Melbourne’s Tenille Dashwood on being drawn in by wrestling’s theatrics and big characters, and turning herself into the WWE Superstar Emma. By Richard Cooke.
All the right moves: Emma, 28, professional wrestler
These days there are so many different avenues to get to the WWE. There are Olympic athletes, there are fitness competitors, there are people who played professional sports. And then there are people who come from independent wrestling, which is where I came from.
I’ve trained and been part of the wrestling scene for over half of my life. So for me it was a long journey. And I moved overseas to Canada to train [with Lance Storm] when I was 19. It took years and years of learning and travelling and working with people in the independent scene before I was ready to try to get a job with WWE.
You’d spend your weekends in the car with five people travelling to the next state to wrestle for one show and then travel all the way back again to go to work on the Monday. And that was kind of all part of the routine just to do what we loved. To put in the hours and the work and that was all part of it.
Before a match I do my own thing. Get away from everyone and get in the zone. I’m pretty serious. Focused, I guess, is a good word for it.
I think about it as a performance. It’s about going out there and putting on a show for the audience. And how I’m going to interact with the … my opponents, the other women in the match. We’re going to get their reactions, and make sure the crowd is enjoying themselves and booing and cheering. And all of that goes into it.
My character in the ring is just an extension of my personality. I guess you could say I have a dry sense of humour. And I’m a wresting fan since I was younger, so I definitely love to go out there. A bit sarcastic, a bit of a smart-arse. And I like to get in there and have a good fight as well.
When I was a fan I was drawn in by all the theatrics and the big characters. The attitudes, the lights, the cameras, everything. When I started to wrestle myself, it was eye-opening to see how much more goes into it than what I had realised.
I was a big “Stone Cold” Steve Austin fan. Still am. He’s a bad-ass. He didn’t take anything from anyone. He did his own thing. He got the job done when the time was right. Everything about his demeanour, his attitude – I loved it. I’d like to think there’s a little bit of him in me now.
My career standouts so far? The big match I had with Paige at the first NXT live special. And then we had another match to introduce the NXT women’s championship. Both of those were very big moments.
WWE is huge all over the world. People can relate to certain things, which is why they tend to like or dislike certain characters. And then having the freedom to kind of express how they feel about certain characters too is… People love the interaction and being able to talk freely about what they feel. So I think there’s something for everybody, every age, different gender and people from all over the world.
It’s very surreal when you think about it. To have people look up to me, or that I’m able to inspire. I appreciate that and I try to keep spreading the message and keep encouraging others to go after whatever they want as well.
My injury was memorable. I was taking a move overseas in Liverpool on tour. Took one of the moves and my arm got caught on the rope and dislocated my shoulder. Just like that. Tore my labrum.
The crowd won’t cheer if they know the injury is real. But if you’re on the canvas winching then it’s going to have the same response. That’s the strange thing about wrestling.
Women in WWE have gone through a few waves. In the past couple of years, it has really taken off as far as supporting and highlighting the women wrestling. Years ago when I maybe started with WWE, we didn’t quite imagine that being a possibility. It’s amazing.
I don’t get to come home as often as I’d like to. It’s exciting to see my friends and my family and to wrestle in my home country. It’s really special.
This week’s highlights…
• Horseracing: Golden Rose Day
Saturday, 1st race 12.15pm (AEST), Rosehill Gardens, Sydney
• AFL: Preliminary final – Richmond v GWS Giants
Saturday, 4.45pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground
• NRL: Preliminary final – Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys
Saturday, 7.40pm (AEST), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
• Cricket: Australia v India, 3rd ODI
Sunday, 6pm (AEST), Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore
• Motorsport: Aragón MotoGP
Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Motorland Aragón, Alcañiz, Spain
• Rowing: World Championships
Sunday until October 1, Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 23, 2017 as "All the right moves".
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