At just 19 years old, Nor Diana, widely known by her ring name as Phoenix, is already making a name for herself not only for being a teenage professional wrestler, but also for being Malaysia’s – possibly even the world’s – first wrestler to wear a hijab in the ring.
Phoenix, who wore a luchador mask when she first entered the scene three years ago, was unmasked at last year’s MYPW Wrestlenation, Malaysia’s most prominent wrestling event for 2018, according to The Sun Daily.
Then, at her first match since her unmasking at an SPW: Ladies Night (Singapore Wrestling) event, Phoenix told The Sun Daily that many people were ultimately surprised to see her show up without her mask on and that she was wearing a hijab.
“When the name Phoenix was announced, some folks were surprised that I was unmasked, and that I was a hijab-wearing girl. I surprised a lot of people that day, and I have not worn a mask to wrestle since,” she said in the interview.
Her road to wrestling fame started when she was only 14 years old. It began with playing a lot of wrestling video games with her younger brother and escalated to her watching wresting TV shows.
“At 15 I saw my first live WWE live event in KL at a convention,” she told the publication. “I then began looking online for wrestling and found MYPW (Malaysia Pro Wrestling) which was known as Persatuan Gusti Malaysia back then. I immediately decided to join them, to train with them, and follow my dream to become a pro wrestler.”
Being one of only two female wrestlers under MYPW, Phoenix said that they didn’t treat her differently just because she is female and wears a hijab. She noted that they both train with other male wrestlers in the organization under their coach, Ayez Shaukat Fonseka.
“Because they don’t treat me differently, I get to do the moves that I want to do, turn down moves that I can’t do, and I was encouraged to perform moves that I have no confidence in,” she said. “It is an excellent experience.”
As for how she became known as Phoenix, the teenage wrestler said that her coach helped her come up with the persona after a rather surprising turn of events just before an upcoming show.
“After just two months of training, I had to replace a wrestler at an event. I was so surprised because I had only just learned how to take a bump properly,” Phoenix said. “I had not developed a persona at that time. I didn’t even have an outfit.”
“So I went to a bundle shop, got pants and a leather vest top to go with my undersuit,” she added. “But I still didn’t have an in-ring persona … and that’s when my coach said I should go with Phoenix. That’s also when he gave me a luchador mask to wear.”
Many people were surprised when she first entered the scene due to her smaller body frame compared to other female wrestlers.
“Not only I was an unexpected sight since I am relatively smaller than other wrestlers, but some didn’t even know if I was a boy or a girl … because of the mask and because I was fully covered, unlike conventional female wrestling gear that tend to be revealing.”
Her family and even her fellow wrestlers, meanwhile, were shocked at her persona, mainly her drastically different personality, when she enters the ring.
“You see, I am usually a quiet person,” Phoenix said. “I’m not that outgoing or outspoken. But I love wrestling. Being in the wrestling ring just brings out the other side of me that no one has seen before.”