Tay Melo, who won Most Improved in the 2021 Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards, has been with AEW since 2020 after her release from WWE.
In two years, she has become one of the company's familiar faces as the young brand builds new stars. Melo started her AEW journey by aligning with the Dark Order, teaming with Anna Jay, and eventually joining the Jericho Appreciation Society.
Her biggest break came at last year's Full Gear when she challenged Britt Baker for the AEW Women's title. Although she has yet to win gold, her growth as an in-ring competitor has not gone unnoticed.
Ahead of Sunday's All Out, I talked with Melo on a variety of topics including her time with the company, what she's working on outside of pro wrestling, and how she handled a lot of the social media rumors she has faced being in the spotlight.
Here are some highlights with the full video available here:
Goals outside of wrestling
If you scroll through Melo's Instagram, you'll notice that she loves to travel and shares a lot of fitness photos with her 638,000+ followers. One the things she revealed to me are the plans she has outside of pro wrestling with one of those being becoming a nutrition coach and personal trainer.
"I started studying to be a nutrition coach. It's kinda good for me because it takes my head away from wrestling a little bit because I have my own life you know. I have to have something outside, too," she said. "I like to work out and I like to have a good diet, so I am super excited. After that, I want to keep studying and another goal is to be a personal trainer, I wanna combine everything and I want to learn as much as I can and maybe start my own business. For now, it is more for me to learn."
Prior to wrestling, Melo came from the world of judo in which she holds a black belt. However, prior to coming to the United States, she was pursuing an entirely different career in Brazil. She attended law school for over four years and was going to join the equivalent of the FBI in her home country.
"Not many people know this, but I went to law school in Brazil. I didn't finish. I did four years and-a-half but then I had to come here and I had to make this decision: finish my school or come to the U.S. And I was like, 'I am going to take the risk and I am gonna come to the U.S.' I didn't finish my school back then and I also wanted to go back and do something. But I got super busy wrestling, I had to learn English, so I never really did."
Melo did emphasize that while she did study this for a while, it was not what she loved.
"My goal in Brazil was kinda to be like the equivalent of what the FBI is here. So I never wanted to be a lawyer; I wanted to have law school because I needed to have law school to pursue the career that I wanted. I was never really in love with it. It was just something that I had to do."
A second wedding for she and Sammy
Melo married fellow AEW roster member Sammy Guevara in August with Tony Khan, Cody Rhodes, Ricky Starks, Thunder Rosa, Nikki A.S.H and several others in attendance. However, due to travel and visa issues, Melo's family was unable to attend.
"I was super sad because my family was not able to make it. We were trying so hard but because of the visas, we were not able to get them here which I was super upset about, of course, but it's just an excuse to have a second wedding (in Brazil)."
Melo said it will be a smaller wedding that they are hoping to do in December.
"If we're able to go in December, I want to spend Christmas with my family. It's been six years that I (haven't) spent Christmas with them. With wrestling, we cannot plan anything long term like that, but that's the main plan for now."
Dealing with social media pushback
Prior to their romantic Paris engagement and the big wedding, Guevara and Melo's relationship received a lot of online backlash due to rumors birthed on social media.
Guevara had a relationship for eight years with ex-girlfriend Pamella Nizio that got more of a spotlight when he proposed to her in an AEW ring in Houston.
Although Guevara and Nizio had split prior to his relationship with Melo, many on social media accused Guevara of cheating and accused Melo of being a homewrecker. The two moved past that, but Melo talked about the impact the situation had on her mentally.
"I am pretty sure everyone knows the whole drama. I came from judo and my life was always super stressful, cutting weight and then tournaments, so I always took care of my mental health. So, I always thought that I was a strong person mentally until I got into wrestling.
"I love wrestling but man, it's tough. It is really tough, especially now. At the end of 2021, there was the whole drama that happened with me and Sammy and I was super sad because that was the best year of my career in wrestling. Then at the end of the year, this whole drama happened and then I was really going through a hard time. I didn't want to defend myself or anything because I was like, 'Nothing that I say right now, people aren't gonna listen. They are gonna say whatever they want.'
"But whenever I go to bed and I put my head on a pillow, I know who I am. I know I did nothing wrong and I was calm. I was like, 'I have nothing to worry about. This is just like people talking sh*t.' I always say if you don't know me personally, I am not gonna take it personally because you don't know me. You know the character that I play on TV. You know a little bit of my life. I don't put my life out there as everybody thinks I do. They just know whatever I want them to know and they don't realize it, which is great. I am doing my job well.
"I deactivated my Twitter. I never really talked about that before so it feels really good to put it out there right now. So I was like 'What am I doing with my life after this?' I was thinking a lot. I am doing whatever makes me happy and I did nothing wrong. People were making a lot of comments saying that, "Do you think Sammy is not gonna do the same thing to you? He did it to his ex. How do you live with that?' And I am, like, 'Well, I live with that because he didn't do that.' And I knew it.
"Sammy and Pam were in a relationship for eight years. It's a life together. Every time that Sammy talks about her, every time we've had a conversation about her or whatever, Sammy always talks about her with a lot of respect and love. They had a life together. I had a relationship before too for almost eight years. We both had long relationships, we respect each other. Sammy and Pam always had a good relationship and they still have. It's like nobody needs to know that. I don't need to go to social media and put everything out there how people think that I need to do. After the whole drama, she was the one that texted us to check on us: "Hey, I saw everything that is happening, I hope you and Tay are okay, I'm sorry.'
"People just created a whole storyline, a whole drama for something that really never happened. I saw a couple comments that I cheated on my ex, which I was separated from for a long time. It's just that my relationship wasn't as public as Sammy's. So I never felt the need to put it out there and I do whatever I want with my personal life. So I was, like, 'This is just bulls*t. Nah it's okay, people are gonna forget about it.'
"But I got really bad in (my head). My mental health was not doing okay. After a couple days, a couple weeks, it was like 'Well, this is my job, this is the life that I chose to do so I need to deal with the consequences and then try to do my best.' Everything at home and in our personal life was going great. The relationship with Pam...she was super nice. When we got engaged, she texted us too. So they talk sometimes and it's okay. It's an eight-year relationship, same thing with mine. People don't understand. They like to look for drama and really there was no drama at all which was unfortunate. It is what it is. We are all okay, we are all happy. And that's what really matters. She's doing good, we're happy, it's okay. We're human beings, relationships end, and I am pretty sure it was super hard for the four of us.
"We all had relationships before, so it was super hard. It's already hard to let it go even when you know it doesn't work anymore. You're used to this person, you love this person in a different way, it is hard. People were making bad comments: you're not helping, you're just poking something that already hurts. But I am glad that everything is okay now, people are still kinda talking but it's not that much.
"We're okay, all of us. In our own personal lives, we are happy. So that's what really matters. Sammy and I were meant to be, it's crazy. He's really my best friend like before our relationship, we were really good friends. He helped me so much with stuff that I was going through and he was always there for me. I cried so much with him. I think that's how we became this force together. When he was going through his personal stuff, I was there for him. We're just best friends. We really are, it's crazy. We always say to each other, 'Nothing that happens outside of our relationship can affect us.' It doesn't, because we love each other. We have fun with each other."
Melo decided to change her performing name to her real last name after getting married because she was using her ex-husband's last name prior to that. Her short term goal is to rebrand herself with her new last name.
In the long term, she wants to get back into the AEW Women's title picture.
"I want to go back, of course, for the main title picture. More than that, I want to keep learning and growing. Keep working with people that bring so much to the table. I wanna work with Toni Storm, I wanna work (Hikarua) Shida again, I wanna work Thunder Rosa, I wanna work Britt again, Britt was one of my favorite matches; she brings so much when she's on the mic. She's a beast on the mic. I wanna learn. I think that's my main goal all the time. I want to do my best and keep growing."