WWE set to launch its version of 'Hard Knocks'
WWE is headed beyond the ring for a glimpse of pro wrestling prospects trying to become the next superstar.
The sports-entertainment empire may have found its version of HBO's ''Hard Knocks.'' It's set to launch an all-access, behind-the-scenes look at the daily lives and routines of wrestlers developing their over-the-top personas in the quest to become the next John Cena or Seth Rollins.
WWE will debut its new WWE Network original series, ''Breaking Ground,'' on the WWE Facebook page and the WWE YouTube channel on Sunday. ''Breaking Ground'' will debut in its regular WWE Network timeslot on Monday, following ''Monday Night Raw,'' which airs on USA Network.
William Shatner will narrate the 10-episode series that gives viewers access to the lives of wrestlers at the WWE Performance Center.
''I wouldn't say we're pulling back the curtain at all,'' executive producer Kevin Dunn said. ''We're telling real stories of these real people and the hardships and difficulty of making it to the WWE. I don't think we're giving it away. You're just going to see how this process actually works.''
WWE opened a $2.5 million, 26,000-square foot facility in 2013 in Orlando, Florida, and made Full Sail University the home of a revamped version of the ''NXT'' series on the WWE Network. NXT has served as WWE's minor leagues and showcases both up-and-comers such as Tyler Breeze, Finn Balor and Bayley with independent wrestling stalwarts like Samoa Joe.
Breeze - a pretty boy with a selfie gimmick - will be one of the featured talents on ''Breaking Ground.''
''It's not about NXT,'' Dunn said. ''It's about making it to the WWE.''
WWE's latest show offers a backstage pass in how wrestlers hone their craft in the ring and how top executives like Triple H and NXT trainers evaluate talent as they try to restock the main roster.
''I think new is always interesting on any level, especially when you have new stars on any TV show,'' Dunn said.
The WWE Network boasts 1.2 million subscribers at $9.99 a month as of July 30. The network airs 12 pay-per-view events and ''Breaking Ground'' will make a sneak peek on Sunday night following the ''Hell in the Cell'' telecast.
WWE's flagship ''Raw'' show has relied on aging stalwarts like Cena, Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker to sell Sunday's show and veterans ''Stone Cold'' Steve Austin and Ric Flair were rolled out for Monday's show.
WWE wants to hook viewers on the next generation of stars who may reach WrestleMania. Unlike WWE's reality show ''Tough Enough,'' the NXT stars aren't competing for a contract, just a spot on the main roster.
Dunn said ''Tough Enough's'' return was uncertain.
3 Ball Entertainment will co-produce the original series. Shatner has had a long affiliation with WWE.
''Ever since I tossed the legendary Jerry ''The King'' Lawler out of the ring, I've been enamored with WWE,'' he said in the release. ''My love affair continues with the new show, `Breaking Ground.'''