WWE announced that among the most recent group of WWE Performance Center recruits, two happen to be from Pro Wrestling Alliance from Australia. Steph De Lander and Matty Wahlberg both were staples of PWA Australia and in the Australian wrestling scene at large, having watched them live in the past, I knew destiny was bright in their futures.
We haven’t yet seen De Lander on NXT television, but Wahlberg played one of the security guards escorting Kyle O’Reilly at TakeOver: Stand & Deliver. With WWE’s massive roster, one wonders where these two will fit in. There’s no need to rush either to television, but I hope these two promising talents don’t spend too much of their prime on the assembly line.
Steph De Lander is someone who the room pays attention to when she walks into it. De Lander has great height and looks like a star already. Her work is solid despite her lack of experience. SDL comes across like a serious athlete and a believable competitor, and it’s no surprise that she signed with a major company already. I like her chances of becoming a superstar in wrestling.
Matty Wahlberg is a ton of fun. Wahlberg seems like someone you’d love to have a beer with. One of the best things about him as a wrestler is that he has a big personality. He was polarizing in PWA, but whether the fans cheered or booed, it was always loud. Wahlberg has even tried his hand in the storied reality television series Survivor in 2019, where he certainly entered the social consciousness “down under.”
I’m excited to find out both of their new ring-names, but I’m also intrigued as to what’s in store for them in WWE. I’m not just saying this because they’re Australian, but seriously, keep an eye on them. Growing up on a far-away island, Australians tend to have grow up with chips on their shoulders. When one is so far away from the United States or Europe, one must work harder as one’s dreams feel that much farther away. De Lander and Wahlberg have put in the work, and with this new chapter in their careers, they now have a chance to become global celebrities. Based on all that I’ve seen so far, you can bank on it.
The cynical hardcore wrestling fan within me is never immediately stoked when a talent signs with WWE. I tend to think, “Man, you should work PWG first, or go to Japan,” but what I realized is that when you’re a kid in Australia growing up during the ’00s, WWE becomes all you know, for years. It’s is likely the first wrestling you watch, or the first program you fall in love with that spawns a dream of someday wrestling on international television. You always remember your first love.
As an Australian who fell in love with this sport in the mid-2000s, there were no significant Australian talents on WWE programming, but I’m happy more Aussies there now. I’m especially happy for both De Lander and Wahlberg who are now that much closer to their dreams of wrestling in WWE.