With the seventh season of Total Divas now in full swing, we’re getting pretty familiar with all the new players this time around. One of the new cast members this year is Carmella, whose significant other, Big Cass, is also along for the ride. Carmella has been known to WWE fans since 2014, when she made her debut as a hairdresser friend of Cass and Enzo Amore. She was called up to Smackdown in 2016 and has been kicking butt ever since.
We recently got a chance to talk to the reigning Miss Money in the Bank about being on a reality show, being a second generation Superstar, and a whole lot more.
WITH SPANDEX: Hi, Carmella. How you doin’?
Carmella: I’m doing fabulous. Thank you. How about yourself?
I’m good, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. So, Total Divas, obviously the best show in the history of mankind, my favorite show —
I’m really happy that you’re on there now. I’m happy about all the new cast members. What has the transition been like? Has it been hard to adapt to now being on this show in addition to WWE television?
So basically, having no time I guess to go home, or to myself. This job that we already have is so time consuming. We’re always on the road. And then when we’re shooting Total Divas, we’re filming on our off days, which we only get about two days, or two and a half to three days off. So, gosh, it was an adjustment. But having the girls to film with and just kind of rely on, and knowing that okay, they’ve done this before … And it’s doable, don’t get me wrong. But it was just a lot at first. So I was like, “Whoa, what am I doing right now?”
What are you enjoying the most about being on Total Divas?
I think it’s just a great opportunity for us women to keep promoting this women’s revolution. And this is such an amazing time for women in WWE, so to be able to share that and share our experiences with the Total Divas and E! audience is amazing. And you know, the first two episodes show the Money in the Bank ladder match, and for them to get an idea of just how dangerous this match was, and how high risk it was, and for the women to be involved in something like this for the first time ever, it’s really cool.
I feel very lucky and blessed because now, I mean, I made history twice with winning this match and being the first-ever Miss Money in the Bank. And now, it’s out there forever. Now, it’s documented. It is a part of history. And I think it’s really cool that the audience got to see that.
In the first episode of Total Divas this season, we introduced Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax, and then there was this big tease that your introduction would be when you won the Money in the Bank. I was surprised that we didn’t really get into all of the backlash about James Ellsworth helping you.
I know. You know what, I guess it’s only an hour-long show. So it’s hard to get everything in that episode and in each episode. And I don’t know if they maybe would necessarily, if the E! audience, if it would translate, as far as like what an uproar it caused. So I’m not quite sure why that that wasn’t in there. But at the end of the day, it was all about Carmella. And that’s all they need to know.
But what was that experience like for you to go through this historical match and then be met with that for an entire week before the second Money in the Bank Ladder Match?
Gosh, the fans always have something to say. They’re never happy with anything. I could’ve won it the way I won it the second time the first time, and I feel like they still would’ve been upset with it. So, I personally loved it. I loved the controversy. I never like to do anything little. Everything I do, I need it to be big and above and beyond. And it caused such a controversy and such a stir. And it had people talking, and at the end of the day, that’s all we can ask for; people are talking about the pay-per-view, they’re talking about the match. I loved every minute of it.
And then you and the other women got to beat up James Ellsworth every night in Europe.
Exactly. And you know if it wasn’t for that, who knows? We [were] having so much fun in Europe, and the crowd is loving every single night. He would come out and they hated him, along with our girls. So it’s been a lot of fun.
What was your personal reaction to Becky Lynch and James finally get to have a match together?
Well, I thought it was a long time coming. I thought it was gonna happen after the Ladder Match. But sometimes things don’t go as we planned. So, it was cool. I mean, you never get to see a girl wrestle a guy. So it was really cool. And I think this opportunity for Becky was awesome. She has obviously a lot of pent-up anger with him. And I thought it was just a really entertaining segment.
How is Cass reacting to being part of Total Divas?
Well, of course it’s an adjustment. It is for him. It was for me. You’ll get to see our relationship on TV, and it’s definitely eye opening. Nothing about it is ever easy, but he was fine with it. He was very supportive.
Now, you’re actually a second-generation WWE Superstar. Your father was Paul Van Dale, who worked as enhancement talent in the 1980s and 1990s. Do you feel like that’s something that you would like to have emphasized more often on television?
You know, I don’t really mind either way. I think it’s something once people realize that about me, they hear that and they thought, “Oh, wow. I never knew that Carmella was a second generation.” But at the same time, I don’t want that to be my story. I don’t want people to look at me like, “Oh, well she’s doing this because she’s a second generation.” I want people to know that I’m getting where I’m going or how I’m getting there, by myself, through my hard work and nothing more. So, that’s kind of my outlook on it.
What was it like to grow up in that environment with your dad working as a wrestler?
So it was really cool. I must say I was the coolest girl in third grade, because I was bringing wrestling magazines with my dad [in them]. Of course, he’s always the one laying down getting pinned. But I thought … I would always be like, “Oh, that actually is my dad right here. This is Papa Shango.” I would just go through showing everyone that my dad had wrestled.
And I grew up watching it. I was obsessed with Miss Elizabeth when I was a little girl. So, to even be where I’m at right now in my career, it’s something that never, I don’t forget and don’t take for granted, because I never thought I could be a wrestler, ever. Like I said, growing up watching it, it was just something that I watched on TV, and my dad did it. But I didn’t think women could actually do it, never mind be in this women’s revolution, and make history myself with being the first-ever Miss Money in the Bank. So, I do feel so lucky and I don’t take anything for granted.
Did you get to meet any of the Superstars of the time backstage when your dad was a wrestler and you were a kid?
I didn’t. So I don’t really have any stories like that. The only stories that I kind of have are my dad body slamming my sister and I on our beds when we were kids, and my friends would come over, and they thought it was the coolest thing ever. It is just like growing up, that’s just how things went. And it’s just so funny now to myself being involved in this industry. It’s very surreal. And I feel very lucky, ’cause I can share it with my dad. It’s a bond that most people don’t get. So I’m very lucky.
I gotta ask you about your new gear. You’ve had your standard Carmella gear for so long, since NXT, since you started. Now you’ve got the new gear. I love the new gear. But I just wanna know, what was the thought process behind that and your feelings about it?
So for me … Thank you by the way. I love the new gear as well. I just felt like I wanted to switch things up. I feel like, first of all, fashion is always changing. I don’t even know the word I’m looking for. But it’s always changing. So, I wanted to just do something a little different. And I was just doing that for SummerSlam, to be honest. I just wanted to wear … I didn’t know if I would be cashing in or if I wouldn’t be cashing in. I just know I wanted to look different.
And I got the inspiration from this Beyonce outfit that she had. And I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna do this.” And then, I was gonna go back to wearing my other gear, but everyone here loved it. And they said, “No, you have to keep it.” So, that’s the story behind that. Now I’m wearing a one-piece. And I don’t have to do abs every day anymore.
What was the development like for the whole James Ellsworth on a leash situation?
Well, I mean I feel like things in the WWE are always changing. They’re always growing. And [eventually], maybe James got sick of it, and now he got his butt kicked by Becky Lynch. And I fully supported that.
Now, you came up from NXT and maybe people weren’t expecting you to come to the main roster as soon as you did. And when you did, you were taken away from Enzo and Cass, and they also haven’t acknowledged your friendship with Bayley, which was a big part of the storyline in NXT. How long do you feel like it took for you to find your legs on the main roster?
Yeah, I mean being on Smackdown was a whole different ballgame than being in NXT. Everything that I did in NXT was just washed away once I came up here. So, being a manager for most of my career, I didn’t really even have that many matches under my belt. I had maybe 10 on TV, if that. I don’t even think I had 10. So I don’t think people even realized that.
So, being the last draft pick and then debuting on the main roster, I feel like people had no expectations, and I think that that’s even the best way to go about it. If they did have expectations, they would’ve been there saying, “Oh, Carmella is terrible. She’s the last draft pick. She can’t do this, that or whatever.”
And I love that. I want to be underestimated. I want people to think nothing of me, and then let me prove them wrong. Because, look at me now. I’m the two time Miss Money in the Bank, making history, and it’s all just a matter of time. I think you put in the work, you put in the effort. I know that I have something to offer this division. And finally, I feel like things are starting to blossom for me. I can only imagine with the future holds.
I’m super motivated. I like when people tell me I can’t do something, and I’m gonna show you, yes I can. I can do it even better than you would ever dream of. I haven’t even been wrestling for four years. So, to be where I’m at, I think that’s pretty damn good.
I wholeheartedly agree. Now, we’ve had the Money in the Bank. We’ve had the first women’s ladder match. We’ve had an intergender match for the first time in forever. First women’s Hell in a Cell match. And I know that everyone in the women’s division is constantly talking about how they want to main event WrestleMania. But what’s the next first that you wanna be a part of, first women’s Royal Rumble match, or what?
I wanna be the first Money in the Bank holder for the women to cash in and become Smackdown Women’s Champion. I will be the first. And again, I’ll be making history. So for me, that’s what I want to do.
Do you happen to know whether the dog is okay that got the hair remover dumped on it?
Yes. The dog is perfectly fine. It’s so funny, ’cause people ask me that still to this day, and gosh, that was so long ago. But, the dog is fine. And what people I think don’t realize is that there were two dogs, one that had his hair, and then the second one had his hair cut. So, it was actually two dogs, which is really funny. But that’s so funny you asked me that.
That’s television magic for you.
Totally. And it’s crazy that that was even how I debuted on NXT. It’s so funny.
Let me ask you about that. You’re pretty much a product of the Performance Center, and there have been so many at this point. Carmella is a little bit different from your own personal background. What was the development like of the Carmella character when you were down there?
So for me, when I first got my name, Carmella, I wanted the name Carmella, ’cause I wanted to do an Italian mafia princess type character. And I always credit Byron Saxton for this, because I went to him after I got my name. And I went and got a fur jacket at this consignment store. And I went and I told him, “I have this vision of this Italian princess character.” And he all the sudden was sitting there talking and all the sudden he’d start looking at his fingers, and he’s chewing gum, and he’s talking like, “Oh Carmella, what, you think I’m like a princess or something?”
And I’m like, “Yes, this is exactly what I wanted to do.” And so we kind of like had this collaborative effort. But to be honest, it’s exactly what I’m still doing now. Of course, I’ve changed a little bit along the way. But, I’m still a princess. I still have this Italian backstory, which is me in real life as well. And it’s just really cool, because it was the first character I came up with, and it’s who I am now. So I feel very lucky for that.
What’s the next piece of Carmella merch that you want to put out?
Oh, gosh. I would love a new shirt or maybe a new hat. But for me, I love the merchandise that I have right now. I have been waiting so long to have merch. So to even have it, I feel so lucky. I can’t even … Sometimes I see these little girls showing up to shows in my T-shirt and hat, and I think, “Oh, my gosh. That’s me. I’m on a T-shirt. And little girls are buying it and wearing it, ’cause they wanna be like me.” And it’s just really cool. I’m really happy with what I have.
I was actually at the Times Square Foot Locker SummerSlam weekend. We were shooting some footage for a couple videos there. What was that experience like for you to go to this signing in Time Square, see a line around the block, and kids dressed up like Carmella and holding women’s Money in the Bank briefcases just to meet you?
Carmella: Even you saying that is getting me emotional thinking about it. I remember when they told me I had this signing at Foot Locker in Times Square, and I’m thinking, “Is anyone gonna show up? Are people gonna come to this?” And then when we pulled up, they were lined around the block and these people are waiting out in the rain. I was getting tweeted all these pictures of people, like, “Been out here since 4 a.m. waiting to see Carmella.” And I’m thinking, “Holy moly. Gosh, I feel so lucky.” And it’s just a really, really cool feeling.
You can listen to the complete interview as part of the With Spandex Podcast below.