Ember Moon Thrilled to Return to NXT After Long Road Back From Injury

The Week in Wrestling: Ember Moon returns to the place where she became a star, WWE rankles performers with its decision on Twitch streaming and more.
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Ember Moon: ‘NXT is where you prove your worth, and that’s what I am going to do again’

Ember Moon made a surprise return on Sunday at NXT TakeOver 31, revealing herself as the mystery behind the recent night-vision vignettes and issuing a challenge to Io Shirai for the NXT women’s championship.

Moon last performed in NXT in April 2018, when she dropped the title to Shayna Baszler at TakeOver: New Orleans. NXT is the site where Adrienne Reese created the phenomenon that is Ember Moon, a 13-year wrestling veteran, bringing an enigmatic, mystical character to the WWE realm. Her three-year run in NXT was the most successful stretch of her career, and she was grateful to infuse so much of her soul into her return.

“When learned I was headed to NXT, the whole motorcycle package was an idea I had after watching an action movie called Hardcore Henry,” Moon says. “The NXT creative team is absolutely amazing, and they got this massive set for me. I wanted elements of The Masked Singer so we could have clues to keep people guessing. And they were like, ‘Let’s do it!’ There is a video game I play, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, where there are these two dueling voices and you have to listen closely, and we did something similar for the surprise, which was absolutely amazing.”

Moon’s return was made official when she took off her motorcycle helmet, then unleashed a promo putting Shirai on notice.

“I was nervous and I wasn’t certain how I would be received,” says Moon, who was out of action for more than a year due to an Achilles injury. “I didn’t even know Toni Storm was popping up on the monitor right before me. She’s stunning in the ring, and I want to wrestle her, too.

“My nerves kept building as I was walking out to the stage. All I could think was, ‘Crap, did I even shut the visor to the helmet?’ If you look quickly, I grab my helmet and checked. Then I took off the helmet, and it was an outstanding, memorable moment. I think it may have broke the internet for a hot minute. It reminded me that NXT is the place where I’m meant to be. I couldn’t ask for a better team to support me, and it was so amazing to be there on the first night of the Capitol Wrestling Center.”

The future for Moon in NXT is overflowing with possibilities and new opponents, which is exactly what she needed after a middling run on the main roster an injury that could have ended her career. Moon struggled to find her place on the main roster, but she was building momentum tearing her Achilles in two places during a backstage segment 13 months ago.

“2019 was not my year,” Moon says. “I ended up finding out I was hurt before the Rumble, and did immediate surgery after my elbow got locked into a 90-degree angle. I came back and got drafted to SmackDown, which was awesome because I always wanted to be on the blue brand, but couldn’t get my stride going. I finally felt good by SummerSlam. There was a Raw in San Francisco, and I had a match with Lacey Evans, which I felt great about. Then the injury happened.”

Moon was part of the chase for the 24/7 Championship when one wrong step caused her immeasurable pain, both physically and mentally during a laborious COVID-19-timed rehab.

“I remember going through the curtain behind Truth and Carmella, and he was dumping her down, and I just hit the brakes so hard,” recalled Moon. “It felt like my foot went through the floor. I heard a pop. I thought I was fine, I had no pain, and then I went on my flight. The next day, I went to get some food, and I fell over. So I went to the doctor, and that’s how I found out I tore my Achilles.

“I went to an amazing doctor in the Dallas area, and he was confident that there would barely even be a scar. Coming out of surgery, he said to me, ‘The good news is your Achilles is fixed. The bad news is that it was completely off, it ripped off the bone.’ Instead of the very tiny scar, they had to slice the entire back of my foot open to surgically repair it.”

The aftermath following the surgery was never smooth. Her therapy facility was shut down due to the pandemic, and there was also the potential of a second surgery. She now has a clean bill of health.

“Realizing I was hurt and that I was forced to be away from what I loved, that was the hardest part,” Moon says. “But the one good part was that I got to be home with my husband for the first time since we were married. So there was that upside.”

Moon has spent the past 15 years pursuing her wrestling dreams. At only 17, she used the craft to redefine her image. Standing only 4' 8" and subject to bullying, she became Athena, forcing herself to be more extroverted in the ring.

“Athena was a superhero,” Moon says. “This character was larger than life. She was willing to stand up to the bullies.”

A new opportunity presented itself when she signed with WWE in September 2015. She developed the Ember Moon character into a unique, compelling entity in NXT.

“Ember was different,” Moon says. “By then, I had grown up and experienced the world, and so much of Ember was based off Dungeons and Dragons and the Homeland novel by R.A. Salvatore. I related to it so much that I popped red contacts in and made my hair silver, which was my ode to Drizzt Do’Urden. I related to that on so many levels, the idea that you can be a good guy and still be fierce and ferocious. That magical realm sucked me in, which led to the creation of Ember Moon.”

Beginning tonight on NXT, Moon plans to unveil new elements to her persona in an evolution of the character.

“We’re trying something new,” Moon says. “You’re going to see more of me, Adrienne, as Ember Moon. And I’m so excited to work with Io Shirai. She is the top female wrestler in the world. I’ve said that for the last five years, and I’ve always wanted to wrestle her.”

Moon’s return to NXT also sets up the potential of a program with Shotzi Blackheart, which would make for a must-see match on a TakeOver card.

“The NXT women’s division is so diverse, and we know the standard that was set by the women who were there before us,” Moon says. “Now we’ll see how the new Ember Moon fits into the mix. I’ll be showing off myself in a new way for the first time, and I can’t wait for people to say, ‘Holy crap, I forgot how good Ember Moon is.’

“The landscape has drastically changed in NXT since I was last here. There are going to be a lot of new matchups. Wrestling needs to be fun right now, not just for me but for everyone, and I’m going to bring that in NXT.”

Raw and SmackDown were not the right fit for Moon, but she is back at home in NXT. She now has the chance to play an integral role for the company in its battle against AEW on Wednesday nights, adding a presence to the show that is unique and captivating.

“I am so ecstatic in being back in NXT,” Moon says. “NXT is where you prove your worth, and that’s what I am going to do again.”

WWE edict on talent working with third parties is filled with questions—and greed

In a decision colored entirely by greed, WWE is forcing talent to hand over their Twitch accounts to the company.

Raj Giri, who is the president of the website Wrestling Inc., has been on top of the story with each new development. His report last week detailed how WWE will soon be taking over their performers’ Twitch accounts, explaining how talent will receive a percentage of the revenue that will be counted against their contract’s downside guarantee.

This is destined to lead to more problems than solutions. Somehow, amid a pandemic, WWE is telling a large portion of its talent that they are expected to work more and earn less, all while the company profits.

“The Twitch decision throws me off a little, especially in the middle of a pandemic,” Giri says. “I can understand their philosophy more on [video shout-out site] Cameo since they’ve launched their own virtual meet-and-greet. But this is true to how WWE has operated since the beginning.

“Look at when Jesse Ventura left in 1990 over a video game deal and Vince McMahon didn’t want him to do it, or Sgt. Slaughter in the 1980s with a G.I. Joe figure. It seems extra petty during a pandemic, and it just seems like this will only serve to hurt them.”

Clearly McMahon disagrees, but if talent does not use WWE’s copyrights or trademarks in their work with an outside vendor, then WWE should not receive any of the profit.

“It’s clear WWE isn’t stepping down, and they feel they have a leg to stand on,” Giri says. “There are a lot of unknowns going into the next couple months, but WWE is planning on enforcing this edict.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • AEW celebrates 30 years of Chris Jericho on Wednesday’s Dynamite. There’s no way this celebration could go awry, is there? 
  • Sasha Banks and Bayley have helped carry WWE in 2020. I am excited to see what happens with their match this Friday on SmackDown, which I imagine (and hope) finds a way to save the long-awaited showdown for a more fitting platform, like the main event at a pay-per-view. 
  • Netflix canceled GLOW, which is disheartening news to those of us who relished watching the show. The show was tremendous, and hopefully there is enough response from the fan base that Netflix will have a false finish on the cancellation and instead film a two-hour special to close out GLOW
  • Every time I think Retribution has no real future in WWE, I’m then reminded otherwise. Mustafa Ali is one of the most talented, engaging and authentic stars in WWE. I am very excited for his new opportunity as the head of Retribution, which will provide him with an incredible platform to share his voice and ply his trade in the ring. 
  • EC3’s next stop is Ring of Honor. 
  • Available on FITE, The Collective is going to have a tremendous amount (and a wide array) of wrestling on display all weekend long. 
  • If you’re seeking more high-quality wrestling from the indies, Limitless Wrestling’s “The Road” series is worth watching. 
  • I wrote a profile of Ethan Page last week, and if Impact allows him to reach free agency in 2021, then AEW will likely be the best fit for him, which would be disappointing to those who love his work tagging with the immensely talented Josh Alexander. 
  • New Japan Pro Wrestling announced the return of the World Tag League and Best of the Super Juniors. Both tournaments will start in November and wrap in December, adding some excitement to the end of the year, especially as NJPW approaches Wrestle Kingdom in January. 
  • More fun for wrestling fans is scheduled for the holiday weekend, as the Expo Lucha virtual fan convention airs for free on Saturday. 

“The Masked Wrestler” set to debut next week on IWTV

The IWTV original series The Masked Wrestler makes its debut on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 10 p.m. ET, and the show offers an incredibly gripping story for wrestling fans.

The concept of the seven-episode show is uncommon for pro wrestling. Eight masked wrestlers will take part in a single-elimination tournament, with the winner’s receiving a shot at the IWTV independent wrestling championship. There will also be serious interest in the losers of each match, as they will be forced to unmask after they are eliminated.

There will also be a three-person panel contemplating and hypothesizing about the identities of the wrestlers, one of whom is AEW star—and former IWTV independent wrestling champion—Kris Statlander. Playing a key part on that panel is Mr. Brickster, the talented wrestler once known as Romance on VH1’s reality TV show I Love New York.

The Masked Wrestler is going to be groundbreaking,” Brickster says. “People want wrestling to be more than just something in the ring. They want to see the personalities, they want to see the competition and they want to see the stories. This show was built by some of the best minds in the business. This is a strategy game mixed up with wrestling, and that’s going to keep people’s attention—and it will lead to a big payoff at the end when we find out the winner of The Masked Wrestler.

“The new-age audience, with our limited attention span, almost doesn’t know how to invest in a storyline. A lot of the wrestling we see now is a one-off, but we’re doing a story line right. The Masked Wrestler is something you can sink your teeth into. These are some of the best wrestlers in the world, ones no one will ever guess, and there will be big payoffs. If people get behind this and push it and propel it, hopefully we can do more seasons.”

Portrait of pro wrestler Mr. Brickster

Brickster is also part of The Collective this weekend, wrestling Mance Warner at AIW’s Thunder in Paradise show on Friday night.

“I am going to put an end to Mance Warner,” Brickster says. “In my career, I’ve been building people up for too long. I created tons of bricks around me, but unfortunately, all they did was weigh me down.

“I created a group called the Rip City Shooters in AIW, a top-five wrestling promotion on the planet, and I cut this pipe-bomb of a promo that’s going to drop on Wednesday night. It’s over for Mance Warner this Friday.”

Tweet of the Week

Paige certainly grabbed hold of WWE’s attention with this tweet.

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