It was in 2015 when I covered the WWE Tough Enough reality show competition. Among the hopefuls I spoke to over the weeks was a driven fitness model with big dreams named Amanda Saccomanno. She certainly turned heads as a blond bombshell, but beneath the surface, it became apparent there was so much more than an attractive aesthetic.  

The future Mandy Rose won over viewers and judges with her dedication and athletic ability. Comparisons were made early on, that WWE may have the next Trish Stratus in the wings. There was also a relatability as the native New Yorker opened up about what the opportunity meant to her and her family. The Miz, a judge on the series, saw the makings of a future superstar, and at one point, saved her from elimination. 

Rose ultimately couldn’t overtake fan favorites Sara Lee and Josh Bredl who would win Tough Enough and receive the contracts. The setback only fueled her motivation. “I’m going to come back and pursue getting into NXT and getting a developmental contract because this is what I want to do,” she told me at the time. Adding. “I’m not going to give up on this. I already have my foot in the door. I’m just going to keep going.”

Coaches and management ultimately signed the impressive prospect to a contract. Rose continued to flourish in developmental and NXT, alongside fellow Tough Enough alum Daria Berenato. The best friends quickly found themselves on the main roster, joining Paige in the group Absolution.

Rose and the renamed Sonya Deville benefited getting the rub from a top-tier former women’s champion. Rose was thrown in the deep end on a number of occasions early on with Deville as a team called Fire and Desire and solo. She started developing a reputation for being someone who could run with the ball when given the opportunity. 

Her first real story she got to sink her teeth into was a heated rivalry with Naomi. Rose made it personal when she played mind games using Naomi’s husband Jimmy Uso. During the Royal Rumble, the “Golden Goddess” turned heads lasting more than 25 minutes in the battle royal.

In 2019, we also saw a true tale of WWE’s beauty and the beast that unfolded between Rose and a loveable blockhead in Otis. The two captured the hearts and imaginations of fans each week. The audience felt a real connection to the couple. Rather than Rose ending up with the proverbial big man on campus in Dolph Ziggler, she was instead drawn to the blue collar personality. Unfortunately, we never got that “Macho Man” Randy Savage/Elizabeth wedding I wanted to see at SummerSlam

Besties eventually turned bitter enemies with Rose and Deville on opposite ends. They both upped their level of intensity, taking each other up to another level in the process. Deville became a regular fixture as a WWE official. Meanwhile Rose surprisingly returned to NXT. This was at a time when the black & gold brand was set to undergo a major shift. A refocus to developing young and emerging talent.

When someone from Raw or SmackDown makes the move “down” to NXT, there was a perception of a demotion. Not to Rose. She approached the relocation as an opportunity for reinvention. The familiar face came in hot, literally and figuratively, right out of the gate with a new look (brown hair!). Beyond just inserting herself right into the NXT women’s championship mix, she formed Toxic Attraction with Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne. The devious trio became a dominating force in the 2.0 era of NXT. 

Within a matter of months, Rose secured the women’s title while Dolin and Jayne took home the tag championship. The leader of Toxic Attraction upped her game and grew stronger with every successful title defense. Rose’s reign ultimately lasted a remarkable 417 days before dropping the strap to Roxanne Perez. 

Yes, Rose had the money look. That can be a blessing and a curse given the track record of those before her. There are those flashes in the pan who depend solely on how they look on camera. Then there are others including Rose, who much like Trish Stratus, had to work that much harder to be taken seriously as an in-ring performer. Rose earned respect the old-fashioned way over the course of a lengthy reign at the top. 

Someone who also had an entrepreneurial eye. She would become a popular attraction on social media, started a fitness app “Fit with Mandy,” and formed the donut enthusiastic business Damandyz Donutz with Deville. Among her other projects was also started a FanTime account, providing exclusive subscription content for those who sign up. Content reportedly on there got a little too hot and heavy for WWE’s liking. A shocking release came on December 14,  less than 24 hours after losing to Perez. 

Regardless of the circumstances of her exit and where you stand on the whole ordeal, nobody can deny what Rose accomplished. She came a long way from running the ropes and participating in fitness challenges on Tough Enough. Whatever Rose decides to do next, she is in a good place. Someone with built-in equity, a dedicated fan base, and an impressive body of work in WWE. The ball is in Rose’s court. I’m sure promoters from major companies and conventions would want to get this soon-to-be big-time free agent in the marketplace. 

This isn’t the end. The bloom hasn’t fallen off this Rose. Who knows what’s next? I would never rule out a WWE return down the road, too. We’ve seen it countless times. But whatever the superstar alum decides to do, she’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.