These days Athena (who formerly went by Ember Moon in WWE) is tearing it up in Warrior Wrestling as the new Women's Champion, but in a new interview with Chris Van Vliet, she broke down just how bad things got during her final few months with WWE and NXT. Athena's last four months with the company were full of changed plans, dropped characters, stalled turns, and odd meetings, and it all really started rolling downhill when Shotzi Blackheart was drafted from NXT to SmackDown. At that point Athena was part of a Tag Team with Shotzi, so now that was suddenly stalled, and then Triple H's health issues started, which caused even more chaos.
"My last four months was just one of those moments where I wasn't having fun anymore. It started with Shotzi being gone and drafted," Athena said. "I remember thinking -- I was sitting at home and I got a phone call saying, 'Hey, we don't want you to be upset, but Shotzi just got moved to SmackDown and she's debuting with Tegan Nox as a tag team.' I was sitting there and I'm getting this phone call about her getting drafted, 'Oh my God, I'm so happy for her,' and then the tag team thing popped up and I was like, 'but we're the tag team and we have merch and we're doing fun things and we had just gotten into our groove with the banter.' They were like, 'Don't worry, we have something for you.' 'Okay, cool.' I remember going to Hunter and he was like, 'I have no clue what's happening, we'll figure it out together.' That was so much of what I needed at the time because no one knew what was happening. Bayley had gotten injured, I know Shotzi and Tegan were doing dark matches for a tryout anyway. The problem I had was, some of these new writers were coming from Raw and SmackDown, 'we had no idea you and Shotzi were a tag team.' A lot of WWE backstage is having to play the game. 'It's cool, we get it, we're down in NXT. It's not like we were front page (of the website) when we won the titles. That's fine, yes.' You're just having to eat the shit sandwich and smile with shit in your teeth a lot of times. It's all about not making waves."
She then came up with a new direction as a heel with Triple H, which would turn her but also allow her to help some of the new people coming into NXT. She would lose for a bit and then come back with a new attitude, but that got derailed time and time again, as did her match with Sarray, which never ended up happening.
"Me, Hunter [Triple H], and the head writer at the time had come up with doing a heel turn with me because it was new and different. During this process, we wanted to do a losing streak. That was my thought, 'let me do the losing streak.' I see the new faces coming through and part of my job at NXT was to help new talent on TV, which I get. I love this business so much that I didn't mind. Let me do a losing streak, let me get frustrated, and let me turn. 'This is a great idea, we have ABCD, we'll do your first feud with this person.' Then the first match happened and I'm off TV for four weeks. 'Don't worry, we got this.' Then, Hunter disappeared. I was supposed to do a match with Sarray and ended up getting a rash on my arm. I had an allergic reaction to something and they thought it was something else, so they pulled me from the match. Okay, fine. 'We'll do the match next week.' Three weeks later, 'we're going to do this match,'" Athena said.
Then there was a bit of hope after plans from Vince McMahon came along to turn her heel but turn her into her old Ember Moon character, bringing back her character from her earlier time in WWE and NXT, complete with her old music and everything.
"That match gets pulled from TV and one of the head coaches goes, 'will you do me a favor and work 205 Live with Cora Jade. We like her, she's a sweet girl, we think this will be a fun match, you two are in the main event.' Cool, that sounds great, I'm never going to say no to having a match on TV, regardless of where it's airing. We have a fun banger of a match. They go, 'you're turning in this match, but we want to make it subtle.' They kind of turn me, but they don't, there was confusion of what would happen. Then, off TV for three weeks, I have the match with Mandy and they're like, 'We're finally pulling the trigger on this.' I get a note that week saying, 'In two weeks, we need you to dye your hair fire color again, get the red contacts, you're going back to the old Ember Moon character," Athena said. "This is per Vince (McMahon). You're going to turn heel, but turn heel as your old character. We're trying to get the old music and stuff together.' Alright, great, this is great."
Then for no clear reason, that decision was pulled and her character was sidelined indefinitely, and they had no reason to offer as to why. "I show up to TV, I'm motivated, just had to wait it out. Ryan Katz and I went and filmed a demo of the vibe that I wanted. Comeback, I get the video ready, I'm ready to show everyone after TV and they're like, 'Hey, we have some bad news. Vince is pulling you off TV indefinitely.' I just sat there and was like, 'What did I do wrong?' 'You did nothing wrong.' 'I've done everything you guys have asked me, I've gone over and above.' When they put me and Shotzi in a tag team, everyone knows I'm not a tag team person, I hate tag teams, there are too many moving parts. It's not that I hate tag team wrestling, it just requires so much more to give vs. just relying on yourself, you have to rely on three other people. I feel me and Shotzi capitalized on it and we were so motivated to build that division and then we weren't able to. I showed up to TV, it's 2 AM, and I'm like, 'I've done everything you've asked me to, I've branched out,'" Athena said.
"When you care about something, not just for yourself but for everyone involved, it hurts so much more because, for so many years, I've been not about myself. I've been for the match and other people. To be told that I've done nothing wrong and I was taken off TV for doing nothing wrong, it hurt so bad because I was so happy walking into work. I remember when Shotzi left, I remember going to my makeup artist and saying, 'I am so unhappy.' We would have to sit through stupid meetings about how we'd have to dress sexy. I remember looking at someone else (and laughing). I cater to children. I'm not about to wear fishnet booty buttcheek shorts because we had a two-hour meeting about how to dress like Mandy Rose. That's not fair. Mandy is absolutely phenomenal and an amazing person, but not everyone is Mandy Rose. I started seeing this downslope as soon as Hunter was gone. For the first bit, we didn't know why, we just knew he wasn't there. I got so angry. I was sitting there thinking, 'I did nothing wrong. I didn't piss off Vince.' They take Shotzi away, Hunter is gone. 'You guys promised me this wouldn't happen. You promised I wouldn't be lost in the shuffle. I went on this losing streak to help you guys out and build other talent so I could get a reward,'" Athena said.
Then to make things worse, the only plans they offered were for her to become a coach, and that was the last straw for her. "They're like, 'Not everything is lost Ember. We still want you to come and help the next generation, maybe teach a class, do some PC lives.' I'm like, 'You're taking me off TV and trying to make me a coach?' I remember laughing. 'If I've done nothing wrong, you can cancel all my flights, I'm not coming to help these people who do not care about what I do. They only care about the paycheck that hits their bank account. They're not passionate like me. I'm not going to come up here and help these people that don't care about what we do when there is no benefit for me, when I've done nothing wrong and I've given you my entire right side of my body, between my elbow surgery and Achilles surgery. I've given you this entire side, for no reward, not even a thank you. You want me to coach and take me off TV to coach?' I remember sitting there, I got teary-eyed, and I said, 'I'm not coming up here to coach or do PC shows. I was supposed to come to NXT to repackage and go back to the main roster. That was supposed to be within the year, but I'm still here. You took Shotzi away from me. I have nothing to go off of. I'm going home. Cancel all my flights, cancel all my hotels, if you have a flight there and have no creative for me, I'm not getting on the flight. I'm not doing this anymore because I'm going to snap. It's either going to be on you or on a talent. I'm going to go home. If you need me there and have something for me, even then, I need to approve the creative before I hop on the flight.' It's the first time I've ever pulled this card," Athena said.
"I remember thinking, 'I think I just quit.' For three months I had been saying, 'I think I'm going to quit today.' Then, I actually did, I think. I got real small and quiet -- I was yelling because I was so angry. The worst part about this was, I knew that on some level I was leaving, I had already gone and got an extra bag and kept it in the locker room so I could pack my stuff and leave," Athena said. "It had been there for a month. I was so unhappy and could see where it was going between the booty buttcheek meeting and them telling girls to alter their gear to make it more revealing. Some people were very uncomfortable with that and they were like, 'Nope, this is what they want, you have to do it.' It didn't matter how that person felt. This isn't what I signed up for anymore. This isn't about the wrestling or about the art we create in the ring. This is turning into everything I left on Raw and SmackDown. The pity parties started forming in the locker rooms, the jealousy, the cattiness, 'why is this person on TV.' I'm just sitting there like, 'I'm an adult, I can't deal with this high school bullshit' but be like 'Guys, it's okay' and I'd be that locker room leader because if I didn't it would go into the negative zone and no one be able to have any type of positivity and everyone would hate the job that we've all worked so hard to get."
Athena seems to be much happier these days and now she's Champion once more. Many are wondering if she will join companies like Impact Wrestling or AEW at some point down the line, but we'll have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime, let us know what you thought of the interview in the comments!