaturity didn’t let it hit home too much. I figured I’m just going in a different direction, cool. In all actuality Vince was letting me down easy and I appreciate it years later. Then again, I didn’t even realize I just lost out on making millions and millions of dollars and many championship opportunities.
So, it could have been a mixture of things that led to my pull from the group. John Larinitus, ex head of talent, once told me perception is everything in this business. I simply did not give off the perception that I could excel in a big spot like that. Looking back, I wasn’t ready. I do think about it from time to time because it’s something I know I could excel greatly in the mature part of my life. Congrats to Randy Orton on his continued WWE success. He truly is one of the greats. Congratulations to Bautista for his part in Evolution and numerous championships. And…sorry to HHH for being a “dipshit” and “jerkoff” back in the day. He should have called me things much worse for my attitude. It’s a tough pill to swallow but a lot of my failure to get in this group led to a lot of the drive I had used in my life to succeed. Big opportunities sometimes only come once in a lifetime. Thank God I have been blessed with more chances in life that I was more mature to execute.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Next week, we will get back on the task at hand. I have a special talent profile for y’all. I will spotlight a tag team which roots began in Mexico City. After several years wrestling together, they are now arguably pound for pound the best tag team in the world. We will let you all be the judge. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!! Thank you fans for another great year of support for the best entertainment on the planet. Pro wrestling!!
I’m Marco Corleone aka Mark Jindrak, see you next week.