Impact Knockouts Champion and AAA Reina de Reinas Champion, Deonna Purrazzo, joined Oral Sessions with Renee Paquette to talk about her wrestling career. A big part of that career was Purrazzo’s run in NXT from 2018 to 2020. Purrazzo has been critical of her time there, and revealed that she was so drained from wrestling while in NXT that she almost left the sport when she was released in the spring of 2020.
“I was just kind of emotionally drained from wrestling,” Purrazzo said. “That environment and that system just really didn’t work for me as a person. I was just very much, ‘this is such b******t! This is not what I love about wrestling. I’m not even wrestling! I come to work and no one has valued me for any of my literal life accomplishments before I even got here. What is this worth, what have I done with my life? Was it even worth it up to this point?’ When I was fired, I had contemplated going back to school a whole bunch. And I was like, ‘okay, I’m definitely going to go back to school.’ So I immediately sent in applications to different schools that were online, and I was like, ‘maybe I’ll just be a normal person again.’
“So I was in school, before wrestling became full time, for exercise science. That was just really hard because I didn’t have the time to dedicate for studying, and I was also teaching full time. But when I came back, it was like, ‘okay, maybe not exercise science but history has always been my first love.’ It comes natural and its fun for me. That’s who I am really, just a big history buff. So when I was released in May, that was the first thing. ‘I’m going to go to school and I’m going to be a history teacher maybe!’
“Now I’m about a year out from my Bachelor’s, so that’s awesome. But it was kind of like, ‘how do I want to identify myself outside of wrestling? Is there things I can love outside of this as much as I love wrestling, because I don’t know that I love it anymore.’ It wasn’t even just wrestling, it was like, ‘I don’t even know if I love me anymore. Who am I?'”
Purrazzo then got more in depth with her issues with NXT, starting from going from working several nights a week on the independents to doing no wrestling in NXT. She also described the start/stop nature of being on TV, which led to her pitching ideas and asking questions, something she believes led to her being labeled as a “problem.”
“I had been on such a tear,” Purrazzo said. “I was doing stuff with Ring of Honor, I was contracted there but I was traveling the world. I was in Japan living for three weeks, four weeks, three months at a time. I had done a tour of Australia, I was in Canada, I was all over America, I was spending a lot of time in England. And I just felt like, ‘this is the dream.’ I was seeing the world and it was expenses paid, I was just having a lot of fun. And then when I came back, it was like, ‘okay, now I’m just in one place.’
“I was wrestling three nights a week, four nights a week, five nights a week depending where I was, and now I’m training. And I’m not wrestling matches. I did play the game at first, and I was like, ‘okay, yeah. You want me to debut on TV and lose? Okay yeah, that kind of sucks, but okay, whatever.’ That was with Bianca (Belair). My first road loop, like immediately after the Mae Young (Classic). We filmed all that, two weeks later, it’s like, ‘you’re going to go on the road loop.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to be on the main roster in the year. This is great!’ On the road loop, I wrestled Bianca. They taped a week of NXT at Barclay’s Center. I got to wrestle at Barclay’s, my family is there. I come back, I’m back on TV two, three weeks in a row. So, I’m like, ‘okay, this is great. This is really great. This happening, they’re going to use me. Awesome!’ And then it stopped.
“It was kind of like, ‘okay, no big deal. Let’s pitch some stuff, see what they’re thinking.’ When you ask too many questions, you become a problem, and I asked too many questions. I just really couldn’t kick that habit of being like, ‘okay, but now what? Okay, but me. I’m in the back, what about me?’ The more I asked, the more people got upset. And I was just labeled as a problem. I was labeled as difficult, people didn’t want to work with me. I wasn’t working hard enough.
“You fall out of love with it when you’re not doing it to the level you know you can do it at. It was all disappointing and I really felt like, ‘what did I put myself through to get here?’ Because I wasn’t just here now. I had done so much prior to prove myself and make them think, ‘okay, she can do this. She is worth it. She is a star.’ I was traveling at Smackdown at one point, I was being an extra at NXT every single time there were tapings. It just felt like it was all for nothing.”
Paquette later asked Purrazzo how she felt about WWE moving away from signing independent talent in favor of scouting younger, non wrestlers for the role. Purrazzo believes that you can create great wrestling talents from scratch, but also thinks you need experienced talent to help make that happen.
“I definitely think that there has been quite a few people that weren’t wrestlers before that have become stars,” Purrazzo said. “Off the top of my head, Bianca Belair is one of them. She was meant to be a star. She is a super athlete, she can talk, she can be a cocky heel, she can be the loveable babyface. She can just do it all, and they taught her how to wrestle from scratch. But then I also think for a Performance Center to work, especially what I experienced in watching new people coming in to try and wrestle, you need the indie talent that already kind of knows what they’re doing to lead those people the right way. Or to help shape their mindset. The coaches can only do so much, because the coaches aren’t wrestling those people.
“If you put two new people, the blind is leading the blind. You need a leader, you need someone who knows what they’re doing and has experience. And it doesn’t need to be a twenty year vet, it can be the two year person that just trained elsewhere and has a little bit of their own understanding already. I just think that saying indie wrestlers aren’t needle movers, then you’re saying Adam Cole isn’t a needle mover. Someone like Jon Moxley wasn’t a needle mover. There’s reasons you brought those people in from where they were and made them stars. But I also think for you to make someone from scratch a star, you need talent that can work with them and help them become stars.”
Despite her difficulties with WWE, Purrazzo admitted to the small possibility that she could return to the promotion somewhere down the road. That said, she’s more than happy in her current situation wrestling for Impact, AAA, NWA and other promotions.
“I think that was always my goal as a kid,” Purrazzo said. “I didn’t know all these other promotions existed, I was a WWE fan. So, for me, the goal was always to be on WrestleMania and be the Women’s Champion. So, I think there’s always going to be a part of me that’s like, ‘I wish it turned out differently.’ And never say never. If there’s any opportunity, maybe I would go. But I don’t know. I think that it drives me every day to work hard to get that phone call. And then be like, ‘oh me? The difficult one? I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it!’
“I think it’s a driving force for them to want me back. Definitely. And then I won’t say no because never say never. But sometimes, I feel like no. Sometimes I feel like, ‘f**k you guys. You had me for so many years.’ Even before I was signed, so many years you could’ve done something and I was always put on the backburner. And now, I’m thriving. This last year has probably been the best year of my entire life. So, that’s 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