New Raw superstar Alexa Bliss shares her secret to being evil
A few years ago, William Regal, Head Scout of WWE Talent Development, gave then-blossoming talent Alexa Bliss advice so rudimentary that it could have come from any garden-variety wrestling junkie.
It had nothing to do with next-level insight, such as how to stay clear of the political vortex or guidance to best memorize or improvise a script. For that matter, it wasn't even a semblance of counseling to help Bliss with her long-term well-being in this taxing, itinerant career that has burned out human beings seemingly born to thrive in the ring far sooner than they should have.
No, it was none of that, but ultimately, this tip from Regal, who has navigated his way through the wrestling business for upwards of 35 years, might be the most important one she's ever received.
"Just people watch," Bliss told ESPN.com. "That was his advice. To watch people. Look at them carefully. Study them. And take note of what annoys you the most."
It might not have fully registered then, but today she understands, perhaps more than any performer in the WWE, how important that advice was. Because that's what Bliss counts on more than anything else -- annoying the heck out of people, and evoking as much of a negative reaction from the crowd as humanly possible.
"I enjoy seeing how many boos I can get," she added.
Consider that an understatement from one of the most outspoken heels in the business. The very sight of her -- the angry eyes, the smug smile, that the mean-spirited arrogance -- simply garners intense emotions from fans from all over the world.
Regal told Bliss the best place to find "the most annoying people in the world" is a venue she knows all too well: the airport. Any airport. The lines are long. Everyone is in a rush. And the kids. Oh, the kids. There's no place to escape the ear-splitting screaming and the boundless energy. Airports bring out the worst in people, even the most level-headed personalities that society has to offer.
Bliss loves every minute of it.
She spends a lot of time in airports. As a performer in the WWE, she often finds herself in four different cities and up to three airports a week. It's given her plenty of time to study an extensive and diverse pool of annoyance, and more importantly, Bliss has figured out how to harness those antics in the wrestling ring.
"People probably think I am creepy," Bliss said. "If someone does something that makes me mad, well, chances are it'll probably make other people mad if I do it, too. I like to think, 'What's the meanest thing, the rudest thing I can say right now?' Or how can I completely discredit someone? That's just my mentality."
In May of 2013, Bliss signed her first contract with WWE's development organization NXT. A year later, she made in in-ring NXT debut, and last year, Bliss made the leap to the main roster as part of the newly formed SmackDown-only brand. From there, she made a beeline to the summit by making a drastic leap as one of the focal points of the women's division. In less than a year, Bliss became a two-time champion and one of its star attractions.
A lithe, 5-foot tall performer, Bliss would barely be big enough to make bantamweight, if there was such a thing as weight classes in the WWE. But it's the element of surprise, in appearance and smack talk, that the 25-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, says gets her instantly noticed.
"The fans are like, 'What, really? She's a wrestler?' I like to say whatever comes to mind when I am in the ring, and work off the reaction from the crowd."
The combative comportment hardly came easily to Bliss, who concedes she was "terrified" when she first had to speak in front of a large audience. In fact, she remembers one of her earliest promos in NXT, where just before she was to make her way down the ramp, she began to cry.
"I was just so nervous," Bliss said. "Worked up. I love to talk. Everyone knows that you don't want to start a conversation with me unless you want me to end it the next day, because I never stop talking. But in front of so many people, that was a different story."
Bliss forced herself to not just build the confidence to speak publicly, but do so while maintaining the edge in discourse that would ultimately lead to the birth of her villainous character on the big stage. She says the hard work was worth it because she can now enjoy and appreciate what she's able to accomplish on the mic.
Now, after a yearlong starring role on SmackDown Live, Bliss, who was one of 24 wrestlers selected to change brands in the recent "Superstar Shakeup," will take her antagonistic act over to Monday Night Raw.
"I'm excited," Bliss said. "It's been a fun time on SmackDown, but I am really excited to be reunited with Nia Jax, who's one of my best friends and super excited to see what happens."
Bliss will take the momentum of performing in her first WrestleMania, which she says was the biggest moment of her career, to a new show with a new class of stars. But whether it's Sasha Banks or current champ Bayley, Bliss has one obvious goal: to take the title and become one of the first women to hold the belt on both SmackDown and Raw.
"That's why we're here," Bliss said to the point.
Bliss also says that while it'll be "business as usual," she will need to work hard to build relationships with the new faces of Raw. While she'll have the comfort of having Jax by her side, Bliss doesn't know the other women as well, even though she crossed paths with most of them during her time in NXT.
Interestingly, Bliss had no idea she was switching divisions until last week when she was getting ready to travel.
"Yeah, I got a call that I'm going to Raw," Bliss said. "I was like, 'Wait, what?' And that was basically it. It was very spontaneous. We didn't know who was coming or going. We didn't even know there was going to be a shakeup until the week before when it was announced."
But here she is.
SmackDown or Raw. Raw or SmackDown. To Bliss it doesn't matter in the end. She only hopes that no matter what she accomplishes, we boo every minute of it.