Indie Watch is our regular series that looks at all of the amazing talents working the independent circuits around the world. Some are veterans revitalizing their careers, some are indie prospects hitting their peaks, while others are names to be on the watch for! This edition looks at a rising star out of Arizona who is becoming a force with the AWF, the man known simply as WATSON.
For the first time, Saturday night Arizona State Champion WATSON steps into the ring with his Mentor, Teacher, and Arizona Living Legend Gabriel Gallo for the Arizona Wrestling Federation (AWF) Heavyweight Championship. His heroes of the past like Randy Orton, Booker T, Chris Benoit, Randy Savage, and the man who started it all for him Jeff Hardy have been in this Championship spot before early in their careers. Now it’s his turn. No matter what happens Saturday he’ll remember what it’s taken to get to this point and the moment of clarity that changed his life. HE IS WATSON.
The man billed from Louidelphia, Kentsylvania after spending time in both Louisville, Kentucky and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania didn’t wrestle in High School but played football from age 4-18. He played Linebacker, Defensive End, and Fullback but was sick of football by the time it ended, but unfortunately had nothing to fill the void. “My life really had no direction,” he said, “and I was basically losing the game of life as soon as it started and I ended up out here (Arizona) after dropping out of college.” He needed to get away, “I came out to AZ just to visit and get away from a lot of the negativity going on back home, then realized there wasn’t much to go back to. So I decided to stay out here. With a fresh start on life, I found the AWF academy in March of 2016, and I haven’t looked back since!”
He may have had a “fresh start” in Arizona, but, “I was still doing stupid stuff, and was extremely immature. I didn’t have that eye-opening experience until I was sitting in the back of a police car. At that point, I knew I needed change.”
WATSON had been a wrestling fan since he was a curious child poking through stuff that didn’t belong to him, “It all started when 4-year-old me found my big brother’s WrestleMania 2000 VHS tape. Once I saw Jeff Hardy, I instantly was hooked.” Many know what they want to do with their lives, but come up with excuses not to do it, and for him, those days were over, “I had already known for most of my life what I wanted to do. I wanted to wrestle! I needed to stop wasting life, and get things done. I just didn’t know where to start. I looked all over Google for all of the closest wrestling schools and buried in the 3rd or 4th page was the AWF Academy. At this point, there are no more excuses because everything I’ve ever hoped for was a mere 25 miles away in a humble warehouse located in Glendale, Az.”
His first day of training in that “Humble Warehouse” didn’t include the squared-circle and instead was, “mainly conditioning and tons and tons of lockups. I didn’t even get in the ring!” He was surprised that despite being an athlete how tough the training would be, “I knew it would be hard but I didn’t expect it to be as challenging as it was. Even as someone who has played football most of their life, my body had never been so sore before.” He was excited, but was patient and waited to start getting booked until he was ready. Although his debut opponent wasn’t very impressed, “My first class was in March of 2016, and my first match was in November later that year. It was vs R-Three. Got DESTROYED!!!” Happens to a lot of people.
The first time he had his hand-raised escaped him as the first matches ran together with mixed results, so was there a moment when you knew you were good at this wrestling thing? “I can’t really pinpoint one moment, but every now and then you’re reminded of why you do this, and why we risk so much to do what we do. From matches with guys like Sefa Fatu, Eli Everfly, Owen Travers, All Elite Wrestling’s MJF, etc. The valleys in wrestling can be pretty low, but the highs are out of this world!” He acknowledged that “A lot of the low valleys have nothing to do with the ring. A lot of it has to do with the sacrifices outside of it. Missed Birthdays, graduations, weddings, traveling with $20 in your bank account and depending on your payday to get you back to town, and these things really test you mentally.”
His biggest test in the ring came in 2018 when he feuded with Alvaric Reiner for three months. Reiner, who was AZ State Champ and his Manager CLAS attempted a variety of mind games on the young star, but on April 28th 2018 playing some mind games of his own WATSON captured his first singles Championship. On Saturday night he will be Champion for 364 days. He’s defended the Title against the likes of Andy Brown, Rocketboy Wilson, Owen Travers, and Andy Palafox.
2019 has seen his reach in the Grand Canyon State expand feuding with Oliver Grimsly on Championship Wrestling from Arizona (CWFA)and even took his personal “King of the Midway” belt after multiple attempts and “rulebook” obstacles. About his recent time with CWFA, “Man, I’m having so much fun there, and we’re gonna have a lot more.”
You notice his athleticism immediately and his spear is a major weapon which is used to finish fights and as Standard Operating Procedure. WATSON has no qualms burying the shoulder into his opponents mid-section while locked in the corner. His moves are methodical, calculated and for a young grappler rarely takes unnecessary risks. Although it hasn’t resulted in victories yet WATSON has recently been booked in Las Vegas with Future Stars of Wrestling and faced Nevada State Champion “The Problem” Sefa Fatu in a very competitive match. WATSON showed his athleticism by connecting on a high drop kick while Fatu was perched in the corner. He strikes are accurate, and WATSON knows where his strengths are and will stay in the pocket. That works against him sometimes as his offensive game can be slow to develop leaving him open to counters.
His attitude and character are next-level. It took him a couple of days to respond once during our interview and he apologized citing car problems and it’s not surprising because he’s a gym rat and routinely seen at shows out of state he isn’t booked at. He loves to be around wrestling whether competing or not. In fact, that’s the case with other AWF wrestlers i.e. Women’s Champ Leslie Iris and Bryn Thorn.
The Arizona State Champ is humble and grateful, “Over the past 3 years I’ve learned under the tutelage of Arizona Superstars including Lawrence Tyler, Dom Vitalli, Gabriel Gallo, Graves, Major League Wrestling (MLW) Star Hammerstone, and Shadowfox and am forever grateful for their knowledge!” It was during our interview Kofi Kingston won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 35, so I asked what it meant to him, “Nothing in wrestling has ever made me so proud to be who I am. It wasn’t just a big win for Kofi, but a win for everyone who has ever felt like they weren’t good enough because of their skin color. You hear it everywhere, on TV, on the Radio, in passing and even blatantly in front of you. It’s a daily struggle. What that moment did was shine that little light of hope in what was once a dark tunnel, and the same time, brought millions of viewers all over the world (no matter what color, shape or size) together for 15 minutes. And THAT is the magic of Professional Wrestling/Sports Entertainment.”
Check out our full list of previous Indie Watches, showcasing emerging talent from around the world!
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