The following is an excerpt from Fightful's long-form feature on Nidia, doing her first interview in well over a decade. Check it out at this link, and see the full interview above! When aggregating this story, please link back to the long-form itself.
Nidia didn't move straight from the Tough Enough program to the WWE main roster. Instead, she ended up in Louisville, Kentucky. 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.
"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, O’Haire, 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 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 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 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 career, some 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. Still, the adjustment was not an easy one for the 23-year old.
"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. Working in 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.