By: Chris Small
You are about to read a story.
A story of two men who have taken different paths to achieve something that only an elite few have achieved. Two men whose philosophy towards Professional Wrestling are as opposite as the sides of a coin.
Unconventionally, let’s start near the end of this story, to truly understand how it all began. And how it begins is with a phone call.
It’s a warm afternoon in early November. Melbourne City Wrestling’s 12th anniversary show is less than 3 weeks away. With a highly anticipated rematch for the MCW Women’s Championship being made official, along with an Intercommonwealth Title match and the return of the Ballroom Blitz, the card is shaping up to be worthy of such an important milestone.
Yet despite these blockbuster matches, the man that holds the top prize in the company has not yet been heard from. MCW World Heavyweight Champion Mitch Waterman decides to do something about that.
The phones of the MCW faithful vibrate. A notification has popped up from the MCW’s social media pages. An audio clip has been posted of Mitch’s voicemail to Management, where he requests a match be set up against one of the most decorated stars in the company’s history: “The Business” Slex!
The history between Slex and Mitch runs deep. Both have been mainstays in MCW for years, have fought with and against each other, and paid their dues in the same ring. Yet when I ask each competitor what that history means to them, vastly different answers are given.
After speaking to Slex, it’s clear right off the bat that “The Business” is not just a nickname. it’s a philosophy. The questions I pose to him are met with answers that focus back on professionalism, what’s good for the company, and the importance of how Champions carry themselves.
“I actually think Mitch has been doing a good job as Champion” Slex tells me when prompted for an opinion on Waterman’s current reign. “But, and this is just my own personal opinion, when you’re the Champion you have a target on your back, which means you have to be ready and willing for all challengers. To me, it seems he’s hand picking his opponents. If you’re doing that, you’re choosing your own fate and trying to get a step ahead of your competition. I think he’s going about it the wrong way and I think there’s a reason he hasn’t picked me yet. Yeah, he’s called me out now, but what took you so long?”
Critical words, but if anyone has any right to speak about a Champion’s behavior, it’s Slex. One of only three men to hold MCW World Heavyweight Title multiple times, if successful at MCW 12, Slex will set two records: the first ever three-time Champion and the first person to win the World Title as a Tag Team Champion.
When I bring up these stats to the challenger and inquire about extra pressure felt given the circumstances, it is once again obvious I am speaking to, pardon the pun, “The Business”.
“Every time you step in that ring, there’s pressure. We’re highly trained, highly skilled athletes. We all want to be the best in MCW. The thing is, as I’ve said, I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve already finished business with Mitch last time we got in there. This time, I’m going to go in there and cement my legacy as the greatest wrestler MCW has ever produced and become the first man to hold the World Title and the Tag Titles at the same time.”
Concise. Clear. Professional. To Slex, the confidence he exudes indicates this will be another day in the office.
The thing about stories though, is that they can be interpreted several ways. A key point in the narrative can hold much more meaning for one party than the other. When I catch up with the Champion the next day, it’s quickly established that Slex is the villain in Mitch’s story.
“It’s been an interesting relationship with Slex,” Mitch confides in me when I ask about his motivation in leaving the infamous voicemail. “He’s a guy who was singing my praises before I ever really did anything [in individual competition]. He’s a guy I learned a lot from watching. He took me under his wing a couple of years ago for a little bit where we’d train together here and there. So, I thought we were cool, and I thought we were friends. But then I won the Ballroom Brawl, the biggest moment of my life, and for whatever reason he came out the next show and took that all away from me”.
You can hear the confusion in Waterman’s voice when he reflects on that fateful night. For an industry that deals in the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, Mitch experienced both during what was supposed to be a coming out party of sorts; a statement to the MCW faithful that the Brat Pack Member was a legitimate contender.
Once the final bell rung in that first meeting between the two men however, everything changed for the current Champion.
“That night when he beat me, I haven’t felt the same since. After winning the [Ballroom] Brawl I felt like I was truly worthy of being a Champion. That night he took my confidence“.
Mitch pauses. It’s a sunny morning the day I speak to him, but a cloud of melancholy seems to hang over his head.
“Since that point, I’ve had to build [that confidence] back up to even challenge for the Championship. And then I got that Championship and during this entire Title run, people are saying ‘wow he’s improving so much’. But in the back of mind there’s still that loss to Slex. Until I beat him, I will never feel like the champion I’m supposed to be.”
It is a vulnerable admission from the young face of the company, and one that Slex echoes, once again showcasing his years of experience in reading opponents physically and psychologically.
“He’s [Mitch] come a long way. Since he’s won that Title, he’s had some great defenses. He beat Adam Brooks for the championship, and then beat him again a second time. He’s beaten Jack Bonza, Davis Storm. Those are some big names right there“.
This is where the compliments end from MCW’s benchmark, as Slex shifts gears to the future rather than the past.
“But there’s one name he hasn’t beaten, and that’s me. When he gets into that ring with me this time, he’s going to be looking into my eyes. and I’ll be able to see the doubt in his eyes that tells me he’s not up for the challenge.”
Speaking to both athletes it is startling how similar, yet how different both are. The Champion and the Challengers are aware of why this match is happening, and why it needs to happen.
Yet once again in this story, the narrative splits into two contrasting viewpoints, with each drawing motivation from individual sources whose origins sharply vary.
For Slex, it is brought back to “The Business”, the morale code that he lives by. The veteran is adamant in his belief that what MCW’s Champion is doing, and has been doing throughout his reign, equates to cutting corners.
“Mitch is trying to get on the front foot of by handpicking his opponents” Slex declares.
“I knew [handpicking me] was going to come. I know that HE knows he needs to beat me to validate his MCW Championship. But he can’t and he won’t. Picking me will be his downfall.”
Mitch, however, doesn’t see it this way, and fires back when asked for a rebuttal against the Title Contender’s claims.
“It’s a cute comment. I don’t know what he’s trying to accomplish with that comment, but if it wasn’t for me handpicking my opponents, he wouldn’t have a title shot. So, really, he should be thanking me“.
Waterman takes a moment, then continues, attempting to set the record straight, to tell this story in his words.
“It’s not like I’ve been picking people who don’t deserve to be in the ring. I’ve been taking dangerous matchups. It’s not a walk in the park. I’ve been picking matches that are going to challenge me and matches [against wrestlers] I’ve needed to get my win back, to be a worthy Champion.”
Mitch now circles back to the opponent at hand for Saturday.
“I know that I need to avenge that loss. How can I call myself champion when there’s a guy walking around that other people say is the best?”
The story becomes more and more complex. Valid arguments on both sides. Viewpoints that can be empathized with. And a picture is painted by their opponent of themselves in each other’s eyes.
For Slex, Mitch Waterman is not ready to handle the responsibility of the business end of Melbourne City Wrestling. Calling out opponents and being selective about who he fights is not what Slex believes MCW needs.
“I feel like Mitch is a boy in a man’s world. He’s had 4 title defenses and has only been to the main event twice. Now is that a man that MCW is screaming ‘you’re the face of the company and we’re backing you 110%?’ To me it doesn’t and I’m sure that’s playing on his mind going into this as well”.
For Mitch’s part, it’s more than resetting the score board. It’s about correcting a wrong that has been done against him by Slex and making himself whole.
“I try not to let emotion drive my decision in the ring. When I’m in the ring I won’t let emotions play a part at all. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t a part of me that wasn’t hurt, that wasn’t disrespected when he came out after that Ballroom Brawl win, when he’s been singing my praises, and for no reason whatsoever he comes out and takes that all away from me“.
This time, Waterman’s moral code is on display as he sums it up with a simple sentence.
“I wouldn’t do that to someone”.
A match that has in many ways been in the making for MCW’s entire 12 years will go down on Saturday, November 26th.
This is a story whose ending is still being written. Our two protagonists are ready.
The time for telling tales is over. Who emerges the hero? Who will be cast as the villain in the eyes of the MCW faithful? Does this story have a happy ending? And for whom?
The final page will be written this Saturday.
MCW 12 streams LIVE on FITE TV from 7:30pm (AEDT) on Saturday 26th November – ORDER NOW
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