After a four-year hiatus that involved launching a clothing line, a YouTube channel and a stint at Coastal Championship Wrestling, Celeste Bonin -- popularly known as Kaitlyn in the WWE ring -- is making her WWE comeback this August as she participates in the second Mae Young Classic tournament.
Bonin, 31, retired from WWE in January 2014, five months after winning the WWE Divas championship. She rose to fame after winning the third season of NXT in 2010, her first year with the WWE.
She made an in-ring comeback in January 2018 in the indie circuit, and after six months of training and getting in shape, Bonin is looking to surprise fans with her new skill set.
"The thing that got me through [as a rookie in WWE] and the thing that allowed me to achieve my level of success was my attitude, and looking back now, I am coming back with experience," Bonin said. "I am certainly nervous because the level of competition is so much higher and there are so many different women from around the world and they bring skill levels. But it's just so exciting."
A WWE comeback was in the back of her mind ever since she returned to the ring this year. It's a pinnacle for nearly every wrestler to be a part of the organization, and the life experience and the fresh perspective -- as a businesswoman and a recent divorcee -- is what she believes will make her resilient and fearless in the ring.
"Since I came back, I had the opportunity to work backward and really nail down the fundamentals and the basics -- things that I really lacked during my first run with the WWE," Bonin said. "Now I am bringing these newly honed and developed skills that I have acquired recently and I am combining that with my fearless attitude. And because I don't have this rookie vibe about me, now I can really concentrate on surprising the WWE universe with all the things I have learned."
Bonin realized she missed wrestling when she first made her comeback in February at the Coastal Wrestling Championship.
"The highs and lows and the adrenaline rushes and the quick thinking on your feet -- it came rushing back to me," Bonin said. "Anytime you step back in the ring, it's the same rush and you never get used to it. There is always this fear and this question of 'Oh, my gosh, can I do this?' And to me that's part of what makes it amazing."
In tune with her fresh approach to wrestling, Bonin has made some major lifestyle changes. She's turned vegan, and said she feels fitter than she's ever felt in her career. She also has a full-sleeve tattoo and sports a new hairdo -- the two-shade blonde and black look is past news. Now she has a longer, darker hair look that goes well with her persona.
She's also keeping busy with her new athleisure line and her vlog, where she talks about her struggle with addiction, going through a divorce and evolving as a human being. It's a lot to balance, but it's a challenge she is welcoming.
"It's about finding things that drive you and fuel you," she said. "And you can work 18 hours a day or however many hours a day and still want to go back to the ring or do lifts in the gym. As long as you're passionate about it, you feel happy, and to me that's the balance."
During her time away from wrestling, Bonin saw women's wrestling go through monumental changes -- back then, women's wrestling wasn't celebrated like it is now, she said.
"It's seen so many different types of women of all different shapes and sizes with different skills and techniques that it is so exciting to be a part of that world again."
Mae Young Classic 2018 tapes August 8 and 9 at Full Sail Live in Orlando, Florida.