WWE Superstar Naomi joined The New Day on The New Day: Feel the Power podcast to catch up with the trio, as well as talk about her beginnings in WWE and her time as a cheerleader for the Orlando Magic. Naomi revealed that she was at her job with the Magic while getting the call from FCW that they wanted to sign her to a developmental deal.
“Right from there and I was waiting to hear back, after I did my tryout,” Naomi recalled. “I went back for like three months and then I was waiting for a call-back, and I had got really down because I felt, ‘Dang, I didn’t get it.’ And so my third year over [with the] Orlando Magic, auditions were about to start, and then I got the call right before. I thought, ‘Well, I wouldn’t be a wrestler, keep dancing’, and literally the week before tryouts, FCW called. ‘Yeah we want to sign you to developmental.’ And I was so happy.”
While she says her time with the Magic was fun, she notes that the job was a hustle and a grind due to the amount of pay the cheerleaders received. She said they received $50 a game, and over 20 women were on the roster, so the team rotated the roster. This meant that many of the cheerleaders also had other jobs or responsibilities.
“Magic was fun but I was also at that point to where, ‘Alright, I got to figure out what the hell am I going to do with my life, because Magic ain’t paying the bills.’ It’s fun, it’s exciting, you get to experience so much, I got to travel,” Naomi said. “You just got to meet so many different, unique people, and being in so many cool environments. But at the same time, it was a hustle, it was a grind.
“We got $50 per game. You didn’t get to perform every game because there was a roster of 20 girls. So we would rotate games, and it was only during the season, maybe two-three games a week. You were lucky if you were on the same week, and so most of us were full-time students or had full-time jobs.”
Naomi talked about being stressed out during that time. She said she was not only going to school but she also had a full-time job working overnight. She talked about the schedule with the Magic and how it was a full-time responsibility as well.
“So, at the time, I was so stressed out,” Naomi admitted. “I was going to school, then I had a full-time job overnight as a facilitator at a Teen Pregnancy Facility that I worked at for a couple of years, and then I did the Magic during the day. And then what people don’t also realize is that Magic is a full-time schedule.
“We had rehearsals, four-hour rehearsals every week, several days of the week. You still had to work out, you still had to train, you still had to look the part, you couldn’t gain a certain amount of weight while you were on the team. So, it was a lot, and I’m just working too hard. I got to figure out what the next transition or chapter is in my life, make a living, and figure out how I’m going to get through, and that’s how wrestling came in.”
Naomi talked about the first time she saw wrestling live. She talked about the awe she felt watching the women wrestle, opening her world up to another side of pro wrestling.
“I didn’t know much about wrestling, but seeing it live for the first time, I was like 21. I saw the girls perform,” Naomi explained. “I didn’t even know women could wrestle, could do it like that. I knew nothing about wrestling other than Hulk Hogan because my brother was a fan growing up, but other than that, I didn’t know the magnitude of it, how big it was, the lifestyle. I didn’t know anything until I got into it. I was just, ‘Wow, I never planned to make a career out of it’. I was just trying to figure out my life and then fell into it.”
Naomi discussed her NXT debut in front of a live crowd, and her emotions during her debut. She compared it to culture shock coming from a small town outside of Orlando, FL.
“I think it was once I finally debuted and got to be on the road, and not The Funkadctyl debut,” Naomi noted. “I think it was the NXT debut and performing in front of the crowd, and in front of the arena, which is way different from developmental, and just finally making it that far, and feeling that, and experiencing that.
“In the beginning, it was really hard for me because, leaving home, I’m billed from Orlando, Florida but I’m actually from Stanford, Florida, which is a small town outside of Orlando. So, coming from a very close-knit family, that was my first away from home, leaving bands and everything I do to move to Tampa and completely just take a risk, and start doing something I had no idea about. And it was a culture shock almost!”
She also discussed the training she went through while learning how to navigate wrestling etiquette. She noted how overwhelming the experience was, but credits the friends she made and her husband, Jimmy Uso, for helping her through her struggles.
“It was very overwhelming just learning how to bump,” Naomi admitted. “Just going through that first beginning part of getting your body used to the bumping, and then the social environment, and just learning the rules of wrestling, and the etiquette of wrestling. And to be in all of that by myself for a long time, I’m just like, ‘What the f–k am I doing?’ and, ‘if this don’t work out, and if I don’t pick this up, or if I don’t make it-‘. And then seeing so many people through developmental that didn’t make it, and all the new talented people coming in, I was always very insecure in the beginning because there was just so much I didn’t know.
“So, that bothered me. I was just scared for a long time until I got to that next level, and, ‘OK, I’m going to be alright.’ Just making friends and meeting all the people down there that did encourage me, and that did work with me, and did help me. And then, of course, meeting my husband [Jimmy Uso]. That’s really what got me through because this was, boom! I was struggling. Yeah, it was crazy now that I think back on my life.”
Naomi told a story about breaking wrestling etiquette. Normally, newer wrestlers have to stay behind and help break down the ring, and make sure all the personal belongings are in order. Naomi admitted she did not know this at first and had left practice without a second thought. She revealed that Jimmy Uso was the one who had to take her aside and tell her the proper wresting etiquette.
“This is where Jon [Jimmy Uso] comes in, and he probably saved my damn job because I was so green,” Naomi stated. “And I remember one time I was new, and after practice, I finished and I was like, ‘Well, thank you, guys! Bye, everybody! I’ll see you guys tomorrow!’ I left out the front door, and everybody was looking like, ‘Where the hell is she going?!’
“I didn’t help break down the ring. I wasn’t the last one to leave. Practice was over, and I thought everybody just left. I didn’t know that you stay, you help, you break down. And you’re new, you need to be the last one out the door, not the freaking first one out the door.
“I remembered Jon pulled me to the side and ‘Hey, you can’t leave like that.’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He was like, ‘No, it’s rude and disrespectful. You got to stick around, make sure your locker room is clean, make sure you help clean up. You just got to pay your dues,’ and then he gave me that talk.
“And I remembered the next day I came back. I was so embarrassed because people were talking about it. So, I had to come back, and correct, and apologize. It’s little lessons like that that can really mess you up if you don’t know… It was a bunch of little lessons like that where the boys really helped me to learn.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit The New Day: Feel the Power with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.