Denzel Dejournette has been in Orlando for about three weeks now.
The graduate of Reynolds High and former All-American heavyweight wrestler at Appalachian State moved there after being named to the newest class of wrestlers for the WWE’s Performance Training Center.
He’s one of nine people adjusting to a schedule that revolves around the WWE’s 26,000-square-foot complex. But it’s been easy, Dejournette said Tuesday during a phone interview. The experience harkens back to the time he spent in Boone.
“Like walking in, the energy is great and there’s no egos,” he said. “Everybody is there to learn and get better. It’s like a great locker room, honestly.
“It kind of takes me back to my roots when I was at App. And I think that’s the reason why they’ve (the WWE) been so successful,” Dejournette said, then corrected himself, “or we’ve been so successful. I guess I can say that now.”
Dejournette wrapped up his App State career in 2017. After clinching one of eight All-American spots of the heavyweight division last March, he tried out for the WWE three months later.
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound wrestler put off his WWE career, however, because he felt compelled to finish his graduate degree. Dejournette earned his masters in exercise science (with a strength and conditioning focus) during the 2017-18 academic year.
“You are putting your body on the line, and if we are being realistic, you never know what could happen with your body,” Dejournette said. “I’m super athletic now, and I’m in great shape now, but I could have an injury, a career-altering injury, so it’s nice to have something to fall back on.
“And also, I like to finish what I start. So I started grad school, I wasn’t just going to hop out on the final leg.”
That didn’t mean he wasn’t staying active. Dejournette said he assisted the App State wrestling program as much as he could. For example, in July, he joined the team in leading a wrestling camp, overseeing the activity of the heavyweights.
Dejournette said it didn’t feel weird to be around the Mountaineers program without competing anymore. He wants App State’s current wrestlers to be better than him.
It was only right for him to pass along as much knowledge as he could.
“It was one of those things that was, like, I’d gotten what I wanted out of it,” Dejournette said. “I became an All-American. I put in my time.
“It was time for me to step out the way and show people the way to be successful. I laid down that blueprint, and I wanted those guys to be better than me.”
That’s why he can’t help but feel pride about where the Mountaineers are now, winning three consecutive Southern Conference titles. Dejournette saw much improvement from his freshman season to his senior season at App State, and it’s continued to move forward since his career ended.
“It’s nice to see that they’re on the rise, and it’s only going to get brighter because now we accept the people that fit the championship culture,” Dejournette said. “And we are cultivating them to being like champions and how to act like champions, not just on the mat but off the mat.”
Dejournette is now part of NXT, which serves as the developmental level for WWE’s flagship programs, Raw and SmackDown. As of right now, Dejournette’s life revolves around the performance center, where he and other athletes train, as well as improve on the many aspects of his new job.
He’s still developing what type of character he will play, but Dejournette said he will carry many of his own traits into the ring.
“Right now, I’m just being myself,” Dejournette said. “We just got to figure out what type of performer I want to be, like what my style’s going to be.
“But I’m being myself — super energetic, super fun, bringing the energy, trying to be as charismatic as possible, and just kind of using that to develop a certain style in the ring to match that out of ring ... so I can tell a story with what I do.”