The Perry High School graduate signed a contract with the wrestling brand and has worked in hip-hop music as well.

Canton’s Briana Brandy is a woman of many talents. As a hip-hop musician, she has performed with the likes of Soulja Boy, Ying Yang Twins, and Jadakiss. As an athlete, she’s learned Ninjutsu from mixed martial arts masters, and has used her talents to give back by teaching underprivileged children boxing and swimming in the Dominican Republic and Colombia.

Now, as a recently-contracted wrestler for WWE’s NXT brand, Brandy will have the opportunity to merge her love of physical fitness and entertainment as she learns her new craft at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla.

As a teenager at Perry High School (a 2009 graduate, Brandy played basketball, swam and ran track), a future in professional wrestling, especially as a woman, seemed about as likely as taking a body slam from Hulk Hogan.

“I grew up the biggest wrestling fan,” Brandy said. “I loved it around the time of the Attitude Era when Chyna was wrestling, and you had Triple H and The Rock and ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.”

It was Chyna who really caught her attention. Brandy grew up tagging around with her uncles and wanting to be one of the guys.

“Chyna reminded me of myself,” Brandy said. “Her wrestling with the boys while being the only girl resonated with me.”

Since the Attitude Era, the landscape of women’s wrestling has changed dramatically. First it was “Divas” like Trish Stratus and Lita. But more recently it’s been the Women’s Evolution, featuring the likes of Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, Bayley and numerous others.

Women’s wrestling, and specially women’s wrestling in the WWE, is more popular than it’s ever been, highlighted by the women’s main event match at Wrestlemania earlier this year.

“I didn’t think I could ever do it,” Brandy said. “Seeing Chyna, she was really big. I wasn’t large and muscular or built like that. But later on, seeing people like Lita and Trish Stratus and Sasha Banks let me know I could actually do it. The bodies and styles of women in wrestling changed, and they were more athletic looking like me. That’s when I thought, ‘This is something I could really do.’ ”

Brandy’s background in both hip-hop and MMA gives her a unique angle among her new peers at the Performance Center. Brandy performed at numerous venues in the Canton and Akron areas before moving west to perform at several concerts in Los Angeles. She has numerous singles/videos available at her website, BrianaBrandy.com.

“Having the hip-hop background is going to help me dramatically,” she said. “One of the biggest things that people have difficulty with, in wrestling or really anywhere, is being able to talk in front of a crowd. That’s a big fear people have. But through hip-hop, I know how to draw emotions from a crowd. That’s pretty much what wrestling is. It’s trying to get that emotion, love or hate, for whatever your character is. It will help me be able to do different things that someone without that experience may not be able to do.”

Brandy also got some sage words of advice from Triple H, now NXT’s founder and senior producer, upon her arrival in Orlando.

“I asked him, ‘What’s something you wish someone would have told you when you started wrestling?” Brandy said. “He just told me, ‘Bank on yourself. Believe in you. Believe your intuition, and go with what makes you happy. Be you, but just turn yourself up.”

Brandy said she’s excited to hopefully one day play her own part in the Women’s Evolution.

“I’m so grateful for everyone, the women who laid the pavement down before,” she said. “The Women’s Evolution is so amazing. I’m excited, and I feel like I’ll fit in there as well but with a different element. Women headlined Wrestlemania. Back in the day, it was probably seen as just some mystical dream. Now it actually happened.”

Brandy’s own mystical dream is happening, too.

Reach B.J. at 330-580-8314 or bj.lisko@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @BLiskoREP

 

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