After signing with WWE in 2021, chances to return to Australia have been few and far between for Grayson Waller.
The self-proclaimed ‘Aussie Icon’ and Sydney-born superstar was back home last week with LA Knight, as part of a promotional tour for Elimination Chamber: Perth to take place at Optus Stadium on February 24.
Waller spoke with The Inner Sanctum and stated that the opportunity to return to Australia was exciting.
“It’s been about a year since I’ve been home and even though it’s only 48 hours, it’s exciting,” he said.
“Going back home, getting to see friends and family, and also getting to experience some things that I haven’t before.
“Getting to come out and see the [Penrith] Panthers, that type of thing. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Waller is one of only a few Australian wrestlers to make it to WWE, let alone the main roster. He was first a high school history teacher, now considering his journey to the biggest wrestling promotion in the world an honour and acknowledging how difficult it has been.
“I worked very hard to be in the position I am in. As an Australian, it’s not easy,” he said.
“I know I had the right eyes at the right time to help me out and now, I kind of look at it as now we need more Australians.
“I think Rhea [Ripley] started this and I’m proving now that we are world class, we’re as good as anyone else, so I kind of want to get more Australians now.
“For Australians, you wonder if there’s even an opportunity to get here. And for a long time, growing up and watching wrestling on TV, there were no Australians so it didn’t seem like this was a possible path.
“But then they started filtering in, I started hearing about things happening and all of a sudden. it became an option. So I do feel very lucky, but it was more of a case of I was enjoying what I was doing, I loved wrestling and regardless of how it happened, I wanted to be doing it.”
One Australian wrestler who did not have the opportunity to make it to WWE was one of Waller’s trainers at Pro Wrestling Australia, Madison Eagles.
Eagles, a long time mainstay of the Australian wrestling scene, was described by Waller as, “one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time”.
“I think if she was coming up in today’s world, she would be doing what Rhea’s doing right now,” he said.
As times change in the professional wrestling world where wrestlers do not necessarily have to fit a certain mould like they once did, Waller knows women’s wrestling is going to get “bigger and bigger”, with more diversity coming through the industry.
“At the end of the day, we’re superstars and we’re athletes, and WWE has always presented the best of the best and you have to look like you’re a fighter. That’s what we do,” he said.
“But it’s great seeing, especially being in NXT, seeing the new girls coming through and that type of thing.
“It’s really cool seeing the girls doing so well right now and I know it’s just going to get bigger and bigger, as they start coming up through the ranks.”
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Waller will get the opportunity to return to Australia once again next month when Elimination Chamber: Perth hits Optus Stadium on February 24, describing what it will feel like as crazy.
“It’s going to be crazy. I’ve been in front of some big crowds,” he said.
“I’ve been in the O2, I’ve been in Madison Square Garden, but this is my home crowd, so it’s a completely different kind of feel and I’m super excited to go in front of my friends and family.”
After Waller was drafted to Friday Night SmackDown in 2023 as part of the WWE Draft, he has been in the ring with some of the biggest names in WWE history, such as John Cena, Edge and Rey Mysterio.
When asked if he has a favourite that he has worked with, Waller said he does not have one.
“I’ve had the opportunity to wrestle Hall of Famers and legends, and I’ve got to slap a lot of them in the face,” he said.
“I don’t necessarily have a favourite because in these situations, it’s just like me trying to show the world how good I am.
“I’ve been in there with Rey Mysterio. That’s someone I watched as a kid. I’ve been in the ring with Shawn Michaels, doing an interview with him.
“For me, those are always cool things, but these are colleagues now. These aren’t people that I look up to. I’ve changed my mindset on it.”
When asked how hard it was to change his mindset from fan to professional wrestler, Waller said it was not difficult at all.
“I guess that’s my kind of attitude. I’ve always been the guy who I need to fire myself up, especially if I’m going to get into a fight with one,” he said.
“If I have to slap someone in the face, I can’t be going in there with, ‘oh my gosh, this is my hero. I can’t believe I’m in there with him’.
“So it doesn’t take me long to get some hate in my heart when I jump in there.”
WWE Elimination Chamber: Perth takes place at Optus Stadium on Saturday, February 24 and tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.