A few years back, Lexi Kaufman clicked on an ad that changed her life. This wasn’t your average “One Hidden Weight Loss Tip” or “Make $90,000 Working from Home” kind of deal. Instead, it was a link offering an application to become a WWE Diva—a female wrestler for the world’s foremost and most famous pro wrestling promotion. Filling out an app and sending in a video put the early-20-something in the running. Cut to June 2013, and she’s appearing on WWE programming as a character under the new name of Alexa Bliss.
The Columbus native—who went to elementary and middle school in Grove City, and high school in Grove City and Hilliard—has an athletic past. She’s a former fitness professional, cheerleader, gymnast, and IFBB Bikini Pro Athlete (with the latter referring to bodybuilding). But even then, the longtime wrestling fan isn’t exactly what you expect when you first think “pro wrestler.”
For one, the blue-clad Bliss is particularly petite, standing at 5’1” (as billed by WWE) and weighing a mere 102 pounds (if other Internet citations are accurate). She’s feisty and lithe, able to jump and perform with utter abandon, but she’s far from the most intimidating persona out there.
Moreover, compared to wrestling ladies of years past, she represents a new stripe of Diva. Her look and charm are powered by cuteness, bubbliness and a family-friendly likability instead of sex appeal. She’s designed to be adored by young girls—a completely different demographic than the average wrestling fan. When Bliss comes out to the ring, she wears a tutu and curtsies. Playing on the whole Disney Princess visual (more on that in a moment), she could be huge with the right audience if given the right backing and opportunity.
Nowadays, Bliss regularly appears on NXT, a weekly, developmental-talent-oriented show available on the on-demand WWE Network. This means that she’s part of a rookie class—one that includes lots of young, energetic female talent poised for wrestling stardom—and there’s no guarantee she could make it up the ladder to appearing on a show like Raw, WWE’s flagship weekly program on USA Network. Still, this also means that the WWE brass could decide to call her up at any time to change that. Her future is promising, but nothing is a lock.
Come Saturday, June 13, the now Florida-based Bliss returns home for a WWE NXT show at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion. Just as she did during an NXT stop in Columbus in March, she’ll be wrestling in the same venue where she attended her high school prom. Before she comes back home, we caught up with her to discuss Columbus, her favorites as a wrestling fan, and what she’s learned about her most dangerous performance art.
What did you learn about wrestling that you had no idea of before?
When I watching wrestling, I watched it for more of the moves and to see the drama of the show, but when you actually start wrestling, there’s so much that goes into it. It’s an artform. It’s a lifestyle, it’s an art that you have to master and there’s just so much to learn. You can do it for years and years and years, and still learn new things every single day. It’s seriously one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever participated in…[getting started] I had no idea what to expect. It was like, ‘Whoa, this is all happening so fast.’ I get down here. My first day, I watch practice. My second day, I learn how to do bumps [Ed. note: falling correctly to limit injuries]. I just remembered watching wrestling thinking, ‘I wonder if that ring really is as hard as it looks.’ It is. [laughs] It really is. It’s not soft. I remember taking bumps and being like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I called my mom. I was laying on a bed of ice telling her how much pain I was in. I was just like, ‘My body is not prepared for this, and she’s like, ‘Well, you wanted to be a Diva!’ [laughs]
In another interview, you discussed Rey Mysterio—a wrestler WWE billed at 5’6”—being an influence, and said that you would study a wrestler like him, and how he moves, and try to emulate that to a degree. Are there any other wrestlers who shaped who you are in the ring?
Trish Stratus for sure. I really liked watching her. Me and my family loved the Hardyz and Lita. I tried to have a little bit of snappiness to my moves like Lita did, but mostly, I really liked watching Rey and how he moved because of his size. I knew if I ever wanted to do this, I was probably not going to be the tallest gal or the biggest one in the ring. I really looked up to Trish because she was also a smaller framed girl. I believe my size actually helps me because I like to go for the element of surprise [Laughs] where people don’t expect much of me because of my size and stature. I like to shock people as well with the over-the-top personality.
Your personality, too, is striking. You and Bayley, another NXT Diva, play to a younger female demographic in a way not a lot of WWE characters have before. Was any of this an active effort to appeal to a younger audience, especially a female one, or more just coincidence that you’re performing at the same time?
When I first started performing in the ring, my main goal at the time was to be the Disney Diva—the person that could be a role model to young girls that they can look up to, that they can relate to, that they would want to dress like. We’re a PG company. We’re role models. We’re strong, empowering women. I’m sure there’s a little girl out there that’s prancing around in a tutu somewhere—I can show her she can be tough as well.
What’s the Disney princess you’re thinking of?
Definitely Elsa [from Frozen]. [Laughs] If I’m in the match, they’ll call me Elsa or Frozen girl and I’ll play around with it.
Knowing about your athletic past, why did you end up going into wrestling versus a full-on entertainment route (such as acting) or a sports route (such as tennis or MMA)?
It was because I felt like I was kind of at home. [Wrestling] was something that me and my family always got together and bonded over, so when the opportunity came, I was like, ‘That’s what I should be doing.’ If any other opportunity like acting comes along, that’s great, but as soon as I saw this opportunity, I was like, ‘That’s what I’m meant to do.’ All of my cheerleading and gymnastics and bodybuilding and training prep have prepared me for what I truly believe in my heart was this.
WWE’s NXT event comes to LC Pavilion June 13 at 7:30 p.m. For more on Columbus’s hometown diva, visit alexa-bliss.com.