Jessika Carr makes her full-time main roster debut Friday night the first full-time female referee on SmackDown, breaking new ground for women in professional wrestling.
“For a woman to be in a position of authority, to be powerful and have a voice, it means so much to me to represent that culture and for others to see it,” said Carr. “That’s the role model I needed when I was younger. Now, I can deliver that message.”
Carr is 28-year-old Jessika Heiser, a Maryland native who originally aspired to be a pro wrestler. Her dream changed when industry legend William Regal encouraged her to try something new and put on the black and white stripes typically associated in WWE with the likes of Earl Hebner, Joey Marella, Mike Chioda, and Charles Robinson. Although WWE has had female referees before, Carr is unique. She came up through the Performance Center, honed her craft in NXT, and now transitions to SmackDown.
“Women should be seen as strong and independent,” said Carr. “For me, the goal is to make this a seamless transition. It’s an important step for the women’s evolution and ‘Revolution.’”
At 18 years old, after years as a passionate wrestling fan—which provided her hope during difficult times, including battles with bullying, as well as her parents’ divorce—Carr made a seemingly outlandish decision. She chose to follow her fate and embark on a career in pro wrestling.
“I worked a part-time job as a waitress instead of getting a ‘real job’ so I could pursue what I wanted to do,” said Carr. “My initial goal was to be a wrestler, and now I can set an example that you can go out and do something you never imagined you could. I hope people see me in the ring and realize that you can do whatever you want in life.”
Working as a referee in NXT has prepared Carr for an even bigger stage on SmackDown, but that was far from her first entry in the business. After winning the Reid Flair Scholarship in 2014, she used her $500 winnings to move to Florida, where she trained at Team 3D Academy under the tutelage of the Dudley Boyz. She uses the name “Carr” as a tribute to Dan Carr, who was her strength and conditioning coach at Team 3D Academy.
“I owe so much to Dan, Bubba, and Devon for where I am today,” said Carr. “I walked into my WWE tryout in February of 2017 prepared and in the best shape of my life.”
With minimal history of women officiating matches in WWE, Carr now takes her place as an inspiration and trendsetter in WWE.
“I feel ready, but it’s definitely scary,” said Carr, who has appeared before on Raw and SmackDown, but never in a full-time capacity. “It’s intimidating to walk into a new locker room with people I’ve never worked with before, and there is a lot of trust to be gained and feeling out. I’m ready for that challenge.”
Carr wants to work toward refereeing a main-event match on a pay-per-view, but that is not her current objective. Her entire focus is delivering the best, most realistic work she possibly can.
“My goal is to hit a home run with whatever I’ve given,” said Carr. “I want this company to trust me with whatever they give me, and I don’t care where that match is on the card. Of course I have high aspirations of main events at pay-per-views and WrestleMania, but I’m here to deliver every single time I step out there—and not just be the best female official, but to be the best official I can be.”
In order to reach this point of success, Carr had to believe in herself and put in the work necessary to shine at the Performance Center and in NXT. But she was never fueled by the chance to prove others wrong, instead motivated to succeed and reward the faith of those who believe in her.
“I think back to my family supporting me throughout this entire journey, from leaving home and moving to Florida with $500 in my account,” said Carr. “Getting lucky and finding good roommates. Traveling with good people on the independents. Learning so much at Team 3D Academy and then at the Performance Center.
“There’s no better feeling in the world than having the respect of my peers and their faith to do this, and WWE is putting stock in me to do this first.”
More than create history, Carr sets a new standard tonight for WWE, furthering the belief that women can—and should—succeed in every single facet of the pro wrestling industry.
“Dreams are becoming reality,” said Carr. “I’m very much looking forward to this ride.”