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Viewpoint Bliss-ful thinking

August 22, 2018

NEW HAVEN — Alexa Bliss walked into the Connecticut Open, Ronda Rousey behind her, Trish Stratus ahead of her and participation in enough sports to fill all 27 of years.

Track, gymnastics, softball, cheerleading all the way to the NCAA Division I level at Akron, competitive bodybuilding, dreams of basketball stardom before her dad reminded her that she was 4-foot-11 at the time. All this before she became the five-time WWE SmackDown and Raw champion.

But tennis?

“My gym teacher growing up told me tennis is the one sport I cannot play,” Bliss said. “He’s like, we found the one thing you cannot do. I tried it. It’s so hard.”

Bliss found herself Tuesday in an unusual place, as unusual as any for signing autographs. This is a woman who can send lines around the corner and down the street at some venues. In the more genteel world of women’s tennis, the 5-1 Bliss was a unique phenomenon.

Later she would be a stadium court for the coin flip before the match between Caroline Garcia and Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The WWE is a partner for Military Appreciation Day, and Bliss took part as part of a Make-A-Wish with Eryn Ifill of New Haven.

Don’t worry, she didn’t come flying off the net support and execute a Glitter Blizzard on the chair umpire. Although if John McEnroe doesn’t behave himself on Friday, she may have to return for a Chokehold STO or Blissful Curb Stomp.

“I’d say this has to be the most different signing I’ve done in the realm of wrestling and sports entertainment,” she said. “And it’s great to be part of Make-A-Wish.”

Bliss lost her WWE Raw title Sunday at Barclays Center to Ronda Rousey. Only seven months into her professional wrestling career, Rowdy Ronda became the first women to hold championship belts in the UFC and WWE. She did it rather easily — too easily for many fans — with Bliss tapping out on an arm bar.

“My thing on the whole situation is if there’s anyone that had to take the title from me at least it was Ronda Rousey,” Bliss said. “Not many people can say they had their first big title loss to Ronda Rousey. I guess I’m OK.

“But I do have a rematch clause that I get to invoke at any point. Every champion is entitled to a rematch. I am preparing for that. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. She’s going to hold the title for now, but she’s not going to hold it for long.”

Whoa, still talkin’ a little smack with Rowdy.

In an instant she went from ultra-friendly Lexi Kaufman of Columbus, Ohio, who loves everything Disney, to Alexa Bliss, who in the vernacular of the WWE, ain’t no babyface.

“For me, to get into the mindset of the mean spirit I play, I always think about the movie, ‘My Week with Marilyn,’ ” Bliss said. “Marilyn Monroe is walking down the hall and just being her normal self. She’s very timid, shy, kind of to herself. She asked the guy with her do you want to see me become Marilyn. She turns it on, becomes Marilyn and people start recognizing her, taking pictures. That’s it.

“You get into the mindset. You flip the switch. For me, that’s how it is. It’s the complete opposite of my personality. I got to say it’s really fun. I do love tapping into that. But it’s going to be hard to do with Trish Stratus.”

Never underestimate the WWE ability to promote and Rousey’s victory puts a big spotlight on WWE Evolution, the first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view event Oct. 28 at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. Bliss, who has nearly a million Twitter followers, recently found out about her match against the WWE Hall of Famer, how else? On Twitter.

“It’s very exciting,” Bliss said. “I have always loved Trish. I always watched Trish growing up. I actually got to meet her for the first time at the Women’s World Rumble Match. I wasn’t able to be part of it because I was holding a title at the time. I’m really excited to be in the ring with her, to have this match with an idol. I really want to work with Trish. I’ve worked hard for this. It might be a little harder to get mad and mean at Trish.”

Those who follow the WWE are familiar with Bliss’ heart-aching fight with anorexia. She began speaking out bravely about her eating disorder about a year ago. She was hospitalized, went through many treatments, dropped to 80 pounds and nearly died at one point a number of years ago. She grasps the opportunity to speak to young people about good health. She makes it clear it is a life-long battle.

“It’s all about balance,” Bliss said, “all about finding a safe and healthy balance. When I was going through my eating disorder, I didn’t know balance. I knew extreme. I feel like that’s kind of what people do nowadays. You always hear about the next extreme diet, the next extreme workout, but it’s all about balance and what works for you and being happy with how you are internally, how you feel and how you perceive yourself.

“You look in the magazines, see all these things on social media and Instagram and all these poses and it’s not realistic. You have to eat and train what’s realistic to you and what you’re comfortable with. It doesn’t matter what many likes you get on a picture. As long as you feel good, that’s all that matters.”

She may not be good with the tennis racket, but she shares a passion with the world’s elite players for fitness. Bliss said she trains for what will benefit her most in the ring. She does a lot of cardio. With the WWE going to longer women’s matches, cardio has become that much more important.

“I do a lot of low-weight, high-rep workouts,” Bliss said. “I’ll do like two days heavy weights, and the rest of the time low weight. Then it’s a matter of finding the right balance for my body, travel on top of that, matches on top of that.

“I remember when I first started, I was told immediately to gain 10 pounds, because if not you’re going to break yourself. I would love to be super lean and super built like when I was competing bodybuilding. It’s not practical for in the ring. Those bumps and those moves we do, let me tell you, they don’t feel good. You need extra padding in your body.”

So in a world where WWE fans have so many guilty pleasures, Bliss has one.

“Cheese fries once a week,” she said. “Cheese fries on Tuesday. That’s my go-to. Outback cheese fries particularly, they’re really good. But no bacon.”

Her deaf pet pig Larry-Steve certainly would appreciate that.

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjaocbs123

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