"It's like Disneyland to me:" Nhooph Al-Areebi on her NXT dreams
Joining the NXT roster from Toronto, Ontario, Nhooph Al-Areebi brings a unique background to WWE.
WWE.com caught up with the rookie Diva during a break from training to talk about growing up in an Arabic family, her road to WWE and how training for the circus applies to the squared circle.
WWE.COM: You’re one of, if not the youngest person training at the WWE Performance Center. What was it like leaving your home and family behind to come here?
AL-AREEBI: I was so excited. It’s been my dream to live in the U.S. and work for WWE, so for me, I was ready. It was something I wanted to do.
WWE.COM: How’s everything been going since you arrived here?
AL-AREEBI: It’s been awesome. They do a really good job letting you know where to get your social security number and where to get your driver’s license. They give you a list of apartments, so adjusting was very easy, because I had the resources.
WWE.COM: You said it was your dream to be here. So, it’s safe to assume you were a big fan growing up?
AL-AREEBI: Oh, yeah! Growing up, I would not miss Raw, SmackDown or a pay-per-view. Every time WWE would come to Toronto, I’d go to the events at the Air Canada Centre or Ricoh Coliseum. I was a huge fangirl.
WWE.COM: Who were some of your favorites?
AL-AREEBI: My favorites are Edge, obviously, because he’s Canadian, and Jeff Hardy. For the Divas, Trish Stratus, Lita and Mickie James.
WWE.COM: Did you always want to be a wrestler?
AL-AREEBI: I remember the day I decided that I wanted to become a wrestler – May 5, 2008. It was my first time seeing Monday Night Raw live. I was sitting in the nosebleed seats. I remember doing so many chores and things around the house so my mom would purchase tickets. I remember watching Beth Phoenix and Mickie James, and seeing how the crowd reacted to their match. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a WWE Diva.
WWE.COM: Where did you go for your initial wrestling training?
AL-AREEBI: I started at Squared Circle Training in Toronto. My first trainer was Taylor Wilde, then I trained with Rob Fuego.
WWE.COM: And at the same time, you were going to circus school, right?
AL-AREEBI: Yes, I was doing it recreationally as an after-school program in elementary and high school.
WWE.COM: What kinds of things were you doing as part of the circus training?
AL-AREEBI: I decided to go to circus school because I wanted to be a wrestler. I remember watching Tough Enough and seeing that they were doing rolls and stuff. I connected that with the circus, which was an option as an after-school program, so I chose that. I learned a lot of skills there, like acrobatics, that transferred over to wrestling.
WWE.COM: Were you doing things like trapeze?
WWE.COM: How does that help with wrestling?
AL-AREEBI: [Circus training] is very physically demanding. You have to have a certain athleticism. You have to be able to jump. Your body has to be able to move a certain way. It takes a lot of flexibility. There’s a lot of physicality in wrestling, too. You have to be athletic.
WWE.COM: What was the tryout process like for you?
WWE.COM: I remember the day I found out I was going to have a tryout. I completely stopped everything. I left my part-time job and moved back in with my parents because I wanted to use the couple months I had to prepare myself and be 100 percent. I would go to the gym every day. I would go to wrestling training five times a week. I was eating the cleanest I’ve ever eaten in my life. I’d practice interviews in the mirror every day. I gave 110 percent to be ready for the tryout.
WWE.COM: What was it like once you got to the Performance Center?
AL-AREEBI: I had so much fun. It did not feel like work at all. We had a billion blow-up drills, but in the end, I was having so much fun and putting so much passion into it that I could keep going.
WWE.COM: When did you find out that WWE was offering you a contract?
AL-AREEBI: My tryout was last June, but I didn’t hear back until August that they were interested, but to keep working out, training and taking bookings [on the independents], because I was on their shortlist to hire. At first, I was a little bummed out, because I wanted to get my life started now. This was what I wanted to do.
I found out in October that they were interested in giving me a contract. It was the happiest day of my life. I was running around the apartment crying, calling my mom. It was crazy.
WWE.COM: This is an exciting time in women’s wrestling. What does it mean to you that WWE wanted you to be a part of the Divas division, with everything that’s going on in NXT and on the main roster?
AL-AREEBI: I am completely honored. I’m the luckiest girl in the world. There are so many emotions. I’m privileged to train at the Performance Center and share a locker room with the best women wrestlers in the world. It’s incredible. I give it 110 percent every day. My goal is to be the best.
WWE.COM: What do you like most about the Performance Center?
AL-AREEBI: I enjoy … everything. I really can’t think of just one thing. I love the in-ring training, I love how we have a full gym and get to work on our physiques. I love the whole facility. It’s like Disneyland to me!
WWE.COM: There haven’t been many Arabic women wrestlers. What does it mean to you, as an Arabic woman, to be here in WWE? Do you see yourself as an inspiration to others who might want to enter the ring?
AL-AREEBI: I have a typical Arabic family. We’re very conservative. I grew up in Canada, but I’m a first-generation Canadian. My parents are from the Middle East. We had strict rules. There were certain things I couldn’t wear, no boyfriends, strict curfews. They were hard on me about school. I had to get good grades.
When I first started, they weren’t that pleased. However, they see the success I’ve gotten and are extremely proud of me. They call me every day, we have a close relationship. But I hope to be an inspiration to all Arabic females and young girls. It’s definitely the road less traveled.
WWE.COM: Some eagle-eyed fans noticed you were part of Tyler Breeze’s entrance at TakeOver. You’ve also began competing at NXT Live Events. How has it been to get out in front of the crowd?
AL-AREEBI: I love it. I’m so hungry for more, I just want to do it all. I was part of Tyler’s entrance. That was pretty fun. I hope to be – no, I will be the NXT Women’s Champion.
WWE.COM: Beyond that, what are your goals here in WWE?
AL-AREEBI: My goal is to make it to WrestleMania and win the Divas Championship!