NXT stars Grayson Waller and Xyon Quinn have explained the importance of returning to live events, with the COVID area officially in the rear-view mirror for WWE’s developmental territory.
The third brand of the pro wrestling juggernaut has seen a myriad of changes in recent times, with the new-look NXT 2.0 focusing more on preparing talent for the bright lights of the main roster, as opposed to being it’s own entity.
Waller has become one of the shining lights for the brand since the changes were made, with the Aussie loudmouth cementing himself as one of the top heels in NXT.
From working an angle with the departing Johnny Gargano, to wrestling former world champion AJ Styles and challenging for a number of titles within NXT, the 32-year-old is primed for big things in the squared circle.
Waller is one of many NXT stars who will now get the experience to go back out on the road post-COVID, with the brand only working out of their Performance Center in Orlando, Florida since the pandemic began.
Prior to the pandemic, NXT was a touring brand that would do ‘loops’ around parts of the US, and even travelled to the UK and Australia at the height of its popularity.
And while the goalposts may have been moved in regards to the product, getting the opportunity as a developmental talent to perform solely for the live crowd, as opposed to a massive television audience, will only be beneficial in the long run.
Despite years of experience working the independents in Australia, Waller knows how important it is for the NXT roster and himself personally to get out in front of a different audience and further hone their craft.
“It’s super important, I can’t put it over enough," he told The Sporting News.
“Luckily for me, I have about four or five years on the independent scene in Australia and working in front of live crowds twice every week.
“There’s a lot of people in NXT who this is their first time either working in front of a crowd at all, which is wild, or working in front of a crowd that isn’t at the Performance Center.
“That Performance Center crowd, they are there every week and they know everyone and they know what to expect. These live event crowds, some of these people have never seen wrestling before, so it’s a different environment.
“Regardless of how talented I am, when the camera comes on I perform, but the stress is there before you go out. There’s hundreds of thousands of people watching (on TV) and most of them want you to fail.
“Being able to go on these live events and have a little bit more fun and enjoy yourself more and interact with the live crowd, we’re not working for the people at home – we are working for the people who bought a ticket to come and watch us and we put on a show for them.
“I think it’s the most important thing and now that we are back doing that, I think you are going to see people improve even more rapidly than they are already are.”
With pro wrestling experience prior to signing with WWE, the likes of Waller, Carmelo Hayes and Cameron Grimes could be considered ‘main-roster ready’ in 2022, and those men likely aren’t far away from receiving a call to move up to Raw or SmackDown.
But for a talent like Xyon Quinn, who has come from a professional rugby league background just three years ago, the return to live events is even more important.
Up until the return to touring, the 32-year-old had only ever wrestled in front of the tight-knit Orlando crowd for the brand’s weekly TV program - but his world is about to change.
Quinn explained the ‘trial and error’ aspect of working live events without the pressure of TV.
“You go out there, you have fun and try things – some things don’t work and you change them,” he told The Sporting News.
“As you know from school, when you make some drafts and send them in, the teacher has a look and they give it back to you – you send the next one in and get a much better mark.
“That’s kind of the same thing, you’ve just got to make sure you are ready and learn what things work and what things don’t and learn to try things.
“That’s the whole fun of it.”
Quinn and Waller are just two of a long list of Australian stars to make the jump to WWE, and while they come from different backgrounds, their end goal is the same.
And with WWE’s past reliance on part-time stars such as The Undertaker, Triple H and John Cena now leaving a huge hole at the top of the main roster, the hunger for NXT stars to make the jump and succeed is higher than ever.
WWE NXT airs each Wednesday from 10am AEST on FOX8 and 8pm ET on USA Network.