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Mandy Rose has finally become the total wrestling package after becoming NXT Women’s Champion at Halloween Havoc. It’s a journey to the top that has seen the bodybuilder-turned-wrestler go from rookie to ruler, navigating a steep learning curve that required both body and mind to get the job done. Of course, the former “Golden Goddess” is no stranger to M&F Hers, appearing on a historic magazine cover in 2019, but it would take the buff beauty two more years to win her first singles title in WWE.
So, still glowing from her victory over Raquel Gonzalez, the new champ sat down to share the lessons learned on her pro wrestling journey so far, and how moving from “Monday Night Raw” to “NXT,” adopting a more aggressive wrestling style and grabbing headlines by switching from blonde to brunette has paid off in a big way.
When Mandy Rose first appeared in WWE, during the sixth season of Tough Enough, some fans dismissed her simply as a “Barbie Doll” that wouldn’t be able to cut it in the squared circle. But, after coming second in the reality show back in 2015, the former fitness model was offered a fulltime contract and made sure to try her best with every opportunity that WWE officials entrusted her with. In 2017, Rose was introduced to “Monday Night Raw” alongside Sonya Deville, to form the group known as “Absolution,” led by the legendary Paige.
“There was a ton of surprises,” says Rose, recalling her fledgling years. “I think, coming from the fitness world, and never stepping foot into a wrestling ring before, the first time I ran into the ropes I was all cut up. There’s so many things to learn, and I’m still learning,” she says. “I think someone like Paige, when we first got to “Monday Night Raw,” with Sonya Deville, was really helpful, because she helped us with things that are not always taught to you. It’s trial and error, you learn as you go, but if you don’t make those mistakes, you wouldn’t necessarily know what to do, in order to perform better.”
Having made an impact on “Raw” as part of Absolution, entertaining fans over on “SmackDown” thanks to her tag-team partnership with Sonya Deville and a brief on-screen romance with Otis, and then back over to “Raw” where she teamed with Dana Brooke, Rose returned to NXT. It would have been a challenging time for any wrestler trying to figure out where they belonged, but Rose knew that if she continued to give WWE her all, the results would come.
“When I first was told that I was going to go to NXT for a little while, you don’t really get many explanations, but I was always the person to take whatever I have and turn it into gold, no pun intended, and that’s kind of what I did.” In transitioning to NXT, Rose ditched her iconic gold ring attire and made the decision to change her hair from blonde to brunette. “It shows the ruthless aggression that I’ve always had,” says Rose.
Four days before winning the NXT title, she also posted some of her favorite glute workouts to her millions of fans on Instagram, correctly predicting victory over Gonzales, a much larger foe. “I was getting tired of always being talked about because of my looks, and I wanted to be accounted for because of my hard work and the real talent that I have,” she says.
As the NXT women’s champion, the roles are now reversed, and Rose is acting as a mentor to Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne in the new group known as Toxic Attraction. “I think it’s kinda full circle,” says Rose. “People have been making that comparison [with Paige], and I think it’s cool because it’s awesome for me to be able to say that I’m the leader of the group now, only a few years after the birth of ‘Absolution’ and our debut. So, it’s really cool, I feel really motivated about helping a lot of the women in NXT. [When starting out] you are really trying hard to please everyone and get to that main roster, and get to the big stage, and in the moment you kind of forget about enjoying the moment, and enjoying the process, so I try to remind the girls that this is a very exciting time [in their lives].”
Mandy Rose is rightly unapologetic about her start with WWE. While she may not have taken the traditional route of working small independent shows first, there’s no doubt that the former bodybuilding champion always had the tools to succeed. But of course, being a champion isn’t just about reps and sets in the gym, it’s also about believing in your own potential and shutting out those negative voices. “I always tell people, you never know where you are going to end up, so always take risks, because one thing can lead to another and you won’t know unless you try.”
Being the best invites jealously and trolls, but Rose has learned to cope with such challenges. “I always say that I’m motivated by those haters out there,” says the champ. “It kinda just makes me want to do better, and shove it in their faces, because I’ve always been the underdog.”
On wining her first WWE championship, Rose made sure to reflect on the achievement. “It was obviously a very exciting time, definitely,” she says. “A lot of emotions going through my head at that moment. I think all the hard work, over the years has paid off and finally, I have this incredible achievement that I can look back on for years to come, I’m just really excited for the journey. It’s a true reflection of how much work I have put in, I’ve been with WWE for 5 or 6 years now, and it’s not just because it’s a title. It’s just one of those moments where I can truly reflect and feel truly blessed and grateful for everything that I have accomplished.”
As the leader of Toxic Attraction, Rose is excited about her future, and it seems like simply holding the championship is not enough. “It’s just the beginning for Toxic Attraction, to take over the women’s division” says Rose. “We are going to make our mark.”
— Mandy (@WWE_MandyRose) July 14, 2021
As for that fantasy match with another legend that paved the way from the fitness world to the WWE Universe, Trish Stratus, it’s something that Rose wants just as much as the fans. “It’s still a fantasy of mine that in the future, we can one day step in the ring,” says Rose. But whether it happens or not, she is keen to point out that talking with the Hall of Famer has been a big help in terms of guiding her career, and Rose has always made sure to study Stratus’s matches in order to hone her own craft. “She was able to look so amazing, but also perform so well,” she says. As NXT Women’s Champion, it looks like Rose has finally synergized body and mind to become a bona fide WWE Superstar.
Watch Mandy Rose and Toxic Attraction on NXT every Tuesday, on USA Network.