Pirate, pro wrestler Summer Rae returns to ring for Royal Rumble

After nearly five years, East Carolina University alumna and wrestler Danielle Moinet is making a surprise return to the WWE ring. Moinet, who goes by the wrestling moniker Summer Rae, will join the Women’s Royal Rumble match on Jan. 29 at The Dome at America’s Center in St. Louis.

“For me, the Royal Rumble is a favorite. There are so many surprises. There are 30 entrants and one new person comes out every minute. It’s very entertaining,” Moinet said. The Royal Rumble is known for featuring unexpected returns and twists.


Danielle Moinet, known better by her wrestling name Summer Rae, wears purple and gold during a WWE match. (Contributed photo)

Date: Saturday, Jan. 29
8 p.m.
Channel: On the WWE Network, pay-per-view or Peacock

Moinet is from Raleigh and graduated from ECU in 2006 with a degree in business administration. Being part of a Royal Rumble is something she dreamed about when she was young. Moinet grew up watching wrestling on TV with her dad, but she saw few women competing.

“It was always men in the match. There wasn’t a Women’s Royal Rumble until four years ago. So I’m really excited I get to be a part of it,” she said.

Her wrestling persona Summer Rae is a villain, something Moinet embraces. “I would say Summer Rae is very Lindsay Lohan from ‘Mean Girls.’ Very ‘you can’t sit with us,’” she said. “Though I’m booked as a bad guy, I couldn’t be further from that in my real life.”

In addition to wrestling, Moinet is a model and ring announcer, and was a main cast member on the reality show “Total Divas,” which chronicled the lives of various WWE divas in and out of the ring.

In our Q&A with Moinet, she shared what to expect from the Royal Rumble match, common misconceptions about wrestling, and her connection to WWE executive and fellow Pirate alum Vince McMahon.

How have you been preparing for the Royal Rumble?

It was only a few weeks ago that I received a call from WWE asking if I’d be interested in a return. It’s interesting how your life can change at any moment, especially in entertainment. I’ve been eating really clean, going to the gym and training. Even though I haven’t been in a match in five years, I’ve been doing jiujitsu and MMA on the side for fun. I don’t feel like I’m rusty.

What’s one thing you wish more people knew about wrestling?

The misconception that it’s not real is so frustrating. Yes, the WWE has writers and the outcome is predetermined to make it a cool story, but the physicality is extremely real. A slap is a slap. Landing on your back from four feet in the air onto wooden planks hurts. We’re athletes who are on the road 300 days a year sometimes with no off season. It’s week in, week out. You have to love it and you have to look good while doing it!

What is it like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry?

In WWE, our main roster is 12 to 16 women and over 50 guys. It’s normal for me but it can be intimidating. You learn how to have a hard shell. I look at it like having a bunch of brothers. I’ve learned that as a woman, the world tries to put you in a box. I refuse to be put in one. When people do that, it’s because they can’t process your success.

What brought you to ECU as a student?

I was deciding between ECU or App State. My best friend was going to ECU, and I really liked that it was close to Raleigh, where I’m from. When I visited campus I really liked it, too. I loved my time at ECU. I’m still friends with my sorority sisters form Alpha Delta Pi. Three of them are coming to the (Royal Rumble).

Was there ever a time when you and Vince McMahon shared an ECU moment or discussed your time here?

I love Vince. People don’t realize how accessible he is. We can talk to him and have a working relationship with him. I can’t remember the first time I talked to him about ECU, but we say Pirates have to stick together. I had a long conversation with (his wife) Linda one day and she told me how they met at ECU. He’s an amazing businessman who built WWE from the ground up.

After the Royal Rumble, what’s next for you?

As far as wrestling, I can’t talk about it just yet. But I’ll be going to Dubai soon to work on content creation for their tourism board. I’m also developing two apps right now. One is focused on virtual learning for students. I’ve also been modeling and doing some on-camera commentary in the horse racing industry. It feels like I never stop, but I like that.