Courtesy of WWE

“I didn’t come from a wrestling background, but I’m just as passionate about this even though my path to get here was different than most.”

By Justin Barrasso
September 25, 2019

SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

Mandy Rose: “My Path to Get Here Was Different Than Most”

She was born Amanda Saccomanno and is known to WWE fans as Mandy Rose, but the 29-year-old was given a much more embarrassing name by her brothers. 

“My brothers nicknamed me ‘Hamburgers,’” said. “I grew up with three older, protective Italian brothers. They teased me a lot, but they helped mold me into the tough person I am today.”

The childhood nickname was given to her at the age of only six, while she was enjoying a McDonald’s hamburger with her family. Her mother was surprised that she was hungry for a second, and her brothers wanted to know just how many burgers she wanted to eat.

“I said I could eat 100 hamburgers,” said Saccomanno. “They thought that was the funniest thing. From then on, I was ‘Hamburgers.’ We still laugh about it now.”

The 29-year-old Westchester, N.Y., native continues to bring a vibrant spirit to her projects, though she has moved on from hamburgers. In addition to their work in the ring, she and Sonya Deville have teamed up to search for the best glazed donut in the world, posting a new video each week. They have also created their own health-conscious donut, and even sell merchandise on their Damandyz Donutz website.

“It’s especially cool for us to show a different side of our personalities to wrestling fans who only see our characters on SmackDown,” said Saccomanno. “This show is more Mandy and Daria, showing people who we are outside of wrestling.”

Food has always been an integral part of life for Saccomanno, from family meals to working with—and tasting—the Italian cold cuts and cheeses in her father’s deli.

“I am a big believer in balance,” said Saccomanno. “I went through all the rigorous training and dieting for my bikini training, but I also want to enjoy life.”

After winning the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion Bikini Championship, Saccomanno competed on Tough Enough in 2015, a series that featured future stars in Patrick Clark (Velveteen Dream), Chelsea Green and Daria Berenato (Sonya Deville). Her work on the show led to her break with WWE. She spent two years honing her craft in NXT before her 2018 call-up to the main roster. Despite the unrelenting travel schedule, Saccomanno has remained active outside the ring, showcasing entrepreneurial skills that only serve to enhance her brand.

She built her own fitness app, Fit with Mandy, and is also in the process of creating a brand new skin care line, Amarose.

“I want to make sure I have plans for post-WWE, which is a long time from now but it’s still good to be prepared,” said Saccomanno. “Fitness is my first love. I’ve been developing this over the past year, and it’s a bunch of my favorite workout exercises. The design is set up for all different skill levels for all different ages. It’s an at-home program. I’m always on the road traveling, so it’s designed for people who can’t get to the gym but still want to work out.

“And the skin care line, Amarose, is launching soon. There will be four different products—a lifting eye gel, lifting serum, a beauty boost cleanser and a boosting moisturizer. I’ve always wanted to get involved in beauty and skincare, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to because of hard work and determination.”

Saccomanno is making the most of her time, especially with a full-time schedule, but the highlight of her life on the road is spending time with tag partner Sonya Deville.

“Our bond was created the day we met on Tough Enough, and it’s even stronger now,” said Saccomanno, who received some quality television time alongside Deville on this week’s SmackDown in a tag loss to the Kabuki Warriors. “We’re best friends, we’re inseparable. We lived together when we were in NXT, and then we were called up together. It’s been an amazing journey, and it’s been so nice that we’ve been able to do it together. It’s a true friendship.”

Working with Deville has allowed Saccomanno a chance to provide a voice to a portion of the fan base that has not always had strong representation.

“Sonya has opened up a huge light for me,” said Saccomanno. “Now that we travel so much together around the world, she’s helped me open up and be so involved in the LGBTQ community. I want to show my support for GLAAD, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”

Saccomanno is clear about her goals for the Mandy Rose character, which has continued to evolve since her WWE debut. She wants a tag team title reign with Deville, as well as an opportunity to add layers to Rose’s on-screen persona.

“This past year, I was able to show off the seductive side of my character, but that was only the beginning,” said Saccomanno. “Down the road, another goal is to be the SmackDown women’s champion.

“And Sonya Deville and I will keep working until we win the tag team titles. We have really good chemistry, work so well together, and we’re going to keep building our characters until we get those titles. Those are big goals, but they’re attainable.”

Saccomanno continues to set new goals for herself, making a habit of stretching beyond limits that previously appeared unreachable. Her work in the ring is the final ingredient to elevate her into a different range of superstardom, and she plans to seize the moment.

“I didn’t come from a wrestling background, but I’m just as passionate about this even though my path to get here was different than most,” said Saccomanno. “I am extremely grateful for my fan base, I appreciate it all so much, and there is much more to come. I hope people are ready for the ride.”

Shayna Baszler Ready for Bright Lights of Live Television

Beginning next week, NXT and AEW will compete head-to-head on Wednesday nights.

Not every performer will thrive under the spotlight. There will be those who are swallowed up by the nonstop pressure inherent in live television.

Shayna Baszler, however, assures she will not be one who struggles.

“I’m a pressure player,” said Baszler, who is the NXT women’s champion, standing atop a division dedicated to a serious presentation of women’s wrestling. “Put me in the game at the critical time and I’ll get the job done. It’s something I’ve always done, and that won’t change when I’m wrestling on live TV.”

Baszler is the lynchpin of NXT. She noted her focus is not on AEW, but rather offering the best product possible on Wednesday nights. Baszler has complete confidence in the collection of female talent in NXT.

“Our locker room at NXT is very proud of the work we do,” said Baszler. “Going into Wednesdays on USA, you’ll see us outdo ourselves every week.”

Ring of Honor’s Flip Gordon Rebounds From Injury

Ring of Honor’s newest villain is also one of the nicest people in the business.

And Flip Gordon is also optimistic that he can be the one to bring Ring of Honor back to a position where it is competing against WWE and AEW.

“Ring of Honor, right now, is looked at as an underdog, and I can relate because I’ve been an underdog my whole life,” said Gordon. “I’m excited for my friends at AEW, my friends at WWE, my friends at Impact, my friends everywhere. And I’m hoping to elevate Ring of Honor as its new Television champion.”

Gordon wrestles in a triple threat match for the Television title this Friday at Ring of Honor’s “Death Before Dishonor” pay-per-view against Shane Taylor and Tracy Williams. Taylor is the reigning TV champ, but his status with ROH beyond this Friday is in question after stating his primary focus is building his own Shane Taylor Promotions. The lack of clarity regarding Taylor’s future with Ring of Honor provides a prime opportunity for Gordon to walk away with the company’s second-highest singles title.

Following a string of injuries, Gordon is healthy and recovered from a dislocated elbow and, prior to that, a full MCL tear to his right knee suffered in a match against Williams in January.

“I’ve had a couple weeks off to prepare and I feel great,” said Gordon. “Even when I was hurt, I was still going to the gym six days a week. When my knee was hurt, I focused on my upper body. Then, when I blew out my elbow, I focused on my lower body. My entire focus is on Ring of Honor and being the best version of myself in the ring.”

Gordon aligned himself with “The Villain” Marty Scurll in June at the “Best in the World” pay-per-view, embarking on a new run as “The Mercenary” of Scurll’s Villain Enterprises—and marking his first run working as a heel in Ring of Honor.

“This is a chance to work with Marty, who is someone I’m really close with and someone I call a friend, and that’s been really special,” said Gordon. “It’s also showed me the opposite side in being a villain, which has been great. And an opportunity with the Television title would give me a chance to elevate that belt even higher.

“And for those who think I was ‘fired’ by Marty, I have some breaking news: I was rehired, but you need to go watch it on VETV to see more.”

Still only 27, Gordon’s dreams in wrestling start with a run as TV champ, but also include the chance to wrestle at the Tokyo Dome in Japan at Wrestle Kingdom.

“My goal is to wrestle Jay Lethal at the Tokyo Dome. I’ve only wrestled him when he was the champ, but I would love for us to wrestle with him gunning for me after I win the Television title.”

The Television title is not a stopping ground for Gordon, instead serving as another building block on his route to the world title.

“I see myself being Ring of Honor world champion someday,” said Gordon. “That’s something I have to accomplish. Once I set a goal, I go for it until I accomplish it.”

Ring of Honor’s newest villain even offered words of inspiration to his wrestling fans before he returns to the dark side this Friday night on pay per view.

“People need to remember that they are the main character, and people can change their life if they take a chance on themselves,” said Gordon. “I wanted to be a professional wrestler, and as soon as I decided to chase that dream, that’s when my life changed for the better. And I plan on representing Ring of Honor and put on the best matches possible, which you’ll see when I win the Television title at Death Before Dishonor.”

Drew Cordeiro Setting Trends in Beyond Wrestling

WWE, AEW, New Japan, MLW, and Impact are all on television, and there is enough wrestling content for almost every night of the week.

But even with the abundance of programming, Thursday nights still belong to Beyond Wrestling.

Beyond’s weekly Uncharted Territory show returns on Thursday, October 3, airing its season two premiere live on Independent Wrestling TV at 8 p.m. ET.

“We are the ones that set the trends that the rest of the wrestling industry pushes to the mainstream,” said Beyond founder Drew Cordeiro. “Everything else you see on cable television has Beyond’s fingerprints all over it. Many of the wrestlers competing in NXT and All Elite Wrestling got their start in Beyond Wrestling, with a decent percentage also getting their first big break in a Beyond ring.”

The season two premiere features Josh Briggs-Lance Archer, Orange Cassidy-Thomas Santell, as well as matches including Chris Dickinson, Nick Gage, and Kris Statlander.

“We are professional wrestling without restrictions,” said Cordeiro. “We’re not worried about upsetting corporate sponsors. We exist to create the best pro wrestling we are capable of making for our fans, who are the most passionate, supportive fans in all of professional wrestling. That is why so many wrestlers get their start in Beyond Wrestling. We’re the tastemakers.”

The (Online) Week in Wrestling

• Will Daniel Bryan turn on Roman Reigns at Hell in a Cell? And will The Fiend become the new WWE champion?

• Per Dana White, The Rock is coming to UFC 244 in November at Madison Square Garden to present a custom-made belt to the winner of the Nate Diaz-Jorge Masvidal fight.

• Starting at the 9:50-mark, Kenny Omega delivers some spoken brilliance in the “BTE Mailbag” portion of the show. 

• Here is the Dominik Dijakovic tweet that sparked Omega’s promo on “Being The Elite.”

• Dijakovic is part of NXT, which drew a tremendously strong 1.179 million viewers for its USA Network debut last Wednesday, according to ShowBuzz Daily.

• Congratulations to Ring of Honor star Bandido, who won the vaunted PWG “Battle of Los Angeles” on Sunday. 

• All our best to wrestling icon “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who encountered another health scare over the weekend.

• Dolph Ziggler and Bill Goldberg continued their feud this past weekend in Las Vegas, which was another reminder of how Ziggler’s fantastic performance at SummerSlam helped erase Goldberg’s disaster in Saudi Arabia this spring against The Undertaker. 

• Keith Elliot Greenberg, who you may recall from his plethora of wonderful stories in the WWF Magazine, wrote a fascinating, heartbreaking story on the Brian Christopher Lawler tragedy.

• Not a good sign for those of us who believe Luke Harper should have a push for the world title. 

Conrad Thompson Previews Newest Podcast With Arn Anderson

The newest Conrad Thompson podcast has made its debut, as the first “Arn” show with Arn Anderson aired yesterday.

“We started the first episode off talking about the territory days because I wanted to lay the foundation for how Arn Anderson got started,” said Thompson, who also hosts shows with Bruce Prichard, Jim Ross, Eric Bischoff, and Tony Schiavone. “Most fans remember him in the early days of the Four Horsemen, and to my surprise, we learned that he’d only been in the business 14 months before he started working for Jim Crockett Promotions.”

Thompson unearthed many nuggets from Anderson, including the fact that he learned his craft under the tutelage of Ted DiBiase.

“The fact that Arn Anderson sat under the learning tree of Ted DiBiase, that’s something I would have never guessed,” said Thompson. “We hear the famous Ric Flair recruitment story, and next week we’ll tell the other end of how he left Crockett and made the jump to the World Wrestling Federation. They didn’t go for guaranteed contracts, they went for the opportunity. I’m interested to hear if, looking back, it was the right move, if they could have done anything differently to work it out and stay, and the difference between working for Vince compared to working for Crockett or the territories.”

Thompson’s “Something to Wrestle with Bruce Prichard” podcast this Friday will take a thorough look at the WWE career of Yokozuna, who had a tremendous career in WWE despite dying at the age of only 34.

A two-time WWE champion, Yokozuna headlined WrestleMania IX and X, but immediately fell out of the main event following his title loss to Bret Hart at WrestleMania X.

“We’ll look at how Vince McMahon fell in love with him, almost in lieu of Lex Luger,” said Thompson. “Yoko had so many big moments, sending The Undertaker to heaven at the Royal Rumble, but what happened when he lost the title the second time? Was it a weight issue? We’ll also explore his friendship with The Undertaker, and we will take a behind-the-scenes look at the real man behind the character.”

Following his run atop the card, Yokozuna had two tag team title reigns while teaming with Owen Hart—but there was never a serious return push to the top of the singles card.

“Yokozuna was relegated to tag spots, so there was a paradigm shift from Vince and I want to know more about that from Bruce,” said Thompson. “Also, how did Yoko navigate the politics? When The Kliq became top guys, it feels like that’s when Yokozuna was no longer a top guy. Maybe his association with The Undertaker kept him in a good spot. And we’ll also look at his inevitable weight issues, where it looked and felt like it could be the last time we saw him in a WWE ring at Survivor Series ‘96.”

Tweet of the Week

Maury would definitely be a heel in pro wrestling.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.

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