Brie Bella is gearing up to have the time of her life. After she comes out of WWE retirement with sister Nikki at the Royal Rumble on January 29, she’ll compete in Fox’s The Real Dirty Dancing. The Hall of Fame pro wrestler and brand entrepreneur is among the famous faces channeling their inner “Baby” and “Johnny” on the celebrity dance competition.
Joining her are Corbin Bleu, Tyler Cameron, Cat Cora, Howie Dorough, Antonio Gates, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, and Loni Love. They partner up over the course of almost two weeks at the Mountain Lake Lodge, the actual location for the famed Kellerman’s Mountain House. The eight will work to nail down those hot and heavy dance routines once performed by Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze from the 1987 classic.
We caught up with the former woman’s champ before fans watch her lace up both her wrestling boots and dancing shoes. Talk about going full Brie Mode!
Before we get into The Real Dirty Dancing, you’re coming out of retirement at Royal Rumble. Where is your head at heading into Saturday?
Brie Bella: I’m nervous. I was counting down the days before I left on my mirror in red lipstick. And at the bottom, it says ‘no regrets.’ There were also other things written like ‘no alcohol, no carbs.’ I just felt the butterflies in my stomach. We have such a hardcore fan base in the Bella Army. I never want to let them down. I also don’t want to let myself down. I’m also bringing my daughter who will be watching. This will be her first time seeing it live with me where she understands. It’s just a lot of pressure, but I feel ready. You want to go out there and impress everyone. You want to be perfect. That always comes with nerves.
I feel like this year’s Rumble is all about the butt-kicking moms.
I remember coming up in the wrestling industry where it was, if you want to have babies, that was it. You never saw them again. They would go off and have babies and once in a blue moon, they would stop in to say hi. I love seeing the trend now that you can have children and come back either full-time, part-time, or make appearances. I think that will empower our own children, especially our daughters, [to see] what you are capable of doing.
Do you think the match will be a one-time deal for you?
I tell everyone one time. Then I get there and get the itch. You never know when WWE pitches you. They always find a way to get the Bellas back. Never say never. I think I will admit my concentration now is my children and my businesses. I’m so busy, but wrestling is my No. 1 passion. And when I’m in that ring, it feels like home. I’ll never be able to ever get rid of that feeling. There are times when I am like, “I could go back.” It’s hard because my husband is full-time on the road. That’s the only thing.
Then you have The Real Dirty Dancing. How much a fan of the movie were you before signing on to do the show?
I was a huge fan. My mother had me really young. She was 19 years old. Dirty Dancing came out when my brother was born. Here she is 21, and she has three kids. Dirty Dancing came out at that time, and she played it all the time. She really related to Baby’s character. She was a good girl who fell in love with the bad boy. Then, my dad, they would always call the Latino Patrick Swayze. I felt like the characters, the one-liners always lived in my house. So when this opportunity came about the first thing I wanted to do was call my mother. I knew she would freak.
Did watching Nikki and her experience on Dancing With the Stars help with preparation?
It did. The one thing she told me I had to lose was in wrestling we go out as this larger-than-life strong persona. She is like, “In dancing, you have to let go of that and find more of that feminine energy. The delicate side. In dancing, you have to be loose.” Little tips. Artem [Chigvintsev] practiced some stuff with me before I went out. Just moving my hips, feet, all of it.
How do you feel you evolved through your time there?
I was nervous about some of the scenes because I’m married. I wanted to be respectful of my husband, but I’m also dirty dancing and want to give my all. It was a lot of high-level emotions. I started out a little bashful and then I just grew. One day I was just like, “I don’t’ care. I’m doing this.” I talked to my husband every day, who was like, “Go for it.” That helped too. We have pros teach us, but we have to go out there inexperienced with another celebrity and do a dance. I will say we all became close friends. We were on a group text. We felt like we were at camp. We’ll have these friendships for the rest of our lives. It was really special what we did up there. Fox really nailed the sets and the filming. I felt like I was reliving the movie.
I saw some images of you and Antonio. How jealous do you think Bryan [Danielson] will be watching these dances back?
I actually have to say it will be awkward sitting on the couch with my husband and watching it. You do get really close with how you are moving the hips and hands on each other’s bodies. He was informed about my signing up and I got his permission. I said, “I need you to be okay with this.” I guess Antonio should watch out because you know Bryan might be coming in with some wrestling moves [laughs]. You’re switching partners and with all different people. It will be uncomfortable for him to watch for sure.
Is there one particular cast member you bonded with the most?
Tyler Cameron and I talked a lot. I really got close with Cat, Anjelah, and Loni. We all felt like sisters. There is this scene where some of us broke down because to have the confidence to get in these outfits and do dirty dancing takes a lot. I was not confident at all. We had this powwow where we broke down. It felt like all these walls came down, and we grew in confidence. It’s crazy how we all connected in a really deep way.
How much of your wrestling background helped you pick up the routines?
It’s interesting with choreography. There are so many moving parts. Wrestling, you have to know the moves and go out before a crowd and feel it and make these moments. Dancing it’s more like 1, 2, 3, 4. My fans are really going to love seeing a couple of these wrestling moves that we were able to fit in the dances. I felt that helped me in the competition.
The Real Dirty Dancing, Series Premiere, Tuesday, February 1, 9/8c, Fox
WWE Royal Rumble, Saturday, January 29, 8e/5p, Peacock