Layla El is one of the few pro wrestlers who say they are retired and means it. The trailblazing former women’s champion believes she should have maybe stepped away sooner than 2015. The superstar is her own worst critic.
“I think what it was when I look back now, I see myself. The last few years I was there. I just felt I looked old compared to the other girls,” El said. “I was 10, 12 years older than most of the locker room then.”
Even today El can believe men are treated differently than their female counterparts in many ways. There are still double standards when it comes to veterans.
“Men can age and be able to still be used the ring and still work. For the women not really,” El said. “One of the only ones is Mickie James. She was there full-time. I’m not saying having a run, coming in, and leaving. I get that. I can see [imbalance] happening with most of the past divas who are older.”
For her, it became a matter of feeling the bumps a little more on the road. That and the mental toll of fighting so hard. Keep in mind this was during the “Divas” era were wanting to do more was often an uphill battle.
“You’re so used to the grind to keep going, not saying no. Keep pushing forward. I got caught up with it instead of saying,’ Hold up, take a step back. Let me think about this. I think it’s time for me to go.’ I just got used to wrestling all the time and fighting for my role. I was not ready to give it up.”
Another morale killer within WWE had nothing to do with wrestling. It was getting denied a chance to be on a new reality show.
“I wanted to be on ‘Total Divas.’ I wanted to be on that. I love reality shows,” she added. “Stuff like that. I didn’t get that obviously. That was one thing I wish I could have done. Things happen for a reason. I feel fortunate that I attained so much in my career that sometimes you get no, and you have to take it. You can’t get everything all the time.”
Ironically enough, some of El’s biggest successes were over Total Divas stars the Bella Twins through the years. El even defeated Nikki for the Divas championship. And even at the start of their careers, El recalled being in the group with them before going out to audition for the 2006 Diva Search, which she won.
“We had to wait behind the curtain in an area,” she recalled. “I was scared sitting there. They were there where we spoke and interacted. It is crazy to think back. Congrats to them for being Hall of Famers. It’s amazing. It’s great. ‘Total Divas’ was great for them. They broke barriers and opened up doors for more fans to something completely new.”
Follow Layla El on Twitter @MSLayEl. You can find the full audio and video from Layla’s interview below: