Life on the road as a WWE superstar entails an intense amount of sacrifice and commitment. Beyond the bright lights of Monday Night Raw and SmackDown, there are live, non-televised events all over the country throughout the week, fan meet-and-greets, media obligations and all the travel that goes into getting to each and every one of those appearances.
Even when you're living your dream, driving thousands of miles a year and going through airport security multiple times a week can be draining. Friendships made within the WWE roster help, especially with others going through the same grind as you, but for a fortunate few, husbands and wives who also perform in the ring can make all the difference.
"He's my best friend, he's my soulmate, he looks out for me, he takes care of me, he makes sure I'm okay all the time," said Naomi, during a recent interview with ESPN.com. "And there's a lot of times where there are rough times getting through the travel, or injuries, or just different parts in our career where I know he's really made all the difference to me, having him there by my side. So, yeah, it's everything."
For Naomi, who has come a long way inside of the ring since first signing a WWE contract in 2009, that consistency and support has helped push her to become one of the pillars of the SmackDown women's division. She's a two-time SmackDown women's champion, sure, but Naomi's dynamic, acrobatic style sets her apart and makes for interesting matches no matter who's standing across the ring.
It goes both ways, really. Jimmy Uso, alongside his twin brother Jey, are five-time tag team champions in the WWE. While the journey took twists and turns along the way, both Naomi and Jimmy are enjoying some of the most fruitful periods of their respective careers.
"It makes all the difference in the world to me," said Naomi. "I honestly don't know if I would have lasted and gotten as far as I have, and as long as I have, and be as happy as I've been, if I didn't have him with me going through this together."
Despite all of the traveling together and some occasional on-screen moments together, though, they never really had the chance to show that partnership on TV. That changed in the last few months as Naomi and Jimmy got to team up as part of the WWE's Mixed Match Challenge tournament.
It was an opportunity to take everything they've worked on together and bring that chemistry into their on-screen characters and relationship.
"All of these years, all this time we've worked together, we actually haven't gotten to really wrestle in a ring together like we did on the Mixed Match Challenge," said Naomi. "Being able to learn from him, us putting matches together and just having our chemistry together, and being a tag team, it's really cool. And it's something we wouldn't get to do normally otherwise if it weren't for the show -- [we were] super happy to be a part of it."
It's hard to pinpoint the exact moment that Naomi's career turned the corner, but it feels as though it happened in short, hard-fought chunks rather than a single transformational moment. Naomi was getting title shots from the moment she joined the main roster as a member of the Funkadactyls, but at each step of her character's evolution, it seemed like she was drawing closer and closer to reaching the top.
She fought past the disappointment of her first WrestleMania match being cut from the card in 2013, and Naomi competed for the Divas championship in 2014 at WrestleMania XXX. But it was ultimately after the 2016 draft, when Naomi moved exclusively to SmackDown, that served as the final push.
Naomi finally leaped that final hurdle at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view in February 2017, defeating Alexa Bliss to become SmackDown women's champion. But even that moment was bittersweet. Due to injury, she had to give up the title two days later.
With less than two months to rehab, Naomi came back just in time to compete to regain that title at WrestleMania 33 in front of her hometown crowd in Orlando. In an intensely emotional match, Naomi won the SmackDown women's championship for the second time -- and enjoyed the moment with her family.
"I just remember that day kind of being such a blur, just from me being so overwhelmed with excitement and joy," said Naomi. "And I was so busy that day, everything just went kind of so fast. I remember being so happy and having my family there, and seeing the smile on my mom and dad's face. They were ringside when I won the championship.
"They've seen me go from the beginning stages of my career in wrestling to that moment, and just knowing how I made them proud was a feeling... one of the best feelings in the world. I was definitely on cloud nine that whole day. I feel like that moment was, from 2009 -- my first day -- to everything I've worked for, all the struggles, all the disappointments, all the let downs, the ups and downs in my career, everything that I went through for that moment, it was all worth it."
In the last year, Naomi's enjoyed some key moments in crucial pushes forward for women's wrestling. She took part in both women's Money in the Bank ladder matches, and enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight in the first ever women's Royal Rumble match when she performed a high-wire act on the ring barrier to save herself from elimination.
At WrestleMania 34, she'll feature in another first-time moment for the women's division.
"This is the most exciting time of the year for us, heading into WrestleMania," said Naomi. "It's what we've worked for and towards all year long, and this year is gonna be a super exciting for me, because we're having the battle royal -- first ever."
Though it isn't a title match this time around, the battle royal represents a subtler step forward for women's wrestling in the WWE. In previous years, if there wasn't a title match or a tag team match to be involved in, most of the women of Raw and SmackDown simply didn't get to perform on the WrestleMania stage.
In New Orleans, that changes.
"Oh man, it's been beautiful," said Naomi. "We have a great locker room, we've got a great roster. Everyone gets along, everyone supports each other, and I think that makes all the difference in the world. We all want to see, as a whole, us move forward and push through and beat the odds, and break barriers."
Though there are conflicts, both real and manufactured, like any other workplace, the individual achievements that Naomi has enjoyed in her year-and-a-half on SmackDown wouldn't be possible if others weren't also throwing their hearts and souls into each performance, too.
"We go through things, and we sometimes bump heads, but at the end of the day when we walk through that curtain the respect for each other is there," said Naomi. "At the end of the day we don't let anything get in the way of us doing our best out there and putting on a good show. We take care of each other out there, and I think that's what makes our locker room and our roster so special.
"It really is a good vibe over here on Smackdown," Naomi continued. "These are my girls, these are my sisters, and I just look forward to seeing everyone continue to do amazing things together."