Photo Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Athena Discusses Her WWE Release, Says She Had Interest From IMPACT Before Signing With AEW

Athena explains what led to her WWE release and eventual AEW debut.

The former Ember Moon recently appeared on Talk Is Jericho to discuss her career at length. After a run with the NXT Women’s Championship, she was brought up to WWE’s main roster, but did not fare as well there as she did in NXT. What momentum she had in 2019 came to a halt due to an Achille’s injury that put her on the shelf for a year. Upon being cleared in the fall of 2020, Athena wanted to return to the brand that she felt was “home” due to how Triple H booked women’s wrestling.

“That’s home for me, that’s my happy place. We talked, and he brought me back there [to NXT], and I had so much fun,” she said. “I got to win the tag titles with Shotzi. I finally felt like things were picking up, and I finally had a voice in creative at the time, at least in the story that they presented to us. It was like, ‘Alright, cool. Things are going up.’ And then Shotzi started doing main roster tryouts. I knew at that time I was supposed to be going back to main roster at some point because I was only supposed to be down there for a year.”

Athena was under the impression she would move back to the main roster in a tag team with Shotzi, however they decided to pair Shotzi with Tegan Nox. Triple H apologized to her, noting that it wasn’t personal, but they needed to fill a void due to an injury. Athena then pitched turning heel in NXT and going on a losing streak. They started the process of her losing, but she noted that it was “so stop and go.” Before long, Triple H got sick and Vince McMahon’s backstage personnel took over — the same people who didn’t hear out here ideas on the main roster.

“I was just unhappy. You took everything that made NXT great, for me personally, and it was all gone,” she continued. “I remember going to Ross and buying a bag I put in the locker room because I would walk in every day and tell my makeup artist, ‘I think today’s the day I’m gonna quit.'”

This pattern continued for two months until Athena received word that McMahon wanted to pull the trigger on turning her heel with her old Ember Moon character and look. After filming vignettes and feeling motivated, she was taken off TV due to the NXT 2.0 reboot.

WWE offered Athena the opportunity to coach while she was off TV, but she didn’t want that as a consolation prize. She said she was going home and wasn’t returning until they had a spot for her. At that point, it seemed like she had quit.

“That was in October. I got the call in November because I guess they got the hint I wasn’t coming back,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Budget cuts,’ and I’m like, ‘Uh huh. Thank you, sir. Have a great day.’ That was the end of that.”

Even before her WWE release, Athena could tell that her friends were having fun in AEW. She was jealous of the match stipulations and different wrestlers that were popping up. Now that she was free from WWE, she knew where she wanted to go.

“When I left WWE, that was the one thing I wanted to do, I wanted to figure out a way to get to AEW,” she said. “When I walked out of that building, I remember thinking, ‘How in the blue hell do I get ahold of Tony Khan?’ Between my rep and everything, we had kind of been in talks in December to see if there was interest.”

During her 90-day non-compete period, Athena contemplated if she even wanted to continue wrestling. She received tons of requests from the indie scene, which led to Warrior Wrestling offering her to come in and choose her opponent. Her passion for wrestling was reignited after a 30-minute match with Thunder Rosa. She then noted that IMPACT Wrestling had some interest in her, but she decided to sign with AEW.

“It got the bug going and that’s when I told my rep, ‘Let’s do it, if [Tony] wants me let’s do it.’ It became IMPACT wanted me, there was interest at AEW but we could never get ahold of Tony because he’s so busy,” Athena said. “IMPACT would be like, ‘Hey. Hey, girl. Hey.’ ‘Yeah, yeah, I know, hold on.’ My friends would be like, ‘Girl, I heard you’re coming here.’ ‘We’ve not talked to them. We only said, Hey, we’ll talk to you next week.’ It became this weird, ‘Where do I go? What do I do?’

“I had two companies showing interest and it was like, ‘I think I want to go to AEW. I have friends at IMPACT, but I want to do AEW because I’ve had my eye on it for so long.’ Fast forward to May, it happened so quickly. Tony called my rep, ‘Let’s do it.’ Within the next week, I was on a plane to Las Vegas.”

“The Fallen Goddess” ultimately made her AEW debut at Double or Nothing following Jade Cargill’s TBS Championship defense. They eventually clashed at All Out in September. Despite coming up short there, Athena beat Mercedes Martinez at ROH Final Battle to capture her first ROH Women’s World Championship.

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