Hernando High graduates Windham and Taylor Rotunda are coming back to town as members of the Florida Championship Wrestling association tonight at the Hernando County Fairgrounds.
As little kids, Brooksville’s Windham and Taylor Rotunda watched their father head out to work, dressed in a shirt and tie, briefcase in hand, just like any other dad.
Then their father would beat his co-workers over the head with said briefcase. Clearly their upbringing was a little different.
Mike Rotunda has made a career in the world of professional wrestling, most famously as Irwin R. Schyster – aka I.R.S. – a persona he still occasionally slips into in his current role as a road agent for the WWE.
He married Stephanie Windham, the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Robert Windham (Blackjack Mulligan) and sister of former pro wrestlers Barry and Kendall Windham.
Now their two sons, 22-year-old Windham and 19-year-old Taylor, are attempting to follow in the family footsteps.
They are members of the Florida Championship Wrestling association, a developmental organization for the WWE that will hold a live event at the Hernando County Fairgrounds tonight at 8 p.m.
“My entire life I knew I’d end up in this exact position,” said Windham, a 2005 Hernando High graduate. “I didn’t know how I’d make it, but I knew I’d make it in.”
“It’s been great,” said Taylor, a year removed from his senior year at Hernando. “I’ve never done anything this fun in my life. I’ve never been happier. It’s the best decision I ever made in my life.”
Their bloodlines aside, both Rotunda boys certainly have fantastic wrestling credentials from their days donning a purple and gold singlet for the Leopards.
Windham advanced to the Class 1A state meet three times over his prep career at Hernando, earning a state championship at 275 pounds as a senior. Taylor made it to states in each of his final two seasons.
Of course, amateur and professional wrestling are two very different things, although not as much as typically thought according to Windham.
“It’s extreme,” Windham said. “Since I’ve been there, there have been injuries to 15-20 people. That didn’t happen in high school. It’s extreme. It’s not for the weak. It’s a very, very tough sport.”
Both brothers also starred in the trenches for the Hernando football team, and had plans to carry on in that sport at the college level.
Taylor had a scholarship to play at Webber International in Babson Park pulled at the last minute.
“I was freaking out and trying to figure out what I was going to do,” Taylor said. “My dad pulled me in room and asked if I wanted to get started (with pro wrestling). I said ‘are you kidding me?'”
Taylor would attend Summerslam, a WWE pay-per-view event, and “realized this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Windham ended up playing two seasons at the College of the Sequoias, a junior college in California, earning second-team All-American honors as a sophomore offensive guard.
He moved on to Division I Troy University in Alabama, redshirting in 2007 and spending 2008 as a reserve offensive lineman.
“Once (Taylor) decided to go into (wrestling) I couldn’t resist,” said Windham, who left Troy 27 hours short of his bachelor’s degree. “I had another year (at Troy), but my heart was no longer in it. I wanted to do this. This is going to be my career. I couldn’t go to school any longer. I wanted to get into this.
“It was an extremely tough decision. I wanted to play football, but I really wasn’t friendly with the coaching staff. I was tired of playing games with them. So I decided to invest in my future. I couldn’t have made a better decision.”
The family name
Windham, currently wrestling in a tag team with Vic Adams, said he and his brother are using the Rotunda name as part of their in-ring characters.
“It’s important to use our last name,” Windham said. “It’s instant recognition for a lot of people.
“…We’re not trying to be the next Mike Rotunda. We’re trying to be the next Windham and Taylor.”
The young men have used the experience of their relatives to their advantage, leaning on them for advice.
“They all help me out,” Windham said. “They tell me things to work on. Things that will help me with my future and not just in the ring but the lifestyle that goes with it.”
“They help me out a lot,” Taylor said. “If I have a question or something I don’t know I can go to my dad.”
As the third generation of their family to enter the sports entertainment business, the brothers have an admitted edge.
But for now they are working their way up, traveling from show to show. Tonight marks their first FCW event in front of their hometown crowd.
There will be an autograph session including both Rotundas in the hour preceding the show.
“I’m extremely excited,” Windham said. “I’m very excited to see the turnout and it’s just going to be a great time.
“They should expect to see the top talent in the entire world. The greatest talent in the world is located in Tampa. It’s not just another indie (independent) sports entertainment show. It’s the best of the best and they should expect that.”
“My friends from back home that I’ve known for my whole life, they’re coming to watch me do what I love to do,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be great.”
AT A GLANCE
WHAT – Florida Championship Wrestling live event.
WHO – Hernando High graduates Windham and Taylor Rotunda are among the stars competing across eight matches.
WHERE – Hernando County Fairgrounds.
WHEN – June 12 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $8 for children. Tickets are available at Buddy’s Home Furnishing, at the door or online at www.fcwwrestling.com.
Sports writer Chris Bernhardt Jr. can be reached at 352-544-5288 or firstname.lastname@example.org.