Deonna Purrazzo Opens up About Finding Life & Success After WWE
Deonna Purrazzo was one of the superstars released by WWE in April during cost-cutting measures. For the 25-year-old, it didn’t signify an end. Instead the unfortunate turn of events served as a new beginning. A chance for “The Virtuosa” to broaden her horizons elsewhere.
Speculation of where the sought after performer would land continued until the May 26 episode of Impact Wrestling. That’s when a teaser featuring Purrazzo aired, causing social media to light up with excitement.
Here, the armbar specialist gets candid about her WWE experience and why she chose to join Impact Wrestling.
When did you first see the writing on the wall at WWE?
Deonna Purrazzo: I think going all the way back to after I signed. The Mae Young Classic was happening. I was put in a match with Bianca [Belair] and then a tag match. Then after the tournament there was no plans. Even at that point I thought, “If I’m not going to do anything, what was the point of coming here?”
It really started to sink in this time last year where it was like, “Okay, I haven’t been on TV for a year." I keep trying to pitch these ideas and character synopses and these styles of promos. The vignette that ran on Impact was actually something that I had filmed on my own and pitched to NXT.
I felt I had tried everything I could possibly do, and I can’t get anyone’s attention. I had some things going on in my personal life. None of this was adding up or making me happy. I thought maybe this wasn’t the place for me.
Why don’t you think WWE was receptive to your ideas or the vignette?
I really feel like when you present an idea and it’s not theirs, they’re hesitant to use it. I just was repetitively told I wasn’t TV-ready. That I can do this differently or that differently. I feel like I’m a wrestler and not a character. I know that. And those aspects of wrestling can be hard for me.
But you can put me in any role on TV, and I’m going to do the wrestling part to the best of my abilities. And in my opinion, I do it pretty damn well. Ninety percent of people on TV didn’t have characters. Why are we still hung up on, “Well, we don’t understand 'The Virtuosa.’ Give me the chance to show it. Let me show what I can do.
I think it was a lot of people within the NXT locker room who had preconceived notions. People are there who report back to the office. I don’t think people saw me for who I am. I think my work got taken away from me because of how people felt about me behind doors. Whether that’s true or not.
The ironic part is that your final weeks you were seen more regularly. Do you think that was partly due to the fact WWE knew you had thoughts about leaving?
I think so. I was very vocal. I was meant to be in a tag team and now my partner [Chelsea Green] is debuting because I’m not ready. You’re giving me these opportunities. But if I’m having a three-minute match to lose. There is only so much I can do with that opportunity. I was very vocal about it.
I think back to those last conversations in March where I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to win this battle and change people’s minds about me. That I’m not this terrible person that people think to say I am. I don’t even know where that comes from. I just don’t want to fight this battle anymore. I don’t want to be here and want to figure myself out somewhere else.
I think I had a lot to do with being fired. But also too the week before I was fired I was meant to be part of these two or three weeks of TV. I was losing again. I said, “Honestly, I’ve already lost to this person twice. I see no point for me to do the same job to the same person. Unfortunately, I don’t think wrestling tonight would be in my best interest.”
That was the last I heard from them before I was fired. I just think when people speak up, it’s frowned upon. I wasn’t conforming to the culture they have built there, so I was never going to succeed.
What have the last few weeks been like for you, seeing the support from peers and fans as you go on to your next career chapter, rolling the dice and betting on yourself?
The outpouring of fans who want to see my abilities again and me be the wrestler I was years ago was crazy. I was just at the Impact tapings. They are willing to take a chance and see who ‘The Virtuosa’ is.
It’s been very exciting and very freeing. I just feel like a wave of all the worry and anxiety has washed away. To be back with a group of girls that I’ve wrestled on the indies and came up with and established my name with. To be there over the last week was such a great vibe. I needed that. I needed to be myself again. My confidence was back. That I could do this. It showed me there is nothing I need to be scared of.
What was the reason for your signing with Impact Wrestling? Why do you feel the company is the right place for you?
I think that Impact puts such emphasis on the women’s division. Tessa Blanchard became their world champion. Specifically, the last month or two they had Nevaeh debut, Tasha Steelz debuted, then I debuted. I think it’s a great group of women. They are all trying to establish themselves and push boundaries to put on the best product.
We are all so different from each other, come from different backgrounds and are different characters and are allowed to show that. I don’t think there is one person that is with Impact in any capacity who hasn’t been showcased on a week-to-week basis. That was the exciting part.
They are trying to change the game right now. They want to show out. I think they probably had one of the best women’s divisions out of all of the companies out there. So to see that growth, it was definitely somewhere I wanted to be put in the mix with. AEW has a great women’s division, too. There are so many options for girls right now to go out and showcase themselves. I wanted to be part of it all.
The vignette you spoke of effectively teased your arrival on Impact.
In my previous work with Impact, the one thing I was lacking was character. I struggled with that. I’m the first person to admit I’m a wrestler’s wrestler. Doing what I do in the ring. When it comes to character development, it’s something I lack.
My time in NXT forced me to reevaluate that. To reinvent myself, which I think I did in terms of my presentation to the ring. There are positives that came from my WWE experience, but I wanted to be in a place that allowed me to showcase it fully. To have a one-minute vignette have such positive feedback, where everyone was like, "I understand."
That’s all you need because it gets the viewer to tune in the next week. It caught people’s attention. I didn’t get to do that in NXT or before NXT. I think in the next couple of weeks you’re going to see a lot of character development. A Deonna Purrazzo nobody has seen before.
Is there anyone who inspired you who has taken a similar road as yourself in finding life after WWE?
If you’re thinking people right now, I think of the Revival. They just debuted in AEW. They felt the same way. They thought, “I’m not doing what I came here to do. I’m not reaching my full potential. So let me better myself and go somewhere else.”
Tenille Dashwood did the same thing. She got released by WWE and has been in every company since. Those are just two off the top of my head. Even Gail Kim, who left WWE so frustrated and unhappy. Now she is at Impact and is someone I get to learn from and take her experiences on my own path.
I really think I needed to figure it out elsewhere. And if it leads me back to WWE, then great. If it doesn’t, I feel confident in the fact that I went there and didn’t like it and can move on with my life.
I love that open-minded attitude because you never know in pro wrestling what can happen down the line.
I feel like people thought I was speaking this way from the get-go. They hear the stories and my experiences. They say, “She hates WWE or NXT.” I wasn’t happy with my experience there and how I was treated as a wrestler and a human being. I was not happy and needed to find happiness elsewhere. I think what I do at Impact now is going to benefit me in whatever I do in the future.
When I first talked to Impact, it was more about keeping it at the minimum. Let’s not go full-blown contract. I wanted to make sure I enjoyed what I’m doing and the people I’m around. The minute I walked into tapings it was such a breath of fresh air. It was a couple of days for multiple weeks of TV. People wanted to get all this stuff done in just three days.
At the end of it, I was just so happy with what I got to do. I felt a part of it and wasn’t on eggshells. If I didn’t like a line or what I did in a match, I felt comfortable in voicing concern and my body of work. Just based on that, I’m so happy and excited for people to see a part of me they haven’t seen from me in a very long time.
Impact Wrestling, Tuesdays, 8/7c, AXS TV