Former WWE star Eva Marie exclusively spoke with PWMania.com‘s T.J. Stephens about a wide range of topics, including a possible return to WWE, what her original ring name was meant to be, teasing a potential storyline with Bray Wyatt and Alexa Bliss, how she became part of the main WWE roster, her Big Brother experience, and much more. Subscribe to PWMania’s new YouTube channel now and never miss a new video.
You can check out the complete interview below:
In 2017, you’re in a four-person tournament for the E League Street Fighter five. First of all, are you a gamer?
Okay, so my husband is a huge gamer. I met him when he was working at Blizzard which is a gaming company and they make like World of Warcraft. Jonathan is, I say this in the nicest way, so people don’t get offended, but he is a nerd. But in like the best way, nerds are amazing. And my husband happens to be a big-time nerd. So he is the gamer, however I try. I do my best. I dabble in sometimes. I mean, he’s a gamer where he will stay up. He played this game [Elden Ring], 160 hours of it until he beat it. So he is that type of gamer when it comes to it. So yes, I got to play in the tournament with EA League. Shaq was my rival I would say. And it was amazing.
We have two TVs in our family room, and it’s because my husband feels better. We could be watching a show or something, and he could be like playing a game. He’s a lunatic. Yeah.
One thing that I liked out of this was, this was for charity. You supported the American Cancer Society. Now, was this a sponsorship given to you or did you choose it?
No, I chose it. The WWE Universe is the best fan base in the world. I know my character is a heel, and I’m a bad guy. But when I get to meet and interact with the WWE Universe in person, everyone is absolutely amazing. So they’ll probably know a little bit of what I’m talking about, because you got to see kind of a lot of my life journey on the reality show Total Divas. So in season one, you got to see a little bit of just my family, and then my Dad’s health was a part of the story. And so my dad was diagnosed with cancer when I was 15. Initially, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. And then, went through all the phases and everything like that, and he’s doing well now, but he still has cancer, that he has to go and get treatment for every single week. So that’s why that organization was something that is you know, near and dear to my heart.
My dad served in the Marines and he’s a Vietnam veteran. So he’s a tough mofo.
The following year , you came back to the Street Fighter tournament, and this time you you sponsored A21. So I had not heard of this, so tell the listeners/readers of this, what A21 is and what they do.
Basically, it’s another organization that is trying to stop sex trafficking. That’s like the main kind of CliffsNotes on that organization, which is something that is happening every single day. And it’s kind of scary in the sense of how frequent, how often this happens and that we don’t hear about it more. So that’s what also drew me to that organization as well.
What was your experience like on Big Brother?
Oh, my God, it was seriously the best time ever. So I would do it again. I’ve been asked before if I would ever go back in and do Celebrity Big Brother again. And I totally would, I had not only the best time, but it is just such a cool experience in the sense from every outlet. You’re dealing with so many personalities. You’re also playing a game. So my husband is a gamer. So I feel like that definitely kind of helped. But really, it is totally a mental game. Because you’re stuck in a house, you have no contact with the outside world. So you don’t know what news is going on. You’re not scrolling the ‘Gram, you’re not paying attention to what’s happening in your own personal life. You’re not talking to your spouse or significant other, friends, your kids.
I feel like for me, it was amazing. It was almost like a vacation. Because it was like your only focus is right here right now. Plus I’m lucky in the sense that my husband happens to be my business partner. And so I know that the ship isn’t sinking. All things are handled and everything is well. I don’t have any children. So I think that played a massive benefit for me because I feel like I think the hardest would be for like the moms because they’re so used to being very much involved, especially if they have the younger kids, it would be very difficult to be away from your house for that extended period of time. But for me, I was like “game on, let’s do this,” and it was fun. It was amazing. I had such a blast that I wish that it was longer. So ours was only 30 days I believe. And the original season I believe is 90. So I would totally go and do a 90 day one for sure.
Were you always a wrestling fan or was this something you picked up later? How did you become interested in a career with WWE?
So basically, the way that I kind of walked into WWE was one of these open auditions at the time. At the time they called them “diva searches.” They don’t do them anymore, but basically, they go around all the major cities, and they’re looking for the next WWE Diva. Obviously, now we’re not called Divas anymore. We’re called Superstars. So, at the time, I had finished college and moved to Los Angeles, I was going on auditions quite frequently. This one happened to fall into my lap.
I walk into Los Angeles headquarters, I look up, and I see the posters, Hulk Hogan the Pay Per Views, and I’m like, “whoa, whoa, whoa, this is like insane.” This is what I used to watch back in the day when it was WWF, during like the Hulk Hogan era, and then everything started to click. So initially, when I walked in, had I watched the product, but was I a super, super fan? No, but it had everything that I wanted to do in my career and fused into one spot. So like I was missing that competition, that physicality that you need to have 100% to step into this squared circle, you get to perform live in front of a live audience, you get to travel the world.
WWE does so many amazing things within the community. I’ve gotten to go to Afghanistan twice to visit our troops and do a bunch of other things, you know, “Be A Star” rallies and things and go to hospitals and things of that nature. And then also you get to build a character to hopefully, as we call in wrestling “get over”.
My situation is a little bit different, because I went on the audition and fell in love with it. I was like, I want this so bad. I was just going in for a developmental contract. So what that is, you audition and then the last round was an in ring physicality tryout to see if you can handle being inside the ring, and four girls dropped out immediately. Because I don’t care what anybody says, it’s shh*t hard. I mean, when you’re even running the ropes, you’re getting bruised up, and I’m a field athlete, so even doing forward and backward rolls, I was like, holy smokes this sh*t’s is crazy. But I fell in love with it. After four weeks, I got my developmental contract. And all that meant was I was going to move to Tampa because that’s where their training facility was. And that’s where you basically trained to learn how to wrestle. Build your character, and then hope that you get called up to the big leagues, which is Monday Night Raw, or Friday Night Smackdown but God put me in the right place at the right time. And luckily they were starting to film Total Divas at that same time. They just so happened to want two girls that didn’t know how to wrestle, were brand spankin new and follow their journey. And lo and behold, I got that. So basically I went from just doing my in rank tryout to all of a sudden my first day on the job at WrestleMania.
Who was your trainer when you started?
Well there was Norman [Smiley] at my tryouts was Sarah, Bill DeMott was there. So those were the three prominent trainers at that time at my tryout.
So you become you become a superstar at WWE. You start Total Divas, how much of an influence did you have over your gimmick? Because I think what everyone remembers from your debut was the vignette videos before you actually debuted. You had the hair was very pronounced, and the outfit. So how much of an influence did you have over your gimmick and who else was integral in that as well?
Honestly, I think at the very very beginning it was just one of those things. It was like a last-minute crazy thing of me even being on TV. It wasn’t supposed to happen, live television is like nuts. So I think what happened was Total Divas had just aired, and I hadn’t been on TV yet because… I don’t think I’ve ever shared this in an interview, but I got to keep name. My full legal name is Natalie Eva Marie, I just go by my middle name for my character. So that’s one thing that is you know, pretty abnormal, keeping your name. So, the only way that happened was because all of a sudden Total Divas drops.
My name originally was supposed to be Melania. I dropped that out there because I don’t think I’ve ever shared that, but that was originally what was happening. We were talking about names and things of that nature and Melania was the one that was going to be for me, and then all of a sudden, Total Divas aired I believe on a Sunday, Monday Night Raw comes and then my first time on TV, I was valeting Natalia [Neidhart]. And it was just like Eva Marie, because obviously Natalie, Natalia, that’s not going to work, so we’ll, we’ll go by her middle name, boom. And then that’s how I kind of initially got on to television. And for character wise, I think it really, it really coincided with, obviously, the amazing WWE Universe and also Total Divas. So it had, I think, a very weird combination of those kinds of mixed into the bowl.
I would like to say, on behalf of everyone, I’m glad you were not in WWE in 2016 with a ring name Melania. That could have been…interesting.
I mean, honestly, you’re totally right, it could have been either boos times a million, a lot more heat, or the opposite. Who knows?
You have this YouTube channel?
Yes. And I’m glad that you brought it up, though, because I just started every single Wednesday at 3pm, a brand new video is going live on my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/natalieevamarie). So I appreciate you bringing that up.
I looked at some of your [YouTube] videos, and that was you offer up so much of yourself in these videos, which is rare for celebrities of your stature to do something like that. But I think when people of your stature open themselves up, it kind of helps people realize, on a much grander scale, that they’re not facing these issues alone. One of them was teenage drinking. I just wanted you to share a little bit about your experience with that, because I think it is important for people who have their own experience at whether from you know, being in the shoes of the person or they had a parent or sibling suffer from it, these are things that happen, and there are ways to get out of it.
For sure. Yeah, so I went ahead, and I think also going back to Total Divas season one. So during the reality show, it was one of those things, it was kind of a gametime moment for me, where I was working a 12-step program at the time, and it was my third time trying to get sober. I celebrated 10 years on March 24. But when season one came out, I had to talk with my family and my husband, and it was one of those things where before, I was very, very insecure and extremely embarrassed about me having to work a 12 step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous. And also being an addict and an alcoholic. I just felt very ashamed of that, because I thought that it was weak. What really helped was okay, well, we’re doing this reality show. So I wanted to be the person that told that story out of my own mouth, because it’s so powerful when you take anything that you’re shameful or insecure about, and you speak about it, because then nobody can use that against you as any type of fuel.
If you remember, in the movie “8 Mile” at the very end, Eminem has his rap battle, right. And he basically takes the mic and he says all of the things that he already knows the guys going to cut him down with. Then the guy literally is left there standing because he has nothing to say. So when you own all your bullsh**, all of your own story, good, bad or indifferent. No one can really say anything. I really wanted to make sure that it was my voice initially telling the public that I was a recovering alcoholic and addict. So I kind of said that and touched on it in season one.
Now because of WWE, I’ve been given a really big platform, and I just want to share my experience, strength and hope but it’s not easy. It’s extremely hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But it’s the proudest thing. I went from being shameful to now, it’s something I’m super proud about. I’m proud of and we’ll talk about it at any anytime that I can because there is hope. You don’t have to be feeling like this is it, whether it’s you’re struggling with it, or if you have a sibling, or even if you’re a parent. My parents are my heroes, and it has nothing to do with how I was raised. I was raised extremely well, like I love my parents so much, and it killed me that they feel any or had felt anything like “Oh, I wish I could have done something different.” Because it was just… it’s a disease. And so now it’s all about the solution and the solution is one, making sure that you ask for help. And also, for me, I had to walk into the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and that, honestly, is the easy part. Working steps and actually putting everything into action, that’s the hard part because it takes work. But I know for a fact, I wouldn’t be sitting here today, having this conversation with you, and be married and love where I am in my life and no longer being at the lowest part, you know, suicidal and not happy with who I am. So, I owe everything to Alcoholics Anonymous, that’s for sure.
I read that you’re a San Francisco Giants fan?
I am all day baby.
2021 was huge for me because I got to throw out the first pitch. And not only that, but Will Clark is my favorite baseball player. “Will the Thrill”, #22 first base I love the guy, he had a little message for me. And that literally was… I mean, they could play like sh*t for the rest of the time being I’m good.
Are we going to see Eva Marie back in the ring before you hang up the boots?
I don’t think I’ll ever really technically hang them up.
I want to say it’s one of those things. I have such a good relationship with WWE. I just had a conversation with them a couple of weeks ago, talking with them, with WWE Studios, and there’s always conversation, you never know. I mean, I love the company. I’m really blessed because it’s given me this platform, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without WWE. But you know that competition, that competitor inside feels like I just have unfinished business. I have to say I have to leave it. I mean, it’s the worst way to answer a question, but it’s not the end of the Eva Marie.
I mean, I could come back with dark hair. I could have a “dark era” come back with dark hair, team up with Bray Wyatt, you know, do a little something there. I mean, I’m thinking to me, that’d be kind of dope. And then also, I mean my last in 2021 I did have a little you know, issue with Alexa Bliss. So if I come back have dark hair and you know, we can we can run it back a little bit.
Eva Marie, thank you for giving us your time.
Thank you so much. And also don’t forget I just partnered up with TYR Fitness Clothing which I am wearing. You know that fitness health is everything to me because health is wealth, especially seeing my Dad go through everything he’s gone through and like how your Mom is and it’s one of those things where it really put in perspective, if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. You really don’t and it sounds so cliche, but yet when it’s taken away from you, or you see somebody that you love that can’t do the normal activities that we take for granted on an on a daily basis.
I’m really excited because I just partnered up with TYR Sport. They have their roster that is sick with athletes, I got to meet the CEO Matt when I was at the Rogue Invitational because I’m huge CrossFit fan as well. So at the Rogue Invitational because another partnership of mine is with Reign Total Body Fuel, which another part of Monster Energy, one of their other drinks. And so I was out there supporting one of our athletes, Thor Bjornsen, which is the World’s Strongest Man. And it just so happened that Matt was there, and we connected. I really am all about teamwork makes the dream work. And so, you know, luckily, the synergy was there and their athletic gear is amazing. Their athletes, Annie Thorisdottir, another stud, CrossFit athlete, Ellie Turner, another one and, you know, it’s it’s a brand new partnership that I’m really really excited about. Plus, you know, I get down in the gym, so I gotta make sure my clothes can handle that sweat. And plus, they’re cute. Anytime that I’m not in the gym, I’m wearing workout clothes, unless I have to be in a dress then I’ll rock that to.
Break a sweat every day. And trust me, you’ll feel different.
TYRSport.com. You could also go to any profile on my Instagram. You just click the link and then it’ll take you there. The shoes and stuff that you guys see me on my Instagram working out in especially and other ladies are asking me about my neon shoes that I run in and work out there on there too. So check them out.