One of the things I love about wrestling is following someone’s career from their early days to when they achieve success. One of those journeys has been the career of Sonya Deville.
My first introduction to podcasts was via WrestleMania 28 performer Maria Menounos and Keven Undergaro’s AfterBuzz TV network. I avidly listened to after-shows of The Newsroom, Girl Meets World, RAW, Smackdown and NXT, amongst others on the journey to work.
A number of the presenters on that network ended up in WWE, and having that “prior to WWE” connection led to me closely follow their careers. Jonny Loquasto was the comedian and commentator who progressed from Championship Wrestling from Hollywood to 205 Live, Christy St. Cloud (Olson) was a backstage presenter for NXT, and Cathy Kelley was another NXT presenter and host of WWE Now. The most widely known AfterBuzz alumni is Daria Berenato, a host of the UFC after-shows as well as an MMA competitor.
When WWE announced the return of Tough Enough, there were a large number of applicants and a big buzz surrounding the show. Unfortunately, my audition did not lead to a dream opportunity as my size, age, and lack of any wrestling training went against me. Daria, however, was successful in getting onto the show and, despite a third show elimination, this led to a her signing a WWE contract.
Like most, the tag teams I connect with are those who have a natural chemistry. The Hart Foundation had the family relationship, Edge and Christian were childhood best friends and D.I.Y. had that close bond forged within independent promotions. Mandy and Sonya had that same natural chemistry as Fire and Desire.
Their real life friendship shone through inside and outside of the ring. Entertaining on social media, their love of donuts even led to the creation of their fun side project DaMandyz Donuts.
They were the last team eliminated in an exciting Elimination Chamber match to crown the inaugural Women’s Tag Team Champions (if you put to one side the WWF versions one by The Glamour Girls and, one of my all time favourites, The Jumping Bomb Angels) and seemed destined for a title run at some point in the near future. However in true WWE fashion, tag teams rarely remain together forever.
Before Fire and Desire could win the gold, the loveable Otis came between them. Mandy’s storyline romance with Otis led to Sonya aligning with Dolph Ziggler in an attampt to embarrass Otis and turn heel in the process. The romantic in me was fond of the “will they, won’t they” storyline leading up to WrestleMania 36, I was convinced that Mandy would turn on Otis and eventually reform Fire and Desire. Instead, Mandy fought off Sonya’s attempted interference resulting in a Randy and Liz moment at the end of the match in front of the ThunderDome.
The feud between Mandy and Sonya led to the best match of both competitor’s careers (so far) – A loser must leave match at SummerSlam. I was fully invested, their history as a team and months of build led to a hard hitting match with action all over the arena. Sonya fought valiantly but Mandy got the win and her revenge in a fitting climax to their story.
At the start of 2021 Sonya resurfaced, but not as an in-ring competitor. Instead she was appointed as the assistant to the authority figure on Smackdown, Adam Pearce. At first the role lacked direction, but then Sonya started to show heel tendencies as she was constantly frustrated by Naomi’s backstage interruptions. Week by week this built intrigue, Sonya’s dismissiveness made you wonder where these interactions would lead to, sparking the hope we could see an in-ring return.
A rare, months long feud followed with Sonya displaying great work on the microphone and constantly stacking the odds against Naomi; making two-on-one matches, changing the rules mid-match, topped off by poor officiating led to Naomi becoming desperate to attack Sonya. Threats of fines and suspension gave a storyline reason why it couldn’t happen. Wrestling has thrived for decades on the build and the anticipation, wanting to see the fan favourite get revenge on the cowardly heel.
Finally, Naomi got her hands on Sonya in a singles match on the Smackdown prior to the Royal Rumble. A fun spot at the Rumble itself saw Naomi eliminate Sonya, before Sonya channelled her inner 1992 Hulk Hogan to pull Naomi to the floor from outside the ring, brother.
Sonya has been on a downward spiral in 2022, losing matches and getting fired from her role as an authority figure. But, at only 28 years old and brimming with talent, I’m confident we will see an upturn in her fortunes in the near future. Her work promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion speaks to the quality of Sonya as a human being, and her desire to see LGBTQ+ storylines incorporated more into WWE television would be a welcome addition to the product.
Whatever happens next for Sonya, I’ll be enthusiastically watching her put her hair up to square up!