Welcome to Gorilla Fighters, a feature where I profile some of the lesser-known entities of WWE and NXT. Not so much lesser-known as in terribly obscure or superstars who barely wrestle, but people that though we see them on TV and have become a little familiar with them, we really don’t know that much about. We pretty much know the life stories of guys like John Cena, Randy Orton, Kane, Undertaker, Triple H… they’ve been around for decades and have been profiled and had their stories told to us by JR, King, JBL, Michael Cole, and countless backstage interviewers. In this feature, I’ll try to research the same information about wrestlers that I find highly interesting and want to know more about, and I’ll definitely take suggestions on who to feature in these posts. I’ll also discuss each wrestler’s potential, where they are now, and where I hope they’ll end up.
Today we dig into the garbage dump that is New Jersey and pull out one of the (hopefully) better-smelling things there, Liv Morgan.
Who is Liv Morgan?
Born Gionna Daddio in Paramus, New Jersey, Liv Morgan is a lifelong fan of professional wrestling, and would wrestle in the backyard with her four brothers. That backyard wrestling was her start down the path of a career and a passion:
“I would literally take pedigrees and powerbombs like it was my job. I always pretended to be Lita. All the Divas were so glamorous and girly, and I was such a tomboy and didn’t have nice clothes. When I saw Lita come out in baggy pants and sneakers, wrestling the boys, I thought she was the coolest thing ever. I related to her.”
While working at Hooters in Paramus, Daddio met Joe DeFranco, Triple H’s personal trainer.
“I told Joe I was a huge wrestling fan, and that I loved WWE growing up. He took a chance on me, and gave me a really cool opportunity to work out with him. He sent my information along to WWE, which led to my tryout.”
In 2014, the then-20-year-old Daddio was signed by WWE with the help of her friend, fellow wrestler, and fellow New Jerseyan Eric Arndt, better known as Enzo Amore. Both had trained together at DeFranco’s gym, and later dated from 2016-17. She was assigned to NXT in October 2014. Her first televised appearance was at NXT TakeOver: Rival in February, 2015, as a fan plant who jumped on Tyler Breeze during his entrance. She would be part of Breeze’s entrance at the next TakeOver as well, but had yet to be involved in a televised match.
That first match occurred on the November 4, 2015 episode of NXT, when, under the ring name Marley, she worked as a jobber and lost to Eva Marie. A month later, she debuted the new ring name Liv Morgan in a losing effort to Emma. Morgan’s gimmick was that of a typical Jersey girl, wearing a snapback cap and Jordans. Throughout the first half of 2016 she was featured in multi-women matches such as a number one contender battyle royal and six-women tag matches, but had yet to be a featured singles competitor. That changed in August, a time of year when NXT goes through a transformation following their TakeOver Brooklyn event and WWE’s Summerslam. Top NXT stars usually move to the main roster following Summerslam and Wrestlemania, and in August 2016, NXT lost one of their most popular female stars ever when Bayley debuted on Raw. Along with future antagonists Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, Liv became a featured performer in the women’s division for the next year, getting her first singles win over Aaliyah on the August 31, 2016 episode of NXT. Following a submission victory two weeks later, Liv issued a challenge then-undefeated NXT Women’s Champion Asuka, but was submitted in under a minute. Though never close to victory, it was a huge boost for Liv to be put into that position to challenge the champion. She spent the next few months feuding with Kay and Royce, a featured feud on NXT TV, but was never again in the women’s title hunt.
Liv describes herself as a typical Jersey girl:
“I loved Bergen County. It’s home for me. Growing up there definitely shaped the human I am today. I’m very grateful I grew up where I did. I hung out at friends’ houses, at restaurants, and at the parks. I explored the neighborhood. I worked at Hooters, and many of those girls are still my friends. All my family is still based in New Jersey, so I visit them and my friends whenever I’m back there.”
She now lives in Orlando with her best friend, Piggles.
Where is she now?
On the November 21, 2017, episode of SmackDown, Morgan, Sarah Logan, and Ruby Riott debuted as the Riott Squad, attacking Becky Lynch and Naomi. It was a tough early going for the group as they struggled to be taken seriously as heels by the WWE audience due to Morgan and Logan getting mic time each week despite their comically bad promo skills. Over time, Morgan and Logan were taken off the mic and Riott has pretty much been the sole speaker for the group. Combined with the in-ring improvements of Morgan and Logan, they have had a permanent spot on weekly TV, first on SmackDown and now on Raw. She is not the featured member of the group, but she spends quite a bit of time in the ring when they have tag matches, and she has proven herself to be a solid ring worker.
How far will she go?
We haven’t heard her on the mic in a while so I don’t know if those skills have improved any, but they certainly will need to if she wants to stick in the women’s division once the Riott Squad eventually runs its course. With proper promo skills, I can actually see her becoming a top heel in the company. She has the look, the attitude, and the build-in hate just by being from New Jersey to draw a lot of heat, and she’s getting some good experience being a heel in the Riott Squad. I mean come on, who wouldn’t want to punch this in the face?