Alexa Bliss is the Marilyn Monroe of WWE.
In the moments leading up to WrestleMania 35, where she served as the show’s host, witnesses caught Bliss pacing furiously in the backstage areas of MetLife Stadium. For those who were unaware, there was a transformation taking place: the kindhearted Alexis Kaufman was no more, replaced by the conniving Alexa Bliss.
“I love Marilyn Monroe,” said Kaufman, who is known on a worldwide scale as Bliss. “And there is a scene in ‘My Week with Marilyn’ where she is this shy, timid person. Then she turns to the guy next to her and asks, ‘Do you want to see me be her?’ So she turns into Marilyn and her entire demeanor changes—and everyone recognizes her. That’s what I think of Alexa Bliss: she is not me, she is the complete opposite of me.”
Bliss has the biggest heart in WWE but plays the cruelest character.
“I love portraying a bad guy,” said Bliss. “I can go the extra mile with all the creativity. Plus, you can expect a lot of sass. WrestleMania 35 was my WrestleMania. You didn’t know what was going to happen. It was all about me, because I was the host.”
WrestleMania 35 served as the first time in WWE history that women main-evented the show, but Bliss believed it was also important for all WWE fans to see a female host the extravaganza.
“Our women are equal,” said Bliss. “It’s important for people to see that.”
During the lead up to WrestleMania, Bliss also filmed the newest episode of “Sneaker Watch” at Champs Sports in Times Square.
Created by WWE and Champs Sports, “Sneaker Watch” is a weekly series that airs on Snapchat and Instagram Stories, and showcases WWE’s stars unboxing new footwear and apparel from Champs Sports.
“I forgot to pack yoga pants, so the timing was perfect,” said the 27-year-old Bliss, who received some extra time to shop around Champs before filming.
WWE talent often wear the Champs apparel on Raw or SmackDown. In addition to meeting some dedicated WWE fans, Bliss was also thrilled to enhance her sneaker game—or, as she calls it, her tennis shoe game.
“I always re-buy the same shoes, and I realized I brought my old tennis shoes instead of my new ones,” said Bliss. “Growing up in Ohio, we don’t say soda, we call it pop—and we don’t call them sneakers, we say tennis shoes.”
The five-time WWE champ from Columbus did a phenomenal job hosting WrestleMania, interacting with past and present stars and adding a sense of excitement every time she appeared on camera. Bliss needed some time between scenes, however, as the frequent trips to wardrobe and changing into a variety of dresses was time-consuming.
“What to wear, it’s a whole thing,” said Bliss. “I love everything sparkly. The outfit that I’d gotten made had first been approved, and then it wasn’t, but luckily we were in New York where there is a whole lot of shopping.”
Fashion aside, there is far more substance than style to Bliss.
After overcoming a near-fatal struggle with anorexia as a teenager, Bliss excelled first at bodybuilding before being signed by WWE in 2013. She doesn’t have wrestling in her genes the way other second- and third-generation WWE stars do, or even any experience on the indie circuit, but Bliss does have wrestling in her soul.
“I did it my way, and I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Bliss. “I knew what I was getting into when I joined WWE. There were girls who wrestled on the independent circuit, there were girls who were generational, and I came not really knowing anything. I remember telling my mom, ‘These girls are so good, I don’t think I can make.’
“I knew I’d be an underwhelming draft pick to SmackDown [in 2016]; I wasn’t [one of the] Four Horsewoman, I wasn’t given the opportunity to have a TakeOver match, I’d never held a title. Being smaller in stature, especially at the start of our Women’s Revolution, I’ve worked extremely hard over these past three years. I went into my first WrestleMania as SmackDown women’s champion and my second WrestleMania as Raw women’s champion. It’s been a very fun journey, and I’m still enjoying the ride.”
Bliss credits her time in NXT as the force that catapulted her into superstardom.
“When I first got onto SmackDown, I remember being so nervous,” said Bliss. “In WWE, if you’re given an opportunity but you don’t deliver, that opportunity may never come back. I remember my very first promo on SmackDown, and I remember knowing I had to deliver. The microphone has been my saving grace throughout my career, giving me opportunities like hosting WrestleMania. This is coming from the same person who cried in her first promo class at NXT. Dusty Rhodes and Ryan Katz helped enable me to do this, and I’m very grateful for my time with NXT.”
Bliss stands out in a scripted world because she has so deftly defined her character, especially as a villain.
“I want to be booed and be hated,” said Bliss. “That dictates my style in the ring. If I were a good guy, I’d use a whole new arsenal of moves in the ring. The biggest thing for me is telling the story as a character, both in the ring and on the mic.”
In addition to hosting this year’s WrestleMania, another career highlight came a year prior at WrestleMania 34 in her Raw title match against Nia Jax.
“I had so much fun working with Nia,” said Bliss. “It was the hardest but most fulfilling because we did this body shaming/bullying angle, and we’ve both dealt with body issues in the past. I’ve dealt with eating disorders off and on throughout my life, and I almost lost my life to it, so it was hard to say these things to my best friend. But we wanted to make that story as real as possible, and we felt very passionate about highlighting that and telling that story.”
During her time at Champs in New York, Bliss was able to interact with fans that were lined up and desperately seeking to see her. Although they originally wanted to meet Bliss, they came away thrilled to get to know Alexis Kaufman.
“I love meeting the people who support us,” said Bliss. “They’re why we do what we do. A lot of people don’t know how to take me at first because I play a bad guy on TV, so I’ve actually had a lot of kids too scared to talk with me. But I love interacting with people.
“So even though I play a bad guy on TV, I try to give the fans the best experience possible. I’m kind of the Hannah Montana of WWE.”
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.