Mixed martial artist Daria Berenato was the latest to go on WWE’s reality show competition “Tough Enough” on USA Network.
The “Jersey Devil” didn’t win Daniel Bryan over with her “Fallen Angel” persona and was put in the bottom three. She was joined by ZZ and Sara Lee on the potential chopping block, left for fans to vote on who should get eliminated.
“As soon as I heard them call my name and saw ZZ and Sara Lee in the bottom three with me I was like, ‘This is not good,’” Berenato recalled.
“I was actually shocked when they called my name because, if anything, in that last challenge I put it all out there. I showed charisma. Maybe it was unorganized charisma, but I definitely feel I gave them something to work with. I felt other people didn’t. I was really upset that I was in the bottom three with ZZ and Sara Lee, who have such big fan followings.”
After the show wrapped, she went back to her hotel room and saw an outpouring of love from people on social media.
“It was amazing,” Berenato said.
“I started reading all the tweets. I don’t think there was one negative one in the bunch. It was all, ‘How could they?’ Everyone was outraged for sure because I think they saw a legit WWE superstar, a diva. I have that athletic background, and I think I’ve shown personality on the show. I think it was disappointing for a lot of people including, obviously, myself.”
Despite her exit, the driven competitor is proud of all she accomplished. Berenato used her public platform to come out to the world. For her, the LGBT community has stood by her every step of the way.
“This whole experience has been a crazy one,” she said.
“It started out with me coming out on global television in front of everybody. Nobody really knew, aside from my mom and my dad. That was the first part of this journey, and it was the most insane experience in itself. The LGBT community has made this so much more insane because they have been so supportive and receptive of me.
“The athleticism, the training, working with Booker T. and Lita and Billy Gunn and Paige and everyone involved in this. It’s been life-changing. You can’t take anything negative from this experience. If you do, you’re doing something wrong. This is the beginning. It’s only up from here.”
The 21-year-old wants to continue her pro wrestling training with every intention of making it. The dream does not die on “Tough Enough.”
“Lance Storm reached out and a couple of other guys like the Monster Factory did as well,” she said.
“There are these huge wrestling schools around the world. My plan is to take the best offer and start training my butt off and wait for that call from WWE and get a tryout. I will do whatever I have to do to get back in there. I know WWE is where I belong.”
After everything she has been through in the competition, Berenato has no regrets.
“I don’t think I would have changed anything,” she said.
“I know the way this works. I knew what I was getting when I signed up. It’s a reality show. They want action. They want reality. I think I gave them everything I had in me while staying true to myself. I’m really happy with how it all turned out, and I’m ready to make the most of it.
“….There is a lot of people in this industry and WWE who have been a mentor to me and inspired me. One of them is Lita. She is this strong, independent woman who went into this when it was a completely different ballgame. She turned it into something new for women. I look up to her without a doubt. Billy Gunn is the man. He is so sincere and nice and really wants to help us. Daniel Bryan is amazing. That guy is so down-to-earth and sweet and genuine. I look up to everyone who has been part of this process and has helped me learn what WWE is all about. I can’t wait to be one of them.”
Berenato’s MMA background goes back to high school. The athlete was in search of a new challenge. For the Los Angeles resident and the full contact sport, it was love at first sight.
“It has really helped me in this experience and will help me in the future,” she said.
“I think I can go in there and use my punches, kicks, grappling and wrestling experience. I can really turn it into my character, which is the ‘Jersey Devil.’ I think everything in life happens for a reason. This is my path and MMA has certainly helped me get here.
“…Training for MMA and WWE are very interestingly different. They are both intense and hardcore. WWE certainly has this performance factor about it. You are always thinking about your form to look good and your posture. You want to be explosive and entertaining. In MMA, you want to have proper form and all that. But at the end of the day your ultimate goal is to beat the crap out of the other person. However you can get the job done, you get it done.
“I would like to see MMA take a turn toward the WWE angle where there are these characters. I think that is one thing MMA lacks today. I’m very involved in the MMA world. I do a UFC show, so I talk about it a lot. One of the things I love about Connor McGregor is he is like a character. He is really someone you can hone into and love. I don’t think the other stars of UFC and MMA in general have gotten that yet. I think if they do, it will make MMA a more likeable sport.”
Berenato isn’t the Barbie doll type and wants to stand out with her abilities. The fighter believes she has something unique to offer.
“I want to be the MMA fighter in WWE,” she said.
“I want to showcase all of my talent that I have from MMA in the ring. I’m going to be training both. I’ve always been a workhorse. Before coming to the show, I did 16-hour days between work and training. I plan on doing the same, but with MMA and pro wrestling. I want to just combine them to make this massive product that WWE is going to love.”
Admittedly, the “Tough Enough” cast member didn’t grow up as a fan of WWE. She did her homework before coming on the show. It was her AfterBuzz TV boss Maria Menounos who introduced her to sports entertainment. Berenato serves as MMA host for the online network of shows. Menounos’ fandom of WWE is well-documented and her excitement was contagious.
“I saw her in the ring,” Berenato said.
“She comes to my MMA fights. She is a big supporter of mine. Once I saw her do it I thought, ‘This is where I belong.’ I’m an athlete and a performer, so it was perfect.”
Now officially out of the competition, she has her picks to win the $250,000 WWE contacts. Perhaps, someone the “Jersey Devil” will cross paths with again one day.
“I think Amanda or Gigi,” Berenato said.
“I think they are both cut out to be divas. I think Giorgia is without a doubt diva material. She is athletic, beautiful. I just hope she can step up in personality a little bit. I want her to give the viewers a character they can hold on to. I will be happy with Amanda or Gigi winning. On the male side, I’m going to give it to Josh because Josh is charismatic and athletic. I think he is someone the people will like. Patrick also has this ‘it’ factor that I think America is grasping on to, as long as his cockiness doesn’t turn them away too much.”