By Chris Small
From fan to rising star, Mitch Waterman has made a name for himself in Australian Professional Wrestling as a hard worker, exciting performer, and eager student. But is he ready for the biggest challenge of his career when he stands across the ring from his onetime idol Adam Brooks?
It’s March 13th, 2021. A sold out crowd of wrestling fans are on their feet inside the Thornbury Theatre located in Melbourne Australia. It is Melbourne City Wrestling’s biggest event of the year: The Ballroom Brawl. As the final minutes of the Main Event unfold, two wrestlers remain in the ring; Ritchie Taylor and Mitch Waterman. Both fighters are in different places in their careers, but each is competing for a chance to challenge for the ultimate prize in the company: The MCW World Heavyweight Championship.
The clock counts down to indicate another entrant into the match, the rules of which indicate the last man remaining after all others have been eliminated by going over the top rope wins. But something is wrong. 20 men have entered the match already, and there is no spot for a 21st competitor. As Lochy Hendricks, a villain if there ever was one in MCW, emerges on the entrance ramp, the entire arena erupts in anger, matching what Mitch must be feeling as exhaustion battles adrenaline in his heart. He is so close to ascending to the next stage in a career that is fairy-tale in nature. How did this young man find himself in this moment, in this ring, in front of a sea of adoring fans?
To arrive at that fateful night in Thornbury, we must go back to the beginning, when Mitch Waterman was eight years old.
“Pro Wrestling has been part of my life since I was eight. The first time I saw it, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do” – Mitch Waterman
The larger than life characters and the athleticism of the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) captivated the young child, an entirely new world being broadcast into his home and making an immediate impression on the boy. Imagine the surprise and delight, as the years past for Mitch, to learn that wrestlers such as those seen on his TV were also in Australia. However, the bright lights and professionalism of the matches he becomes accustomed to is a far cry from his first impression of wrestling in his native country.
“The first Australian wrestling show I went to was a free show at the Pipeworks Market of all places, and it wasn’t very good. It wasn’t a very good first impression! So, from that point I had this idea in my head that, to be a professional wrestler, I’d have to go overseas to train and wrestle”
While not deterred from his boyhood dream of becoming a Professional Wrestler, Mitch is convinced that Australia doesn’t offer the path he seeks to transform himself into what he believes he is destined to be.
However, fate has a funny way of intervening in even the most steadfast of plans and beliefs.
Which is how we find ourselves back in the ring with Mitch Waterman, Ritchie Taylor, and now Lochy Hendricks. As wrestling fans know, the sport is an emotional rollercoaster, and tends to punish those who deserve the world, and reward those who have turned their back on it. The crowd senses this is one of those nights, the opportunity of a lifetime given to someone who has done nothing to earn it. This feeling of hopelessness is reinforced as Hendricks throws Ritchie Taylor over the top rope, leaving only Waterman and himself in the ring.
Fifteen years have passed since Mitch was eight years old and watching wrestling in his living room. He is now older, wiser, a wrestler living his dream. And after everything he has accomplished in his career so far, the physical toll this evening’s match has taken on him, the mental strength to overcome the unjustness of this last minute addition, there is no way that he will let himself be a footnote to someone else’s story.
Which is how he seizes the energy to throw Lochy Hendricks over the top rope.
The bell rings. He has won. Mitch Waterman is the 2021 Ballroom Brawl Winner, giving him the opportunity to fight for the MCW World Heavyweight Title at a time of his choosing for a full calendar year.
His mind must be racing. The bitter taste of blood in his mouth, the reverberation of the ring announcer’s voice proclaiming him the winner, and the cacophony of cheers emanating from all around him. Above all else though, Mitch Waterman is thinking one thing. In order to become champion, he must square off against the man that changed his mind on what Australian Wrestling truly is.
We now go back in time again to April 13th, 2013. Melbourne City Wrestling is at the Tullamarine Public Hall. It is Clash of the Titans, and Adam Brooks is squaring off against his best friend and mentor Matt Silva. Two of Australia’s best performers are engaging in a grudge match of epic proportions, leaving everything they have in the middle of the ring. The match goes for over thirty minutes. The crowd realizes they have witnessed something special. And as they rise to their feet to give the two men a standing ovation, a 16 year old Mitch Waterman realizes he may not have to travel as far as he thought to reach the heights he hopes.
“That was the match that made me realise how good Australian wrestling was; that was the match that made me realise I didn’t have to go overseas. I wanted to be here in this scene, because this wrestling was the best wrestling in the world.” – Mitch Waterman
It takes a village to raise a person into who they become. In the world of professional wrestling, the performer you evolve into is aided by countless allies, teachers, and supporters who give a small piece of themselves to unlock greatness. For Mitch, the key begins to turn when he crosses paths with a fellow hungry young talent named Nick Bury. They realize the importance of allies in wrestling, and together they begin competing across the country as a team.
The talent is evident. Yet wrestling is about much more than athleticism and potential. There is an intangible element that is often referred to as “The X-Factor”. For Mitch and Nick, that X-Factor is a third party, a wrestler carving her own path in Australia by the name of Avary.
“Nick and I were just another tag team on the roster; we were the new kids on the block, but we didn’t really have an identity, we were kind of searching for that. But slowly but surely, pieces started falling together. We started building a bit of a relationship with Avary, and that’s when The Brat Pack was born.” – Mitch Waterman
The Brat Pack trio finds their identity together. Avary becomes the MCW Women’s Champion. Mitch and Nick become MCW Tag Team Champions. Then they do it a second time. And a third time. When they win the titles for a fourth time, they become the most successful tag team in the promotion’s history. While nothing can be taken away from the drive that bring the three into the spotlight, Mitch is the first to admit that there is a fourth contributor to the mix.
“Adam Brooks kind of took us under his wing a little bit, and that’s when The Brat Pack was born. He really started forming us and molding us into an actual entity.” – Mitch Waterman
Adam Brooks. The wrestler that a teenage Waterman credits to rediscovering the sport in Australia. The man that has gone toe to toe with the biggest names in the industry. The current Melbourne City Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion.
Fast forward to February 12th 2022. We find ourselves again at the Thornbury Theatre, almost a year removed from that fateful night when Mitch Waterman overcame the odds against twenty other men. The odds are once again stacked against the tenacious young man and his backstage advocate. Waterman and Brooks stand as the lone survivors in a match that started off as two teams of five. Three sharks surround the ring, smelling blood in the proverbial waters.
A sense of De Ja Vou must resinate in both the Champion and the unofficial number one contender to the throne. For Brooks, this evokes memories of when he was written off as an underdog in his match against Silva back in 2013. For Waterman, this is another example of being counted out In a big match scenario. However, unlike previous milestones in his career, Mitch isn’t fighting for validation from the crowd, or even the majority of his peers. On this night, Mitch is hoping to gain respect from an audience of one: Adam Brooks.
We travel back once again to the height of The Brat Pack’s success. Nick and Mitch are stealing the show on every event they appear on. Opportunities to travel overseas are taken, Making good on the initial idea of what a “Professional Wrestler” is in the eyes of a prepubescent Waterman. Through it all, Adam Brooks remains a constant in the life of Mitch Waterman, offering support and stability in navigating the choppy waters of Professional Wrestling. Yet in the eyes of the tag team specialist, nothing in life comes without conditions.
“What did he see in me? I don’t know, he’s never told me. Our relationship is interesting; we’re boys outside the ring, we’ve always gotten along. Nick, me, Brooksy were mates in real life outside of wrestling. So, other than the initial formation of The Brat Pack, I think that’s a big misconception. He’s not necessarily a mentor in wrestling. He’s never told me why he helped me and Nick out, but I’ve learned through observing him over the years and I knew that was the level I needed to be at. So I’ve been watching from the sidelines, watching how much he cares about this, how much he studies this to be the absolute best. I knew the only way to get to that level was to be exactly like that.” – Mitch Waterman
Mitch is a quintessential student of the game. He watches tape of his matches to see where he can improve. He carries himself with a degree of professionalism and maturity that belies his young age. And, above all else, he is grateful for the village that has made him the man he is, but understands that his biggest advocate needs to be himself.
Nick Bury believes in Mitch Waterman, giving him his blessing to forge a path in singles competition. Mitch’s family believes in him, never questioning his dream of becoming the biggest name in Australian Professional Wrestling. The fans, MCW management, and Mitch himself are also backing the young upstart.
However, where is Adam Brooks’ head; the current MCW Title holder who has a vested interest in what Mitch does with his Championship opportunity?
If you ask Waterman, he won’t hesitate to express his opinion on the matter:
“I’m not ready. He said that, I heard him say that, we all heard him say that. It’s funny. The dude is overlooking me. Just like Matt Silva overlooked him. I’ve had numerous conversations with Brooksy outside the ring about that exact match, because like I said that match was everything to me. That match changed the game for me. And you know what he told me? He told me he didn’t know if he could beat Matt. He didn’t know if he was ready. He didn’t know if he’s on that level. Matt didn’t think he was on that level. But Brooksy put a bet on himself and it paid off in the biggest way. We all know how that match ended. Brooksy left with his hand raised and he sent his buddy packing. So it’s funny and I find it kind of ironic that now the roles are reversed, and he’s doing the exact same thing that Matt did to him to me. He’s overlooking me.” – Mitch Waterman
This internal narrative runs through Waterman’s head as we snap back to last month, Mitch and Adam against all odds, fighting to survive. The next few minutes are a blur of fists, kicks, and pinfalls. A member of the opposing team is eliminated. Seconds later, another ones bites the dust. By the time anyone has had the opportunity to process how the tables have turned so quickly, Rocky Menero, the lone member of the opposing team, is eliminated in a one-two combination from Brooks and Waterman.
The crowd goes wild. Adam Brooks raises his hands in deserved jubilation. The referee signals to the outside crew to bring the Champion his belt to celebrate his victory and indicate to the crowd who sits atop the mountain.
But Mitch is an equal contributor to this victory. More importantly, Mitch has put in more effort, eliminated more opponents, and survived more adversity in this high stakes match. Something clicks in Waterman’s head. He sees the Championship Belt being handed to Adam Brooks and he instinctively reaches out to take it. The crowd goes silent, sensing the tension in the air. Brooks is confused, subconsciously shifting into a fighting stance. There is no need, however, for Adam to have his guard up. The only battle that is currently taking place is in the head of Mitch Waterman. In this moment, staring down at the MCW World Heavyweight Champion, the voices of doubt occupying his head in recent months are silenced.
“The night I won Ballroom Brawl was insane. I was there to defend the tag team championship and I ended the night with arguably the biggest opportunity in MCW, in the country. I got to challenge for whatever championship I wanted, but I knew I wasn’t ready. I doubted myself, I heard all the whispers, I heard people talking. I knew I couldn’t beat Brooksy, I’ve said that. But now a year’s gone by and I’ve realised that I’m not going to crumble under the pressure of being the next Adam Brooks. I felt the biggest victory in MCW, I won the Ballroom Brawl and that’s always in the back of my mind that I’ve won the big one. This isn’t new to me, I’ve been preparing for this mentally for over a year, and I’m finally in a position where I know I can win” – Mitch Waterman
It was eight years ago that Mitch Waterman was first in the same building as Adam Brooks. On that night, a fan witnessed inspiration unfold. On this night, two equals stand across from each other. Mitch knows what he is capable of. He is grateful for what Adam Brooks has given him, but will not let that cast a shadow over what he knows he can do. He also understands there will always be doubters.
“Ever since Ballroom Brawl I’ve been hearing people say “Mitch is just a tag wrestler. He’s won this big match and he doesn’t know what to do with it. He doesn’t know who he is by himself”, and maybe they’re right. But every war I go through, every single fight I have, every drop of blood I drop, I figure out who I am and this match is going to be the biggest challenge yet. Because when I get into the deep water with Brooksy that I’ve never swam in before, am I going to drown or am I going to fight? Am I going to scratch? Am I going to claw, just like I have all over this country?” – Mitch Waterman
The answer to all these questions is a resounding yes. Mitch issues his contractually entitled challenge. He is no longer eight years old watching a world that seems unattainable through the local cable station. He is no longer sixteen years old watching a match that fills him with hope that what once seemed out of reach is within his grasp. He is 24 years old, confident in his abilities, sure of himself, and ready to undergo a Rite of Passage.