AEW stars Anna Jay and Tay Conti were guests on Oral Sessions with Cassie Lee (Peyton Royce) and Jessica McKay (Billie Kay), who were filling in for Renee Paquette. Conti talked about growing up in sports and how she discovered her first love, judo.
“I started in sports when I was seven years old. That was my whole life,” Conti said. “My family was really poor in Brazil and sports was kind of like my escape, to have a better life, opportunities and everything. And then my mom put me in gymnastics first, but I didn’t like it. And then I saw judo and was like ‘that’s my life. I want to fight.’ That was a thing for me, and I fell in love with judo. My mom started seeing judo gave me the opportunity to go to better schools, because they paid for it. I went to a university and then judo paid for it, because my mother would never be able to pay for it.
“So it gave me a lot of opportunities. I left home when I was fifteen to travel and train. Everything was going crazy in my life, I was never really home since I was fifteen. Then in 2016 I got the opportunity, because my ranking was going up in judo because of my matches, I got the opportunity to try out for the Olympic games. That was my biggest dream, my goal in my career. Unfortunately I lost and then, you know, you think it’s ‘oh my career is over.’ I was super young but in that moment it just felt like. That was when pro wrestling became a thing in my life.”
Due to wrestling not being prominent in Brazil, Conti did not grow up a wrestling fan. She was also dubious of participating in a WWE tryout, only deciding to do it after talking with fellow Brazilian Adrian Joaude, better known as Arturo Ruas.
“Wrestling is not a big thing in Brazil,” Conti said. “I never watched it, I never knew about it before. That was not a thing at all for me. It’s hard because normally everybody asks ‘who was your favorite wrestler growing up?’ I’m like ‘ I don’t have one, because I never watched it till I came here.’ But the WWE contacted me and they asked me to do a tryout. And I said ‘no’ because I don’t know what it is.
“In my mind I was like ‘I’m not getting out of my country to go to a different country to do something that I don’t even know what it is.’ I’m not going to lie, I thought it was some type of perv situation or something. I had no idea what it was. But then, I knew Adrian and he was in WWE. I asked him and then I was like ‘yeah, let’s do it. It’s a good opportunity.’ So that’s how pro wrestling became a thing in my life.”
Being a novice at wrestling, Conti described her tryout as learning on the fly what it was all about. Although the biggest memory she has of the tryout involves one of WWE’s biggest stars.
“I remember more like Bayley because she was screaming at me all the time,” Conti said. “It was crazy because, honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I’ll be 100% honest, no idea. But then, because of my background, I was like ‘that’s a competition and I want to win.’ And then I was like ‘what am I winning? I don’t even know. But like, it’s a lot of people, it’s a competition, and I’m going to be the best.’ That was my mentality.
“I didn’t know any words. I didn’t know how to say hi back then. And I had to watch it first and then try to do it and I’m like ‘oh my god. I have no idea what I’m doing.’ I had to be copying what other people were doing because I had no clue. But that was fun. That was a great opportunity I will never forget. And I remember Bayley like, every time I was doing this, she was like ‘AHHHHH!’ Screaming in my face. She was motivating me. I was like ‘hell yeah. I like this.'”
Conti was released from WWE during the pandemic in early 2020 and wound up in AEW over the summer. She has since formed a close bond with Jay, on and offscreen, and both say their partnership couldn’t come any more naturally.
“Easy peasy,” Conti said with a laugh. “Yeah, easy peasy. I don’t know, we just had something where we connected right away. It was like ‘boom, it’s working.’ Everything was easier. I tell her, like, it feels like we’ve known each other for years, when we were kids. And we’ve just known each other for a year almost.
“I always say too, because people have asked ‘do you like doing singles or tag better’, it’s a lot different,” Jay added. “Singles are cool for its own reasons. But tagging is so much fun because I feel like the pressure is, you can really have fun with it. I don’t know. That’s just how I feel.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette and provide a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription