Alexa Bliss takes strenuous WWE lifestyle in stride
Stardom comes quick. Just ask Alexa Bliss.
The 26-year-old Raw women's champion was called up from NXT during the 2016 WWE brand split draft in July of that year, and within a couple of months of joining SmackDown her sneering, rude, eye-rolling, standout character became a top attraction on the WWE women's roster.
By the end of the year, she was SmackDown women's champion, and shortly after moving over to Raw became the first woman to have held both brand's women's titles. As she heads into SummerSlam to defend her title against Sasha Banks, Bliss is on top of the world. And she's just getting started.
"I'd like to wrestle for as long as I can," said Bliss to ESPN.com. "I've always liked watching wrestling, but once you are on the other end of it, you develop a certain passion for it and respect for it and I would like to accomplish everything I want to before calling it quits."
Unlike many others on the roster who perfected their craft in the ring through extensive training and action in independent wrestling before joining the company, Bliss' path to the WWE lights was far from a straightforward one. She had tired of bodybuilding after finally earning her professional card, and once she was randomly presented with the opportunity of pursuing the WWE, she put all she had into it, despite her lack of formal experience.
"It was very spur of the moment. When I heard WWE was having tryouts ... I would not let the opportunity pass me by," said Bliss. "I hired someone to make my video and I sent in the video, thinking nothing would come of it."
But a life-changing call did come.
Bliss was told to go to Los Angeles for a call-back to meet some of the WWE trainers and brass. After success in LA, she was told she was going to go for a 30-day tryout where her process would be tracked and scrutinized, but one week after the first call, the WWE said that she wouldn't be going to the 30-day tryout at all. Instead, they were just going to sign her.
"I can very distinctly remembering meeting Alexa for the very first time," said Paul "Triple H" Levesque, executive vice president of Talent, Live Events & Creative for WWE. "She's a smart girl, an unbelievably hard worker and that's the key. She's all-in on this and that's why she's gotten so good, so fast."
Levesque said he always had big plans for Bliss, but when her name was called during the draft that brought her to the main roster, Bliss recalls a moment of true shock.
"I didn't feel that I was ready to leave NXT," she said. "When I was called up to SmackDown I was very nervous. I hadn't done many of the things at NXT that I thought I was supposed to. I didn't have a TakeOver match. I never held the title. I only had a few matches on NXT TV and to be called up and told, 'Well, here you go!'"
Bliss embraced the opportunity of being on the big stage, but what fans see on WWE television is only a small part of a superstar's responsibilities, albeit one of the biggest challenges. Getting involved in sports entertainment is a dream to many, but the dream also comes with an exhaustive schedule.
For Bliss and all of the other superstars on the roster, the WWE itinerary is seemingly endless. They travel from city to city for work, performing four times a week, then get a few days off before doing it all again. Every single week of the year.
"It's busy," said Bliss. "In-ring is just part of what we do."
The responsibilities are daunting, with time reserved for exercise, media, charity and more. Most WWE superstars also have to be their own travel agent.
"On Tuesdays after I land, I'm not going to do anything. I'm not going to plan my day, just take it as it comes," she said. "[After a show] you land, get your laundry done and re-pack for the road. Wednesday is a chill-out day and Thursday I'm booking my cars, booking my hotels, finishing up my laundry and getting ready to go on the road. ... My days off are still very work consumed."
Bliss decided to make herself even busier recently, signing on to do Season 7 of the E! reality show Total Divas. By doing so, she reduced her days off per week from three to one, but the experience thus far has been rewarding.
While the woman who owns the spotlight on Monday night is the antagonist pushing the drama, on Total Divas, Bliss wants none of it.
"I've been kind of the peacekeeper between people," said Bliss. "If people get into an argument, I tell them, 'I'm the youngest one here why am I the most mature, why is that?' I try to mend everything. I don't do drama. I don't like drama. I just watch it happen, but I don't want to be in it."
Total Divas is allowing Bliss to travel to new places and find new experiences.
One of those new experiences is a pig. Her pet pig. Named Larry-Steve.
Larry-Steve gets walked like a dog through the streets of Florida and carried in an infant carrier. He has an Instagram account. He's likely not to exceed 40 pounds, and isn't going anywhere once the show stops taping.
"I pitched a storyline because I always wanted a pig," said Bliss. "What if I go get a pig and then my fiancee says I cant keep him and I give him back. Or... I'm thinking that if my fiancee sees him, maybe I'll be able to keep him."
Well ... she's keeping him.
"Pigs are easy. They are just like dogs and cats. He's trained to a litter box. He gets walked. He's very low maintenance."
Bliss doesn't get to see Larry Steve as much as she'd like, and she only sees her fiancee when she temporarily returns to Florida, or through FaceTime. That aspect of the business is tough, but Bliss does her best to stay positive and relies on those around her -- especially Nia Jax.
After her move to Raw, she was reunited with Jax and the duo picked things up right where they left off.
Jax also joined Bliss on Total Divas, creating a fun smaller dynamic of the close pair mixed into the rest of the cast.
"The fact that I'm on there with Nia Jax, who is one of my best friends, is super fun and super exciting," said Bliss. "We have a lot of fun with it. We just kind of roll with it and see what happens."
That key friendship, among many others, is what really keeps Bliss centered. The ride won't always be as smooth as it has been for Bliss over the past year, but no matter what role she'll play in the future, she knows the relationships she develops off screen will be one of the most important parts of her job.
"You don't have your family. You don't have your outside friends," said Bliss of her life on the road. "WWE becomes your family. One big dysfunctional family. You aren't going to get along with everyone all the time, but you have to see them five or six days a week anyway.
"It's very important to have a friend on the road, especially because of the scheduling and everything going on. They're going through it with you. As many people say that they understand it, they don't unless they are living though it..