All wrestlers have to start somewhere on the path to making their dreams a reality, whether it be a wrestling school, church basement, bingo hall, etc. From there, those wrestlers work their way up to the pinnacle of their dreams. For many, that’s a career in WWE or more recently AEW, IMPACT! Wrestling or even NJPW. But sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination. In LWOPW’s newest feature, “Before They Were Famous,” we take a look at the pre-WWE careers of some of the company’s top current stars, following along on their road to superstardom. In this edition, we look at the long journey of MMA fighter turned WWE superstar, Sonya Deville.
Sonya Deville was born on Sep. 24, 1993 in Shamong, New Jersey. Real name, Daria Berenato, she had a fighting spirit since she was a young girl. Her road to WWE is a unique one. Deville did not start off wanting to be a pro wrestler but instead a mixed martial artist. It was through that training that would eventually lead her to the WWE, where she would earn a spot on the revitalized “Tough Enough.” By earning that opportunity, her love for professional wrestling was born. Now, she has established herself as one of the up and coming women on the SmackDown roster. Everyone has a journey to the top, here is how Deville got to where she is.
It was at the age of 16 that she realized she wanted to get into combat sports, beginning her training in Mixed Martial Arts. After growing up in New Jersey, she packed her bags and moved to California. It was there that she joined Systems Training Center in Hawthorne. Through her training at the gym, she was able to make her amateur MMA-debut on Oct. 11, 2014, in the California Fight League. Deville, known in her MMA days as “The Jersey Devil,” faced Allenita Perez, defeating her in round three via the Guillotine Choke submission to win her first career fight. Four months later, she re-entered the cage to take on Jeselia Perez. It was more of the same success, as she scored a KO/TKO win in the second round to start her career off 2-0.
In Deville’s third career fight, she would take on Jasmine Pouncy just one month after her prior fight on March 8, 2015. The fight would go the distance, and it would result in her first career loss via decision. This would ultimately be her final MMA bout as her sights and aspirations would change direction.
Tough Enough And Training
Sonya Deville applied to be on the revamped version of “Tough Enough” in 2015 and her background got her in. Under her real name of Daria, she captured her fighting spirit and revealed that she was gay, becoming the first openly lesbian female in the history of WWE. As she has said in interviews afterward, she didn’t plan to reveal that, it was just something that happened. Her time at “Tough Enough” came to an end on the third episode, as she finished 11th in the competition. In an interview that we conducted with Deville, she talked about her time on the show and how it made a fan out of her for good.
“My competitive nature took over and all I saw was winning, after being eliminated I was devastated, I had fallen in love with this world and wanted it so bad. So, when I went back to LA I immediately began training with Brian Kendrick and emailing and hounding WWE for another shot,” Deville said.
Training with Brian Kendrick is something many talents have done before stepping into WWE. Clearly her determination paid off to get her another chance despite being let go from the competition so early.
Signing To WWE And Being An Inspiration
Deville signed with the company later that year and competed in NXT alongside her best friend Mandy Rose until getting called to the main roster in 2017 as part of Absolution.
As 2020 approaches the halfway point, Sonya Deville has managed to establish herself as a singles star for the first time and remains an inspiration for fans as she wears her LGBTQ+ colors with pride. The sky is the limit for Deville, who is a future women’s champion waiting to happen. With a little more seasoning and understanding of who her character is, she is destined for a bright future.
More From LWOPW
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? Turn to the WWE Network for all of your wrestling needs and catch SmackDown every Friday night at 8p.m. ET on FOX.