Athena (f/k/a Ember Moon) on creative frustrations during her NXT run, being told to dress differently, opting against re-signing with WWE and being released a short time later, having fun working independent matches

By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

Insight With Chris Van Vliet with guest Athena (a/k/a Ember Moon)
Host: Chris Van Vliet
Podcast available via Podcasts.Apple.com
Video available at Chris Van Vliet’s YouTube Page

On creative frustrations: “Oh, yes. Ok, we are going to talk about it. My last four months were just one of those moments where it wasn’t fun. It started with Shotzi being gone and Shotzi being drafted. I was sitting at home and I got a phone call. They said ‘Hey, we don’t want you to be upset, but Shotzi just got moved to Smackdown and will be debuting with Tegan Nox as a tag team.’ I was just sitting there and was like, I was playing D&D and I got this phone call. I was so happy for her, but then the tag team thing popped up. But we [me and Tegan] were the tag team, we were doing stuff and we had the merch. We finally got into our groove too, but they were like ‘Don’t worry, we have stuff for you.’ So I’m like ok, cool. I remember going to Hunter [Paul Levesque], and he was saying ‘I have no clue what is happening, we will figure it out together.’ That was like so much of what I needed at that time.

“No one really knew what was happening. Bayley had gotten injured and I knew that Shotzi and Tegan were doing try-out dark matches. But the problem here I had was that some of the newer writers who were from Raw and Smackdown were like ‘We had no idea you and Shotzi were a tag team.’ Just sitting there and a lot of WWE backstage is playing the game. [I said] ‘Well yeah, it’s cool. We were down here in NXT, it’s not like we were front and center page of WWE.com when we won the titles, but that’s fine!’ You have to eat the shit sandwich and smile with shit in your teeth a lot of times. It’s all about not making waves and being like it’s all ok.

“Me and Hunter and the head writer, we had come up with the idea of doing a heel turn for me. It’s new, it’s different and something I haven’t done before. We wanted to do a losing streak, at least that was my thought. There were all these new faces coming through, part of my job in NXT is to help new talent, I get that. I have been doing this for 17 years, I love this business, I don’t mind. So I’m like let me go on this losing streak, get frustrated and let me turn. I remember being told it’s a great idea, we do the first match and I am off TV for four weeks. I’m like ok, but they are like ‘It’s ok, we’ve got this.’ Then Hunter disappeared.”

“I was supposed to do a match with Sarray, but I ended up getting a rash on my arm, which was an allergic reaction to something. But they thought it was something else and they pulled me from the match. Ok, cool, whatever, we will keep trucking. Then three weeks later we are going to do this match, but then that gets pulled from TV. One of the head coaches just goes ‘Will you do me a favor and work 205 Live with Cora Jade? We really like her and it will be a fun match in the main event of 205 Live.’ I’m like ok, cool, that’s great. I’m never going to say no to having a match on TV regardless of where it is. Me and Cora go out there and have this banger of a match.

“They say they want me to go heel in this match, but to make it subtle. They turn me, but they don’t, and there was a lot of confusion of what was going to happen. And remember going online and people were like ‘Did Ember turn heel?’ And I don’t know if I did or not. Then I am off TV for three weeks and I have the match with Mandy [Rose] and they tell me ‘You need to dye your hair fire colored again and get the red contacts. You’re going back to the old Ember character; this is from Vince [McMahon]. You’re going to turn heel but as your old character and it’s the old music again.’ I’m like great! I go home, get my bottle of whiskey and I’m dying my hair. I have to hand dye it and it take an astronomical amount of time, it’s a minimum of eight hours.

“During COVID my supplier shut down so I am trying to find the colors and it costs an astronomical amount. Two weeks later I show up to TV and I am super motivated and happy. I remember we went to film a demo of the vibe that I wanted, come back and get the video ready. They then say ‘We have some bad news. Vince is pulling you off of TV indefinitely.’ I just kind of sat there and I was like, what did I do wrong? I have done everything you have asked me and have gone over and above. Even when they put me with Shotzi, everyone backstage knows I am not a tag team person and I hate tag teams, too many moving parts. It’s not that I hate tag team wrestling, there is just so much more to give and rely on three other people to make sure it all works in the ring. Me showing up to that TV and it’s 2am, I have done everything you have asked me to, branched out, gone above and beyond.”

On being told to dress differently and what led to a breaking point: “When you care about wrestling and you care about this so much more, not just for yourself, but for everyone involved, it hurts so much more. For so many years I have not been about myself, I have been about the people and about the match. To be told that I have done nothing wrong, and I was taken off TV for doing nothing wrong, it hurt so bad. I remember being sat in a meeting and being told to dress sexy. I was like ‘[laughs] I cater to children! I am not about to wear fishnets and booty butt cheek shorts because we had a two-hour meeting about how to dress like Mandy Rose. That’s not fair, not everyone is like Mandy. Mandy is a phenomenal person, but not everyone is Mandy Rose.

“I started to see this downslope when Hunter was gone, and for the first bit we didn’t know why Hunter was gone, we just knew he wasn’t there. It became where I got so angry. I did nothing wrong, I didn’t piss of Vince, but they take away Shotzi and I am off TV. They are like: ‘Well not all is lost, Ember. We still want you to come and help out the next generation and teach a class. Maybe do some PC lives, which is the student show in front of no fans.’ I’m just like ‘So you are taking me off TV and make me a coach?’ I just remember laughing and saying: ‘If I have done nothing wrong then you can cancel all my flights. I’m not coming to help these people that do not care about what I do, they only care about that paycheck that hits their bank account. They are not passionate like me.’

“There is no benefit for me and when I have done nothing wrong and with my elbow and Achilles surgery given you the entire right side of my body! There was no reward and not even a thank you, and you want to make me a coach and take me off TV? I said to them: ‘I am not coming up here to coach, I am not doing your PC shows. I was supposed to be here in NXT to be repackaged and be back on main roster within a year. You took Shotzi away from me, I have nothing to go off of. I am going home, cancel my flights and hotels. If you have no creative for me, I am not getting on that flight. I am not doing this anymore, or else I will snap, either at you or a talent.’ I also said that I need to approve the creative before I get on the flight. This is the first time that I have ever pulled this card. I remember thinking I just quit.”

On deciding not to re-sign with WWE and getting released shortly afterwards: “So I knew that I wasn’t going to re-sign so I knew that my release was coming. My contract was up in April, and they had offered me a ton of money to stay at one time. It was five times what I was making at that time, this was life changing. Sometimes money can’t buy you happiness, and I know that sounds stupid to some people. I couldn’t believe what they were offering me. I was so unhappy, but some things you don’t do for money, you do for love. And this wasn’t fun for me, it was like a nine to five job. For what we do every day, we risk our lives and no day is the same, so why do we feel this way?” They ended up releasing me three days later, which was kind of a swerve. I got a call from creative the same day, the same hour. As I am texting creative, I saw my phone and I’m like ‘I think I am getting fired.’ So I am playing Far Cry 6, trying to sneak into the mansion and texting the writers. I get a call and I’m like ‘Here it is!’”

On the main roster call up: “Right, and it’s a whole different staff. You are having to learn who the writers are for you and no one knows who you are. I remember my debut on the Raw after Mania and they were like: ‘Alright. They might not pop, kid. They might not know who you are, just don’t take offense to it.’ I’m like what?! My heart is then sinking. I think it’s because the people don’t really know who you are as a character or a person, and it’s sort of starting again when you get to Raw or Smackdown. They don’t know you are a werewolf, they just see this smiling and cheesy babyface. Or they can go like [Killer] Kross and be this gladiator. Or you could be like Retribution who were not told their names until they were unmasked.”

On a possible move to AEW: “It was literally up until maybe August or September that they were still trying. I remember saying that I would love to take the money, but you have given me no reason to stay. I remember that being my point of dispute with them. I wanted them to make me stay, but I was seeing everything going on in AEW and I’m like that looks fun! For a while we couldn’t talk about it, but how else do you expect us to outshine them. But I wasn’t watching them for film, I was watching them because I was envious. I remember I would text Dustin [Rhodes] from time to time to see how he was and he would say ‘We are sure having fun over here.’ I see that, Dustin! But how are you? Dustin was great and he always gave me great advice on my character. I’m there like this is f—ing Goldust taking an interest in my character. Just seeing how happy everyone was.”

On being initially rejected by WWE and eventually being signed: [I got told] ‘You’re not pretty enough, you need to lose weight, you’re not what we are looking for, you’re too buff…’ All of these comments have been said in my previous tryouts, and then I finally got the yes. It meant so much more to me that I wasn’t going to be a Diva. I’m not a Diva, do I like putting on makeup and looking pretty? Well who doesn’t? But in like, when it comes to my aesthetic and the fans that I cater to, I don’t promote sexuality like that. I never have and I don’t think I ever will. I’ve never been that type of person. I am a nerd, so it meant so much more to be merited on my performance instead of my appearance.”

On wrestling on the indies and it being fun: “Yeah, it’s great to create without a filter. I am getting to do that and also get the support of backstage crew, the companies and the fans. I am getting support in front of the people that I thrive in front of. Athena was the villain, but it’s not hard to be the bad guy again. But I feel like the indie fans are more appreciative and understanding when they see you go through 20 chairs. I do stuff because I know it’s safe, but I feel like because I had another main event the next night, people underestimate me. But it’s fun and I think sometimes the chaos of making money and fighting for a spotlight, which you shouldn’t have to do, but wrestling should be fun for all of the parties involved.”


Readers Comments (1)

  1. I wish her the very best of luck, I have always enjoyed watching her matches, although she did struggle on the mic.

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