Striking her own determined path: An interview with WWE wrestler Carmella

by | Sep 9, 2016 | SPORTS

It’s been over a year since WWE launched its “Women’s Revolution,” a movement aimed at bringing female competitors to the forefront of the program with more time, better storylines, and ambitious matches.

It’s been over a year since WWE launched its “Women’s Revolution,” a movement aimed at bringing female competitors to the forefront of the program with more time, better storylines, and ambitious matches.

Despite some initial missteps, it quickly became an undeniable success as WWE was able to change the perception of women’s matches from bathroom breaks to marquee attractions, highlighted best at this year’s WrestleMania where a triple threat for the WWE Women’s Championship between Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch was arguably the best match of the six hour affair. Crowds have responded positively too as they were quick to embrace women being portrayed in a much more empowering and competitive light, cementing the women’s wrestling renaissance currently underway.

As the women’s division continues to rise in importance, it’s only natural newer talent gets rotated in, with a chance to prove themselves and offer up something unique to WWE’s weekly programming lineup. One such talent on the SmackDown brand is Carmella, a former dancer turned wrestling manager who has only recently begun her singles career, but has quickly won over fans with her genuine personality and ability that steadily improves with each match.

The daughter of a journeymen wrestler, Carmella grew up watching wrestling and idolizing the likes of manager Miss Elizabeth and wrestler Trish Stratus. In her professional career, she gravitated to different entertainment at first attempting to utilize her years studying dance. She spent three seasons as a cheerleader for the New England Patriots as well as a short stint with the Los Angeles Lakers dance team, before being approached by WWE about a potential career shift. She signed with WWE back in the summer of 2013 and set out to hone her skills as a wrestler and personality and by the fall of 2014, she had made her entrance into the WWE canon as a hairdresser and eventual manager for Enzo Amore and Big Cass down in NXT. The trio, renowned for their exciting matches and hilarious interviews, quickly became a major attraction for WWE’s developmental brand, often becoming the highlight of touring shows or the weekly NXT program on the WWE Network.

Earlier this year, Enzo and Cass were called up to the main roster where they have become some of wrestling’s breakout stars, while Carmella stayed in NXT to forge her own path as an in-ring competitor. She entered a stacked women’s division in NXT that included favorites like Bayley and Asuka as well as up-and-comers like Nia Jax and Alexis Bliss, but was able to quickly establish herself as a major star due to her confidence and style. In July, WWE reinitiated its brand extension, splitting the rosters between RAW and SmackDown and opening up some space for promising NXT wrestlers. With the last pick of the draft, Carmella found herself on SmackDown‘s newly established women’s division with a chance to prove herself on a major show seen by millions every week.

This Sunday, Carmella will compete for the newly created SmackDown Women’s Championship at WWE Backlash at the Richmond Coliseum in a Six-Pack challenge along with Alexis Bliss, Becky Lynch, Naomi, Natalya, and recent-foe Nikki Bella. We caught up with Carmella before the biggest match of her career thus far to get her thoughts on her recent transition as well as the secret behind her constantly improving ability.

How has the adjustment been for you going from the performance center to the main roster?

So far so good. It’s been a really crazy few weeks. It hasn’t actually hit me yet that I’m actually on SmackDown Live every week so it’s very exciting.

Has it been hard to make the transition to the main roster given how much time and preparation goes into NXT’s limited schedule versus the spontaneity involved in the grinding schedule of WWE?

I think NXT and the performance center has done a great job to prepare us for this to be honest because there’s always something new and different and exciting happening at the performance center. You never know what’s going to happen so you always have to be prepared. It’s done a great job to prepare me for anything coming my way on SmackDown.

NXT Assistant Head Coach Sara Amato had a big hand in raising the bar of women’s matches in NXT. Who would you say is helping to do that on the main roster?

So far it’s really been a mixture of a lot of different producers. We’ve worked with Fit Finlay, Billy Kidman, Dean Malenko — I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of producers.

I know you’ve cited Trish Stratus as an inspiration and knowing how instrumental Fit Finlay was in her career, does it make intimidating to work with him at all?

He has been really such a pleasure to work with and I’m learning so much from him already just in the few short weeks I’ve been on the main roster. Intimidating? I don’t think there’s time to be intimidated. You jsut have to get out there and know you belong. He has done a great job with helping me adjust and getting our segments together for SmackDown which has been a lot of fun.

There’s much more freedom down in NXT as talent like yourself finds their footing, but how is the freedom for segments and matches on SmackDown?

I’m just having a lot of fun being Carmella and being myself and getting an opportunity to show everybody who Carmella is because I didn’t necessarily get that opportunity as much in NXT because I was more of a manager. I did get a chance to wrestle too, but now it’s time for Carmella to shine and show people what I’m all about.

I think everyone was surprised to see you come up so quickly after Enzo and Cass left. What was the feeling like knowing that you’d only been on your own for a few months?

It’s been such a crazy few months because once they were gone, I was thinking this is my opportunity now to break out on my own and show everybody what I can do. In just a few short months without them, here I am now on my own on SmackDown. I think I took that opportunity and made the most of it.

What type of preparations are you doing ahead of this Sunday’s match?

I’m in the gym. I’m watching tape and studying. I’m doing whatever I can. I am so focused on this championship. I want to make history and be the first ever SmackDown Women’s Champion and whatever I have to do to make that happen, I’m going to do it.

When you’re studying tape, what do you tend to gravitate towards?

I don’t necessarily just watch women’s match. I watch guy matches; I’ve been watching Eddie Guerrero so it’s not just one thing in particular. I want this to be good and I want to make history on Sunday.

Knowing Sara Amato’s history and seeing the ascension of Asuka down in NXT, is there more of an opportunity to expose yourself to wrestling from other countries while studying?

Of course. We have the opportunity to watch whatever you like, especially now with the WWE Network. You can watch… anything! I don’t try to limit myself to just one particular person or one particular style. Of course, Sara Amato is incredible and I’ve learned so much from her over the last few years. She’s really helping women’s wrestling and changing the game.

For so long, you were known as a manager, but for most of 2016, you’ve been an in-ring competitor. How has the shift been especially considering you had limited experience before this year?

That’s something I think people don’t really realize. I’ve been training for almost three years, but a lot of my career has been managing, not just wrestling. I think every single time I step into the ring, I try and be better than the last. Like I was saying earlier, being without Cass and Enzo once they went up, I had the opportunity to finally just focus on myself and being on the ring and training as hard as I can to improve and get better. Become the best women’s wrestler I can be. I think I took the opportunity and made the most of it. I’m really trying to learn and get better every single day.

Do you think your time as a manger helped your give your wrestling a bit of a head start, due to confidence in front of a live crowd and all that camera time?

Absolutely. I spent most of my entire professional career as a dancer. I was a dancer for over 20 years. I really enjoy performing and being with the boys, I got the chance to be in front of a crow and be on live television for the Takeover special. Not wrestling, but I got the opportunity to be out there and get the feel for it. I definitely think that being with them especially — they’re so amazing with their charisma and personality and getting the crowd involved. I really learned a lot from them so that’s definitely an advantage for me.

What’s the mindset like for the women’s division on SmackDown competing with RAW having the more established division and championship?

I think every woman on SmackDown wants to be the best and they want to make everyone notice them. That’s what I’m trying to do and that’s why I had to pick on Nikki Bella so everyone could realize It’s not about her anymore. Out with the old and in with the new. I want everyone to notice me, notice Carmella, and I want everyone to be talking about me.

You were a memorable part of Breaking Ground on the WWE Network so I have to ask what the future holds for yourself and WWE’s other reality show, Total Divas?

I mean, honestly I don’t know what the future holds. I really don’t. Breaking Ground was a lot of fun to give the fans a sense of what we do every day and the grind that we’re on every single day to try and get to this point where we’re on the main roster. I thought it was a great opportunity for people to get to see a different side of us. As far as Total Divas go, I have no idea. That’s really out of my hands.

I know each day in a new town is hectic, but are you able to take in the sights of the cities you’re visiting now?

I really try to make the most of our travel days. I really love coffee. That’s my thing. I love trying to find a cool coffee shop every town I go to and at least get out into the city wherever we’re in and explore a little bit because we’re there and you have to take advantage of it. We’re living this dream life where we get to travel, perform, and wrestle, but at the same time we have this great opportunity to explore the world so you have to take advantage of that as well.

Now, you said earlier that you want to be the inaugural SmackDown Women’s Champion, but past that, what other goals have you thought about for your career?

Gosh, that’s so crazy to think. I could become the first SmackDown Women’s Champion. But my goal honestly is just be the best I can be. I can’t compare myself to anybody from the past. I didn’t wrestle independently. I’m homegrown from the performance center and have been training for less than three years. I want to make history and just show people that if you have determination and if you want to work hard enough and want something, you can make it happen. I had a dance background, I wasn’t a wrestler. My dad was a wrestler and I grew up watching it with him so it’s in my blood, but I didn’t think it was possible and I made it happen. I just want to be the best that I can be. The sky is honestly the limit so I’m excited to see what the future holds

Carmella competes in the Six Pack challenge for the newly created SmackDown Women’s Championship at WWE Backlash this Sunday night at the Richmond Coliseum. Tickets are still available starting at $20 with the show starting at 7:30 PM. For more information on the show and where to buy tickets, click

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