Few professional wrestlers in recent memory have had a more provocative career than Natalie "Eva Marie" Coyle. This is despite, or perhaps part and parcel of, her having made only sporadic primetime in-ring appearances over a four-year run with WWE. From virtually the day she signed in 2013 up through her departure earlier this month, the 32-year-old California native drew heat that matched her trademark fiery locks. Maybe it was her persona on Total Divas, which betrayed a naiveté about the business. Coupled with an apparent primitive skill set, Coyle was red meat for the kinds of fans who still give Roman Reigns grief.
So, nearly a year to the day after her 30-day suspension for violating WWE's wellness policy – which she has contested was triggered by late paperwork disclosing an Adderall prescription – Coyle's come full circle with West Coast ambitions, this time to take over Hollywood. Buoyed by management firm the Garcia Companies — as in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's ex-wife, Dany Garcia – and agency powerhouse WME, the now-former sports entertainer has already appeared alongside Nicholas Cage and Gina Gershon in this summer's Inconceivable (a movie, in keeping with Coyle's crimson motif, aptly written by veteran Red Shoe Diaries producer Chloe King). And extracurricular activities like her NEM Fashion line and related NEM Foundation, not to mention tireless lifestyle-product endorsements across her social-media spectrum, are now at the fore of her future.
A week removed from her exit-stage-left moment with WWE, Coyle caught up with us to look back on the ups and downs of nearly a half a decade in the wrestling biz, and her aspirations to cross over like no man or woman has.
So does it feel good to live life as just Natalie now and not Eva?
[Laughs] A little bit, especially now that I don't have the red hair. The gimmick has definitely gotten pulled away.
And your next movie, Action #1, is a comedy, where Inconceivable is a thriller. Is the goal as an actress to avoid being pigeonholed?
That is 100-percent correct. I'm going into as many genres as I can. I'm deep into acting classes and vocal coaches and training, because it is so much hard work. Actors and actresses are incredible. I want to be the best I possibly can be onscreen.
Is it fair to say that when you've remarked in recent months about possibly returning to WWE and going after the title, you were just being coy?
I have such a great relationship with Vince [McMahon], Paul ["Triple H" Levesque] and Stephanie [McMahon]. They gave me an opportunity to step away and film these two films I have done already, and you never know when that relationship will come back. So I might appear at a SummerSlam or WrestleMania. It just so happens that the wrestling craft, you have to be able to give yourself 110 percent to that. And then with acting, you have to do the same, so we decided together that with the films going back to back. I'm going to put my efforts into acting and growing that way. And then you never know: All Red Everything could come back and snatch that title.
The McMahons have rarely been ones to close the door on surprise returns.
Exactly, and I think that's where it was at. The WWE fanbase is so fantastic. They're so die-hard, and in the last 10 months, they have been asking, "Where is All Red Everything?" So both our teams came together and decided we need to definitely let the fans know what's going on.
You have a degree in Business Management. Maybe taking a break from WWE happened quicker than expected, but did you always have an eye toward focusing on growing your overall brand?
Absolutely. Especially in this day and age, as a woman it's very smart to be able to expand your brand in multiple facets. My manager, Dany Garcia, is a prime example of somebody I look up to because she not only owns her own business but she's doing multiple different things. She's an athlete herself. Going into WWE after I graduated college, it's just in me to do the same. Sky's the limit.
And you never had the same legacy attached to wrestling as, say, Charlotte or Natalya. Did that make it easier to reconcile seizing outside opportunities?
Yes, sure. But my ultimate goal too is to be with WWE for the next 20-plus years. So, just like the Rock does, the name of the game is to be able to take your brand and strategically plan it. And that's why I'm grateful that WWE allowed me to step away and pursue this acting career.
Did you and your team identify that a female wrestler has yet to cross over as The Rock or John Cena has? That maybe this is that moment?
One hundred percent. I like to break barriers. As soon as I walked into WWE's door, I was already thinking ahead of the game. There has not been one female to make that crossover and go back and forth and merge the two together. I want to bring the WWE universe with me into Hollywood as well as creating a new fanbase in Hollywood and bringing them back into WWE and having the two worlds collide just like The Rock. That was the game plan for sure.
All of this may surprise fans that inferred animus between yourself and WWE. Have people been reading too much into things?
I think so. It's hard for people to understand a good relationship, especially a good working one. WWE could have ultimately said, "We're not going to give Eva Marie the time off to film these films," and they signed off on it and were so supportive. And I went from All Red Everything to All Black Everything. That's a big deal, because I had worked on my gimmick for quite some time. If anything, our relationship is tighter than a golf ball.
Have you heard whispers about how closely Lana and Tamina's current SmackDown storyline resembles yours and Nia Jax's from NXT?
[Laughs] I have been getting tweets [about] the resemblance, but I have not been able to pay too much attention to the programming. However, if they are doing that, WWE is extremely smart. Everybody loves to hate somebody. Look at Game of Thrones, the Cersei character. So I feel like, bravo if you're trying to duplicate my character.
In retrospect, were you put in front of the cameras on Total Divas too soon, at the expense of developing under the radar?
You know what? Yes. For sure, the inner athlete and perfectionist in me wishes I was able to train the multiple years these wrestlers are able to before they get on TV. However, if that opportunity never came up, then I would not have been put in front of the WWE universe, dyed my hair, been put in front of my [management] team. Everything happens for a reason. For me, it all played out pretty damn good.