“This definitely came out of the blue. I’m looking forward to more matches to come and to get myself some airtime. I’m still just learning my craft and learning what this is all about.”
When he told his teammates and friends he was walking away from rugby league in 2018 to pursue a career in professional wrestling, they didn’t take him seriously.
“There were definitely a few laughs,” he recalls. “But all the same people are now messaging me congratulations.”
Although the outcomes of professional wrestling matches are predetermined, the moves are real – and he said making mistakes had a much higher cost than in rugby league.
“Everything has to be done right, you’ve got to put your whole soul into it. It’s really interesting and I’ve learnt a lot – but the transition from being an NRL player helped, obviously our cardio is pretty good.”
Vidot, who grew up loving The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and The Undertaker, is now walking in their footsteps.
“As a kid, they were idols for me – and it was pretty cool to meet most of them already. It’s been a crazy journey.”
Despite his status as an elite athlete, Vidot was initially shocked at the physical demands of his new sport.
“It’s a totally different game – my first match, five minutes in I was blowing,” he said.
He said he’d shown other wrestlers his former sport, and they were impressed.
“They definitely have a lot of respect for our game, playing attack and defence, no breaks or shoulder pads. I really wish there was more rugby league over here.”
Vidot and other professional wrestlers are in a unique position right now. While other athletes around the world are cooling their heels, wrestling has continued on – albeit without crowds.
WWE embodies the mantra of ‘the show must go on’ unlike any other entertainment company.
Events have continued to be broadcast from the company’s performance centre in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic, including WrestleMania, the sport’s answer to the Super Bowl.
And in 2001, two days after the September 11 atrocity, an episode of SmackDown was held live in Houston, Texas, in front of a packed crowd – the first large-scale gathering in the nation after the terrorist attack.
“It’s really essential to have things to get your mind off all the bad things in the world,” Vidot said.
“I feel like what we’re doing here, and the fact that we’re still turning up with every precaution taken and standard met, I’m really happy we’re still here and giving people an escape from their everyday troubles.”
He said his first match came after just four months of training – before he began wrestling on WWE’s NXT circuit at live events regularly. NXT is WWE’s third brand alongside Raw and SmackDown, usually used for new talents.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret it, it’s everything I want, but it’s definitely a fuel for every second that I’m here that it’s time I could be spending with my family. I just want to show people back home that if you put your mind to it, anything’s possible.”
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.