A current AEW star has opened up about almost walking away from the wrestling industry after being released by WWE.
In September 2015 Athena signed with WWE where she joined NXT and was given the name Ember Moon. Although the star won the NXT Women’s Championship, her success with WWE’s third brand didn’t transfer to the main roster and she returned to NXT in October 2020.
However, the star was released a little over a year later alongside the likes of Keith Lee, Scarlett Bordeaux, Nia Jax and Killer Kross. She later hit out at the company over a number of issues, including being told to dress sexier, and be more like Mandy Rose.
After returning to the independent scene for a short period, Athena debuted in AEW at Double or Nothing on May 29th.
During an appearance on AEW Unrestricted, the star reflected on her WWE departure and subsequent move to AEW. Athena revealed that upon leaving WWE, she almost quit wrestling altogether.
“So when I left the other company, I didn’t know if I wanted to wrestle again. It was just like, ‘Oh, this was like my big dream,’
There had always been AEW, right? It was just always like, ‘Man, it looks like they’re having fun. That’s what I thought I was signing up for,’ and, just watching, and just dealing with what I was dealing with, and then seeing this, and I’m just staring and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, so much fun. It looks like so much fun.’
“Once I actually left, I was like, ‘I think I’m good.’ Then it became, ‘Crap. How are we going to pay the bills?’ Because we just bought a house, and it’s like, ‘Well, I guess I gotta wrestle to pay these bills.’ I don’t have — Well, I went to college for like, six, eight years. But I never want to pick up a book ever again, I don’t want to finish any of those degrees that I started, just not my jam,”
Athena went on to explain how a match with Thunder Rosa reignited her love of wrestling and pushed her to not give up on her career.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s lace up the boots.’ I have my first match back with Thunder Rosa. We did a 30-minute time limit draw, and I remember being so emotional after, which I don’t really get emotional about things. But it was just like, I had all these feelings going through my head of like, ‘I almost threw this away, I almost let this go.’
Just being out there on the indies, where people like appreciate every tiny little thing, every tiny bump, every intricate transition. People just appreciate it so much more than where I was, you know? It was just like, ‘I almost threw this away,’ and I forgot what it was to love what I do in the ring. I remember just like, there was like a rude fan, Thunder told him off because she’s a bomb chick like that.
“So she hands me the mic, and I didn’t even want to say anything, because I knew as soon as I started talking, the floodgates were gonna open, which they did. I just was like, ‘Thank you for just making me fall in love with this again.’ That was kind of my upswing to be like, ‘Okay, well, it was just one match. One match isn’t gonna make the world of a difference.’ Then, I had another match, and another one, and another one, and then I became DJ Khalid. I love this.
I started watching old wrestling again, whereas, when I left, I just didn’t watch wrestling at all. I was like, ‘Nah,’ I didn’t watch anything. I was like, ‘This isn’t fun for me anymore.’ I just got angry watching it. I became Scrooge, pretty much. But like, with every match that I had, it just felt like more and more like love, and my passion was returning,”
Athena was last in action on the August 3rd taping for AEW Dark: Elevation, where she defeated Queen Aminata.
H/t to Fightful for the transcription.