Imagine being 19 and lacing up a pair of wrestling boots for the first time in your life – to then being signed by the WWE several months later.
Sounds impossible, right?
Well, if you’re an Australian who goes by the name Indi Hartwell, that’s exactly what happened.
Hartwell, 24, in an incredibly short timeframe has emerged as one of the WWE’s most exciting up and coming wrestlers, featuring regularly on the company’s popular NXT edition.
The Melbourne native, who was urged by her parents not pursue a professional wrestling career, took her very first steps towards WWE stardom back in March of 2016 following an itch that wouldn’t go away without giving her dream a real shot.
“I was 19 [when I started wrestling],” Hartwell told Wide World of Sports.
“I had always wanted to start wrestling training when I was younger but my parents didn’t want me to wrestle. So I had to wait until I got my licence so I could drive myself to training.
“I’m originally from Melbourne and started in Melbourne. I made my way all around Australia.
“Starting wrestling is tough, I don’t think anything can really prepare you for it.
“The amount of passion I had for it, and how big of a fan I was made it easier going into it. It would’ve more difficult I wasn’t familiar with it at all.”
Following a successful year wrestling around Australia in 2016, which included a women’s championship belt with Adelaide’s Riot City Wrestling promotion, Hartwell’s next chapter is where things really took off.
Despite only having 10 independent matches under her belt, all of which occurred within Australia, Hartwell’s small resume worked its magic when the young Aussie earned a WWE tryout in late 2016, with the company touring Australia at the time.
Hartwell’s first taste in the WWE ended in a “no”, but the NXT star revealed it was that exact moment that opened the door for her to really start thinking big.
“A few months before I had even gone to America to wrestle I had a [WWE] tryout,” she said
“I was only a few months into wrestling and WWE was coming to Australia for an NXT tour. My trainer at the time let me know there was a tryout and coming up and let me know to send in a resume.
“Obviously, at the time I didn’t have much on my resume. I think I had maybe less than 10 matches under my belt. But I sent it in any way and I didn’t expect to hear back, but I did.
“I got invited to the try out which was in December of 2016, so I was only a few months into wrestling.
“At the time it was a no but that got my foot in the door and since then I was in conversation with them.”
After getting knocked back in her first attempt at a WWE contract, Hartwell began touring the American independent circuit where ultimately she was spotted competing in Brooklyn, New York, by WWE scouts a couple of years later, which led to her fist big-time deal.
“I knew that I wasn’t ready at the times they were saying no. So, it was obviously for a reason and that’s what I tell people: ‘Keep at it because one day no might turn into a yes’,” she added.
“Every six months I would check in with them and let them know about my progress and finally in April of 2019, these scouts saw me wrestling in Brooklyn, New York – I was travelling – that’s how I got signed.
“You literally just don’t give up because if you know you’re meant to do something, you just keep at it.
“Because that’s what happened to me and I’m sure that’s what happened to a lot of other people [at the WWE].”
With nearly two years of WWE experience and development to her name, Hartwell is now under the watchful eye of some of the industry’s biggest names as she continues her journey.
Working out at the WWE performance centre in Orlando every day now, the 24-year-old Aussie is currently trained by former professional wrestler Norman Smiley.
“My coach at the moment is Norman Smiley, I’ve been learning a lot from him. I’ve also learned a lot from Sara Del Rey. She’s someone I used to watch a lot on the independent circuit,” she said.
“It’s really cool to have – we have coaches from all different experiences levels. They wrestled back in the day, they have a lot to bring to the table.
But while she picks apart the brains of some former wrestlers, Hartwell every day is also carefully watched by WWE legends and Icons – Triple H and Shawn Michaels – who both give consistent feedback on a weekly basis.
“We have Triple H and Shawn Michaels who are producers at NXT,” she said.
“There was a time a few months ago, where I was wearing a neck brace on TV and Shawn Michael came up to me and told me, ‘I was rocking the neck brace really well’, and you could really tell I was in pain. That was a cool thing to hear from him.
“I hear things from them every week which is amazing.
“I pretty much get feedback daily because I’m at the performance centre almost every day.
“So I’m always getting feedback and getting chances on TV to work on stuff and show the coaches that I work on what they tell me to.”
And just how big of a fan was Hartwell growing up?
The Aussie admits she’s been star-struck many times after meeting her favourite superstars throughout her short WWE career.
Hartwell revealed she often goes through her phone to show current wrestlers photos taken of the pair years ago from when the Aussie was just a young fan fighting for the ultimate selfie.
“It’s really awesome. I have quite a few photos with WWE superstars from back in the day and it’s cool when I can bring it up to then,” she admitted.
“For example, when I first got to the performance centre, I came across Natalya – we met up there and I showed this photo we had taken eight years prior and she couldn’t believe it.
“It’s a really cool moment that I get to have these moments where I show these wrestles, ‘hey I was a fan and now I’m working alongside you’.”
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