Out of the ring: Two WWE teams visit Fort Meade to meet with service members, students

Tech Sgt. Patrick Harrower poses for a photo with WWE wrestlers Big Show and Sasha Banks at the Exchange. Six WWE superstars visited Fort Meade on Dec. 13 as part of WWE's 14th annual "Tribute to the Troops" show. (Photo by Jen Rynda, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
Alicia Fox laughs as she and Paul Gump, an operational adviser and consultant at B Squadron, rappel down a wall at the Asymmetric Warfare Group tower. (Photo by Jen Rynda, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Far from her home in the wrestling ring, World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Alicia Fox was trying to rappel down the highest wall of the Asymmetric Warfare Group rappelling tower.

Dressed in black, knee-length high-heel boots and a red hard hat, Fox looked over her shoulder to the ground below.

Cheers of encouragement rang out from bundled up AWG Soldiers and their families.

“You got it!” shouted one spectator. “Keep your knees straight and lean out.”

Fox and five other WWE superstars came to Fort Meade on Dec. 13 as part of WWE’s 14th annual “Tribute to the Troops” show, which was held that evening at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

The first event of the day was a weapons and rappelling challenge at AWG.

WWE wrestlers the Big Show, Sasha Banks and Titus O’Neil learned how to shoot M4 assault rifles and 9 mm pistols at paper targets, while Bayley, Sin Cara and Fox tried their hand at rappelling and rock climbing.

“It was really fun,” Bayley said after making her way down the highest wall. “I’ve watched WWE since I was 10 years old. ‘Tribute to the Troops’ was always something I looked forward to watching.”

For Bayley, spending time with the troops was a humbling experience.

“[I] just saw the smiles on those troops’ faces,” she said. “They’re genuinely happy and excited and having fun. The troops were the main event today. It’s not about the wrestlers.”

This was Bayley’s first time performing at “Tribute to the Troops.”

“I’m excited to spread the hug life to the military and all of the troops,” Bayley said, referencing her WWE bubbly character.

Sin Cara and Bayley pose for a photo with Siena Hernandez, 6, of Odenton and her sister Olivia, 3, after the wrestlers completed the rappelling challenge at AWG. (Photo by Jen Rynda, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Helping the wrestlers stay safe during the rappelling challenge was Paul Gump, an operational adviser and consultant for B Squadron at AWG.

“It was an immense amount of fun,” Gump said. “Having them come to AWG means a lot. It’s not often that people come out and really appreciate what we do.”

The AWG Family Readiness Group gave each wrestler a Christmas ornament.

“We just wanted to show them that we appreciate what they’re giving back to our community,” said Leslie Burks, the FRG adviser.

Aspen Farmer, FRG treasurer, brought her 9-month-old daughter Harper to the event. They spent the morning at AWG meeting the superstars and getting autographs.

“I watch the show ‘Total Divas,’ ” Farmer said. “I really like Nikki and Brie Bella.”

Burks and Farmer, along with other spectators, cheered as Fox rappelled down the tower.

“We really liked how Foxy overcame her fear and went down that wall,” Burks said.

Tribute To The Troops

As a way to celebrate its 75th anniversary, the USO helped organize trips for WWE superstars to visit Fort Meade and Naval Support Academy Bethesda on Dec. 13.

“WWE has been a great partner for USO-Metro,” said Shawn Sabia, Virginia Centers manager for the USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. “We’re grateful they chose to work with us to bring the [WWE] to service members.”

The visit to Fort Meade was planned so the wrestling teams could spend as much time as possible with service members and their families.

“We thought this would be an awesome experience for the stars,” Sabia said, gesturing to the rappelling tower. “Coming to AWG was a little bit of showcasing and a little bit of fun. It’s an awesome opportunity to do this with some of the most well-trained individuals in the world.”

The USO-Metro and WWE have been partners for more than 15 years, working together to organize local handshake tours and award dinners honoring troops.

This year, WWE donated more than 7,000 tickets to USO-Metro for service members and families to attend the WWE “Tribute to the Troops” show, according to the USO-Metro website,

After their visit at AWG, O’Neil, Bayley, Fox and Sin Cara spoke at MacArthur Middle School about bullying.

The WWE’s “Be a STAR” anti-bullying rally aims to help youngsters practice respect and tolerance with the mission of reducing bullying in schools.

WWE wrestler Alicia Fox is surrounded by students during the
“Be a STAR” anti-bullying rally at MacArthur Middle School on Dec. 13. (Photo by Jen Rynda, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A Shot With the Big Show

The final event of the day was a meet and greet at the Exchange. Service members had the opportunity to get a picture and autograph from the Big Show and reigning Raw women’s champion Sasha Banks.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Margarita Baez was one of the service members in line for an autograph.

“When I was growing up, the Big Show was a big name,” Baez said.

Baez, who hasn’t tuned in to a WWE show in a few years, said there’s one fight she’s looking forward to.

“The Big Show is fighting [Shaquille O’Neal] in April,” she said. “I wish him luck. If he’s fighting Shaq and I can find it playing on TV, I can see myself watching [the match].”

Spc. Zachary Culver set his sights on taking a photograph with The Big Show.

“I originally came to [the Exchange] to get lunch,” Culver said. “I’ve never gotten my picture taken with pro wrestlers, so I thought checking this out would be nice.”

For more photos, see Fort Meade’s Flickr page by clicking below.

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