Let me preface what I’m about to say: I was a big fan of the original NXT. Most years, prior to the debut of AEW Dynamite, it got my vote for show of the year. Even after October 2019, I continued to like it more than most. That started to change earlier this year, even prior to the reboot, when the show started to lose focus. Guys (and gals) were pushed and then not pushed. They were called up to the main roster and booked horribly, or in some cases not at all, and it became a struggle to continue to defend the show’s direction.
Then in mid-July it became known that Adam Cole’s contract had expired but he would work through the end of the August Takeover. That’s when the shit hit the fan. Vince McMahon made his way to the Performance Center and played his own version of the famous Madeline Khan scene from History of the World Part I (NSFW) and everyone knew cuts were comin’.
Amidst all of this, there was a guy who had debuted to little fanfare months earlier by the name of Grayson Waller.
As someone who watches almost all WWE-related programming, I had seen him wrestling on 205 Live with absolutely no hype. He kind of looked like an indie version of Dexter Lumis and had an undefeated gimmick. At one point, he lost a match to a heavyweight and claimed it didn’t count because the guy didn’t make the 205 lbs. weight limit for the show.
Eventually, he started showing up on occasional NXT shows and he seemingly had a different gimmick every time we saw him. He’s a boxer. He’s a ladies man. He’s a social media influencer—who has hardly any followers. And I’m probably forgetting a few. But through it all I could see that this guy had something and it was up to the people in charge to figure out the best way to present him.
I came to find out that prior to signing with WWE, Waller, real name Matthew Farrelly, had played an ’80s version of Ric Flair on the TV series Young Rock. Obviously someone saw something in him to cast him in that role. He had also been somewhat of a reality TV star in his native Australia prior to beginning his pro wrestling career. It seems as if they were leaning into that past with certain aspects of his presentation on NXT.
When the new NXT 2.0 debuted in September, the differences were jarring. Gone were (most of) the indie darlings that had been hired by Triple H and pushed as the backbone of the brand for most of the last five years. In it’s place, we had mostly green newcomers with a handful of matches to their credit. The likes of Bron Breakker, Von Wagner, Harland and others mixed in with recent Evolve signees Andre Chase and Joe Gacy with cringeworthy gimmicks. We also got a whole lot of Toxic Attraction, which is Mandy Rose, who has been on and off the main roster for years, paired with younger women in Jacey Jayne and Gigi Dolan. And seemingly every week newer and greener talent were introduced both in the way of video packages and in the ring.
Waller’s character is a try-hard. Kind of like a real life version of an internet troll. He’s desperately seeking attention, which is why we would see him in all these different situations and gimmicks. He claims to be a Golden Gloves boxer, hoping that will get him attention. He’s acting like a ladies man with Cameron Grimes but we can see that he clearly isn’t. He claims to be a social media influencer and yet he only has 5,000 followers. There were even subtle things, like him constantly checking his phone and (I would assume) not getting any mentions because no one cares about him. But he keeps trying.
Then, he had a match with LA Knight to get the hosting gig at the Halloween Havoc show. Knight won but the next week, Waller came out to host. The fans were apathetic. Why was this guy who we don’t like even out here? Eventually Knight came out to challenge him and they had a mini-feud that culminated with a triple threat match where Solo Sikoa beat them. Then Waller hit rock bottom when a woman he was trying to hit on ended up leaving with LA Knight in his sweet ride. Knight said “You talk about your likes and views . . . how do you like this view?” as he sped away.
Waller was devastated and realized he needed to do something to change his fortunes and his opportunity came later that same night. Johnny Gargano was giving his farewell speech to the NXT Universe when he was attacked by Waller. The crowd was livid. They loved Gargano but this prick was ruining his moment. Waller fed off the energy of the crowd, who were viscerally chanting “PIECE OF SHIT” at him as he continued his beatdown.
In subsequent appearances, Waller has drawn a hatred from the crowd rarely seen in wrestling and certainly not in NXT or WWE. A lot of people try to get this kind of heat but Waller is the only one getting it. People might call it cheap heat but he’s still getting it.
Waller (the character) has finally gotten what he’s looking for all this time and that’s attention. Attention from the fans, attention from the fellow wrestlers (faces and heels alike hate him, he was even barred from the dressing room), attention from people online. It’s negative attention and for a troll like Waller, that’s better than no attention at all.
When he’s on the screen, I’m paying attention because of the reaction he gets and because he’s now treated as someone important. I’m interested in him now. In just this past week, he made an unadvertised appearance on Monday Night RAW to confront AJ Styles and beat Odyssey Jones relatively clean for what was actually his first singles win on NXT television. While not officially announced, it seems that he’s heading for a match with the former WWE Champion which will only increase his profile, garner him attention and likely improve his in-ring ability.
The title of the article is a direct reference to a similar character on the main roster who is, of course, The Miz. There are aspects of Waller’s current storyline that are directly taken from things in Miz’s past, both real life and storyline. That tells me that Waller is someone that WWE management will have confidence in, as they have with Miz. Whether you like him or don’t like him, he’s always been an important part of the show. I’m a bigger fan of Miz than most and I see a lot of him in Waller. But I also see aspects of Waller that will ultimately make him better than Miz. He’s much better in the ring at this point in his career. He is getting a crowd reaction that it took Miz five years to get. And he has a natural charisma that can’t be taught.
I’ll be honest. Most of the time when I’m watching WWE programming, I’m checking my phone or I’m working on something on the computer and just barely paying attention. When Waller comes on the screen, I stop what I’m doing and pay attention. There are very few others in that company who that applies to and I can probably count them on one hand. Brock, Roman . . . I’m struggling to come up with another. And Waller is in there, at least for right now, for me.
There’s a long road ahead but I’m hear for the ride and will be looking forward to see what’s next.