PITTSBURGH (KDKA) —- It was a Friday of firsts for WWE NXT superstar Ricochet.
The NXT North American Champion, along with fellow NXT stars Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae, spent much of the afternoon visiting patients and families at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“To even be a part of this is something special,” Ricochet said Friday.
Visiting Children’s Hospital has become a tradition for WWE superstars, but this was the first time that talent from the company’s NXT brand were part of such a visit.
“It’s our pleasure to be able to come here and do this,” Gargano said. “We all wanted to be here. It’s so rewarding. It’s so fulfilling.”
The bond between WWE and Children’s Hospital has grown stronger since 2014, when WWE and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation launched Connor’s Cure to raise money for pediatric brain and spinal cancer research. WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon is a member of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation Board of Trustees.
As we celebrate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, @WWENXT superstars @KingRicochet @JohnnyGargano @CandiceLeRae visited patients on the oncology/blood and marrow transplant unit and the Marty Ostrow Hematology/Oncology Outpatient Center. #ChildhoodCancer https://t.co/AkGDjAdfxu pic.twitter.com/6o3EHt0aH5
— UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (@ChildrensPgh) September 10, 2018
“To help not only the kids but the parents forget about something for a couple of minutes. It’s unbelievable. It’s awesome,” Ricochet said.
“It’s such a different feeling being in there – the energy and the smiles on the kids faces”, Gargano said. “Everything they’re going through and they’re still smiling.”
Ricochet, Gargano and LeRae spent several hours at the hospital, visiting patients and personally delivering some special gifts – replica WWE Universal Championship belts.
“It’s like fuel. They give you energy,” LeRae said after meeting patients. “We told (the staff), ‘Are you sure you don’t have more?'”
“It’s definitely not going to be the last time,” Gargano said.
By the time Ricochet, Gargano and LeRae left Children’s Hospital, they had just a few hours left before the start of Friday night’s WWE NXT show at Stage AE.
Ricochet was in the main event, teaming with the War Raiders (Ray Rowe & Hanson) to defeat the Undisputed Era (Adam Cole, Roderick Strong & Kyle O’Reilly).
After the match, Ricochet told the crowd it was the first time he had ever performed in Pittsburgh, despite a career that’s taken him around the world.
Gargano and LeRae were also victorious in separate contests. Gargano overcame a distinct size disadvantage to defeat Lars Sullivan via disqualification.
LeRae teamed with Nikki Cross to defeat Vanessa Borne and former NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler.
Friday night’s show also featured the Pittsburgh debut of Dan Matha.
Matha grew up in Erie. From 2007-09 he was part of the University of Pittsburgh’s football program, though he never saw any game action. In 2010, he transferred to Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he was a NCAA Division II All-America second team selection as an offensive lineman in 2012.
After opportunities to play professional football dried up, Matha turned to professional wrestling. Less than a year after his first class at Ohio Valley Wrestling’s training school, WWE signed Matha to a developmental contract in 2015.
In the ring at Stage AE Friday night, Matha started out sounded like a hometown hero, but the cheers turned to jeers when he launched a barrage of insults at the Pittsburgh crowd. Matha eventually lost his match against Tyler Breeze.
In other action, NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa defeated Dominik Dijakovic, Dakota Kai defeated Aliyah and Heavy Machinery (Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight) defeated the Forgotten Sons (Wesley Blake & Jaxson Ryker).