Pavone debuted in 2001 using the name Chris Cage. After two years on the independent circuit, he signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and was assigned to the Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) territory. In OVW, he won the Southern Tag Team Championship four times (three times with Tank Toland and once with Mike Mizanin) and the Heavyweight Championship once. He was released from his WWE developmental contract in March 2006 before being re-signed in 2008. He competed for the Florida Championship Wrestling developmental territory, where he won the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship twice, and debuted for the ECW brand in December 2009.
- Florida Championship Wrestling Tag Team Championship
- Ohio Valley Wrestling Heavyweight Championship
- Ohio Valley Wrestling Southern Tag Team Championship