In the genesis of the reality television era, the programs were.....well....more realistic. Much like WWE itself, many of the programs have been overly scripted to highlight dramatic effect. Nidia, Maven and others didn't just become WWF Superstars, they became television stars well before they ever wrestled an actual match.
Survivor was one of America's first huge prime time network reality show. Less than a year after the season one finale, Tough Enough season one debuted. There were 13 contestants, but only four you'll really remember. Harvard educated and concussion specialist Chris Nowinksi. Longtime broadcaster Josh Mathews. The eventual QVC host Maven, and the bright-eyed, friendly, charismatic Nidia.
Outside of the occasional match here and there, all of them were done as active wrestlers within just five years. We've seen what all of them were up to -- except one. That Tough Enough 1 champ, Nidia.
Earlier this year, IMPACT Hall of Famer Gail Kim posted a photo with the sight for sore eyes. I followed up by noting that she was one of my more sought out interviews, and Gail Kim stepped up to the plate and knocked one out of the park for Fightful.
We were able to speak to Nidia in her first on-camera interview in over a decade.
With the advent of the WWE Network, Nidia, Maven and company have developed new followers, new inquisition, new questions. An entire generation of fans are discovering the magic of the Tough Enough show 19 years later. Reality TV isn't quite as real as it used to be, and Nidia doesn't have the jaded look at it that so many else do.
"You can say refined. It is a beautiful now. Like the Total Divas. God, I would have been
so much fun to be in that show," she told us. "Don’t ruin it for me. Why?!," Nidia laughed, covering her face when we mentioned to her the scripted nature of many of today's programs. "I think it’s more fine tuned and narrowed now. Back then they would ask you questions that you would have to answer a certain way, and that’s how they got (you saying it). It's stuff you couldn’t avoid," she specified.
Even 16 years after her last WWE appearance, she pays more attention to reality show WWE than in-ring WWE.
"I’m the most boring person you’ll ever meet," she humbly stated. "I really don’t watch that much TV, but if I do. That’s a really fun one to watch."
With that comment, it's like Nidia's wrestling life came full circle. She wouldn't be able to tell you who the current WWE champion is, but she might be able to keep you updated on Natalya and Tyson Kidd's dramatized on-screen relationship on Total Divas. That's kind of the point of WWE's reality-show wing, and it's been that way for two decades.
"It’s just a broader audience. I feel like I got recognized a ton with Tough Enough. Still some with WWE, but with Tough Enough it was pretty wild," she said. "Yes. I remember one time we went to a club in Connecticut and they were like, ‘Oh, my!” They knew everything. They knew everyone. So, that was really weird. Definitely different than with wrestling."
Let's put that in perspective. 13 episodes of Tough Enough on MTV, and probably over a hundred WWE televised appearances over the course of three years. Fame works in mysterious ways. You could say Nidia and the cast were guniea pigs for the Total Divas, the Total Bellas, the Miz & Mrs shows that would go on to be hits. Even though it's more "refined" now, producers still tried to create plot lines as best they could.
"It was so funny. I remember watching the first few episodes when it seemed like there was something going on with me and Chris Nifong. It was so edited. He looks like he was in a boy band. That was a completely different episode. ‘I love N’Sync.’ The way they pieced it together, I was like, ‘Aw, dammit. They’re making it seem like I have a crush on him.’ It was two completely different episodes. They’d ask me questions like, ‘What kind of music do you like? Or what kind of bands?’ So you have to, ‘Oh, I like N’Sync. I like pop.’ So, they pieced it together. They knew what they were doing. There’s a lot of stuff they left out, too. But, we won’t talk about that. Nope. There’s a lot of other stories there," Nidia chuckled, shaking her head.
The drama of the camera was one thing, but at its heart, Tough Enough was a wrestling show. In the first season, the four best wrestlers actually made it to the finals. This would certainly not be a trend moving forward, as the track record that followed was spotty at best. Nidia, however, was supremely confident during the series. She wanted to be a wrestler anyway.
Nidia was planning to try out a wrestling school locally when her sister caught the commercial advertising the Tough Enough tryouts. Without even seeing the spot herself, Nidia applied and became a natural on the show. The coaches weren't shy about letting her know, either. However, the portrayal wasn't quite highlighting that.
"They were like, ‘You’re like a duck in water.’ I was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ But, then in the show it wasn’t portrayed that way. So, towards the later season, I remember Josh, Maven and I would go eat and I was just like, ‘Man, Maven. You’re looking pretty good. I’m not looking so good.’ They’re like, ‘Just give it a second, maybe it’s an underdog type of angle that they’re going with.’ ‘Cause we’re watching it and we didn’t know who was going to win at the end. So, you’re watching the entire show. You’re seeing how they’re portraying you, and you’re like, ‘It’s not looking very good, guys.’ Not to sound arrogant, but I thought I was better. Then when you see yourself being portrayed as really struggling, it’s like, ‘That’s not really accurate, but dammit. It’s not looking so good.’ But, it worked out.
After weeks of training and before most of the episodes aired, Nidia had no idea where she would be landing. She actually faced stiff competition. The season's runner up was Taylor Matheny, who would eventually go on the wrestle in Japan and marry future cruiserweight Champion Brian Kendrick. Though she was confident, the cast were kept in the dark completely about the results.
"Oh, super surprise. We didn’t know. It was supposed to be the last filming episode before the show aired and they took us to, it was actually the Trump Tower, everybody was dressed up and we were going to have the award ceremony. When we got there they didn’t open the doors. They were like, ‘Okay, guys, you’re gonna go back home. You’re gonna come back here in a few weeks and you’re gonna start training again and we’re gonna do the last episode live.’ So, we thought we were going to find out. Nobody slept the night before. We were all super nervous. It’s like nobody’s talking on the way there and they’re like, ‘Psych You’re gonna have to wait three / four more months.’ So, they sent us back home for a few weeks and then we started training again. That’s when whenever we were watching as it went week by week. The last show was live. They were like, ‘Everybody prepare a speech.’ That was it."
Nidia was victorious, the first winner of Tough Enough. Although her career was brief, she'd wrestle more matches in WWE than the other three eventual female winners combined. She admitted that she doesn't keep in touch with the cast, as life caught up with her. Back to that in a bit.
Nidia didn't move straight from the Tough Enough program to the WWE main roster. Instead, she ended up in Louisville, Kentucky, the home of WWE's developmental territory at the time. You've probably heard stories about how Ohio Valley Wrestling trainees would wrestle in front of little to no fans, and pay their dues coming up. You've probably also heard of the famed training class of 2001-2002 that has several stars still involved in WWE today. Nidia was a part of that group, and remembers those times fondly.
"That was probably the funnest time during my wrestling career. It was so nice and I got so lucky because there was so many cool people there, like Cena trained with us. Shelton, Orton, Batista, O’Haire. Jindrak was there. Rob Conway. Eugene / Nick Dinsmore. We had such a fun group. Victoria. She is fantastic. We had such a great group. We became so close when we got there. I remember Jim Cornette and Danny Davis, they both ran OVW," Nidia said.
The group became tight knit, spending every day together, as they all lived locally. Spending time together off the clock was easier said than done considering the old school head of OVW.
"(Jim) Cornette was really strict about who could hang out together. If you’re a babyface, you’re not hanging out with any of the heels. I was a babyface and most of my friends were heels—Victoria, (Sean) O’Haire, (John) Cena. They were all in that group. Shelton and I were on the outskirts looking in. So, we couldn’t hang out.We snuck out one day. Victoria and I, we went to a Hooters to watch the pay-per-view. So, we’re eating and next day we go to practice and Cornette calls us in. He’s like, ‘Hey, so, we hear that you guys were hanging out at blah-blah-blah-blah.’ It’s like, ‘Ah, shoot.’ So, we got fined for doing that. Another day it was (Nick) Dinsmore’s birthday so everybody decided to go out. There was about twenty of us and you’re counting heads—babyface, heel, babyface, heel, babyface, heel. ‘This is like $10,000 worth of fines, guys. We can’t get busted today,'" Nidia laughed, saying they managed to get away from fines on that night.
The brand-new winner of an MTV reality show, she didn't expect to hang around in Kentucky very long. A ball of energy, Nidia was thrown into a political wrestling environment without any real idea of how to navigate it. Things and behaviors that came naturally to her put some off. An eager youngster didn't intend for things to go that way, and fortunately a future WrestleMania main eventer in Dave Batista was already a 32-year old with a little bit of experience that he was willing to help impart. Coming from Drax the Destroyer, sarcasm wasn't going to work, but maybe some tough love would, as Nidia recalled. Along the way in her he and others would give helping hands.
"I’d moved to Louisville. I didn’t think I was going to be there very long, right? I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll be there for a few weeks and then I’m on the road.’ So naïve, right? So, I stayed at an extended stay and I didn’t have a car, and I would jog to the gym, get my work out on, and jog back to my extended stay. On the way back I’m jogging and a car pulls up next to me. I look and it’s Batista. He rolls his window down. He goes, ‘Get in the car.’ I was like, ‘Shit.’ So, I get in the car, and he’s like, ‘Hey, man. You’re rubbing everybody the wrong way.’ It’s like stuff that I didn’t understand because I did get in the business so quickly. I don’t know the rules. Or these unwritten rules. He’s like, ‘You’re coming off like not respectful and then you’re winking at people.’ I was like, ‘Man, I wink at people because I’m so nervous. You guys are ginormous. It’s like a whole new world, I left my home. I don’t know what I’m doing.’ It’s actually like a nervous thing. He kinda told me how to behave in a locker room. That really helped and when I got on the road the Dudley Boyz gave me a hard time. He was with them in that group. He really stuck his neck out for me. So, I will forever be grateful. Then the Dudley Boyz were fantastic, but at first they were a little rough until they came to the rescue," said Nidia.
The advice helped. Occasionally you could run into a tough egg to crack for any number of reasons. In that instance, Nidia developed her own methods of egg crackin'.
"The girls were fantastic. Dawn Marie can be a tough cookie, but she took an instant liking to me. So, that worked out. Then it was Torrie, and Torrie is really, really sweet. So, I didn’t have that from the girls. When I got into OVW, we used to have a kick out drill. You would kick out and during the kick out drill these guys would not budge. So, they would lay on top of you. You’re trying to kick out and they’re like 300 pounds, and it wouldn’t work. One of them comes, then there’s the next twenty, and you’re blown completely, right? So, I learned that if you stick your finger in somebody’s butt, they jump. So, I would like lay down, find it, boop! ‘Oh, look at how fast you jumped.’ They actually loved it. They started treating me a little bit differently, in a positive way after that," she chortled.
That call-up to the main roster did happen, though. It happened much sooner than it would these days, too. In fact, none of the last four winners of Tough Enough ever got a proper call up to the WWE main roster, unless you count Daniel Puder catching a merciless ass beating in the 2005 Royal Rumble. From a statistical standpoint, the first season of Tough Enough had the highest success rate in that regard as it pertained to winners and runner-ups, with three of the four finalists making Raw or Smackdown. As it stands, only 8 of 18 finalists would ever get a call-up and run on those programs.
Nidia was one of those, and she headed to Smackdown. The adjustment was not an easy one for the 23-year old. Especially backstage and outside of the ring.
"From what I’ve heard, a lot of the politics in the locker room has changed quite a bit since I was there. The politics were probably the biggest issue for me. We always got our wrestling in. I was on Smackdown. They were really trying to develop that, with Fit Finlay. That was his project. That was his baby. So, we got our fix through there. For me, it was too many politics for me. It was one of those where it’s like a lot of sports, if you work hard, you’ll see it, right? You’ll see the payoff. With this one, it seemed like it didn’t really matter if you worked hard. So, there was nothing you really you could do to get ahead if somebody didn’t want you to. So, there was nothing to work towards. It’s like, ‘Oh, you plateau’d. You could work hard all your life, but it’s really not going to get you that far.’ At least, that’s what it felt like to me.
Nidia showed promise. So much so, WWE even hired her sister at one point to work OVW as Nurse Lulu. Nidia noted that the business just wasn't for some people, and her sister was among those. The "it" factor isn't something that can be taught, and Nidia's quick grasp of the wrestling business landed to her on the Blue Brand, WWE Smackdown.
Nidia appeared opposite Shane "Hurricane" Helms as a jaded ex-girlfriend in June 2002. Even looking back, a simple two-minute backstage segment looks categorically different than WWE content you see today, much less the aforementioned political scene. While Nidia recapped their history together, her new beaux, Jamie Noble, attacked Helms from behind. It launched her most memorable stories and moments on WWE television, even eclipsing that of Tough Enough.
She told us how she was pitched the role, the brainchild of Paul Heyman.
"I was down in OVW and you remember how they were setting it up? They would have the female come out and do something to hurt him, cost the match, etc, etc. I’m watching, I’m in OVW and we go to Hooters or we go to somebody’s house and watch. I had no idea that was going to be my role. I’m just watching this like, “Ooh, I wonder who that’s going to be.” I thought it was going to be Tori. Then they called me and they were like, ‘Okay, cool, you’re debuting.” Still, I didn’t know. I didn’t know what I was gonna do or if I was gonna do another Tough Enough thing or who knows," Nidia said.
In speaking with those that helped with Smackdown creative at the time, we're told there was a distinct vision and template for Noble and Nidia. Paul Heyman wanted them to be WWE's version of Mickie and Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers. Charming, unpredictable, and entertaining. At times they'd seem like they weren't threatening, at least until it was too late.
Just like she took to training like a duck to water, she did the new gimmick.
"I go in and they give me this promo, and it’s just pages and pages. I’m just like, ‘Aw, shit, it’s like a skit.’ I was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s me! That’s me! That’s so exciting.’ So, yeah, we did this promo. I had to eat some beef jerky. That was my first taste of meat in years ‘cause I was vegetarian at the time. So, that was probably the most challenging thing there. They thought it was going to take us forever to finish that take because I’d never really done one before. They were just bringing so many people and so many angles together. It took us one take. We did it on one take and everybody’s just like, ‘What do we do for the rest of the day?’ ‘I don’t know.’ But, Paul Heyman coached me so much. He said up such a clear vision of what he had that it was so easy to fall in character. I loved it. It was such a great character. It worked perfect. Because I hate girly stuff, you know? I’m not one to go, ‘Let’s go get my eyeliner, hair.’ I don’t like that stuff. I hate heels. I can’t walk in heels. So, you put me in tennis shoes and shorts to walk out in the ring. I was like, ‘Thank you!’"
Noble and Nidia would be integral figures on a Smackdown brand that had a tall task of differentiating itself from WWE Raw. Not long after showing up, Noble won the Cruiserweight Title as Nidia promised, and held it for five months. The popularity and over-the-top performance and subsequent success even caused Nidia to be thrust into a world title contest in just her third main roster match ever against Molly Holly.
Nidia didn't emerge victorious there, but wasn't out of her depth and proved the investment worth it. She wasn't placed in a lot of matches with experienced female workers after that during her Smackdown run, and was involved in a never-ending feud with Torrie Wilson that spanned over a dozen televised matches, constant bikini contests and backstage angles.
The character-based work is where Nidia and Noble shined brightest, despite Noble being one of the best in-ring workers in the world.
Still, she was relatively new to the wrestling world. The first episode of Tough Enough premiered less than a year before her Smackdown debut, and after cable TV spotlight, she experienced network television spotlight. After coming into the business as an unknown entity, Nidia admits to being star-struck even though her coaches warned her against it. That had been happening since the beginning for a bright-eyed wrestling fan thrown into the wrestling scene.
"I ran into Hulk Hogan and he knew who I was. It blew my mind. I was like, ‘You know me?! Oh, my God, you’re fucking Hulk Hogan! How is this even happening?’ I always liked Mankind. But, I didn’t know the effect that it was going to have to actually meet him. When I met him I lost my stuff. It was just this emotion that came out of me. during Tough Enough. Pretty regularly we’ll have somebody come in. Triple H came in, Kurt Angle came in, and Al would tell us, ‘If you mark out, you’re gonna have to do a hundred squat thrusts.’ For us that was the worst punishment in the entire world. At about forty / fifty, your eyes start crossing. You start seeing the little bubbles in the lights. People would throw up. I think everybody threw up except Maven and I doing these stupid squat thrusts. So, we were very careful not to embarrass Al by acting like a huge fan whenever one of the superstars would come in. I remember when he walked in. I was in the ring. Maven and Josh were wrestling and I was the referee. He walked in the door, and I looked at him, I slid out the ring and I looked at Al. I said, ‘I’ll take my squat thrust.’ I couldn’t help it, it was stronger than I was. I was just like, ‘Hi! I love you!’ He’s like, ‘You know you’re here because of me, right?’ I was like, ‘Really?’ He’s like, ‘Yep. I saw something about you and I pushed for you.’ I was like, ‘Thank you!’"
As overwhelming as meeting your heroes can be, there's another familiar face you have to answer to when working that job -- Vince McMahon himself. The man who helped create the face of sports entertainment as we know it today has been documented to be as eccentric as he has been innovative. He's asked wrestlers to puke on cue, and has been known for his disdain of sneezing.
"It’s always so intimidating to see him that I can’t really say I remember the first time. I think it was all a huge blur. I think every time is just a blur. You just kinda stumble through it and then catch your breath afterwards. Oh, my God. He’s so intimidating with the way he carries himself is just so regal. It’s very, very intimidating. Then you snap out of it. It’s like, ‘What just happened? Did I say something stupid? Probably.’"
Nidia didn't have to space out much during meetings with Vince McMahon, because she and Noble primarily dealt with Paul Heyman -- the man with the vision for their characters in the first place. Even then, that could be a nerve-wracking experience.
"One time, I think, Jamie and I made suggestions on where our characters should go to him. Even though we talked to him very rarely, that’s what came out of our mouths. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing. The man knows his stuff. He just said, ‘Oh, okay,’ and then he walked away. Immediately we were like, ‘Fuck. Why’d you let me do that?’ ‘Why’d you let me do that?’," Nidia laughed.
You won't hear a lot of gloom and doom stories from Nidia, even though she hasn't been around the wrestling business in years. The time with Noble seemed to be one she enjoyed.
"It was so fun. We were going from heels to babyfaces. I remember towards the end when they decided to split us up, which I wish they would have kept us together for a lot longer because it was starting to turn. We would go as heels and the crowd would start cheering for us. So, when we were beating up Hurricane or whoever, people were like,’Yeah! Beat ‘em!’ It was like, ‘You guys got it wrong. They’re the good guys, we’re the bad guys. You’re supposed to boo us.’ But, it started shifting. I remember towards the end when we went to England and it was just huge pops. It’s like, ‘Yeah, I like this.’ went from being a heel to a babyface, people just started liking it," she recalled. "It was very fun, and for a woman, because all the girls were supermodels and like, ‘Look at me, I’m beautiful.’ Here there was just so different from that. It was so refreshing to play, you know? It did feel like a game because it was like, ‘Ah, let’s just go have fun.’ It was just a lot of freedom, too. You didn’t have to be anyone. She was just unhinged. So, you could do whatever."
All good things must come to an end, and so did the story with Jamie Noble and Nidia. Their rags to riches story of two poor southerners (I think) getting an inheritance and living the high lift was over. . A year and a half in, a split was orchestrated, including a blinding angle.
That's right. Blind. Nidia fell victim to Tajiri's mist and was rendered blind for months. Noble would use this to his advantage, manipulating her. Rey Mysterio revealed this to Nidia, which led to a rare pay-per-view intergender match. For months when traveling with WWE, Nidia had to live the gimmick and pretend she was blind, at the request of management.
"We would go overseas, and they would be like, ‘Hey, Nidia. Remember that you’re blind. So, I don’t want to see you out in the lobby walking around and then you have to go pretend you’re blind at the show. ‘Cause that just kills it.’ So, that’s the thing, right? One day we got in, we were in Australia, and I called. Dawn Nothing. ‘Torrie?’ Nothing. ‘Jamie?’ Nothing. They’re all gone, right? So, I’m just like, ‘Damnit, I’m fucking hungry.’ So, I get in the elevator, hoping that I’m not going to run into anyone and I run into Bob Holly. I was like, ‘Dude, I’m hungry. I need to go downstairs and I need to get some food. Can you guide me through the crowd?’ I bumped into every single wall and plant and anything. It was just, ‘Whoops, watch out for that.’ I was like, ‘Fuck, just get me to my meal.’ It was the longest walk," Nidia chuckled.
By the way, Noble cheated, and removed his blindfold and defeated Nidia at No Way Out. That was a wrap on their time together. As it turns out, there was so much more planned that never even happened.
"We talked to Vince, you remember how we won that money, right? Or we inherited that money. We were going to get that money, and Torrie got into Playboy, and they were like, ‘What you’re gonna go to the best Swedish doctor and you’re gonna go,’ ‘cause I was going to get breast augmentation and I needed some time off. So, that’s a lot of information, huh? So, I was going to get a breast augmentation. I asked for the time off. They approved, so they wrote it into the storyline. What they wanted to do was to send me to the best doctor in Sweden and I was gonna come back, and we were going to highlight them, etc, etc. That was the way the story was going to go, and Jamie was like, ‘That’s kind of anticlimactic. How far is that going to go?’ Which, in hindsight, it probably would have gone far, right? But, we pitched a different direction and he said, ‘Yes,’ and they made me blind. I was just like, ‘We shouldn’t have messed with him. Now he’s messing with me. He made me blind!’"
It's a little surprising to think that there was more to Nidia vs. Torrie that wasn't covered, because they wrestled non-stop for a year straight. By the sounds of it, the best was yet to come.
Nidia was sent to Raw in the 2004 Draft, her name called out by General Manager Eric Bischoff. She didn't seem too excited when we spoke about it.
"Yeah. They called it the A show," Nidia told us, giving a thumbs down.
Her on-screen character was excited however, eagerly removing her shirt to put on a red, Raw-brand tee.
This move was a plan long before the draft. Nidia taking to wrestling so well was a gift and a curse, as it led higher-ups to make the change.
"They tried to move me to RAW before. They’d been trying to move me to RAW for a bit. It wasn’t the first conversation they had about moving to RAW. They were like, ‘You wrestle really well, and that’s where the belt is. You need to move to RAW.’ We talked them out of it. (Smackdown) was a really tight group. I didn’t want to leave and they didn’t want me to leave. So, we would corner Johnny Ace or Vince (McMahon) or Dean (Malenko) and kind of plead our cases. Like, ‘Man, do you really need it? Anyway, you got this person and you got this person and you got this person? I don’t even want the belt, just leave me over here,’ and it worked. Like it bought me some time on Smackdown. That last one, there was nothing we could say. They’d heard it all. They were just like, ‘Dude, you’re going to RAW.’"
So, she did. All that wrestling they wanted her to do amounted to five-minute matches on Raw and Heat. She was winning about once a month, working with the likes of people she spoke highly of -- Gail Kim, Victoria, and others. In the end, the move just wasn't good for her love of wrestling.
"Yeah. I wasn’t a fan of RAW. I mean, I already knew, and I might have gone in with a bad attitude ‘cause I didn’t want to leave Smackdown. They pretty much had to drag me while I’m holding onto the door. ‘No!’ Yeah, I didn’t want to be there. I probably didn’t have the best attitude about it. It was just so different. There were a lot more egos, I feel, on RAW than there were on Smackdown. I remember the first time I realize it, somebody asked me, I was on RAW, they were like, ‘What are you going to do tonight?’ I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have any plans. What are you going to do tonight?’ They were like, ‘On the show.’ I was like, ‘Ohh, on Smackdown ‘what are you going to do tonight’ means something completely different.’ It was a very social group and on RAW it was mostly work. They were there to work," Nidia said.
In July, Nidia was given a World Title shot on Raw that lasted all of three seconds. Even consistently wrestling the champion in Trish Stratus wasn't enough to keep Nidia interested, probably because her title match lasted all of a few seconds. The contrast between brands was too much. The fun wasn't there the way it used to be.
"I think by then I had already tapped out," Nidia said of her Summer 2004 run. "It was so hard to put matches together on RAW. Because on Smackdown it was a team effort, you know? It’s like Torrie or with Dawn or even with the guys—whenever you put your piece together, it was for the good of the match. So, it’s like, ‘You’re gonna do this, you’re gonna do that, you’re gonna do this.’ For RAW, in order to even make it fair, it was such a huge fight that by then I had already given up. ‘Just do whatever you want. I’m not gonna do this for six hours so that I can get in a clothesline.’"
Then it happened.
The first week of November 2004, a major WWE bloodletting occurred. Johnny The Bull, Test, A-Train, Chuck Palumbo, Rodney Mack, Billy Gunn, Gail Kim, Jazz, Rico, Lamont and Nidia were all released by WWE.
Another Tough Enough winner in Linda Miles also left the company, in what many assumed was a firing. In actuality, Miles and Nidia had discussed quitting the company just prior to the mass cuts. That made things a lot easier for her, and probably for the person making the call to release Nidia as well.
"I wanted to (quit). I was actually afraid of breaching my contract. So, when Johnny Ace called and he told me that. He was like, ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ I go, ‘How are you?’ He’s like, ‘Ugh. It’s been an awful day. I still have a few more phone calls to make.’ So, I was actually consoling him. ‘Oh, Johnny, it’ll be okay. Just keep at it, bud.’ But, yeah, I was ready to go. Like I said, I wasn’t being a good employee. I wasn’t really trying. They made the right choice," Nidia said. "It’s really hard to maintain a good [attitude.] I don’t know how it is right now, but back then there was just so many politics. It was like, I even came back home and I hung out with friends that I’d known all my life and I said something and I’d go, ‘But I didn’t mean it that way! What I meant was—’ They were like, ‘Dude, you’re really paranoid about the things that you say. You’re not speaking freely.’ I was like, ‘Man, because over there you have to watch what you say.’ This is more of a RAW thing. Like, on Smackdown everybody was cool, but on RAW, you have to watch what you say because everything was taken so out of context. So, for me it was a very hard way to live, you know? Yeah. It feels like a lot of those guys… When you perform, it’s like this adrenaline rush. I think some people really can’t separate themselves from that and they will continue to be in this really bad relationship just for that high, you know?"
No bad blood on Nidia's part. She never wrestled in the company again, and a decade later was profiled on their website. It wasn't just WWE she was done with. After about a year, she never wrestled again.
"Yeah. I know it sounds awful, but it’s not for everybody," Nidia said.
That's not to say she never wrestled outside of WWE, but there was a method to the madness.
"I didn’t do any shows in the US. I only did shows in places that I wanted to go to, and then I would extend my stay, right? So, it was just like, ‘Oh, cool, free ticket to Italy! Awesome. Three weeks? Make it for six. That’s fine, you guys go home, I will stay here for a little bit.’ But, it was great because I got to do so much traveling. When I was in the WWE, I did a lot of traveling, but everything was so condensed that we didn’t really have the time to see the places. This was just a perfect opportunity. I mean, you flew there for free, you did a few shows, and then it’s like a paid vacation. I was very lucky that I knew I wasn’t going to do it for very long and I had enough money saved to where I could have a little fun with it. It’s like I would pick jobs where I was working with people that I was familiar with. Because, and you know this, there’s a lot of people that are not trained well out there. They will put you at risk. I was like, ‘Man, there’s gotta be somebody trained by the [WWE] if we’re going to do this,'" Nidia clarified.
Just under a dozen matches that we could find. Italy, Australia, Mexico twice, Puerto Rico. Usually, Nidia was standing across the ring from Gail Kim, who set up our interview (thanks, Gail!). There was a reason for that. Gail recruited her personally to some bookings...even to South Korea! On a show with Sting, AJ Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Dusty Rhodes, Raven, DDP and other stars, Nidia was hand-picked by Kim.
"(South Korea) was awesome. I was actually in Puerto Rico. It was Gail that called me. She was like, ‘Hey, buddy. I need you to come wrestle with me.’ She was wrestling someone, but she wanted to add me to the mix. She’s like, ‘Can you come?’ I was like, ‘Alright.’ So, I went straight from Puerto Rico to there and it was cold. All I had was like shorts and mini-skirts. But, it was a lot of fun. I think it was very clear where I was heading because Gail would pretty much set all this stuff up. It was very clear that I wasn’t going to do it. I mostly did it for her. I think that was pretty obvious," Nidia recalled, also sharing kind words about Styles and Christopher Daniels, who she worked with in Australia.
Since then, it was radio silence from Nidia. Occasionally an interviewer would catch her at a signing, but outside of that, she is largely unreachable.
"I don’t have any social media," Nidia specified. "I’m completely off the grid. So, if you see anything out there, it’s not me. I’ve had people be like, ‘I messaged you on whatever,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t have anything.’ You see any personal pictures of me? Because that’s not me. It’s such a tricky business because it will keep you there. It’s a little carrot. It’s like smoking. If you’re addicted to smoking, you can’t have one cigarette. So, I just cut it off completely. Then every now and then I’ll be like, ‘Hey, you know what? I kinda miss it,’ or ‘I’m going to go see a friend over in here, I’m going to be in the area.’ One time I did a signing ‘cause I wanted to go to a concert. So, the Italian singer was going to be playing in New Jersey and somebody called me, ‘Hey, you wanna come do a show?’ I was like, ‘I actually need to get there that weekend. Yes, I will do a show.’"
She had brief discussions with TNA, who helped set up her Austrailian dates, but nothing more ever came of it. 15 years later, Nidia closed the door on a wrestling return when speaking with us.
"No way, man. That stuff hurts. You know this. Wrestling hurts. It beats you up. Your body, your bones. I can’t take that stuff anymore," she said.
Alas, no appearances in the cards for Nidia. That was the case for a very, very long time. Then, after over ten years, a familiar face popped up WrestleMania weekend in 2016, specifically at the company's Hall of Fame ceremony. Things came full circle, as Tough Enough season 1 trainer Jacqueline was being inducted.
I cried when I saw this queens of wrestling together pic.twitter.com/9XSLY1xocd— α∂яιáи -- (@adripgx) April 7, 2016
"Yes! Nora (Molly Holly) called me. She said, ‘Hey, I’m going to be in town. You wanna be my date for WrestleMania?’ I was like, ‘Oh, God, yes. I haven’t seen you in so long, let’s hang out.’ So, that’s how that happened. I caught up with everybody except for Cena. Last time I saw him, it was like he had a concert in Italy (over a decade ago). I happened to be there and that’s the last time I saw him. I went to his concert and then we hung out afterwards. But, yeah, that’s the only person I didn’t get caught up with. I caught up with Randy (Orton). It was fantastic. I hung out with Candice (Michelle). Shelton is a good friend of CandIce. He’d would tell me, ‘You need to meet this girl. You two are going to get along so well. I talk to her and it just reminds me of you.’ He was right. As soon as I met her we just hit it off. Like, I went with Nora and I hung out with her, too, but I spent my weekend with Candice," Nidia said, smiling.
Rekindling friendships, catching up, starting new friendships, Nidia didn't feel out of place after so long away. One reunion stood out, especially with 20/20 hindsight. That's an eyesight joke for you (remember, she was BLIND). It was Jamie Noble.
"Jamie Noble, that sonofagun. So, he walks by me and he’s like, ‘Hey, girl.’ I turned around. He was with his wife and I guess, I don’t know, if he’s not allowed to talk to girls. But, I go, ‘Hey, Jamie. It’s me, Nidia. You remember me? We used to be partners.’ He’s goes, ‘I know who you are!’ I was like, ‘What kind of greeting is that?’ So, he turned around and he made up for it," she laughed.
She enjoyed WrestleMania weekend, now removed from that spotlight that was shining on her for four years on MTV, UPN and Spike TV. If that's the last time you see Nidia's face on a screen, she seems more than happy with it. So what's she up to now?
"I’m a mom. I stay at home. I do dabble in real estate. That’s actually a hobby turned into a business type of deal. We built a house and I just fell in love with the process. It’s so interesting. It’s construction stuff. I was so enamored by it. I would walk around and look at newly built homes and ask questions. I even got offered jobs doing that because I liked it so much. Afterwards I kept looking and looking and we rehabbed some houses. That’s our retirement plan, where we have houses and then we will rent them. That’s my passion right now, and the children," she said, full of pride.
This is typically where we'd give you Nidia's social media information, but she doesn't have any. She's not a recluse, she's just adapted to a life as a mother, a wife, and a former wrestler. A personality that was magnetic enough to make her a reality star is still carried with her today. The camera presence hasn't left. Although that life was behind her before she gave birth, it's left an impression on her child, who would routinely bring up her mother's former career at school. Even today, she's amazed at the life Nidia led.
"It spread like fire. ‘Miss Nidia, were you a wrestler? [Lil’] said you were gonna beat me up.’ I was like, “[Lil’], you can’t tell people that!’ My daughter, she’s so funny about that stuff. She marks out. It’s so normal to me, I guess, that it doesn’t seem like a big deal. She’s like, ‘Wow, I just watched a video of you,’ or her friends will come up, ‘I watched this or that, or you did an interview with etc, etc.’ Today, I didn’t’ even tell her. I was like, “Hey, [Lil’], I’m going to be in the room. I’m going to do an interview. If you need anything, let me know.’ The boy I didn’t even tell, ‘cause he doesn’t care. He’s going to come in regardless. She goes, ‘You’re doing an interview?’ I was just like, ‘Yeah.’ She’s like, ‘That is so cool! What time?’ I told her, and she’s like, ‘Ah, darn it. I have school.’ ‘Cause she wanted to sit in and do the interview with me."
Wrestling is a business where so many hang on, and that's not a bad thing. For Nidia, her happiness didn't rely on a sold out stadium as much as a crowded family photo.
That's a happy ending.
You can see our full video interview with Nidia at the top of the page.