Originally scheduled for April 5 at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, WrestleMania 36 has since been relocated to the WWE’s practice facilities in Orlando and air on pay-per-view without a live audience due to coronavirus concerns. Over the past 13 years, WrestleMania has generated over $1.2 billion in economic impact for its host cities, putting it on par with the Super Bowl. Since long before the city was selected to host WrestleMania, WWE and Tampa have had a storied, unique relationship thanks to Superstars like Natalya putting down roots in the Bay area. We spoke with the Wesley Chapel resident about what it means to have WrestleMania in her adopted hometown and her Tampa favorites.
When I got hired by WWE, I moved to Tampa because this is where my parents and sister live. It’s so special because WrestleMania is taking place in my backyard. So many of us, including myself, we have this very special connection with Tampa. It’s really home for a lot of the WWE Superstars. I could list a dozen names of talent that live in Tampa. We do [live here] because we really love this city. I travel all over the world. Working in WWE, especially in the last 10 years, I’ve gone just about everywhere one could possibly go because WWE is a global juggernaut. We’re in over 180 countries and over 30 languages. You get a chance to see so many different parts of the world, but I always love coming back home to Tampa. There’s a calm about Tampa. There’s a peacefulness about it. But there’s also the best of both worlds. You can really do just about anything in Tampa. We have one of the best airports in the world. We’re just a stone’s throw away from the best beaches in the world. It’s the atmosphere. It’s the attitude. It’s the energy. It’s the ambiance. There’s great restaurants, there’s great people, great music. There’s great food, great energy. That’s why I love living in Tampa. To be able to share that with the WWE universe and share that with nearly 100,000 people that are going to come into Tampa Bay to celebrate WrestleMania. It really doesn’t get any better than that.
One of my favorite places to go for a date night is Ulele. It’s really great. They have craft beer and homemade ice cream and the freshest food. I love going there with my husband. It’s just a really fun place to go. It’s local to Tampa. I love the ambiance and the atmosphere. It’s great. I love, love, love Ulele. I think that’s where my husband and I, when we have a night to ourselves, we drive to Tampa [from our home in Wesley Chapel] and that’s one of our favorite places to go.
We love GrillSmith for brunch. They have an incredible menu there. They have a special egg and crab benedict, and they have this pumpkin bisque soup that is incredible. But I also love Oxford Exchange. I love the ambiance of Oxford Exchange. My mom, Ellie, and sister, Jenny, and I will go for brunch on the weekend and look at candles and books and different cooking supplies and perfumes and get different little greeting cards we like, and then we’ll have a beautiful lunch. That’s one of our favorite places to go.
I love The Capital Grille at International Plaza for happy hour. I kind of like a secluded environment. There are a few down there that are fun, like Bar Louie, but I love The Capital Grille. They have an incredible wine list there. To have a beautiful glass of wine at The Capital Grille, you just feel a different kind of sophistication. I’m not really into nightclubs, but if I were to go to a bar to have a nice drink, it would be definitely The Capital Grille.
For fine dining I love Bern’s, but I also love Ocean Prime. The seafood at Ocean Prime is impeccable. It’s second-to-none. I love Ocean Prime. I never forget, especially living near water, what it’s like to have really good sushi and really good fish. They have such fresh fish at Ocean Prime.
There’s a place that I love for eating healthy called Clean Juice. They have amazing freshly squeezed juices. They make them there right in front of you. They have amazing avocado toast and some awesome salads. It’s all organic. I also love a place in Wesley Chapel called Fresh Café. I love really clean foods, especially because, in WWE, we’re on the go all the time. When I’m home, I need to eat healthy. My body is part of my career. As much as I like a nice glass of wine, I need to find the balance with really good juice and really clean foods. The Clean Juice in Wesley Chapel is my go-to. I go there probably four or five times a week.
I go to the Laufer Institute for facials and any dermatology needs. It’s in Dunedin. Dr. Laufer, if you’re somebody that wants a great facial or great skincare, they have incredible vitamins. He’s the person I go to for everything.
When it comes to shopping, first and foremost, I’m a Louis Vuitton junkie. I love Louis Vuitton. It’s a guilty pleasure. Nick and Shannon are the general managers at the Tampa store, and the store is amazing. It was just revamped and remodeled. I love that Louis Vuitton at International Plaza. But I’ve been obsessed with Restoration Hardware. There’s a brand new Restoration Hardware that just opened up at International Plaza, and I ended up refurnishing my entire house with Restoration Hardware. It’s kind of like a hidden gem that I just found.
There’s also an incredible [local] consignment shop that I love. I’ve gone there for the last decade. It’s called Couture Designer Resale Boutique. It’s ranked one of the top five consignment stores in the United States, and it’s in Westchase. I have gotten some of my most beautiful pieces for like 80% off. So while I like to splurge at Louis Vuitton, I also like to find a good deal. I’ve gotten so many beautiful coats and shoes and handbags and accessories that are vintage, and I just love that somebody maybe wore something once, and they brought it to that store, and it’s now my new treasure. It’s really awesome.
I’ve got a couple different places that I work out in Tampa. I go to a private gym. It’s John Cena’s personal gym called Hard Nocks South. A lot of the WWE Superstars go there and train, and it’s all Olympic powerlifting and circuit training. I really like to mix up my workouts. I like to do a lot of different things because my body adapts. I’m in pretty good shape, and my body adapts and adjusts to working out, so I try to mix it up with all kinds of different things. I love, love, love Bella Prana Yoga. They are my favorite spot to do yoga. I love their hot yoga. My mom and sister and I will go and do hot yoga on the weekends. There’s also Soho Cycling for spinning. I love to spin. I love to get my endurance up, and I love to go to Soho Cycling.
I think the most regular place that I go to train at is Orangetheory in Wesley Chapel. They have a beautiful studio, and I go there with my mom anytime I’m home. We get our morning workout in there. Then I’ll couple that with other things that I do, like the powerlifting at Hard Nocks South or the yoga on the weekends. Orangetheory, for me, after my dad [WWE Superstar Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart] passed away, I really struggled with finding motivation to work out. I just wasn’t into it. For my job, I really have to work out, and I was kind of in a rut. My mom, my sister and I, were like, let’s try Orangetheory. That’s been one of my secret weapons this past year in terms of getting my endurance up. It’s a total body workout. It’s under one hour, and there are Orangetheorys located all over Tampa. It’s strength, conditioning, cardio, rowing, and you can be any fitness level to go in there. You can adapt and adjust. It’s been so incredible for me. My mom has lost 30 pounds working out at Orangetheory, so we love it.
If somebody was coming into town, I would always take them to the beach. I love Clearwater Beach. We’re so close to the Gulf of Mexico. As soon as you land at the Tampa airport, you’re right near St. Pete. Driving over the bridge and being able to see the water is such a special part of this city. Being close to the water, I never, ever take that for granted, and I always want people to be able to share in that love for being close to the gulf. There’s also Rays baseball. There’s so many different things that take place at Raymond James Stadium. The Tampa Bay Lightning, if it’s hockey season, it’s always fun to go catch a game.
Amalie Arena has tons of great shows. I watched the Smashing Pumpkins live at Amalie Arena. It’s such a great arena for concerts because even if you’re not in the greatest seats, for whatever reason you feel like you’re up close and personal. It’s a very special arena. We also just saw Billy Joel at Amalie Arena. There’s so many great entertainers and artists that come and perform at Amalie Arena, including WWE. We’re there once or twice a year. I feel like I know that arena like the back of my hand.
WWE, besides what we do in the ring, there’s so many different community outreach programs that we’re a part of. From Susan G. Komen, Special Olympics, Make-a-Wish, Connor’s Cure, our Be A STAR anti-bullying campaign, UNICEF, there’s just so many. I’ve been working with WWE for over a decade on so many of these things. The ones that are the nearest to my heart are Special Olympics, Connor’s Cure and Make-A-Wish. I just did a Make-A-Wish last week in Canada. Just things that help kids. I love being able to kind of reach out to our youth. Obviously we’re about women’s empowerment and reaching out to men as well, but the kids — We do so much work across the world. Not just in the U.S., but across the world. Especially zeroed in on WrestleMania, WWE Superstars will do over 1,000 appearances during WrestleMania week. A lot of those are focused on over a dozen different charity efforts.
For me, Connor’s Cure is one of the most special community outreach programs we have at WWE because it really raises awareness and funds for kids with cancer. That was started in-house by Stephanie McMahon [chief brand officer of WWE] and Triple H [Paul Michael Levesque, the executive vice president of talent, live events and creative for WWE]. It’s something that’s really near and dear to our hearts. Connor’s Cure has raised over $3 million to help families with kids that are battling cancer. To be able to make that kind of difference and be able to light up a kid’s life and change their outlook… After we go to a lot of these hospitals, the doctors will tell us, even if these children don’t know who we are, even if they’ve never watched WWE, after we visited them, their vitals go up. It’s a really powerful feeling to know we as WWE Superstars have this incredible reach to be able to change kids’ lives. All the WWE Superstars across the board will say that’s the most fulfilling part of the job.
Last year, my sister and I went to the Dalí Museum in Downtown St. Petersburg, a great local hidden gem. That was really, really cool. I love art, and I thought that was so unique. We have a lot of Spanish culture here. There’s a lot of incredible Spanish restaurants, but that was something really special my sister and I went to. There’s obviously lots of great restaurants, great shopping, great people, but to be able to explore our history and look at art, the Dalí Museum was awesome.