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 this edition, we take a look at the budding AEW women’s star, Tay Conti.
Tay Conti has been a name known for a few years now due to her time in WWE and most recently her rise in All Elite Wrestling. Conti has become one of those stars that have fans clamoring about what she could develop into as her mixed martial arts background, most specifically judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, has given her the athletic background to build upon. She has become someone that fans want to travel the world when it is allowed due to her impressive strikes and natural talent. But long before she was one of the key members of AEW’s future, she was a girl in Brazil developing her craft. Let’s start at the beginning.
The Beginnings of Tay Conti — Black Belt Star
Conti, real name Taynara Melo de Carvalho, was an athlete from a young age. It wasn’t always combat sports that interested her, as she started off her athletic background in artistic gymnastics. Conti began her gymnastics with the famed sports club, CR Vasco de Gama, down in Brazil. However, she would make the adjustment into mixed martial arts with a passion for judo and Brazillian jiu-jitsu. The AEW standout achieved black belt status in judo while reaching blue belt status in Brazillian jiu-jitsu — both incredibly impressive marks in any sense. Her success brought her around Brazil, competing in tournaments and winning medals. She was a four-time state champion after all. Before signing with WWE in 2016, she was competing in the trials to be a member of Brazil’s Olympic team. That’s how impressive she was.
And while that did not pan out, her star was beginning to grow outside the mixed martial arts world as WWE brought her in.
Time with WWE — Plenty of Potential Without Being Given the Chance to Shine
The black belt was brought into WWE in October 2016, joining the Performance Center. Conti had her first match at WrestleMania 33 Axxess where she came up short in a losing effort against Sarah Logan. While she wouldn’t be featured on NXT television at all after that, she did make her broadcast wrestling debut in the first-ever Mae Young Classic. Representing her home country of Brazil, she would take on Lacey Evans in a first-round matchup. The match didn’t last long by any means, but it was a good first display for Conti who had the makings of her star. From her entrance dawning the judogi to her intense in-ring style that mirrored her background, it felt as though she would be a star in WWE for years to come.
After the appearance, she began to work more and more on the Florida live event circuit in NXT and made her NXT TV debut on Oct. 4 as a competitor in the NXT Women’s Championship battle royal. Her biggest appearance for the company may have been at WrestleMania 34, as she was one of the competitors in the first-ever WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal and helped represent NXT in a major fashion. She also became the first-ever female Brazillian to compete at “The Showcase of the Immortals.”
The next time she would appear was in a qualifying match for the second Mae Young Classic. It was there she defeated Vanessa Bourne, earning her a spot to make a mark this time around. She entered the tournament and won in the first round with a win over Jessi Kamea. Conti would be eliminated in the second round by Kayden Carter (fka Lacey Lane). The better overall performance had to leave fans thinking that Conti was on her way to climbing the NXT ladder, but for some reason, she never got the chance she earned.
As 2019 approached, Conti would be used sparingly on NXT but showed something new every time, whether it be judo throws or bone-crunching strikes. Conti was eventually let go by the company in April 2020 when they had their big day of cuts and she spoke openly about it on her YouTube channel, revealing she had asked for her release from the company two months prior.
“I asked for my release about two months ago and they were not able to give it to me by then. And I had no option but to try again. Then in the middle of the pandemic, I was at home and I got a call. ‘Hey, Tay. Bye!’ They released me.”
Now out of a job, Conti didn’t sit back but looked for an opportunity to show the world that she was destined to be great in AEW.
Joining All Elite Wrestling
Tay Conti bided her time and soon ended up in the other company that was running during the pandemic during the summer, AEW. She debuted as a part of the AEW Women’s Tag Team Cup Tournament, teaming with Anna Jay against Ariane Andrew and Nyla Rose. They surprised everyone when they managed to upset the team that had a former AEW Women’s Champion on the roster. And little did anyone know it would be the beginning of a massive friendship between Conti and Jay. They were eliminated in the semi-finals when they lost to the eventual winners, Diamante and Ivelisse.
On Sep. 9, Conti was announced to officially be #AllElite as she signed with the company and would make her Dynamite debut against Rose. While she came up short, it was an opportunity that she took control of and made the best of. Conti was on her way to stardom almost instantly, showing a vast improvement from her WWE days as she looked almost free. She became one of the key performers on AEW DARK, picking up three wins there while also getting her first Dynamite win over Red Velvet. Her biggest win yet would come when she teamed with Jay once again on the final show of 2020, the show the celebrated the life of Brodie Lee. Alongside Jay, they defeated top AEW women’s star Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. and Penelope Ford. Her winning streak earned her the biggest match of her career.
At New Year’s Smash, she faced Serena Deeb for the NWA Women’s Championship. Conti came up short to the veteran, but this was the match that caught many people’s attention that Conti was on her way to being special. She even was entered into the recent AEW Women’s World Championship Eliminator Tournament but lost to Nyla Rose once again in the first round.
No matter win or lose, Conti is quickly on the rise in AEW and should be a major part moving forward.
The Brightest of Futures
Conti is a star in the making. While her professional wrestling career is not a deep one like many on the AEW roster, her potential is higher than almost any. She managed to leave a difficult situation with WWE and turn it into determination and opportunity for herself. Fans are jumping at the bit in terms of what Conti can be long-term and is viewed as someone who should travel the world to only solidify her craft and show she can hang with the best. She may be a serious member of AEW DARK right now, but with more shows coming for AEW, it means more chances to show her potential greatness to AEW fans. She’s one to watch moving forward and should shine for many years to come.
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