Only two years ago Matty Wahlberg was a high school teacher with a dream to do something incredible, now, under the name Grayson Waller, he's one of the WWE's biggest emerging stars.
Formerly a part-time History and English teacher in Sydney who also wrestled on the side, Waller's life completely changed in just one night back in October 2019.
With WWE doing its annual tour around Australia that month, Waller, who was 29 at the time, was noticed by travelling WWE scouts at one of his shows in Sydney.
"I got lucky in 2019 that WWE scouts were in Sydney because WWE was doing a live event and they came to one of the shows I was doing," he told Wide World of Sports.
"I basically got signed that night after they saw me perform."
While all appeared well, things took a turn for the worse not long after, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world.
Waller's dream of making it into the WWE nearly fell to pieces as border and travel restrictions threatened to end his hopes.
"I was supposed to get over here [in America] in March 2020, but with the pandemic, things shut down and got pushed back," he said.
READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE, Aussie WWE star Toni Storm on her journey to SmackDown
"It took almost 18 months from the time that I signed to actually getting here.
"The Australian borders had shut. There was no way to get over and first I thought maybe it was a month or two, then it kept building and building.
"America's border control and their visas are much more difficult to get. Not only did I have to deal with that, but also getting Australia to let me leave.https://www.instagram.com/p/CR-AxxDpfXe/
"I had to prove I was going for a substantial amount of time, it took a lot of paperwork and a lot of stress.
"There were a lot of times where I thought it wasn't going to happen and I didn't know If I was going to get here.
"Luckily in March this year I got here and got started.
"I was very lucky they saw me at a time where I was hitting my strides and at my best."
READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE, How megastar and rapper Bad Bunny tunned WWE world
Waller officially made his debut in June and has since become a regular booking with weekly matches across WWE's NXT and 205 Live shows.
Last month he was given an opportunity for championship gold when he took on Roderick Strong for the NXT Cruiserweight title, but fell just short.
Since arriving in America, Waller regularly trains at WWE's performance centre in Orlando, where he perfects his craft alongside wrestling icons like Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
"It's a real culture shock when you get here," Waller said.
"I had to do some testing and some paperwork stuff. The first person I saw was Shawn Michaels, who is a huge hero of mine.
"I've watched him for years and he's just there, but he's not Shawn Michaels, he's a coach.
"It's a different type of relationship and there's a lot of people like that.
"One of the guys I've worked pretty close with is Ace Steel, he's been my coach ever since I've been here... Scotty 2 Hotty and Brian Kendrick are two guys I've worked a lot with.
"There are so many people there that have done so much in wrestling... it's very surreal, all they want to do is help you. Listening to their stories and the crazy stuff they've done."https://www.instagram.com/p/CUvlYhuP8QO/
Asked about the advice he takes on board, Waller revealed a personal story involving Nigel McGuinness, a former wrestling icon and current WWE commentator.
It was a conversation with McGuinness which Waller claims has completely changed his approach as he now looks to regain the confidence and swagger that he once had in Australia.
"Nigel McGuinness was talking about Muhammad Ali and how when you watched Muhammad Ali fight - Muhammad Ali knows he's the best in the world," Waller revealed.
"Everything he's doing, in his head he knows he's the best in the world so he has this type of swagger about him.
"Nigel said to me, 'I don't think that you think you're the best in the world, I don't see that.'
"That hit me. There have been times in my career wrestling in Australia where I knew I was the best and I carried myself that way.
"Now that I'm here and there are so many talented people and so much pressure... I feel I've lost some of my swag.
"After Nigel talked to me, I'm ready to change up and start showing that. That's the best advice I've ever gotten in my career."
WWE NXT airs each Wednesday Morning from 11am (AEDT) on Foxtel's FOX8.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!
Title: Brutal setback nearly ended Aussie WWE star's career
Sourced From: wwos.nine.com.au/news/wwe-grayson-waller-nxt-205-live-star-on-wrestling-career-rise-debut-shawn-michaels/a7303e9f-2f8c-4760-96f6-dea7f3c8d6da
Published Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2021 23:12:01 +0000
Did you miss our previous article...