A little less than two years ago a new woman popped onto the WWE radar. Back when they were still called divas, this woman was different. She could act, she could get physical and she looked great. There were very few females on either the NXT or WWE rosters who could claim to have as many natural tools as this woman. She was known as Carmella, although shortly after she was hired, she was given the name Leah Van Damme, a play off her real name of Leah Van Dale.
It was love at first sight. Yes, Bayley is the girl next door and Becky Lynch is the firecracker. Yes, Alexa Bliss is the scrappy blonde while Charlotte is the dominant blonde. We think all of these women are great, but there’s just something about this Carmella. Maybe we’re a sucker for Long Island accents. Maybe we’re a sucker for fitness models. Maybe it’s just that we finally found the perfect woman.
She’s made quite an impression for herself since the end of summer, following a short feud with Natalia. When Nikki Bella was droning on about something during a boring segment of the otherwise awesome Talking Smack, Carmella woke us up. Out of nowhere she pummelled John Cena’s girlfriend. Even more awesome, she beat the tar out of Daniel Bryan’s sister-in-law in front of him. Now there’s a girl we want backing us up in a bar fight.
Truth is, we don’t care if she wins or loses. As long as she gets air time, we’re going to be happy campers. She attacked Nikki Bella week after week, beating the silicone out of the longest reigning divas champion. She wasn’t able to beat Nikki during their first singles match as the No Mercy pay-per-view, but it hardly mattered. She did the one thing we always want another female wrestler to do: She called out Nikki Bella as getting plenty of breaks because she’s John Cena’s girlfriend. She may have said it “in character” but we all know she’s telling the truth. Maybe that’s why we like her so much…she’s honest. Whatever, she’s hot. And to celebrate, here are the 15 hottest pics of our favorite lady, Carmella!
15. She’s real-life friends with Bayley
Sometimes two people who seem like oil and water on the surface become the closest of friends and that was the case for Leah Van Dale and Pamela Rose Martinez while training at the NXT Performance Center in Orlando. You never saw Carmella and Bayley interact during NXT shows, with Bayley a solid fixture in the women’s division and Carmella mostly working as the manager for Enzo and Big Cass, but the real-life ladies behind the characters are great friends. They’ve even got the celebrity name-crushing moniker of Baymella to describe their unique friendship. The WWE Network showed these sexy ladies have great chemistry and while it’s nice they’re both on the main roster we wish they could work their Baymella magic on the same television show. Odds are at some point their characters’ paths will collide and we’ll be right there to enjoy the beauty of two real-life friends pretending to beat each other up.
14. She’s not afraid to be herself online
There’s nothing sexier than a strong, confident woman and when it comes to Carmella, we’d put her up against anyone. She looks fantastic with her and makeup done-up for one of the many photoshoots she’s done over the years, but she also looks equally as hot having just come back from the gym. It takes a strong woman to forego all the beauty supplies and just say “World, here’s what I look like in real life.” Luckily for us, Leah Van Dale after an hour on the treadmill is just as sexy as Carmella after an hour in hair-and-makeup. There are some women who you wonder just what they look like first thing in the morning, but we’re going to guess that Big Cass has no problems when he turns over and sees how lucky he got in the girlfriend lottery. Yeah, we’re jealous and you can’t teach that.
13. She’s got beautiful hair
It’s almost a requirement to have your hair dyed from its natural color to compete in the WWE women’s division, especially when you look at the likes of Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks whose hair are electric shades of orange and pink, respectively. Carmella has also had the dye job treatment, although not to the extent of some of her coworkers. During her time with the New England Patriots, Carmella went with the dirty blonde look, but when she became a Laker girl, she gravitated back to her natural brunette self. The hair reverted to a lighter shade of blond, although not quite as bleached as Charlotte for her NXT debut. After seeing her in every style we’ve come to one conclusion: Carmella is hot no matter the color of the tresses on her head.
12. She aligned herself with Enzo and Cass
The introduction of the character of Carmella was campy by NXT standards. Usually a new video hits the Full Sail University Titantron and we are introduced to a worker we haven’t seen before. Not for Carmella though. She was introduced to the wrestling world in a series of vignettes portraying her as a hairdresser on Long Island. Since Enzo and Cass are always good for a few laughs, they fooled around a little too much where Carmella worked and she was fired. Blaming Enzo and Cass, she showed up at NXT wanting to be a wrestler. Apparently any bad blood subsided quickly because although she was playing a heel and Enzo and Cass were fan favorites, Carmella became the group’s manager. A few weeks later she had her first match against the infamous Blue Pants (Trivia: Cass sang the Price is Right-inspired theme song for Leva “Blue Pants” Bates) where she scored the victory.
11. She keeps beating up Nikki Bella
With the splitting of the roster into either Raw or Smackdown, and the influx of a lot of new women from NXT, it would have been easy to get lost in the shuffle. That didn’t happen for Carmella though. Despite being picked last in the entire draft, she made the most of her first few appearances on SmackDown, first pummelling Natalia, then attacking the returning Nikki Bella again and again. Sure, Carmella didn’t get the best of her in their pay-per-view appearances, but even getting a pay-per-view match was better than almost every other female on the SmackDown roster. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression and Carmella’s was one of the best debuts of recent memory, especially among the NXT callups. Now if we could just get somebody at the WWE to put her back where she belongs, as the third member of the Enzo-Cass-Carmella trio we loved so much before they left NXT.
10. She’s come so far, so soon
When Triple H explained his vision for the WWE Performance Center, he said there would be two kinds of people invited to attend. The first would be wrestlers who have performed on the indy circuit for years. People like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn all fall into this category. Triple H said despite all their talent, they needed to unlearn bad habits and learn how the WWE conducts their business. The other kind of person is someone who has excelled in another field of work and is now training to become a wrestler for the first time. For instance, Dana Brooke was a fitness model and Baron Corbin was a football player, neither of whom saw any time on the independent circuit. Carmella, a former dancer and fitness instructor, falls into this category. They still sort of work the indy circuit as NXT does shows throughout Florida every weekend and has taken to longer tours away from the Sunshine State.
9. She plays her character perfectly
There’s one thing that makes us a little bit worried about the long-term success of the Carmella character. Leah Van Dale is not the sassy piece of white trash from Long Island she is portrayed. It’s not a big deal because other wrestlers have played characters, but can you name a successful wrestler who had debuted in the last 10 years with a character so unlike themselves? Yeah…that’s what we’re worried about. Van Dale need only look to CJ Perry, better known as Lana, to see what type-casting can do to a career. Sure, they’re both allowed to be themselves and use their normal voices in WWE-produced documentaries, but in front of the crowd, they’re stuck in those characters. After a few years, there’s not much more to do with the Lana character and we’re worried that will be the case for the Carmella character, too. Why do they always do this with the hottest WWE women?
8. She’s been a Patriots Cheerleader and Laker Girl
Prior to taking on her alter ego of Carmella, Leah Van Dale had the kind of resume that WWE commentators drool over. For whatever reason, maybe to legitimize a talent, Michael Cole or JBL always feel the need to make reference to whatever college or professional sport a wrestler played. Have you ever seen a Titus O’Neil match where the University of Florida isn’t mentioned? We’ve started to notice this happening with Carmella, which seems to be in contrast to the character. In real life, Van Dale was a cheerleader for the New England Patriots for three years and a Laker Girl for one season. That’s great, but it’s not something a “Long Island Princess” would do. If wrestling is about suspending disbelief, her real-life accomplishments shouldn’t be mentioned. That would be like a character in Jack Reacher telling Tom Cruise, “Before you were Jack Reacher, I really liked you in the Mission Impossible movies.” It just kills the illusion.
7. She’s a smart cookie
Carmella is portrayed as a street-smart girl, but when it comes to school, like every stereotype of a Long Island girl, high school was as far as she went. We probably have Amy Fisher to thank for that. Although, Carmella probably did attend beauty school since we were first introduced to her as a hairstylist. In real life, Leah Van Dale is a pretty smart cookie. The Worcester, Mass., native started college at the University of Rhode Island and then transferred to the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. It was there she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. After finishing her time with the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Lakers, Van Dale was certified as a group fitness and personal trainer. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a hairdresser, but we think if Van Dale had gone that route in real life, she’d probably be the owner of the place.
6. She’s done a lot of modeling
If anybody thinks Carmella was being portrayed by someone who just randomly stumbled into the WWE Performance Center, they’ve missed the extensive media career she’s already had. Her time with the New England Patriots was a great time for opening doors as she was featured in such magazines as Muscle and Fitness, Esquire, Maxim and others. She was also cast in a national commercial for Visa. Once she made her way to the left coast, she was featured on the cover of the 2011 Laker Girl calendar. She also worked with Bob Harper, best known as one of the trainers from the reality show The Biggest Loser. She certainly didn’t need to appear on that show, but she did work with Harper in two of his home workout videos, Ultimate Cardio Body and Totally Ripped Core. And yes, gentlemen, they are available on YouTube. We’ve already bookmarked our favorites.
5. Cass is her boyfriend in real life
One of the best television shows to come out of the WWE Network has to be Breaking Ground, a look inside the WWE Performance Center and what it takes to become an NXT performer. The show follows a lot of trainees who are still working to make it and some who just didn’t have what it takes. It also looks at a few wrestlers who were doing well in NXT and have since graduated to WWE. The Bayley-Sasha dynamic is looked at a little, but the standout on the show has to be Carmella. The cameras spend a lot of time with her and Big Cass since, in real life, Leah Van Dale and William Morrisey are actually in a committed relationship. It’s cute to watch the two of them interact at the crack of dawn in their kitchen or out on the road. Anybody who goes back to check the show out needs to watch the duo go shopping for cowboy hats and boots on a tour in Texas.
4. Her daddy was a wrestler, too
We don’t know exactly which side of the family Carmella gets her looks from, but it’s pretty clear where she got the wrestling bug. You probably don’t recognize his name, Paul Van Dale, because he really didn’t do much in the wrestling world except get beaten back when the WWE TV shows mostly consisted of a superstar defeating a nobody. Carmella’s dad was one of the nobodies. That’s not to say he can’t claim a few cool things about his career. He was the first guy to get beat by The Big Bossman on TV after the lawman’s debut. Van Dale also got to be on Monday Night Raw a couple of times, losing to Jimmy Snuka in a singles match and a tag-team bout with fellow nobody Tim McNeany against Diesel and Shawn Michaels. Aside from being beaten quickly on television, Van Dale worked the New England indy wrestling circuit back in the early ’90s.
3. There are so many interesting things about her
Everybody has an interesting story and the real person behind Carmella, Leah Van Dale is no different. So, here are a bunch of interesting facts you never knew about her. They’ll probably end up on the weird info box on the right side of the screen during her SmackDown entrances in the future. First, Carmella is left-handed. In 2008, Leah was chosen as one of only eight dancer/cheerleaders to travel to China, on the invitation of the Beijing Olympic Committee. She helped train Chinese cheerleaders and dancers who were getting ready to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. These opening ceremonies were considered to be the best ever by many. She’s also been not only a New England Patriot, but a true patriot having traveled to Qatar, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Ecuador to visit and perform for our troops. We’ve never wanted to be stationed overseas so much.
2. She’s hotter than her co-workers
Forget everything else about her, can we just take a good solid look at this woman and admire how beautiful she is? Yes, she works very hard for it, but let’s admit, some people are just born with the clay by which to make the beautiful vase. We’d tell you what that’s like, but those kind of looks don’t run in our family. This woman has some of the best abs we’ve ever seen on a WWE superstar and looks better in a bikini than any other we can remember in recent history. It appears that she’s had some breast augmentation over the last couple of years, but she was smart enough to not get them enormously big and fake looking. You want some real proof she’s the best looking woman in the WWE? Just look at some of the other people she works with. They’re by no means ugly but there’s something special about Carmella. She’s like the female Lex Luger: She’s the total package.
1. She will go down as the greatest ever
We love everything about Leah Van Dale, aka Carmella. Everything. We’re totally serious. Her hair. Her legs. Her eyes. Her nose. Her mouth. Her stomach. Her chest. Her butt. Her spray tan…everything. While everybody gets all riled up about The Four Horsewoman (Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch) we don’t think a single one of them comes close to them when it comes to beauty. Sure, they may beat her in the wrestling department, but some of them have been doing it for 10 years. Give Carmella a decade and we think she’s going to be a first ballot WWE Hall of Famer and somebody who is considered among the best there ever was. Think that’s ridiculous? Go research the career of Trish Stratus, who was a fitness model just brought in to be a piece of eye candy. She’s now considered one of the greatest. It’s no surprise Carmella cites Stratus as one of her influences.