PART 3- HARD TIMES BREED BETTER MEN
In the final preparations leading up the camp’s Showcase event, I was just happy to have the opportunity to perform on a highly acclaimed show associated with the world renowned school. As the weeks went on, I gladly accepted the role of helping elevate my other classmates to maximise their talents given that the 11 weeks flew by.
Although the past year before my American adventures was 90% booked as a babyface, I have always felt more home as a heel. I have been fortunate to have been given an opportunity to work both in Australia, but spending also 90% of the camps duration working practice matches as a heel was a plus for me.
My expectation for my booking at the event was to be placed with another classmate, working as a heel to hide any potential mishaps for my lesser experienced possible opponent, and a smaller role in tow. But life had other plans.
I had the privilege of being selected to work the main event of the showcase, but with my biggest fear of all; as a babyface.
Could the foreigner known as “The Australian Hero”, draped in his countries colours and symbol, be accepted by the ever so patriotic American folk? Maybe a particular move might help……
Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought I’d be asking The “American Nightmare” Cody Rhodes to show me how to perform the Cross Rhodes. After being suggested as a move to pay homage to the man himself by the other coaches, I was very hesitant to ask for permission to use it through fear of “stealing someone else’s moveset”. But as always a true gentleman and without missing a beat (even though we had to interrupt his gym workout, a sometimes mortal sin in the workout world), he explained the key to making the move look as good as possible.
The Nightmare Showcase was a kind of moment that I had played in my head for years. As a teen I had dreamed about performing infront of some of the biggest names in wrestling. With everything in place and us ready to rock and roll at the District Nightclub in Atlanta, Cody Rhodes rallied the squad and made sure we all knew that tonight was not a goodbye, it was a “cya down the road”. Did the night go off without a hitch? Oh boy…..
Due to the potential Youtube revenue that may come from it, we were requested to choose copyright-free entrance music for the night, which is totally understandable. But right before showtime there was an issue with the music files and the orders became “come out to whatever gets played” through a Spotify playlist.
As the matches rolled on and the songs were played, I was absolutely terrified. From “Welcome to The Jungle” to “Love is A Battlefield”, it was truly a mixed bag. Theme Music can set the intial tone of a performer, and really can make or break you. Could I be walking out to “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley?
As my opponent marched out to the ring (shoutout to The Warden, a big man with tons of potential and a Showcase mainstay), the waves of emotion came across me and I had to fight back tears. It was a journey of overcoming adversity of a kid who was too afraid to step out into the world, to end up here.
As soon as The Warden’s music stopped playing, I quickly glanced out into the crowd in attendance and saw one empty seat. And deep in my heart I knew that chair wasn’t truly empty, it was a father that I hoped to make proud that night. And as my theme song chosen at random played, I knew he was there looking out for me….
“Rising up, back on the street.”
As “Eye of The Tiger” played over the sound system, I felt like I was heading into the fight of my life like Rocky Balboa. And to my surprise treated like a Hometown Hero even though I was from the other side of the world. I truly felt home.
My ass was kicked, an Australian flag was stepped on, a Cross Rhodes was executed, hell I even did a dive (if you know me, that might be a one and done thing). And once it was all over, the emotion of it all hit me, nearly collapsing from emotional exhaustion. I had become the first Australian to complete the Nightmare Factory Camp, and a credential I can wear proudly.
And so the journey was over (I won’t bore you all with my trip to Disneyland after, this is a wrestling website!). But unfortunately I did leave a little disappointed by the end. Sadly without a work visa, even a dark match was out of the question. But that does not mean I regret any of it all. I walked away with memories to last a lifetime, and an insatiable desire to keep pushing forward in the world of professional wrestling.
If you’ve managed to read right through all 3 parts of my journey, thank you for reading! And if you can indulge me, I’d like to leave this article with my final thank you’s:
-My wonderful sister, who many times became my rock when times were tough in Georgia.
-My beautiful partner Sofie, who looked after me in ways I really didn’t deserve.
– and My Mum and Dad. The lady who’s given me life in more ways than 1, and the Dad who made me the man I am today. This is my journey, but it is both of theirs too.
And so to end this all, I’ll finish it off with a small piece of my promo that I performed infront of The American Nightmare Cody Rhodes on the first promo day;
“To the mother who gave up everything in a way I could never repay for me to overcome it all and succeed, to lead to this moment where I can say….
Thank you Mum, we made it.”