WWE Superstar Carmella Explains Why 'Mella Is Money' on 'SmackDown Live'
When Carmella returns to the WWE Performance Center for a WWE 2K19 event, it’s like a graduate returning to her alma mater.
The former New England Patriots cheerleader and Los Angeles Laker Girl soaks in the nostalgia and reminders of how far she has come. Within the last year the SmackDown Live superstar became the first (and second) women’s Money in the Bank winner. The “Princess of Staten Island” also had a lengthy run as the blue brand’s women’s champion.
“It’s so surreal,” Carmella said, taking a look at her likeness in the upcoming new WWE 2K19 video game.
“First off can we talk about how I’m an 80 in the game. That’s so cool. I thought maybe I’d get 47 or something. I didn’t know what I would have, but it’s just so crazy. Even being here in the Performance Center where I would think where I wanted my career to go, where I wanted it to be and where I wanted it to end up.
“Never in a million years would I expect it to be where it is right now. Not that I didn’t want it. It’s just surreal that I was the first Ms. Money in the Bank. I was champion. I beat Asuka twice. I beat Charlotte twice. When I was here if I told people, I would be doing this, people would laugh. They’d probably say, ‘Yeah right. Carmella?’ But I did it baby.”
The charismatic performer felt being the last draft pick during the brand extension added a chip on her shoulder. Carmella through if she was going to be the final choice, she would be the most successful last draft pick that there ever has been.
“It just made me motivated as ever to just get better and better and prove everyone wrong because at the end of the day all I can do is work hard,” she said.
“I did it. I feel like super accomplished, especially being here it’s just so weird to be at the Performance Center and know what I’ve accomplished. It’s a testament to this place and the coaches here and all my hard work. I wouldn’t have traded my career path for anything. And I feel like I’m just getting started.”
During much of her time on the main roster Carmella has been the heel. She strives for genuine boos and not today’s typical “cool” bad guy.
“I know my role as a bad guy is to get everyone to hate me,” she said. “If I try to act cool and do things that get a positive reaction, then I’m not doing anything for the person I’m in the ring with.
"I don’t want to be somewhat cheered and somewhat hated. I went out there wanting people to hate me, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to get everyone to do that. I just feel it’s important to do what’s right and not necessarily what is right for you but right for everybody.”
Carmella finds that many of her onscreen persona’s trademarks were organic. They in essence just happened.
“The ‘Mella Is Money’ is something I just started saying. And now it’s a thing,” she said. “The laugh to me is kind of my natural laugh. If I really want to go nuts on laughing and think something is hilarious, that’s how I laugh. I guess it has become a thing now.”
Whether she is a heel or face, in many ways Carmella is an underdog who has gone further than maybe anyone ever imagined.
The trait that remains steadfast is a desire to prove naysayers wrong and make the most of every opportunity given. Considering the accomplishments of the last year alone, Carmella can argue her name should be right up there with names like a Charlotte Flair, a Becky Lynch, an Alexa Bliss and anyone else at the top.
“To know that we’re in the middle of the women’s revolution. The first-ever women’s Royal Rumble. The first-ever women’s Money in the Bank and all these other first ever things. And knowing my name will always go down in history, it’s so cool,” she said.
“That’s all you can ever ask for. I feel very lucky to be a part of it and to have had the championship for as long as I did. I don’t think anyone expected that. I think everyone thought I’d be a transitional champion, and that wasn’t the case. I feel like I’ve exceeded expectations including my own.”
These days Carmella is linked with R-Truth, an unlikely duo developing into a pair fans are starting to get behind. They team on the second season of the Facebook Watch show Mixed Match Challenge. Carmella can feel the momentum after a few comedic backstage segments garnered a positive reaction from the audience.
“It’s only been a few weeks, so it’s crazy it has turned into this,” she said. “That’s the same thing with Big E and New Day. I didn’t really know them until we were paired together for the Mixed Match Challenge. We just had this instant connection and great chemistry. It was just fun. I’m game to make a fool of myself. I don’t care.
“I’m game to have a good time and play a character and know my role. Whether it was being a manager for Enzo and Big Cass in NXT and then with James Ellsworth and now with R-Truth. It’s cool to show different sides of myself and my character. I feel like not that many people get to do that. They sort of stay the same their entire career, but I totally am open to all aspects of Carmella.”
She likes the idea of the web series because superstars of Raw and SmackDown Live who may not interact otherwise are given a chance to do so. The former champ is excited to see the emphasis on the mixed tag teams.
“The other night Truth had a match with Andrade [Cien Almas], and Zelina [Vega] was out there. I pulled her off the apron, and the crowd went nuts,” she said.
“I think when there is this intergender concept is happening, it’s different. You don’t know what is happening or what to expect, where if it’s just a women’s match you know they are going to fight. But when there are men and women involved, you just don’t know. I think it’s unexpected.”
Another development that up until recent years may have surprised is the announcement of the all-women’s Pay-Per-View Evolution on Oct. 28. Carmella hopes to be on the card for the historic event.
“I always thought it would be cool to have a match against Trish, but obviously she is having a match with Alexa. That is just so cool,” she said. “… don’t know what every match is or what my match is going to be, or if I will have a match. I hope I’ll have a match. I want to be there. Just to know this is happening for the women. It’s about time.
“It’s crazy to think in a few months we’ve gone from, ‘Oh my gosh, the women are the main event of SmackDown Live. Can you believe it?’ And now the women are the main event. It’s not even a big deal. It has become the norm. I think that is rightfully so. It’s about time.”
Carmella puts in long hours to stay competitive on a strong roster. This type of dedication took sacrifices including leaving the Total Divas cast. At least for now.
“It was great. I’m not against doing it again. It was just one of those things where I was at a crazy point of my career and my life and there was so much going on,” she said. “So, I’m kind of grateful that I was able to take a step back from that and focus on my career. I don’t know how I would have focused on being champion and all the filming going on.
“People don’t realize the amount of work that goes into a reality television show. We’re only home a day-and-a-half a week. So, on that day-and-a-half you are home, you’re filming. You get no downtime.
"On top of that you’re filming on the road while you’re doing this crazy hectic schedule. People don’t realize. It’s not at all what it seems. It takes a lot of work. I was happy to focus on wrestling and my career in the ring this past year.”
Carmella tries to stay on the pulse of what’s happening in WWE women’s wrestling today.
She believes the ladies of NXT, the developmental brand, are “killing it.” The standout mentions some her favorites including Bianca Belair, Vanessa Borne, Lacey Evans, Kairi Sane and Aliyah who she would want to get in the ring with one day. Another goal is to get her SmackDown gold back.
“Of course, I want to be champion again,” she said. “I also want to keep making history. I feel like I’m just getting started with my career, but I’ve done a lot of really cool things. I feel very lucky for that.
"I want to keep growing and learning. And whatever opportunity I’m given right now like for R-Truth. I will be the best rapping manager for Truth. I want to do whatever I can do to be the best at whatever I’m doing.”
If the meteoric rise of Carmella keeps going she might end up an 85 in WWE 2K20.
WWE 2K19 Standard edition releases worldwide Tuesday, October 9; Deluxe & Collector's Editions release Friday, October 5
SmackDown Live, Tuesdays, 8/7c, USA Network. WWE Mixed Match Challenge follows at 10/9c live on Facebook Watch.