WWE fans got one hell of a shock at NXT TakeOver 31, which finally revealed the identity of the mysterious returning Champion. After Io Shirai defeated Candice LeRae and retained the NXT Championship, she got a new challenger in a returning Ember Moon, who had been out of action after going down with an injury. It's rare to get an actual surprise these days, but both Moon and NXT managed to keep the lid on this one, and it more than delivered. ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Moon all about her big night at TakeOver, as well as when she knew she would be returning, why she decided to come back to NXT, the origin of those mysterious promos, and more. First, we had to know how the TakeOver return came to be, and it all started back in January.
"So, it's crazy, because I think in January we kind of were thinking, like what would you want to do?' I was like, 'Man, I think I want to go back to NXT.' Hunter said 'Huh? I kind of like that', so back in January, that's kind of when that idea popped up," Moon said. "It's weird because I found out the day that I was probably going to find out if I was going to have a second surgery. I had a lot of complications with my foot and everything. The surgeon was like, 'All right, cool, in six weeks when you come in to visit, we're either going to do second surgery or we might clear you.'
"So, that's the nerve-racking aspect, and that doesn't mean that I was cleared to return to WWE immediately," Moon said. "I was just clear to start that process to return to the ring. That was probably mid-August, and they were like, 'All right, everything looks good, MRI came back clear. We're good to go.' And I was like, 'Oh, crap.' So the first phone call I made was to Hunter, and I told him, 'Hey, I just got cleared, what are we doing?' And he goes, 'Oh, snap, really?' And I said, 'I wasn't expecting it,' but he's like, 'How does it feel?' I said, 'It feels good, let's just take it a little slow, make sure we're all going to be okay.'"
That started the process of her return, but WWE wanted to keep things quiet and deliver a surprise, which meant Moon had to go incognito for a while.
"And then when I got to Orlando to start working back to through the process, they were like, 'Hey, no one can kind of know that you're here. We don't know where you're going yet, but we want to keep this a secret. I was like, 'Okay, this is cool.' So, I'm in freaking 100-degree Orlando with a hoodie, mask, sunglass, sweat pants, and just sweating bullets for like three weeks. They cleared me, and literally I ... Hunter was like, 'You're ours. You're coming back to NXT, welcome home. What ideas do you got?' I was like, I've got all the ideas. I've been sitting at home for a year. As soon as they told me, I was smiling ear to ear. I'm so happy with everything right now. I have not stopped smiling. I'm still buzzing from Sunday. It's just crazy. It's insane."
The buzz quickly picked up on social media after it was revealed to be her at TakeOver, and she was pleasantly surprised by the response.
"Holy crap, like me and social have a love-hate relationship, but for the first time in my career, they showed me so much love," Moon said. "Look, I'm not the best person at social media. I don't think I am, mostly because I'm a hardcore introvert, and I'm just like, 'Oh, I could just watch TV or play a video game. Yeah, why do we got to take pictures?' It was really cool, because the one thing when I returned was, I did not know what the reception would be. There were a couple of people that figured it out, but a lot of people thought it was Bo Dallas's spot."
"Can I just give a shout out to Bo Dallas real quick for running defense for your girl! I don't even know if he knew it was me, but he started posting, 'Oh, the original NXT champ, if you bolieve.' I love Bo so much. I don't even know if he knew it was me, but absolutely amazing, thank you, Bo, you're the real MVP," Moon said.
"I didn't know if they were going to be like, 'Who is this chic?' Because let's be honest, I've been off TV for a year, even though I've been on Backstage and done some E-Sports stuff, I've tried to stay in the eye, but we all know our WWE fans love WWE and they watch WWE. So I didn't know what the reaction was going to be until the point where I was like shaking, shaking at one point in time, but the NXT creative team is so amazing. They took an idea that I had for these video packages and they made it times a 1000. They made me way more badass than I actually am, sometimes."
Speaking of those video packages, Moon broke down what inspired them, and the combination of elements is amazing. "So, the motorcycle was their idea. I came up with the first video, and it was an amazing collaborative effort after that. So, the influences for the first video were Mad Max, Hardcore Henry, which is the first-person action movie, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, and probably sprinkled in some Cyber Punk-ish stuff in there as well. So, there were a lot of influences, and when you meld that all together you have this amazing video package," Moon said.
"And then they were like, 'Let's put you on a motorcycle.' I was like 'Okay, let's do it, brah. I got it. Let's go!' It just went by so quick, but I'm so happy that people were guessing because I wanted Masked Singer elements. We had a whole bunch of old NXT posters, and then we had rings, ring ropes, and then like the one TakeOver flyer, and then there was another one, another TakeOver flyer with me on it. I think we were trying to find chairs with my face on it at one point in time. I think at one point in time we were trying to find the truck with my face on it too. It was a whole thing, but it came out so frick'n good, and that's kudos to the NXT creative team for that, because they're absolutely amazing."
That included the mix of a male and female voice to throw people off track, and it worked like a charm. That's also why there were multiple belts, and Moon would check to see what people were guessing. "I was creeping in the chats, yo, because it's very nerve-racking. You're like, 'Are they going to like this? Are they not going to like this? Do they think this is crap?' And then with Retribution just debuting, we were trying to make sure it was so far away from what Retribution was doing at the time, so it was a whole thing."0comments
It worked like a charm though, and we can't wait to see what Moon does now that she's back on the black and gold brand. You can check out what Ember has to say in the ring on tonight's episode of NXT on USA Network at 8 PM EST.
Who do you want to see Ember face first? Let us know in the comments or as always you can talk all things NXT with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!