The Grayson Waller Effect: A Look at NXT 2.0’s Unexpected Breakout Star

Grayson Waller

When Grayson Waller made his debut for WWE, it was on 205 Live as one of the few cruiserweight wrestlers they had left. The first match of his NXT career would see him team with Drake Maverick in a three-minute loss to Marcel Barthel and Drake Maverick. His next time showing up would see Waller challenging Roderick Strong for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship, coming up short in six minutes and 22 seconds. The man who claims that NXT 2.0 benefits from “The Grayson Waller Effect” didn’t get his first major victory until WarGames when he was slotted as one of the new stars of NXT 2.0. Now, he is in a feud with former WWE Champion AJ Styles and looks to be on a fast track to the main roster. Waller’s rise from just another name to NXT’s breakout antagonist in a matter of months has been one of the craziest journeys to follow. From just another cruiserweight division body to becoming one of the main characters of WWE’s newest reality show that is NXT 2.0, “The Grayson Waller Effect” has taken over.

Grayson Waller and AJ Styles
All Photos Credit: WWE

Waller didn’t get into the wrestling business until he was 27 years old, competing in a number of promotions in his home country of Australia under the name Matty Wahlberg. He was a key member of the PWA Black Label promotion where wrestlers like NJPW’s Robbie Eagles made their names better known worldwide. He was also a main performer of International Wrestling Australia (IWA) and Wrestling GO! over the last number of years.

Waller eventually signed with WWE in 2021 at the age of 31. He was set to be a part of the black and gold version of NXT. Waller’s signing did not make nearly as many waves as his other Performance Center classmates did in early 2021. Sarray (fka Sareee), Persia Pirotta (fka Step De Lander), and the recently released Hideki Suzuki (fka Hachiman in WWE) were the headliners. The Aussie star flew under the radar as one of the newest members of the Black and Gold brand, leading to most fans forgetting about him until the NXT rebrand occurred. He made his WWE debut on 205 Live against Sunil Singh and began to pick up a number of wins on the brand before making his debut on NXT as stated previously.

Once the Black and Gold were replaced for a refreshed rainbow-colored splatter of paint, it was time for Waller to shine. It wasn’t inside the squared circle that Waller began to get noticed but what he was doing in every segment he received. Instantaneously, Waller began the “social media influencer” with knowledge about dating apps and how to appeal to women. It surely wasn’t a character change that many expected but it was one that only got him more and more heat as he began feuding with LA Knight. Knight defeated him in singles action in their lone match, but it allowed Waller to be a part of the Men’s WarGames match that saw the old generation taking on the new one. Waller dazzled in that match, jumping from the top of the WarGames structure and making a moment for him to be remembered by. That wasn’t the moment that put him as a clear breakout star of NXT 2.0, however, as it was the next episode of the weekly show.

Johnny Gargano took a microphone to give his “goodbyes” to the NXT fans as it seemed his time in the promotion had come to an end. It was an emotional night for many as “The Heart of NXT” was likely leaving the company and as we know now, has not made an appearance since. But that “goodbye” didn’t end the way many expected as Waller attacked Gargano, aiming to use that moment as his launching point. He would destroy Gargano as he laughed off the indescribable act, turning in NXT’s most hated man in a matter of minutes. Waller has used that one moment to become an instant star of sorts, leading to his feud and match with AJ Styles of all people. 

Waller, much like the character he plays on TV, has become an overnight sensation of sorts and now looks ready to be on the main roster and potentially in the Royal Rumble. Seeing that less than six months ago he was messing around in the forgotten brand of 205 Live to becoming a guy calling out Styles on Monday Night Raw, it has been impressive on his part of making the world notice that “The Grayson Waller Effect” is more than just a clever statement to put on a t-shirt.

As 2022 gets underway, Waller is the wrestler to watch as he has a shot to be the first NXT 2.0 star to make the jump to Raw or SmackDown. “The Grayson Waller Effect” has taken over the junior brand of WWE and soon enough it will infiltrate the main shows each and every week.

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