NXT's Ember Moon ready to take the wrestling world by storm

After nearly 10 years on the indie circuit, Ember Moon is taking NXT by storm. Vaughn Ridley for ESPN

From the first vignettes teasing her debut ahead of last August's NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn II card during SummerSlam weekend in New York, there has been an aura of mystery surrounding NXT superstar Ember Moon.

A pint-sized powerhouse at 5-foot-2, Moon debuted as a babyface despite certain elements to her look -- from her devilish red contact lenses to the hood and mask that conceal everything but her eyes during her entrance -- that suggest a more sinister edge.

If you ask the native of Garland, Texas, and veteran of nearly 10 years on the independent wrestling scene, she'll tell you her character isn't that far removed from her true self. It's that dichotomy which has gone a long way in helping Moon, 28, get over so quickly since changing her character, after initially signing with NXT in 2015 and wrestling under her real name, Adrienne Reese.

"I definitely feel that I am as mysterious as [my character]," Moon told ESPN.com. "At the end of the day, if [my choices are] to go shopping or stay in the house in a secluded corner, I would much rather stay in the house and play some video games.

"[NXT] made me larger than life and I love that they incorporated who I am and my passions as far as medieval times and mysterious things of that matter. That's pretty much who I am as a person. [Ember Moon] is me dialed up to like a billion."

Moon has climbed the ladder quickly in an NXT women's division that's currently best described as transitional, which has opened the door for an influx of young talent to earn opportunities. Moon's unique look and skill set have certainly helped her stand out, as has her work ethic behind the scenes.

During an interview following NXT TakeOver: San Antonio in January, unbeaten NXT women's champion Asuka was asked about Moon's interest in a title shot and responded, "Ember who? She works here?" The segment teased the possibility of a feud between them heading into WrestleMania weekend, which acts as a profound statement regarding to how quickly Moon has made an impact.

"I think that I bring something different as far as who I am as a person and who I am in and out of the ring," Moon said. "I'm definitely unpredictable. I pride myself on being the out-of-nowhere chick of NXT. But I also have a different way of thinking as far as I see everything as a challenge. I see a battle and a huge war that I'm trying to win."

A major part of what made Moon's debut so impactful last August in Brooklyn was her finishing move. The leaping, corkscrew stunner from the top rope set off an explosion of noise from the Barclays Center crowd as Moon followed up the move by pinning Billie Kay to win the match.

"When I hit it, there was kind of a half-second of silence like, 'Wait, what did we just see? What was that?'" Moon said. "And then it was like, 'Yeah, all right! We're on board with this!' I just don't think people realize how much the women's revolution and evolution has changed who we are as athletes, not just giving us an opportunity to do different maneuvers and be crazy but to show who we are."

Moon had been using the move on the independent scene for eight years after it was initially passed down to her by James Johnson, a friend and Texas independent wrestler, who created the move and was set to retire. Johnson had dubbed the move, "The O-Face," which Moon initially used herself until her arrival at NXT forced a change to the more family-friendly "Eclipse."

It sure wasn't an easy move to learn, however, demanding such incredible timing and athleticism.

"[Johnson] showed me the maneuver and it took me six months of grueling pain trying to learn it," Moon said. "I had a lot of crash-and-burns, but I rise to every challenge and that was definitely a big challenge. I had to make that a part of who I am."

Growing up outside of Dallas, Moon first fell in love with pro wrestling under somewhat difficult circumstances. Having been the victim of intense bullying in middle school, the only person who stood up for her was "super nerdy into wrestling," which began to help fuel her fandom the more they became friends.

After getting hooked, Moon saw the work of female superstars like Chyna, Victoria, Ivory, Trish Stratus and Lita and began to think deeply about her own life.

"I was like, 'I can do this. I want to do this,'" Moon said. "What they believed in and how they showed they were physically able to do this. All these fantastic superstars that showed all this passion and emotion but they stood up for themselves. That's the one thing that I wanted to do as someone who was constantly getting beaten down. I thought, 'Man, I just have to stand up one time,' and that was me taking my step into the wrestling world."

For the record, Moon did end up standing up to her childhood bullies, with the result proving less than favorable. But she credits the experience with building her resolve to go after her dreams.

At 18, Moon began training with wrestling legend Gen. Skandor Akbar, and went on to gain experience working with WWE Hall of Famer Booker T's Houston-based promotion. Along the way, she juggled the demands of school with her burgeoning career.

"I went to college for six years and got my degree, but wasn't happy," Moon said. "But when I stepped into that ring it was like magic for me. It just felt right."

Hours before making her debut last year in Brooklyn under her new name, Moon entered the empty Barclays Center and made a beeline for the ring. Standing in the middle, she admitted to becoming emotional while reflecting on just how far she had come.

After nearly a decade of wrestling on the independent circuit in front of anywhere from 100 or (on a good night) 1,000 people, Moon said she stood there and looked out at the nearly 20,000 empty seats and felt nothing but gratitude for the opportunity.

Moon's impact within NXT hasn't lessened since her debut. Her focus remains on taking the wrestling world by storm.

"I just try to rise to every challenge that is presented in front of me," Moon said. "It doesn't matter if it is too big, too small, too hard -- I'm going to overcome it and that's just what I do.

"I have so many things running through my head [backstage], but once I step through the curtain, it's all clear. I know what I've got to do. It's surreal. I can be backstage shaking or I might be ready to throw up. But once that music hits, it's like, 'All right, let's do this. It's time to do what you were meant to do.'"