At the humble age of 16, Rhea Ripley began her in-ring training through Riot City Wrestling where she would learn to become “The Nightmare” she is known to be now in WWE – a dream she was once told was too impossible to reach. On Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette, Ripley recalls a conversation her coach had about the chances she and her other classmates would have at becoming future WWE Superstars. Saddened by what he told them, Ripley made it her mission to prove him wrong.
“It’s funny ’cause at my Riot City tryout, my coach Matt Basso gave the speech to everyone [by saying], ‘I don’t want to burst your bubble, but it’s probably not gonna happen because they’re not really looking at Australians. It’s very, very difficult to get to America and get to WWE,'” Ripley recalled. “He went on in this speech about how we shouldn’t get our hopes up. Like, train as hard as we can and see what comes from it, but, like, don’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen. So, I didn’t think it would happen, but it did!”
Way before Ripley’s debut at the Mae Young Classic in 2017, Ripley did speak to WWE higher ups about a tryout. Because she was 17 years old, the company had to postpone signing her. In the next segment of her interview, Ripley explains how her original tryout at 17 came to be, and what happened three years later.
“So, when I was 17 – I had only been wrestling for a year – WWE went to Australia for a show. I think Hartley Jackson put my name down,” Ripley began. “They were like, ‘Hey, you’ve got a tryout. Can you send over all of your information?’ I was like, ‘What?’ I was, like, a child! I was so excited. I was crying.
“I was trying to write this message, and I think ’cause I was so immature, I wrote it in a very immature way. They wrote me back and said, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were that young. Maybe contact us when you’re 21.’ I was like, ‘Damn.’ I still went to my tryout, anyway, just to say hi to everyone and to be respectful and get my name in their minds so they’d remember me. And then, when I was 20, they came back for another show. They had another tryout and told me, ‘Ok, you can be in this one.'”
Once she made it to the Performance Center, Ripley admits she felt lost and alone. It wasn’t until she met former WWF/E Tag Team Champion Scotty 2 Hotty who would lift her spirits and influence her dominant reign that we see today. When talking about him, Ripley mentioned how he was not only a coach but a father figure.
“I want to say that Scotty 2 Hotty was a massive impact in my career,” Ripley noted. “There was a time at the PC where I felt like many people didn’t believe in me, and no one really gave me the time of day or helped me much. But Scotty 2 Hotty was one that was always there for me.
“Scotty was definitely the one who helped me mentally get through the games that are in wrestling. Every time that I was down or got told that I was crap and I wasn’t learning and that I was dangerous and sucked at everything, he was the one that would grab me straight after and [say], ‘No, you’re doing great. I see you every day, and I know that you’re improving. If you keep on this track, you will be big.’ I love Scotty 2 Hotty.”
Before rounding out the interview, Paquette asked how Ripley met her boyfriend, Demetri “Action” Jackson, who is also a professional wrestler.
“So, we actually met in the gym,” Ripley chuckled. “I think he knew that I was a wrestler, but he had been wrestling for two months. He was the new guy at my gym. I was very lonely at that time. I made friends with all the staff members at my gym because I didn’t want to go home; there wasn’t anything there for me.
“Kevin was the new guy, and he sorta started talking to me. Next, I knew, it was two hours later. I was like, this guy is cool. I actually don’t mind talking to him.”
You can listen to Rhea Ripley’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions w/Renée Paquette with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.