Martin Stone’s journey to getting his second full-time contract with WWE.
From 2011-2014, Martin Stone a.k.a. Danny Burch was under contract to WWE. After being let go, he was brought back to the company on multiple occasions from 2015-2017 and was eventually signed to a part-time deal.
He spoke in-depth about that period of his career while on Bobby Fish’s Undisputed Podcast. Before he was brought back in 2015, he was considering retirement. Stone had left the U.K. wrestling scene which was going through a boom period at the time so he could be with his significant other in Florida.
Although Stone wrestled for the love of it, he said that was not going to take care of him financially. After Bill DeMott resigned from his coaching role at the Performance Center, Stone received a call from William Regal who wanted to bring him in as an extra. He went on to be the opponent in showcase matches for Kevin Owens, Apollo Crews, James Storm, Samoa Joe and those alike and used those appearances to further build his name on the independents.
So then when I go back (to the British wrestling scene) to then York Hall sold out and I’m like, what the f*ck happened? Every single show I did, there was a minimum of like 600 fans. I’m like, what happened? I just couldn’t believe it. So I was having the time of my life. I was working three, four times a week. I was selling merch, I was making really good money and then I was at that point with my girlfriend at the time. I was like, man, I’ve either got to go there (back to the USA) and make this work or cut my losses but you know, it was one of those things so I moved. So December 2014, I moved back and then my first show, I’m working F.I.P. in Florida in front of 20 people and I’m like, f*ck (he laughed). Whoops. Whoopsie. I made a massive mistake. So everything’s good, we get married and then at that point in time, that was January of 2015. I said to myself, if something doesn’t start to happen by the end of this year then I think I’m gonna call it a day.
Realistically, back home in England, things were picking up but there still wasn’t that connection there that there is with New Japan and the ability to go outside the country. Yeah, you travel throughout Europe and stuff like that but I still had no, okay, (whose email do I have) to send a résumé to-to be like, I’m interested in working for you in Japan or whatever so I had none of that so I wasn’t any further forward. I’d just come off of a run with developmental but, you know, was the guy that was laying on his back every single show. So it wasn’t really exposure… I’m the guy, (it) was like, okay, he’s really good. We need this guy over. Let’s put him in there with Burch. We’ll give him three minutes so, that was my role the first time in developmental, which I was fine with because I was like, you know what? F*cking do this on the main roster, at least I’ll get a lot of money out of this so that’s fine. Especially after the point where you do it for so long and you love the job and you have a passion for it and you love wrestling but then there comes a point when you’re like, alright, love is not gonna pay my rent. So, yeah, and that’s not to say I look at the business as money signs, I don’t. But that is a huge part of it and people who say that, ‘No, I’m not happy unless I’m wrestling 20, 25 minutes a night,’ I’m like, well, you’re lying to yourself because there’s gonna come a point when you’re gonna want to be able to do this and not clock in and out of a job and have to do this… I’ve said to myself, well 2015, if nothing good happens by the end of the year then you know, by that time, I’ve been 2003 to 2015. I’ve had fun. Made a lot of friends, had some good matches, everything like that. Anyway, so I’m working a construction job, getting all my paperwork through. I get married, I get my work visa, my permit and stuff. Still in Orlando at this point. So I’m working a construction job and then the phone rings and it’s (William) Regal. Anyway, the day before this phone call, that’s when Bill DeMott had stepped down with all the stuff that had came out. So he stepped down and resigned from the position of Head Coach so he was no longer in charge. So Regal calls me the next day and he says, ‘Do you wanna be an extra?’ He says, ‘I can’t say what you’re gonna be doing or anything like that but if you wanna come down, I would love to have you as an extra.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ So anyway, my first match was Kevin Owens and I’m like, oh. I was expecting it to be, you know, whatever American football guys taking their fancy to be destroying people in two, three minutes so I expected that but like, ‘It’s you and Kevin. You’ve got 10 all in.’ I was like, oh! Okay. So my first match back, it was the longest match I’d had when it was on the WWE Network. It was the longest match I had. Kevin is an absolute star, absolute gentleman and you know, took some bumps for me and really put me over when at that time, he was doing that feud with Finn Bálor so obviously, he was just supposed to be killing people but Kevin, he was like, ‘No, no, no. You can get some sh*t in.’ He was like, ‘What do you wanna do?’ And I was like, ‘F*ck.’ So I was kind of blown away by that. I was like, ‘Sh*t, okay.’ Awesome experience. Anyways, so I finished the match, come back and the producers like it and they’re like, ‘Okay. We’re gonna put you on the next one which is next month.’ So I’m like, okay, well at least I’m doing stuff and by this time, I’m slowly working my way through the indies in Florida and you know, that match certainly helped because it was like, oh, we’ve got a name who did stuff who didn’t just get squashed out so you know, so I started to get about a bit and I was like, eh, maybe wrestling’s not that bad after all. Maybe there is light after the tunnel. So then I do the next match which was Apollo Crews’ debut. Again, ‘You got 12 all in.’ So now I’m like, I’m starting to see a pattern here. I’m like, right, they’re putting me in the same role before but they’re giving me a chance to actually show what I can do. So, again, and there would maybe be 12 extras there. I was the only one in that role. So in my head I was like, well there has to be something to this. There must be a reason why they’re doing that and it’s not just random guys coming in there and you know, every single extra work I did, it was always someone’s debut. So it was Apollo Crews then it was James Storm. Then it was a six-minute match with (Samoa) Joe where we just beat the sh*t out of each other. It was all really starting to take off. But by this point, now we’re in 2016 and now I’m starting to get a little bit frustrated because — I can’t remember who I spoke to. I said, ‘What have I got to do to get back?’ I said, ‘Because I’m having better and longer matches than I had when I was here before. What do I need to do?’ ‘Ah, just keep going.’ So I’m like, f*ck. In my head I’m like, I know I can talk and I know I can work. So the only thing, I was like, let’s try and get in the best shape I can possible. So then they take a break because I think it was TakeOver: Dallas. I think it was one of those but it was a nine-week break where there was no tapings in Orlando. So I literally just got myself into the best shape I could. Just massive amounts of prolonged fasting. I did it completely all wrong (he laughed). Like completely did it all wrong… By the end of that nine weeks, I literally was a completely different looking human being, and that I think then was like, okay, now we can take him seriously, and then by that point, I’d had the match with Biff (Busick) when we destroyed each other and that was the match that really put my name out there.
He had been signed to a part-time deal that lasted six months. Before that contract expired, he put feelers out to both IMPACT Wrestling and Ring of Honor and there was interest. He would then receive a phone call about a full-time offer from WWE. Stone said he shed tears after the call.
And at that point in time (when I was under a part-time deal with WWE), I was able to quit work because it was the first time I’d really been able to be an independent wrestler because of what I was earning so it was a nice break from that so I got to be home a lot more on the weekends. I was at home with my wife and my step-daughter so, it was really great. Then that contract was coming up to a head on, I think it was March and I hadn’t heard anything so I was like, they’re just gonna let this run through and they’ll be like, great, thank you for your time. We’ll be in touch. That’s the conversation I thought I was gonna get. So anyway, I get a text that morning from — it was a guy called Paul. I can’t remember his last name but I think he was just working with Canyon (Ceman) then he goes, ‘Oh! Congrats on your contract. We’ll be sending all the details to you in like the next day or so.’ In my head, I thought they’re just gonna renew this one. Because I had started to put the feelers out there to Ring of Honor and IMPACT and there was some interest there. So then I was like, oh, well they’re just gonna renew this for another six months. Oh, okay, well whatever, anyway. So then I get a phone call like 20 minutes later and Canyon’s like, ‘I’m so sorry. He’s completely spoiled the surprise. This is Hunter’s call. We wanna bring you back full-time.’ So I was just like, oh! Sh*t, okay and he was like, yep, blah, blah, blah. ‘We’ll see you WrestleMania weekend in New Orleans,’ which was that weekend. So I got that call on a Monday or a Tuesday. I’m not gonna coat this one but literally, I got off the phone and cried, because I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I called my mom at home and she just lost her sh*t. I just couldn’t believe I got back and I couldn’t believe it but I got back at the most exciting time during NXT. This is when it was really NXT.
If the quotes in this article are used, please credit The Undisputed Podcast with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcriptions.