The WWE has recently found success in the form of bringing indie wrestler Jimmy Dream, a 14-year indie wrestler with a look as far removed from the WWE norm as possible, into the WWE Universe as the ultimate underdog James Ellsworth. A CZW veteran who was trained by ECW Legend Axl Rotten, Ellsworth also owns and operates Adrenaline Championship Wrestling, a Maryland indie promotion he’s run since 2009. It’s hard not to feel good for the guy as he was probably someone who never realistically thought he’d end up in a WWE ring, let alone in a program involving AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose. But let’s be realistic. Ellsworth may be a pawn in the main event, but he’s cut more from the cloth of Gillberg or Eugene than he is Finn Balor or Will Ospreay.
But there is an even greater feel good story happening right now, and it’s someone from within WWE’s own organization. A 15-year veteran of the sport, six years in the WWE developmental, from Ohio Valley Wrestling to Florida Championship Wrestling to NXT, he’s been a part of the WWE’s infrastructure of talent for a decade. Which is ironic, considering he’s the creator of the 10 Movement in the WWE Universe, where fans simply chant “TEN!” for every required number shout in the match – from the count outs to breaking a hold to the top turnbuckle punches. It’s the story of “The Perfect Ten” himself, Tye Dillinger.
A LONG EX-SPEAR-IMENT
Before there was Dillinger, there was Spears.
In 2001, a young man from St. Catharines, Ontario (just outside Niagara Falls) drove to Cambridge, Ontario to train at Smith Hart‘s wrestling school, then topped it off at Eric Young‘s own Wrestleplex school. Wrestling as Shawn Spears, he was a mainstay on the Canadian and American indie circuit. In 2005, he appeared as an enhancement for the WWE on an edition of Sunday Night Heat.
Following this match, he would receive a tryout with the WWE in Buffalo, New York which lead to a developmental deal in 2006 working in Ohio Valley Wrestling. He was briefly used in a cameo as an employee named Stan in this classic backstage segment for Cyber Sunday with D-X‘s Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
During his time with Ohio Valley Wrestling, he was a 3-time TV Champion and a 3-time Tag Team Champion – twice with a young Cody Rhodes and once with Colt Cabana. When WWE’s developmental was moved to Florida and FCW, Spears followed, where he also captured Tag Team gold with a young Dolph Ziggler.
A highly touted prospect in both their developmental brands, in 2008, he was handpicked to be one of the new stars to debut on the rebooted ECW brand show, now under the name Gavin Spears, alongside John Morrison, CM Punk and others. The future looked bright for Spears on his dreams of being a WWE Superstar.
But in January 2009, after a match with Fit Finlay for ECW, Spears was released by the WWE.
He would return to the indies, working dark matches and live events for TNA, Ring of Honor and others, while also working dates in Mexico. He was determined to hone his craft, everywhere he could.
In 2013, four years after his release, he was re-signed by the WWE and sent to work for NXT, now known as Tye Dillinger. After a few enhancement matches, he was paired in a tag team with American Alpha‘s Jason Jordan, but the team never fully connected and soon they were split up, with Dillinger returning to enhancement.
But last year, something happened. Dillinger came in with a slight tweak, with his corn rows and ten hang gestures, and the Full Sail crowd suddenly got behind him. He became the cult hero for a cult audience.
And while his win-loss record may not reflect his worth to NXT, he was paired with many of the company’s best stars due to his ability to work with anyone result in a top notch match. In the past year, he faced Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Austin Aries, Samoa Joe, and Bobby Roode, to name a few. There’s no question that WWE believes he is a talented worker.
But after his match versus Bobby Roode at NXT Takeover: Toronto, something happened. The 10 Movement began.
It was brilliant booking by the WWE. Two Canadian wrestlers, both from within an hour of Toronto either way – Scarborough’s Bobby Roode versus Niagara’s Tye Dillinger – facing off in front of the ultra pro-Canadian crowd. And pro-Canadian indie fans to boot. The smarky audience for Takeover immediately brought their Canadian pride to making sure the world heard Dillinger’s 10 count every time the opportunity arose for a crowd count. And thus the 10 Movement began.
It followed to Survivor Series the next night, then Raw and Smackdown Live the following nights. It even showed up at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle PPV.
With the heat turned up, Dillinger then engaged in a much talked about twitter battle with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz on Twitter than sparked the fire of the internet community that perhaps Dillinger was on his way to the Blue Brand.
Something which the Artist Formerly Known As Shawn Spears deserves.
While Smackdown Live may boast that they are the brand that offers “the wrestling show”, it’s proved once already in Jimmy Dream’s ascension to the internet pariah James Ellsworth that it’s also the show where dreams are realized.
And no one deserves that more right now than Tye Dillinger.
Main Photo: WWE.com