Tony Khan’s All Elite Wrestling (AEW) made its triumphant return to Norfolk, Virginia this past Wednesday October 26th at the Chartway Arena with AEW DYNAMITE broadcast live for the world to see.
The renowned broadcast team of Excalibur, Tony Schiavone, and “The Human Suplex Machine” Taz were there to call all the exciting action. The show opened up with ROH World Champion Chris Jericho & ROH Pure Champion Daniel Garcia taking on Claudio Castagnoli & Wheeler Yuta (with William Regal). The match was non-stop action with Claudio pinning Jericho.
There were many exciting matches including a AEW Tag Team Championship #1 Contender’s Match of FTR vs Swerve In Our Glory. Keith Lee from Swerve In Our Glory pinning Dax of FTR. Also there was a women’s match with Jamie Hayter taking a win over Riho.
Other great matches included world famous Bryan Danielson winning over Sammy Guevara and AEW World Champion Jon Moxley defeating Penta El Zero Miedo. To read about the entire card results and to find out where you can see AEW live in your area, go to https://www.allelitewrestling.com/
Yiorgo: With us today is Virginia’s own, AEW star Serena Deeb. Serena, welcome back to Virginia. We are so very proud of you. Tell us why should fans attend the live TV airing of AEW this Wednesday October 26th at the Chartway Arena? What will they see and experience that they can’t get from home?
Serena Deeb: Thank you for the kind words. I am very happy to be back in my home state. I believe fans should come to the live show because I have been in the wrestling business for 18 years. I have been in major companies and the indies, traveled all over Japan, Europe, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and AEW to me is a completely different product then anywhere that I have ever been. There’s this gritty feeling that has been missing for a while. I compare it to the Attitude Era. To me AEW has that grittiness and that is why it has been so successful in just three years. And coming to a live show, regardless of what that live sport is, it’s a totally different vibe then just sitting on your couch and watching it. Being there live, you feed off the energy of the other fans and our crowds have always been so great. It’s a total immersive experience. I am still a wrestling fan, and it’s just a no brainer. At our live show Wednesday October 26th at the Chartway Center is where you want to be.
Y: For AEW you wear many hats, wrestler, coach for both men and women. How and when does the coaching take place? At this stage in your wrestling career, what do you enjoy doing the most?
SD: I’ve been coaching a little less because I’ve been wrestling more. It’s honestly hard to do both on the same day because if you’re wrestling you have to focus on the whole process of getting ready and on what you’re doing in the match. In the past when I had my knee injury, I was still traveling every week and I was coaching 2-3 matches a night.
I want to give a shout out to Cody Rhodes because Cody always believed in me and would say to me, “You’re my coach, I want you as my coach.” He always put me in that role for him and showed me that respect. That was really, really huge for me and I really appreciated that. When I’m not wrestling I do want to be coaching but I’ve been doing more wrestling. When they have me on AEW Elevation or AEW Dark, they don’t give me producing roles because everyone on there has been a wrestler and they understand that if you have a match it’s too much to also be coaching or producing. I did that on AEW Rampage about a month ago where I coached and wrestled the same night.
Y: How did the opportunity come up to work for AEW? Who reached out? What was that conversation like? Why did you say yes?
SD: It’s a very wide knowledge that I lost my coaching job at the WWE Performance center during the pandemic. That day they released something like 70 people. It was a crazy, very stressful time and I had not wrestled for a long time. The whole time I was at the WWE Performance center, I wanted to wrestle. They were very good to me as a company, I was coaching because it was a great job and getting to travel and stuff like that, but it wasn’t wrestling. I still had that itch to get back in the ring, and that I still had time to scratch that itch. When I was hired as a coach I was 31.
As soon as they released me when covid hit, I started training, getting my body back in shape, and started making new wrestling gear, buying boots, I started putting my ducks in a row, without knowing what the future holds.
It was Monday night about midnight when I got the call to see if I wanted to work a match with Thunder Rosa in AEW. I said yes, because I had everything prepared just in case. So I drove to Jacksonville, Florida, did the match with Thunder Rosa, it went really well and I was offered a contract a week later. I have a lot of respect for her, we’ve had some great, fun matches together, and wish her the best.
Y: How about a Tony Khan story you can share?
SD: Tony is a great guy. I can honestly say that whenever I text him, he always responds the same day or at the latest the next day. He is one of the busiest men in the world and has the respect and courtesy to reply. It speaks volumes for his character. It means a lot, knowing how much he has on his plate, juggling several global business ventures. It’s actually mind boggling. He treats his talent very nicely.
Y: Do you have a favorite segment, storyline either involving you or you behind the scenes?
SD: My favorite segment may have been when I came back from my knee injury, when I wrestled Hikaru Shida. What was on the line was that she would get her 50th victory. Everyone expected her to win, but I beat her and hit her the trophy afterwards. It swerved people so much and it was very cool to experience that feeling.
Y: Let’s talk about you. Where in Virginia were you born and where is home now?
SD: I was born in Fairfax, Virginia and raised in Oakton, a suburb outside of DC. It was a really cool place to grow up because I got to go to DC all the time and experience that. I really love it there and still have friends there. My father who passed away over a decade ago was Arabic, spoke six languages, and my mother who is American speaks five fluently. I grew up in a family where culture, language and food were all important.
Y: You loved soccer growing up so what made you fall in love with pro wrestling?
SD: I was a very serious soccer player 365 days a year, indoor, outdoor, wherever I could play, I would play. If wrestling had not gotten into the picture, I would have gone to college with a soccer scholarship. I got with a really good soccer group in the DC area, shout out to (WAGS) Womens and Girls in Soccer. If you played for WAGS it was a pretty big deal. I played for a really good team and I played in high school as well.
I was a really big tomboy and around the age of 11-12 all my guy friends were watching wrestling. I was not a fan yet. They ordered a WWE Pay-Per-View and I went to watch it. I saw Chyna for the first time and she was a big influence on me. She was so amazing to me and I was immediately captivated and obsessed by DX especially. They changed my personality as a kid, made me rebellious, they changed my life. It was in 1997 and I was in middle school and I would do all the WWE and DX catchphrases and some teachers would write me up and send me to the office. My soccer coaches who also were teachers there, would not write me up, not because I was their soccer player, but because they were wrestling fans too. And like I said, I grew up in DC. and whenever WWE were in town, my poor mom would take me.
Y: I love that you trained at Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW). How did you find out about them, your initial contact and how did you convince your family at 18 to let you move there by yourself?
SD: This is a funny story. Remember the series of books: The Idiot’s Guide to…, I bought The Idiot’s Guide to Pro Wrestling and they had a list of wrestling schools in there. At the time OVW was the developmental system for WWE and I ultimately wanted to work for WWE so in my senior year in high school, I applied to Virginia Tech where my sister went, George Mason University where my other sister went, and then I applied for Indiana because it would put me closer to OVW. I was so obsessed with wrestling in high school that I should have gotten A’s in classes where I was getting C’s and D’s because I was not really trying.
So I got rejected by Tech, waitlisted by GMU and accepted by Indiana and that’s what I wanted. I told my parents well the universe wants me to go to Indiana and OVW. My dad was really big on education and said, “You can go and do your crazy wrestling but you have to get your university degree.” So my mother drove me from Virginia to Indiana for a college tour and I convinced her to take me by OVW. It was so hard to find it but we finally found it. The only person there was this old ref, the place looked gray and cold. I was 17 at this point and I was like I have to come here. I typed up a letter and sent it to OVW. On their website they had an address that you could send a letter to if you wanted to apply. I spent all this time typing it up and they sent me back this very generic pamphlet. I moved to Indiana and started my training at OVW.
Y: Who trained you, who are you grateful for being in your life there, at that time to guide you along?
SD: OVW completely changed my life. I am so grateful and anytime I see Al Snow, one of my trainers I thank him and tell him that my time there completely changed the course of my life. Other trainers were Mike Mondo and Rip Rogers. I learned to be over prepared from Rip Rogers, who was hard on us and drilled in us the importance of being over prepared for any situation that comes up.
OVW was very special because I got to train with a lot of very special people. Robert Gibson was there for about a year, one half of one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Dr. Death Steve Williams was there and he really paid attention to me and helped me. The Dudleys passed through there, they shared a lot of great knowledge. I obviously chose the right place to train and the right people were there to help guide my training. I started in OVW in 2005 and signed with Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) in 2009.
I also did this three day wrestling camp. My friends from OVW did a roadtrip to the Carolinas and it was Dr. Tom Prichard, Ricky Steamboat, Terry Taylor and Les Thatcher. And we did three shows as well. I have been very blessed to have learned from those old school minds. Anyone that asks me about where they can train to wrestle, I tell them at this point Rip Rogers or go to Dr. Tom Prichard at the Jacobs-Prichard Wrestling Academy in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Y: Joining the Straight Edge Society with CM Punk was pivotal to your career. Can you share some memories? Who pitched the idea, how long in advance did you know, did they pay you extra for shaving it off like the old days, etc?
SD: A little bit. Looking back probably not enough to make a woman go bald. I was 22 and I was willing to do anything for wrestling. I was signed, I was at FCW, I was wrestling a match, got my jaw broken in three places, my mouth was wired shut for six weeks. It really, really was a bad injury but I never spoke about it, I persevered through. The day the doctor cleared me he said, “I don’t think you should do this anymore. It’s really a bad injury.” I said OK, but am I cleared? It was a Friday, we had a show. I was so excited, I went to Dr. Tom and Norman Smiley. I told them it’s been three months, I just got cleared.
I was on my way to the show when I got a call from an unknown number which always meant it was WWE in Stanford, Connecticut. It was Johnny Ace, he was asking about my jaw. I was there with other people too. I said I was good and wrestling that night. He got right to the point and said, “Have you seen the stuff we’ve been doing with Punk on TV?” I said, yes of course. And he says, “Would you be willing to shave your head on TV? Would you be willing to go bald?” I was so excited that I was going to wrestle that night and then it was like wow I’m going to be on Smackdown TV. He told me to go wrestle and have some fun, think about it and he would call me the next day. He didn’t call but I did get an email with flight info so I was like, this is really happening. I went, I had a meeting with Vince McMahon, Johnny, all the people who were in charge and all of them said, “You don’t have to do this.” I think it was Punk’s idea, and he asked to use me because I was really cool with him at OVW. I’m not sure though, I’ve never asked.
They asked again if I was sure. And I was like well you see me here. This is my dream, this is how much I want to do this. That was the night I debuted on Smackdown. It was in Greenville, South Carolina, I ran up from the crowd and by the end of the segment my head was shaved, and I was bald for a couple of years.
Y: What have been some pinch me moments?
SD: Definitely the Wrestlemania 26 in front of over 72,000 where I managed Punk and had a moment in the match where I jumped up and I blocked Rey Mysterio from doing the 619 on Punk. The boos were so loud, I felt them across my body, it’s hard to describe, it was literally a vibration. That was awesome.
Another one would be wrestling at the famous Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan against Asuka who wrestled as Kana there. And I also had my retirement match in the same building against Syuri and I remember taking the loss, looking up at the lights and I couldn’t believe that I had my retirement in that famous Hall. At that stage in my life I had decided that’s what needed to happen but obviously I was not ready to retire. And with wrestling, you always find your way back and where you need to be.
While I have this opportunity, I want to thank all my wrestling fans who have supported me throughout my career, who have supported women’s wrestling and the growth of women’s wrestling. Since I started in 2005, it’s been an uphill battle in so many ways and it continues to be. Those of you that support women’s wrestling, I just want you to know that I really appreciate you. And thank you for all your nice comments. I see all of them and I appreciate them. Right now, I am where I need to be and I am looking forward to seeing all of AEW fans Wednesday night October 26 at the Chartway Arena in Norfolk, Virginia.
Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.