Naomi has gone from the dance floor to the wrestling ring as a WWE diva who can bust a move or bust some heads.
Now the Funkadactyl finds her and partner Cameron with chances to prove they are more than back-up dancers for Brodus Clay and Sweet T. They are putting their athletic abilities to the test against some of the top female grapplers in WWE.
It’s an exciting time for Naomi, whose journey into WWE began four years ago. The former NBA Orlando Magic dancer heard the company was seeking potential divas. She decided she was going to do more than just attend the WWE event when it visited her town.
“I made it my business to meet [then executive vice president of talent relations] Johnny Ace [Laurinaitis] and try to get a tryout,” Naomi said. “I figured if I just get my foot in the door, I’d be good. I got a tryout, and I’m still here.”
She traded her dancing shoes for wrestling boots and began training at WWE’s developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling, based in Tampa. Her background helped her make the transition.
“Fortunately for me I had Norman Smiley as my trainer,” Naomi said. “He taught me a whole lot from day one, all the basics. I worked with Dr. Tom [Prichard] and Dusty Rhodes on promos. For me, I was just very fortunate to learn from all of them. The girls I started with, AJ [Lee], Aksana, Kaitlyn, Tamina, a lot of us were in developmental together. We got along very well, and we all helped each other. For me, it was tough, but I just had such great support. It was kind of like a family there, so for me it was a great experience.”
Her and other divas in training got their first real shot on the WWE main roster in the third season of NXT, a reality competition with the winner securing a contract. With Kelly Kelly as her pro, Naomi gave her all in each of the challenges thrown her way, no matter how absurd they may have seemed for a wrestling show. It was trial-by-fire.
“We make jokes about that because we would be so nervous and afraid,” Naomi said. “A lot of that stuff was on the spot. We look back on it now, and we’re like, ‘I can’t believe I said that or did that or looked like that.’ I think from that point we all came a long way, but that is the way we were at the time.”
Among the competitions was the Talk-the-Talk Challenge, which Naomi will never forget.
“They would just give us a random word, and we would have to cut a promo on the stop,” she said. “This has haunted me since NXT, but whatever the word was [It was ‘toupee’], I just blanked out…I lost that challenge.”
Following the show, Naomi continued to hone her skills until the call she had been waiting for came. The dancing diva joined Cameron to become part of the elaborate debut of Brodus Clay. The Funkadactyls had arrived.
“For us it just kind of happened. We didn’t plan it or prepare for it,” Naomi said. “Opportunity came up, and we just went with it. I left dance to come to wrestle and worked hard at becoming a good wrestler that at first I was like, ‘I want to wrestle.’ But I’m so fortunate because it got me to where I am. It’s just been a great experience working with Brodus and Cameron.”