Sunday Night’s Main Event Radio’s Lyric Swinton was recently joined by current ROH Women’s World Champion, Athena for a special Black History Month interview. Lyric and Athena chatted about Athena’s 19-year career, her historic reign as ROH Women’s World Champion, AEW Big Bu$iness, Black History in Wrestling, dream matches, and more!
Highlights from the conversation are below!
On Swerve Strickland giving her a Black History Month shoutout on AEW Collision:
“I remember being backstage and I was getting ready for ROH so I had makeup on , I was getting my makeup done and he’s like ‘did you hear it?’ I’m like, what are you talking about? Get out of my face. And he’s like, did you hear the promo? And I was like, what? What are you talking about? And he’s like, I gave you a shout-out. So he pulls it up on his phone and I was like, oh, that’s so cool. You didn’t have to do that. He’s like, no, I wanted to do that. You deserve this. And it’s really cool because there’s a lot of people that knew me as the young kid coming up. And to be able to experience that… I felt like a little kid getting a shout out on TV. It’s weird because I’ve been on TV for almost, well, probably over a decade now. And it’s just like… I’m floored. I’m floored that–this is the babyface side of me–I’m just floored anytime my name is mentioned in a positive light. And I love that. And it just makes my confidence beam even more. It makes me want to try harder, work harder. It’s just very–it’s a humbling experience that people think the world of me because sometimes I don’t think the world of myself.”
On AEW Big Bu$iness and the highly rumored & anticipated debut of Mercedes Moné in AEW:
“But when it comes to [AEW] Big Bu$iness, I am immensely curious, as you all are, because that is the thing that is the most closed-lipped thing in this entire locker room. But if what I think is going to happen, and I think we all think we hope and we’re hoping, is I might finally get one of my dream matches. And that is one of the coolest things because I’ve shared the ring with this person many times. and I whether we were on the same tag team on live events in WWE to us getting to like briefly touch at Money in the Bank to us briefly touching in this awesome fatal four-way that we had on Raw, I just wish the world for this person because she’s someone that I think is one of the absolute best wrestlers in the world. And though I love to be immensely humble about myself because like I said before, I do have those self-esteem issues, I would love to see how I could really stack up against with this person. If she does come here…I would like to see if I was better than her. I would like to see what we could create because I’m a firm believer when you have two dedicated women to the cause, it’s going to be money. It’s going to be magic. And this woman has had some of the best matches in women’s wrestling history. And I just, I have to, I have to, I have to. I don’t care if I have to go to Japan for it. I just got to get it one time.”
On breaking barriers in ROH & AEW:
“We had the first ever women’s pay-per-view main event in ROH history. The first women’s main event on a pay-per-view in AEW history. And, like, for the first time, it really felt like the women were given the ball. And I remember Tony brought us in, and I, like… I came to tears. I’m trying not to get emotional. And he’s like, wow, you’re more emotional than I thought you’d be. And I was like, I’m sorry. It meant so much to the point where I remember being in the media scrum and I was just so happy. But at the same time, him telling us that we were the main event, holy crap, did that mean we had to deliver? Because it wasn’t just Ring of Honor’s women division. That meant that we had to showcase to the entire world that we deserve the ball. We were going to have the best match on the entire card because if we would have went out there and failed, that would have meant like, okay, well, maybe the girls just can’t do it. Maybe this is too much. We’ve seen… Bayley and Sasha main event the NXT pay-per-views. We’ve seen Bianca and Sasha. We’ve seen Charlotte. We’ve seen all these women main event WrestleMania and numerous other pay-per-views and Becky too. I don’t know why I forgot her. But I just wanted to be seen in the same light as them. I remember being on the other side and being told, look at them and look at you. Do you really think that you’re on their level? That was something that was said to me backstage when I was in the Fed. And it was one of those things where I was like, you know what? Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. And I remember having a lot of self-doubt and I feel like Tony really brought that out. Tony [Khan] really just was like, no, You’re good. You’re one of the best in the world. I trust you to have this. And I think he called me the inspiration for the women’s division at one point in time. And I was like, that’s a lot of responsibility right there with that moniker. And then he was like, I remember he told me and Billy, he brought us into the office. I think like early November or late October. And he was like, you guys are going to be the main event in Athena’s hometown final battle. And I was like, again, like, Oh, like, and now I’m like, all right, we gotta, you know, you start watching film, you start going and you’re just trying to pull out all the stops to show that, Hey, I belong in this space because at the end of the day, like Claudio, Brian, like, All these guys, Mox, like all these guys that have been the top dogs for year after year. Like I remember Samoa Joe was on the pay-per-view with me and Willow and I was like, yo, he’s like really giving us the ball. Like he really has faith that we can deliver on this.
Tony has seen what women can do and I think he uses ROH as his experimental base. And then now we’re seeing the women get two segments on Collision, sometimes two segments on Dynamite…We’re really building to something special. And like I said, if [AEW] Big Bu$iness is the big business, I think our women’s division as a whole is going to make a statement and say, ‘Hey, come try us because we’re ready. We’ve been ready.’”
On her goals for 2024 and her return to AEW TV:
“I just hope to end my 2024 as a triple crown champion and that’s the greedy part in me. I don’t know if my body will hold up throughout having to fend three titles in a night but you know what we’re gonna try it, we’re gonna go for it, and you know that is my goal at the end of 2024 because as much as I love Ring of Honor, I know that Tony and I have also talked. We know it’s not going to last forever, even though I call myself the forever ROH champion. Just know that I don’t talk about stuff because I genuinely want it to be a surprise when it does happen. It’s coming. We have talked. Like, everyone thinks that… you know, Tony isn’t a mastermind. He is, he does everything for a reason. So just wait, be patient, stay on board with ROH because even if I’m not able to be on ROH, there are so many women, so many men, so many tag teams, and everyone just gives their heart and soul, you know, to that cause and that app as well.”
TOP PHOTO: ROH Women’s World Champion Athena at media scrum at CURE Insurance Arena, in Trenton, on Friday, July 21, 2023. Photo by George Tahinos, georgetahinos.smugmug.com