The Malaysian athlete discusses what it means to represent her faith and culture on the world stage

Nor ‘Phoenix’ Diana is making a name for herself in professional wrestling in Malaysia. Donning her signature black and orange hijab and flame-patterned trousers, Nor Diana is known for her daring aerial manoeuvres, charm and agility, which have helped her win over wrestling fans. The 23-year-old made her debut in 2019 and has since become a Malaysia Pro Wrestling Wrestlecon champion. She has also become a role model to Muslim girls worldwide who are aspiring to be the best at their craft. 

We speak to Nor Diana about how she got into wrestling, what motivates her to be the best and the challenges she faced in the male-dominated sport.

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What sparked your interest in professional wrestling?

Nor "Phoenix" Diana (ND): I used to play wrestling video games with my younger brother, and even before that, I was aware of the world of pro wrestling though I wasn't initially a fan. Playing the games sparked my interest in the sport, as I became familiar with the personalities, storylines and rules. I later started watching wrestling matches on TV and [that's when I] became a fan.

What would you say to people who need help understanding the athleticism and physicality of pro wrestling?

ND: Professional wrestling is a form of performance art that requires a great deal of athleticism, acrobatics and physical strength. Contrary to what most people think, the matches you see in professional wrestling are not acts. They are intense physical activities that require a lot of training and skill. We get hurt when we are hit or slammed on the mat, and we are aware of the danger of a career-ending injury with one wrong step.

A good pro wrestler is strong, agile and athletic. You need to perform like an athlete or you won’t be able to pull off the stunts that are required. A lot of practice and preparation is required, and it is possible to sustain severe injuries if you don’t condition your body correctly.

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Above Nor Diana competing in a match in late 2022 (Photo: APAC Wrestling)

As a Muslim woman in the sport, were there any obstacles you faced at the start of your career?

ND: I don’t think that there were any “obstacles”. I don’t see my faith as something that can stop me from pursuing my dreams. Yes, there are a lot of conservatives that are firmly against me pursuing wrestling, but that is their opinion. I am proud that I get to represent my faith, lifestyle and culture on the world stage.

My father supports me and was the one who encouraged me to start. My siblings are all fine with me doing what I do. My late mom initially did not support my decision, but she became a fan when she saw me in the ring.

What is it about wrestling that inspires or motivates you to keep going?

ND: I believe that representation is important. As the world’s first hijab-wearing professional wrestler, I am proud to represent the underrepresented in the professional wrestling industry. Being a relatable icon to other Muslim girls worldwide who are wrestling fans keeps me motivated. This motivation keeps me going as I strive to achieve my dream of being on the world’s biggest platform, the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

Is there a particular style or technique of wrestling that you specialise in?

ND: I have been taught throughout my career to focus on storytelling because that is the style that translates the best among the mainstream audience and that is the style I enjoy doing the most. I would categorise myself as a technical high-flyer, where I use fundamental wrestling techniques and throw in some speedy and high-risk moves when I have to switch up gears.

What do you do to prepare for each match?

ND: To be a professional wrestler, you must undergo a rigorous training routine to keep in top shape. This includes repetition drills, weight training to build muscle mass as protection and doing full stretches to keep the body flexible helps us to avoid injuries. 

Is there a wrestler you look up to?

ND: My favourite wrestler is Mercedes Moné. She was best known as Sasha Banks when she was signed under the WWE. I admire how she always knows how to reinvent herself and increase her value in the industry. She is one of the inspirational figures I looked up to when I started my journey as a professional wrestler. I hope to wrestle her one day.

What is your hope for the future of wrestling in Malaysia?

ND: I hope that professional wrestling would become a mainstream sport aired on TV, much like in the United States. Having matches televised will help grow our fan base, and attract more sponsors and investors. This will also create opportunities for passionate individuals who love wrestling to see it as a possible career.

See more honourees from the Sports category of the Gen.T List.

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