Martin Stone is a British wrestler who’s probably best known as Danny Burch during his time with WWE developmental territory NXT until he got released on April 30th, 2014.
The 32-year-old, from London, England, wrestled all over the UK for several promotions before joining WWE. During his time in NXT, he worked with many of the NXT stars that have made it onto the main roster.
We caught up with the British grappler to talk about his time in NXT, the number of British trainers at the WWE Developmental Centre, wanting to wrestle in Japan and much more.
How did you first get into the sport of professional wrestling?
Oh god, I’m in my tenth year now. I had boxed for years and then I started doing a bit of cage fighting, after I had done that I was like, what next? I had been a fan of wrestling since I was seven-years-old and I thought I would give it a crack. I did a lot of research, looked about and came across a wrestling school called Dropkixx, I went along and I was hooked.
Who were some of the wrestlers you enjoyed watching whilst growing up?
My cousin is the one that got me into wrestling and he used to watch a lot of NWA and World of Sport wrestling. I grew up watching the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Sting and from a British point of view, it was Mark Rollerball Rocco and Marty Jones that I used to enjoy watching.
The turning point for me getting into wrestling was when I saw Chris Benoit versus Eddie Guerrero on Monday Night Raw when The Radicals split, that match always just stuck out for me and I had the chance to train with Chris and wrestle Chris, not many people can say they get the chance to wrestle their idols.
What was it like when you made first started on the UK scene?
I had already come from a contact sports background and I went in there thinking wrestling is all fake, it isn’t going to hurt at all, boy, was I wrong. I remember taking bumps and trying to learn how to work a match, I was trained by Tony and Dino Scarlo and they were true World of Sport people. So going from watching the American stuff where they’re telling lots of different types of stories through the emotion of the crowd to being trained in the British style, which is working holds, and counters. The biggest contrast for me was there was a lot more to wrestling than meets the eye from what I saw on WCW and WWE.
In 2004 I had a match with Samoa Joe for a British promotion IPW, and that was my first really big shot, and when my career really started to take off. I had started to make waves and was working as much as I could, I’m from the school of thought that you never turn work down, you always have to get better, you always have to constantly learn, the minute you stop learning is the minute you can walk away.
What was it like when you originally signed a contract for WWE?
I originally had a deal with WWE in 2010 when I was in my stride, I had to go to Pittsburgh to have all of these different tests done and I actually found out I had a number of injuries that I had been carrying around for years without realising. I remember my knee slipping out on one occasion and it didn’t feel right but it felt better after a few days and I had no further problems with it.
I then had to wait around for a year, bless the British healthcare system for trying to get my knee fixed. Once all of that was sorted I resigned in 2011 and went onto make my first appearance in FCW on June 3rd or 4th 2012.
The moment I signed that WWE contract, it was a dream come true, first time around it ended up becoming a nightmare but to then go through it again, going back to Pittsburgh and getting the green light on everything, that was the greatest moment of my life.
What did you make of the British guys that had been in WWE before like, The British Bulldogs, William Regal, Fit Finlay, Wade Barrett etc?
When I had signed my second contract with WWE I was very apprehensive about taking bookings because of my knee, but I actually got to work a match over in the UK with Fit Finlay. I’ve always had the utmost respect for Finlay, he’s a mans man for starters, and bar none he’s probably one of the top five wrestlers in the world. We had a 30-minute match, and being able to step in the ring with a true British legend who took the states by storm was one of the most humbling experiences of my life, that is one of my favourite ever matches.
I was always a fan of the Davey Boy Smith, but I was more of a fan of Dynamite Kid, I just preferred his style more. Britain produces a lot of wrestlers that I think are pound-for-pound some of the best of the best in the world. I’ve known both Sheamus and Wade Barrett for quite a few years and to see them on shows in England and then to see what they are doing now and how good they have both become is absolutely phenomenal.
What have you made of some of the British stars coming through in NXT and also TNA?
WWE in NXT have probably one of the best Brits in the world, PAC or Adrian Neville as he is now known, the guy completely defies gravity, he’s an absolute genetic freak with what he can do. When I first started working with him when I broke into the business, he went over to Japan and he is just so polished and just an incredible performer, there is nothing that I can say to fault the guy, and he is the perfect person to have as the champion in NXT.
When Paige won the Divas title on Raw the night after WrestleMania against AJ Lee, that was very emotional. I’ve known Paige since she was 13 or14-years-old, so to see her achieve that I was really proud, I’ve known her and her family for years so I know how much that meant to her and I know how much it meant to her family as well.
I think Rockstar Spud is doing a great job in TNA, I’ve always loved Spud and I’ve had some good matches with Spud down the years, he is highly entertaining and people are now seeing that with his work in TNA. Magnus was TNA Champion until not so long ago, they gave him the ball and he ran with it.
What have you made of the NXT guys that have made it onto the main roster?
The Shield and The Wyatt family are obviously the most successful to make the transition from NXT to the main roster. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were both phenomenal workers before they even got to NXT so it was just going to be a matter of time before they were given something. I think when they got to team with Roman Reigns and were given that gimmick, for me it’s the best thing going at the moment.
With the Wyatt Family, you’ve got Luke Harper who has been working for years, and he is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet and I think he will end up being one of the best big men of our generation. Bray, what can I say about him, he is absolutely fantastic, I’ve had many personal and private conversations with him and he is such an outstanding guy, he is going to do so well for himself.
Who are some of the people we should be looking out for in NXT?
Adam Rose who has just started appearing on raw is going to be really big, Bo Dallas is another fantastic talent, there were a lot of people that didn’t get him but his in-ring ability is second to none, he makes everything look as real as possible, just the way he carries himself inside and outside of the ring, the guy is going to be a star.
Obviously, Neville, Sami Zayn is another guy that is just outstanding. For entertainment value you’ve got Enzo Amore, never have I ever seen anyone who is so blessed with the gift of the gab as he is – that man has more promo material than most people will ever come up with. I expect pretty big things for Aiden English as well.
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What was the highlight of your time in NXT?
I think the highlight of my time in FCW and NXT was being trained by Norman Smiley. Obviously, on TV he was known as the guy that just did the Big Wiggle, but he is bar none probably the most gifted in-ring technician I’ve ever seen. I’ve had quite a few personal conversations with him and we became really close. I was also very fortunate that I got to train with William Regal and Dave Taylor for a few years as well, that was always brilliant for me.
Does it show something when WWE is using a lot of British wrestlers as trainers at NXT with the likes of Norman Smiley, William Regal, Dave Taylor and Robbie Brookside?
It goes to show Brits kick ass, you can’t beat a Brit, you really can’t, when it comes to wrestling you just can’t beat us. WWE have realised that and that is why all of those guys play a huge part in training the stars of the future in NXT.
What is the new WWE NXT Developmental Centre like?
For me, I started training in a really small little judo hall with no ring and just mats. Eventually, we got a ring, it was a 10×10 boxing ring and then we got a 12×12 padded wrestling ring. When that place closed, myself and a group of friends basically got a ring together and trained under a railway arch in Bethnal Green, it was freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer.
Then when I first turned up at FCW I was in awe of the place because there were three rings and they had shower facilities, plus the weekly TV show was coming out of the main building. Then to go from that which I thought was amazing to the NXT Developmental centre, which is a state of the art facility, there are seven rings, a weight room, a place where you can go and practice your promos, it’s out of this world.
Do you think we could perhaps see you return to WWE one day or even sign for TNA?
I’ll never say never, I’ve never been one to burn bridges on the way out. I’ve always kept in touch with all the promoters I’ve worked for over the years while I’ve been here, I’ve already been back to England and appeared on a show.
I’m not done with wrestling yet, it’s a chapter of my life that a lot of people would close now because I’ve been to the biggest place in the world but I’m not done yet. With regards to TNA being a viable option I don’t know, I’ve not been contacted by them and I’ve not got in contact with them either.
I would love to go over to Japan, that is one thing I never got to do before I left and that is something I’ve always wanted to do and that is something I am going to be looking at pursuing, but who knows, I never turn down work so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. It’s a sad time because I’m going to miss a lot of friends but at the same time it’s exciting, one door closes and another one opens, it’s time for another chapter.
For more information on Martin, you can follow him on Twitter @StrongStyleBrit and for booking enquires email theguvnormartinstone @gmail.com.