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.
With the advent of the WWE Network, Nidia, Maven and company have developed new followers, new inquisition. An entire generation of fans are discovering the magic of the show 19 years later. Reality TV isn't quite as real as it used to be, and Nidia doesn't have the jaded look 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 pay 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 Jimmy Uso and Naomi's dramatized on-screen relationship. That's kind of the point of WWE's reality 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. In a lot of ways, 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 commercial herself, Nidia applied and became a natural on the show. The coaches weren't shy about letting her know. However, the portrayal on the show 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 landed. 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.
"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.