Marine trades chevrons for glamour in the WWE ring
Each person was asked to reveal something surprising about themself. After a staff sergeant mentioned he was a professional wrestler, Estrella-Kadlec approached him and listened intently as he described hitting the ropes and dropping elbows on opponents. Estrella-Kadlec and her family watched him wrestle that weekend.
“I remember looking at the kids and the parents that came and spent their last $5 to watch this show at some backyard wrestling event in Georgia, and I was like, ‘Wow,’’’ Estrella-Kadlec said. “It just intrigued me. It looked like fun, and I was like, ‘What do I have to do to get in the ring?’”
Estrella-Kadlec didn’t have to wait long. WWE brought her to Orlando, Florida, later that year and assigned her to its NXT brand in March of 2016. She was given a contract and a new name: Lacey Evans.
Evans, 30, has been on WWE’s main roster for two years. It has been a rapid rise in the decade since she enlisted at 19 years old, a young woman desperately seeking the structure that the military provided. As Evans moved around the South as a child, she could not escape the torment caused by her family’s addiction and mental-health issues.
“I was sitting there, just completely engulfed in this life of hell and negativity and drugs and anger and mental health,’’ Evans said. “I needed a way out.’’
Evans spent five years in the Marines as a military police officer. She was stationed at Parris Island in South Carolina and spent time at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where she did Special Reaction Team training. Evans ultimately intended to become a drill instructor but shifted her focus after the WWE called.
The deciding factor? The world’s largest pro wrestling promotion gave Evans a platform to spread an important message.
“I’m just one of those people that anything I touch I want to be the best that I can be” — an Army slogan that he takes seriously. “I put 110% in everything that I do. Just seeing where I’ve gotten with the Army as well. I’m more blown away about that sometimes than the music.”
To date, what he considers his most significant achievement is being in a position to help others.
Before she stepped into the ring, Evans knew very little about pro wrestling.
More concerned with whether her family could pay the electric bill, Evans never watched it while growing up. Her knowledge of wrestling was limited to the sport’s high school version, not the weekly televised version that makes wrestlers appear larger than life.
“I’ve always had grit,’’ said Evans, who started a construction business while in the Marines. “I love high impact. I love challenges and getting out of my comfort zone, and it just hit every one of those boxes. That was what intrigued me, but it was the kids.’’
Evans has taken on the wrestling persona of a Southern belle, but first and foremost, she is a survivor on a quest to inspire others battling personal demons.
“Human beings suffer every single day, and it doesn’t matter where you come from,’’ Evans said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve been through. There are so many options out there in life to find help and better yourself and keep pushing, and you have the ability to create the life that you want, the happiness that you want, but it all starts with your brain.
“Whatever you need in order to be OK, you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. You shouldn’t shy away from it. You should embrace it,’’ Evans said.
Connect with Lacey Evans online at https://www.instagram.com/laceyevanswwe/.