WWE has built up a reputation in recent years for being very active charitably, building relationships with a wide variety of organizations, from Make-a-Wish to Susan G. Komen. Rather than simply making appearances at public events to raise morale, which it does quite a bit of, WWE took a slightly different approach during its weekend in Houston for Survivor Series and three other nights of events at the Toyota Center.
Several of WWE's biggest superstars looked to get a much more personal, hands-on chance to give back to a Houston community that's still picking itself back up after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Over the course of two days, efforts in partnership with Houston Habitat for Humanity, the Houston Food Bank and Americares offered just such an opportunity.
The first stop of the weekend, on Saturday morning, brought WWE Hall of Famer and lifetime Houston resident Booker T, along with NXT superstars Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins, to a build site to spend several hours working on a house for a Houston family in need.
The day started as the three WWE superstars posed for a photo with all of the volunteers who came out to work on the Houston Habitat for Humanity project.
"It's so important -- even more important now than ever before, with Harvey -- that we continue to provide homes for Houston," said Angela Cox, the development director for Houston Habitat for Humanity, before the build got underway. "Houston has a horrible affordable-housing issue, and this is your contribution to alleviating that issue."
They've done a fair bit of community outreach in Orlando, where the WWE's Performance Center and NXT are based, but Ford and Dawkins enjoyed a chance to help a community in Houston dealing with issues each of them faced where they grew up in Chicago and Fairfield, Ohio, respectively.
"It's nice to give back to the community," said Ford. "Knowing where we grew up, just to know that we can come back and assist in some type of way, it's really exciting."
As a Houston native and a mayoral hopeful in 2019, Booker T had a front-row seat for the devastation that Hurricane Harvey had on the city. After a lengthy and prosperous professional wrestling career, he's anxious to give back to a city that's still recovering and give families some simple comforts he didn't have when he was growing up.
"Being a young kid, losing my mother when I was 13 years old," said Booker T. "Lights getting turned out, the water getting turned off and not knowing where the next meal was going to come from. The only thing I think I was looking for back then was a helping hand.
"Hurricane Harvey, it was devastating," Booker T continued. "It hit everyone -- it if it didn't hit you directly, it hit a family member or friends. ... I feel like I've got to go out there and do my part."
Later in the day, WWE superstars AJ Styles and Mark Henry arrive at the Houston Food Bank to help put together boxes of food on an assembly line of volunteers. With half of the group wearing "Monday Night Raw" T-shirts and the other half in "SmackDown" shirts, a healthy competition between the two groups developed.
AJ Styles' competitive nature carries into everything he does, including boxing up food at the Houston Food Bank.
One day before one of the most intensely physical matches of his life, against Brock Lesnar, Styles enjoyed getting to put his competitive spirit to good use.
WWE's has several major charity efforts going on in Houston this weekend. AJ Styles and Mark Henry are boxing up food ad the Houston Food Bank - the largest food bank in the country. Styles discusses the opportunity to give back to hungry families, and gets into a little friendly competition with Henry.
Henry worked with his group to keep pace in the closing moments of the build.
Mark Henry works the final stop of the assembly line as volunteers put together boxes of food at the Houston Food Bank.
As Henry took a breather, the Silsbee, Texas, native reflected on the long road ahead.
Mark Henry takes a breather from putting together boxes of food at the Houston Food Bank to talk about bringing a little bit of normality to people still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey, and the long road to come.
After wrapping up in their respective assembly lines, Styles and Henry received a tour of the Houston Food Bank facilities -- the largest food bank in the United States. They learn about many of the efforts the Houston Food Bank, including work with students, senior citizens and numerous other distribution efforts. After Hurricane Harvey, volunteerism at the Houston Food Bank surged to the point where the warehouse and all of the facilities reached capacity.
Their tour concluded at the Houston Food Bank's food pantry, which helps families in need that are working toward a better future for themselves by offering food staples they couldn't otherwise afford.
On Sunday afternoon, just hours before one of their biggest events of the year, WWE superstars Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, Samoa Joe and Alicia Fox spent time putting together medical kits that other superstars would ultimately hand out on Monday afternoon.
Fox walked everyone through the process, step by step.
Alicia Fox walks through what she and fellow WWE Superstars Sasha Banks, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe are doing with Americares just hours before performing at Sunday night's Survivor Series pay-per-view.
Each of the superstars had his or her own reasons as to why they were happy to take time out of an already chaotic day to lend a hand. Houston has a long way to go, but as the headlines fade and move on to the next great issue or catastrophe that hits, the visibility and the platform WWE provides helps to shine critical light on just how much the city and its people still need help
Finn Balor and other WWE superstars in town for four nights of shows hope they can provide direct help and a morale boost to the people of Houston.
Samoa Joe gets into why charity is such an important part of the puzzle for everyone involved in the WWE, and gets into what Americares is doing with the kits they're putting together.
Sasha Banks feels honored to contribute her time to charitable efforts for Houston, and using the platform that WWE provides to spread a message of giving worldwide.