Last week, over 20 Superstars were released from WWE in a mass cull to reduce their staffing headcount and, subsequently, costs. While several Superstars were named in an article on WWE's website, Deonna Purrazzo was quietly moved to the Alumni section before confirming her own release via Twitter.
I had the pleasure of catching up with the former NXT Superstar recently, and the Fujiwara Armbar Specialist told me how she was blown away by the support shown since announcing her departure from WWE, as well as discussing the last few months.
You can watch the full interview in its entirety below, or keep reading for more!
Hi, Deonna! So, you were released this week from your NXT contract. I almost said "sadly released" but you never want to assume, so let me ask - was it sad? Did it come as out of the blue for you as everyone else?
I wouldn't say it was a sad thing because I kind of knew, in my heart, that I would get a call last week. It's not something that I didn't expect because I was unhappy for the last six or so months with what I was doing in NXT - and I let office people know that.
We had conversations where I said, if nothing is going to happen for me, I'd just rather be let go. I think, overall, I was really... I must have been afraid to ask straight up to be released but, once they fired me, it was kind of like, "Oh, this is what I wanted." I was never scared of that. Exciting times is more what I'm looking forward to than being sad.
There was no announcement of NXT releases. Do you know why? Were you upset or annoyed about that?
I didn't know if they were going to release NXT people, and when I had gotten the call, they hadn't announced anyone from NXT yet - so I don't know if I was the first or if I was the last - but I just thought, "Screw it, I'm going to announce it on my own and maybe get one step ahead of them on this, and it's going to be on my terms."
So, yeah, I don't know. I don't know if they will ever make a statement about it but there was a bunch of people released and I think, by process of elimination, everyone is kind of seeing who those people are but, yeah, it was kind of weird to not announce it.
Well, one amazing thing to come from that was the outpouring of support for you, everyone saying you'll be a star wherever you go. How did that feel, and who was the first WWE Superstar to reach out?
Yeah! I think the first person from the WWE who reached out was Nattie. Just from over the last year, I was traveling a little bit with RAW and since everything has been happening at the PC, that's just someone I've just kind of gained a relationship with over the last maybe three or four months and it was really thoughtful of her to reach out.
Bayley reached out, Nia reached out. A bunch of people that I worked with and got to know on a somewhat personal level, which I thought, they didn't have to do considering people they work with every day were fired. I thought it was just really sweet.
But it was crazy to see the amount of support and love, and like interactions my tweet got. On that thing on Twitter where you can see the hits, it had like two million hits. I got more popularity being fired by WWE than I did the entire two years I was there!
Fans have bought so much merch and my Pro Wrestling Tees blew up. It was really nice to know I wasn't forgotten about, and I think that is the biggest takeaway for me is like, "Okay, I did have an impact," whether it be WWE or from what I did on the Indies, and Ring of Honor, things like that. It reminded me of who I am.
Now, one thing I'd like to clarify for accuracy if you can. Several released stars have confirmed 90-day release clauses but it's rumored to be 30 for NXT stars. How soon could you compete for another promotion?
So, the main roster got 90 days and NXT got 30 - so I have a 30-day non-compete. Thirty days I'll be paid for, so that gets me to the end of May and then I'm free to do whatever I want.
So, the name Deonna Purrazzo. You can keep your name, I assume, as you used it before - but can you clarify that, and did you struggle to keep it when signing for WWE?
It wasn't too difficult. I had only been asked once before the Mae Young when I was first hired, so back in 2018, to send a list of potential names. They were like, "You didn't do this and you need to do it."
Then I sent them a list of potential names and I said, "My name is the Deonna, you will never have another Deonna, so if I can't keep my last name, here are last names that I would like." And I just never heard anything back, and there was never another conversation - so Deonna Purrazzo is my birth name, so I get to keep that forever.
One of my favorite moments happened BEFORE you were signed. La Luchadora. Can you tell me about that and working with people like Becky Lynch?
It was really funny and I feel like the theme of my career is, like, last minute, I get these crazy opportunities, and I'm not ready for them, and they just happen.
I was in Puerto Rico and John Cone had text me, who is a referee but also is in talent relations. He was like, "Hey, can you give me a call when you get the chance? I have a really cool opportunity." So I called him and it was like, "If you're interested, we will fly you to RAW on Monday." I was like, "It's Saturday, and I'm not even in the country!"
Luckily, I was home in time. I flew to RAW and then, yeah, it was just like, "This is real," and, at the same time, Carmella was doing a lot with James Ellsworth, so the possibility of, like, "Hey, I can skip NXT as a whole if I really impressed right now and just be on SmackDown in some capacity," was real. That was the most exciting part but, overall, like, I got to work with Alexa, Mickie and Becky in that capacity, so I've done probably a lot more than people realize.
You faced a lot of big names, but is there anyone you're annoyed you didn't get to face in WWE?
Yeah, Nattie, of course! Hands down, she's like my dream match that is, like, realistic. Then I worked with Bayley once in NXT but I'd love to actually, as a part of the roster, get to do that and showcase myself a little bit more. Then, same with Sasha Banks. Those are three people that I admire and I think are amazing wrestlers, and I would really love it if, one day, that was possible to work with them.
My annoyance is we didn't see enough of VXT. You and Chelsea Green were even rumored to be on RAW as a team! Was that ever close to materializing?
Well, we were told in NXT that we would be debuting - from Triple H. He kind of asked us to brainstorm ideas for vignettes and backstage things, and this was right when NXT was going live. So, he was like, "You might not get the chance to be on TV every week in the ring, but if we can do backstage stuff or things that are done at home. Just come up with any and all ideas and shoot them to Creative."
We did that. We did that twice and we never heard anything back, and then it was that Chelsea was going to debut without me but I would come in when I was ready. I probably squashed that a little bit because I flipped out!
And I was kind of just like, "I've asked, for 18 months now, how I can be TV-ready and I'm finally getting an opportunity to be on TV and I'm not ready? That's on you, that's not on me. I am ready! You're just choosing me not to be." Then we ran into him again to get a call to go to RAW and we heard that it was potentially to do a tag match but nothing was ever confirmed, so, as far as been called up, we don't know. I think we just kind of took those opportunities, me with Asuka, her with Charlotte, and just killed them.
We impressed people at RAW, and we just kept being asked back. Obviously, there's like, like this [Deonna puts her fists together] with NXT and RAW, and people being called up. So we got brought back down to NXT and were told it wasn't meant to be a call-up, so that was just a lot of confusion I think on everyone's ends and what was happening with us, especially with myself and Chelsea - but, damn, I love VXT. She's, like, my real-life best friend and if I was going to be in a tag team and just have fun with anyone, it's 100% her, and I'm sad we didn't get to do anything with it.
Now, I know you love your tattoos - as do I. Everyone does fantasy booking with matches and, "Who do you want to face?" So, let's be different.
You can give any fellow wrestler a tattoo of your choosing. Who do you pick and what do they get?
Oh, my God. Oh, God... Okay, well, this kind of is like a real-life thing. I'm not going to answer your question at all - because I've no idea - but I have a funny story about it.
Toni Storm and I have matching tattoos.
Yeah, so we did Download Festival last June and, in the VIP section, they have a free tattoo booth. Basically, we were like, "Oh, we'll get tattooed, we'll get what we want," but they couldn't draw things just for the amount of people that wanted tattoos, so they had a board with just a generic whatever tattoos - like old school, really thick, chunky tattoos - so, on both ankles, we have a drunk duck that's holding a beer. So, I guess, fantasy-wise, we booked ourselves with these terrible tattoos!
When signing with WWE, you'd been advertised for All In. Do you have any regrets there?
Yeah, I think I definitely regret it, looking at how my WWE tenure turned out.
I think, for anyone, WWE is their dream job. At the time, All In was just All In. There was no AEW. We didn't know what was going to happen. It was like, "Well, do I say no to my dream job and trying my dream job?" Because I had tried for so long to get it. For me, it was like, "They've said no for so long. What if they never say yes again?" That's why I said yes. I still went to All In, I was still there. I watched from the new hotel room but I still went to the after-party and tried to support the entire show. My best friends were on the show, and it was amazing. I really felt disappointed I couldn't be a part of it.
Looking back now, I regret not being a part of it because I thought, like, "This is my time. I'm going to be a Superstar to WWE. They're going to do something with me." Then they did nothing for two years. It's like, Well, I should have waited, realistically, but what are you going to do?"
Now, looking forward, you've wrestled EVERYWHERE! Do you have any idea where we'll see you next?
"I guess, ideally, like, I haven't been to AEW yet, so... Britt Baker is my best friend, she works there, they have a kick*** women's division now. It's a lot of people I've never worked with, and it's a brand-new product - so I would love to experience that and be part of it. "
That being said, if that's not an option, IMPACT has an amazing women's division right now. Tessa Blanchard has done some really cool things. Kylie Rae just signed there, Kiera's there, Taya... There's a really good group of girls that are doing some stuff that I would love to also be a part of. I don't know. I would love to go back to Japan, I'd love to go to Australia again. If I could wrestle in England again, I love that. It's like I would just love a shot at saying, "Screw you, WWE!" [Deonna laughs] Really!"
Thank you so much to Deonna Purrazzo for taking the time to chat with me. You can follow Deonna on Twitter here, or check out her Pro Wrestling Tees site here, and her own merchandise site here for signed prints and more.