Like most independent wrestlers, Deonna Purrazzo has a regular day job.
For Purrazzo, her days are spent teaching pre-kindergarten at an elementary school in New Jersey.
Every week, her class has a letter of the week and she uses it expand her students’ understanding of the alphabet.
But with her wrestling career, Purrazzo has formed an alphabet of her own, as she has become associated with the letters NXT, ROH (Ring of Honor), TNA (Total Nonstop Action) and WSU (Women’s Superstars Uncensored) during the past year.
Because of that, Purrazzo can afford to keep teaching as her side job, and professional wrestling as her main one. Her school understands, as it has been flexible with Purrazzo’s ever-growing wrestling schedule.
The next letters Purrazzo will add to her wrestling alphabet will be the letters ECWA or East Coast Wrestling Association, when she and seven other women take part in the third annual ECWA Women’s Super 8 ChickFight tournament Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Woodbury Heights Community Center in Woodbury Heights, N.J. Bell time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Purrazzo is the headline act of the tournament, as she won in it all last year and is the current ECWA Women’s champion.
Being in such a prominent position still relatively new for Purrazzo, as she only began training for professional in December 2012 and didn’t have her first match until December 2013.
She grew up in Jefferson, N.J. watching wrestling with her twin brother and decided rather quickly (at age 9) that she wanted to eventually become a professional wrestler.
Not long after graduating high school, she began training with former WWE developmental wrestler Damian Adams, who was also trained by Rip Rogers.
Her background as a competitive cheerleader and in track and field helped her make the transition into the physically demanding world of wrestling.
The wrestling industry can be mentally demanding, too, but it something that Purrazzo has yet to experience in her young career. Up until now, she has managed to avoid the pitfalls and risen to prominence a lot faster than most.
Because of that, she considers herself lucky.
“I never went through the trials and tribulations that most wrestlers do where they can’t get booked on shows or they have a hard time meeting people and getting out there,” Purrazzo said. “It’s a crazy, surreal life that I live.”
It is surreal.
It is surreal that someone with less than five years experience has already appeared on the WWE Network multiple times, that has wrestled for NXT, TNA and ROH within a two-week time frame.
Purrazzo’s success is more than just dumb luck. It is also a testament to her talent in the ring.
Purrazzo said that Adams brought her up in an old-school way, which has helped her turn heads very early in her career, but because she is still in the infancy stage of it, Purrazzo still trains with Adams on a regular basis.
“I think that is to my advantage,” she said. “I’m well-rounded. [Adams] teaches a little bit of everything so in any situation I’m in, I can adapt and I can make the best showing possible.”
Purrazzo’s success can also be chalked up to good timing.
Purrazzo is beginning her career at a time when women’s wrestling is gaining more and more prominence. WWE has dubbed it a revolution. Purrazzo got to witness it first-hand during her time in NXT.
ROH has given women’s wrestling some honor by creating Women of Honor. Purrazzo was one of the few selected to help get it off the ground.
“I think Ring of Honor as a company has really embraced women’s wrestling,” she said. “It’s something they’ve done before, but it never really stuck. Now, they’re really pushing to give us our own brand and give us our own identities as characters and storylines, things that are really going to have people really invested in each of us.”
Independent promotions around the country have joined WWE and Ring of Honor in this effort, and now want to feature women’s wrestling on their shows when that wasn’t always the case a couple of years ago.
A prime example was ECWA, who began its all women’s Super 8 tournament back in 2014 — before the women’s wrestling craze took off in WWE. What began as a tournament featuring mostly women from the New York/New Jersey area, now features women from various places around the country.
The women’s wrestling movement has paid dividends for Purrazzo, as it has allowed her to quickly expand her horizons as close as The Monster Factory and as far as Japan, which is where she will be for three months in 2017 for the Stardom promotion.
“I think with the changes that we’ve seen in women’s wrestling this past year, from places like WWE down to independent wrestling companies, it’s really great and it’s really giving us a platform,” Purrazzo said.
“The women that are big on the independent wrestling scene now we all grew up wanting to be wrestlers,” she added. “We all grew up with bra and panty matches and pillow fights so the perception we have with wrestling was so off-putting.
“My motivation was to change the way women were perceived in wrestling. That’s what I wanted to accomplish when I became a professional wrestler. I think across the board everyone has had this goal.”
In the meantime, Purrazzo plans on staying on the wave of momentum she is currently riding. Although she has maintained good relationships with promotions such as NXT and Ring of Honor, she does not plan on becoming a contracted wrestler just yet.
In her mind, she is not done adding letters to her wrestling alphabet.
“I think that being able to do NXT, TNA and Ring of Honor and work all of these is just making me a better wrestler,” she said. “It’s making me have more experience in what I’m doing. In the long run that’s going to help me.”
“In the long run, eventually yeah, I would definitely like to cement my spot in one of these places, but right now, it’s fun to be able to do what I’m doing and still be able to do the independent shows,” she added. “I’m scheduled to do a tour of Japan next year and if I was contracted somewhere I wouldn’t be able to jump on every opportunity that I get.”