Heading into Halloween Havoc, Indi Hartwell sat down with Graham Matthews to talk about her rise in the NXT Women’s Division.
Halloween Havoc holds a special place in WWE NXT star Indi Hartwell’s heart, as it was at last year’s installment that she nearly helped Candice LeRae win the NXT Women’s Championship while wearing a Ghostface mask.
That planted the seeds for what would later become The Way along with Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory. The faction was a staple on NXT TV for nearly a year, during which time Hartwell became NXT Women’s Tag Team champion alongside LeRae.
Now that The Way has quietly dissolved and Hartwell has seemingly broken back off on her own, she has her sights set once again on tag team gold, this time with longtime friend and fellow Australia native Persia Pirotta as her partner. In order to regain the gold, however, she’ll first have to win a Stairway to Hell Ladder match against Toxic Attraction and reigning champs Io Shirai and Zoey Stark on Tuesday night.
Ahead of Halloween Havoc 2021, Hartwell caught up with Daily DDT to talk her huge upcoming opportunity, her journey from fan to rising star in NXT, her memorable wedding with Dexter Lumis, and more.
Indi Hartwell on Halloween Havoc and receiving praise from Triple H
Other than competing in a Street Fight earlier this year against Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart, Hartwell hasn’t competed in many gimmick matches up to this point in her career. In fact, this Triple Threat tag team Ladder match at Halloween Havoc will mark her first experience with the steel.
The gradual progression of her character has prepared her for this moment, along with watching iconic three-way Ladder matches such as The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Edge and Christian.
“I think the best way to prepare for a match like this is to watch some of the great Ladder matches from the past and you have to come up with a game plan with your teammate,” Hartwell said. “The only person in this match that’s experienced with Ladder match is Io Shirai, so I think their team will have the advantage because Io is The Genius of the Sky.”
She added that she and Pirotta may have the edge in experience as far as teaming for longer. Although Pirotta is a fresh face on NXT TV, the two of them have known each other for years after initially meeting on Twitter and later becoming best friends outside of the ring.
It was a lifelong dream of the Australian duo to join WWE, and now that they’re here, they’re ready to fulfill another dream of becoming champions together. The praise she’s received from NXT’s head honcho Triple H in various interviews over the last year hasn’t been lost on her, either.
“That’s crazy because back then I hadn’t had many opportunities on TV,” Hartwell said. “I think I had a handful of matches, but it wasn’t really doing anything of note. Hearing that [from Triple H] made me really excited and made me realize maybe there were plans for me, maybe they have high hopes for me, so that made me feel really good. Obviously, when it’s Triple saying it, that’s pretty damn cool.”
Indi Hartwell details her journey from fan to WWE NXT Superstar and learning from The Way
Hartwell has made it quite clear that Sasha Banks vs. Bayley from NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in August 2015 was what inspired her to start training to become a pro wrestler. Prior to that, she was just another member of the WWE Universe tweeting her thoughts on the product into the world and interacting with fellow fans on Twitter.
In 2016, she ran into Banks at a gym in Australia and told her that same story. The Boss tweeted out a photo of the encounter, which is bound to make a video package someday when the two inevitably meet one-on-one.
“The power of social media is crazy,” Hartwell said. “Like you said, it was only six years ago I was watching the Sasha and Bayley match and just a few years later, I was in NXT myself. I think that was probably weird for Sasha and Bayley to hear that, ‘Oh my god, we had a match that inspired this girl to start wrestling and now she’s here in NXT, so it’s awesome.'”
At only 25, she’s already accomplished a great deal, indicating that she has a bright future ahead of her.
She signed with WWE in the fall of 2019, just over three years after breaking into the business. It was obviously difficult for her to not be star-struck by the people she grew up watching upon meeting them for the first time in person, and while she’s kept her cool around them all, she admits she had her biggest mini “mark-out” moment with a certain Rated-R Superstar.
“I think when I first got here, I was pretty star-struck with everyone that I met, but then I had to step back and realize this is my job and I have to be professional,” she said. “But if there’s one person that I met that I was really star-struck with, that would be Edge. And he actually followed me on Twitter last week and I was like, ‘Oh my god, Edge followed me on Twitter.’”
It was apparent when she started with NXT that she hadn’t completely come into her own yet as a character or as a wrestler. She was undoubtedly impressive in the ring but lacked the confidence needed to earn her a regular role on NXT TV.
That confidence came when The Way started up.
“At the start, I was very scared, very timid,” she said. “I was kind of walking on eggshells, being thrust onto TV. It was very new to me, but I think each time we filmed those backstage skits and those segments with The Way, like the Christmas one and the therapy one, those segments helped me show more personality and definitely made me more confident. I think the confidence I got from those skits translated into the ring and made me a much more confident performer.”
Although she doesn’t have one favorite skit she did with The Way, she cherished the time she had with Gargano and LeRae and picked their brains any chance she got.
“I don’t think I’d be the performer I am today without having Johnny and Candice by my side, whether that’s backstage or on live TV,” Hartwell said. “I’ve just learned so much from being with them and working with them. Having casual conversations where they don’t even realize they’re teaching me things but they are… they don’t realize it because they’re just so knowledgeable and so experienced in wrestling because they’ve been around for a long time. Whenever I’m around them, I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can.”
Indi Hartwell on why wedding with Dexter Lumis was so successful
Hartwell will be back in serious mode at Halloween Havoc, but for the last year, she’s been lovestruck by the spine-chilling Dexter Lumis on NXT TV. It was one of the most talked-about angles of the year and was praised for its long-term storytelling.
To top it all off, the two lovebirds had a wedding on NXT last month that shockingly wasn’t interrupted by anyone, which was a first for a wrestling wedding. Everything about it was excellently executed and Hartwell couldn’t have been happier with the end result.
“The wedding went off without a hitch, which I don’t think a lot of people were expecting. I think the worst thing to come from that wedding was Dexter choking out the priest, but other than that, everything went well. We had a great bunch of characters with the wedding and a good bit of comedy, so that was cool. Something I’m really proud of. Having a wedding that goes off without a hitch, a successful wedding, it was such a satisfying… I wouldn’t say ending, because it wasn’t the end, but I would say ending to the story of everything we did throughout the year.”
The story between the two of them, and everyone else involved, was so unique that there was no need to look for inspiration. It played out practically perfectly, and because of all the experience and exposure she gained from that storyline, she now finds herself fighting for the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship at Halloween Havoc.
“There wasn’t really any show or movie that I looked to for inspiration,” Hartwell said. “The storyline was so well-liked because it was so relatable. It was the girl chasing after this guy that her parents don’t approve of and everyone’s trying to pull her away from him and no one understands why and nobody understands why she’s in love with this really creepy guy, but love always prevails. With a bit of perseverance, it worked out in the end.”