Ring of Honor superstar Deonna Purrazzo plans to make history by winning the inaugural Women of Honor Championship tournament but despite fantasizing about this opportunity that has become a reality, it wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
According to Purrazzo, Mandy Leon had trained at the Dojo and been begging for a match and pushing for this to happen and luckily for Purrazzo, she and Leon have a good relationship and wanted her to be at the Dojo as well. Purrazzo was invited to come train and then got the go ahead that they would have a match in July and it was surreal.
“It’s a really fulfilling time for me and WOH in general because all of our hard work is paying off right now,” Purrazzo said. “For them to really be giving us an opportunity on every show we’re doing and to have multiple women’s matches filmed for television and this culmination will be the first ever Women of Honor Champion is such an amazing feat because it was never supposed to happen this way,” Purrazzo.”
When Purrazzo was nine years old, she fell in love with wrestling and dreamt of everything women’s wrestling could be and the steps of how she was going to get there. She was a competitive cheerleader for 14 years and wanted to cheer for the University of Kentucky co-ed team while being trained by Rip Rogers at OVW.
Although, she didn’t go the cheerleading route, she did get trained by Rip Rogers and went straight to wrestling school when she was 18, the only female in the class. But she was coming to play a part in this movement that has occurred in women’s wrestling.
“I had this vision as a kid of what women’s wrestling could be and it’s everything that we’re seeing today. It was my goal to be a wrestler and help change the way women are viewed in wrestling,” Purrazzo said. “Last month they had the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, they had the Mae Young Classic and now we’re doing the first ever Women of Honor champion. All of these great moments in women’s wrestling have happened in the last three years. It’s really fulfilling to see all of these people come together and work toward this common goal that we all had.”
A drastic shift that has occurred in women’s wrestling has been monumental. Women are in the main event of shows even during PPVs, there’s an incredible amount of depth of talent in the women’s division and the following that many of them have garnered is incredible.
WOH’s tournament is a prime example of the buzz surrounding women’s wrestling and illustrates the possibilities that can become a reality. It’s a boom that is further exploding now thanks to one of the most famous female athletes of all-time, Ronda Rousey, signing to become a pro wrestler.
“I think women like Ronda Rousey were the catalyst for this women’s movement. It hasn’t just been wrestling. It’s women in sports across the board. Women like Ronda Rousey, women like Serena Williams, there’s women all over the world who have been pushing for this in general. Not just women athletes but women,” Purrazzo said. “I think in the last six months we’ve seen such a push for equal rights and women to be taken seriously and it’s been in the news and media so much. Ronda coming to WWE she said was a dream of hers and was something that followed her throughout her whole life and I think having someone who’s a serious athlete come to WWE kind of validates, even more so, women’s wrestling and the credibility behind it.”
In a very short period of time, Purrazzo has become of the hottest names in pro wrestling circles and among fans. Before signing with ROH, she was in NXT facing women like Nia Jax and WWE Royal Rumble winner Asuka.
“I always wanted to go to Japan and wrestle Japanese style with Japanese women and that was my first introduction to it before I actually got to Japan,” Purrazzo said. “It meant a lot to me, personally because I’m just this Joe Schmo independent wrestler who is coming in to do extra work and they put me in a lot of positions with a lot of trust. I think it really reflected upon the way I wrestle and my talents but I also got to learn a lot and experience a lot and see how it worked from an insider perspective.”
The grind has always been embraced by Purrazzo. There was nothing else she wanted to do and still to this day, nothing else she could imagine doing. She recalls the time when she came home to tell her parents that she signed up for wrestling school that was 20 minutes from her New Jersey home and the shock on their faces.
Her parents thought it was just a phase that she would grow out of but seeing how far she has got in such a short time and seeing the passion she has when she talks about wrestling and how she performs in the ring, it resonated with them and they’re now very supportive.
It’s such a foreign concept to them. I’m gone so much, I’m traveling so much, I don’t get to see them or see my nephew or be involved with my family because wrestling requires all that time,” Purrazzo said. “They try to understand and they try to get into it but I think now they’re more supportive than when I first told them.”
Transitioning to cheerleading to wrestling was a struggle for her because although you would never know it based off seeing her in the ring, she was very shy and uncomfortable when jumping into the world of pro wrestling because she wasn’t sure where she fit in.
But then the selling and the bumping and the normal things that it takes for a wrestler to get accustomed to damaging their body so much was the most challenging for Purrazzo. The first bump is always the hardest.
“My first day, Shawn Bennet was there and goes, ‘We’re going to teach you how to do a back bump’ and I did one but I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want to do that,’” Purrazzo said. “We laugh about it now because nothing has changed [laughs]. Just the way a woman’s body is compared to a male’s in trying to develop that muscle memory and that muscle tissue to absorb the shock we put on ourselves was really hard for me. No one is meant to put themselves through the damage that we do especially for a stick-thin 18-year old girl but you get over it and learn how to take care of yourself.”
Trying to imagine Purrazzo at that stage in her career is arduous considering she was named the 2017 WOH: Wrestler of the Year and put on incredible matches with Kelly Klein, Madison Rayne and Sumie Sakai to name a few.
Facing those kinds of competitors in the ring and taking the bumps that comes with her schedule would seem to wear on the average person but Purrazzo loves it. She doesn’t even mind the long drives while making towns as long as she can stop at a Quick Check or get a nice cup of coffee and a bag of chips, then she’s re-energized.
She’s a machine and doesn’t seem to stop. Even when she’s outside the squared circle, she does CrossFit for her gym regimen. But as much passion she has work the ring and the industry, it’s only rivaled by the love she has for family.
“I have a three-year old nephew and on the days that I’m able to see him, I really try to go see movies or go get lunch or do something with him because I miss so much,” Purrazzo said. “Last year, I wasn’t here for his birthday or Christmas so I really try to make important moments with him while I get to see him grow and obviously, my boyfriend (ROH wrestler Marty Scurll) lives in a different country so when we’re able to have a week together, we try to plan mini vacations.”
Vacations aren’t on her mind right now though. Not now. Not with what’s at stake for her and for the women’s division. Her focus is completely on the WOH tournament. This has been a long time coming.
“The core group of women that have worked with WOH like myself, Mandy, Kelly Klein and Jenny Rose have really given a lot of input in who works with Women of Honor and the direction we see in not only ourselves and the division. We really had a hands-on approach in developing this.”
With the 16-woman tournament already underway, Purrazzo looks to join the rich history of Ring of Honor by being the very first woman to hold gold. And what does Purrazzo think of the title design that she hopes to hold when it’s all said and done?
“I think it’s beautiful,” Purrazzo said. “It’s my favorite color so it’s going to look fantastic when I win it.”
Cover photo by RING OF HONOR/Bruno Silveria
Joshua Caudill is a writer for CraveOnline, a pro wrestling connoisseur, a hockey fan and an expert on all things Patrick Swayze. You can follow him at @JoshuaCaudill85 or like CraveOnline on Facebook.