WWE Star Gabbi Tuft Lost All Will to Live—But Coming Out as Transgender Changed Everything

Ahead of Transgender Day of Visibility, WWE alum Gabbi Tuft details the deep depression she experienced before coming out as transgender in 2021 and tells E! News about the moment everything changed.

By Sarah Grossbart Mar 31, 2024 11:00 AMTags
Watch: WWE’s Transgender Star Gabbi Tuft Back In The Arena

Throughout her four years in the ring WWE superstar Gabbi Tuft was essentially fearless. 

At 6-foot-2 and some 260 pounds of pure, chiseled muscle, "I was the alpha male," she recalled in an exclusive interview with E! News. "We have a term in professional wrestling, it's called grizzled. I was pretty grizzled. Never wore sunscreen, never put lotion on, I'm like, 'Ah, that's girl stuff. I don't need that.'" 

But perfectly executing a Burning Hammer is one thing, working up the nerve to climb down from her Ford F-150 and officially enter the world as a transgender woman quite another. 

"I was petrified," she recalled of sitting there in her stiletto heels, $15 Amazon wig and pandemic-era mask. "You're breaking every rule that society has ever beat into you of being a guy. I look at bravery as a soldier on the battlefield. But there's a different kind of courage to step out and it took a whole hell of a lot of it. I was this big human crying and shaking because I was so nervous to get out of the truck. But I did it. And it was a great, great, great moment."

Transgender Stars Share Their Journeys

Her metaphorical tag-team partner on that evening in 2021: Wife of 20-plus years, Priscilla Tuft, who helped make the moment possible. 

Priscilla had been the one to take notice of her spouse's increasingly fraught emotional state. 

"I had become extremely suicidal," explained Gabbi, "because I felt like there was no possible way that I would ever be able to transition the way I had hoped."

Having lost her brother Christopher to suicide, she never imagined she'd let herself go to such a dark place. "I know the pain it causes a family, I know the torment that person goes through," she continued. "And so my heart was saying, that would never happen. But in the moment, I was feeling that way. It was as if all the life had left my body. I just had no will to live whatsoever."

Courtesy of Gabbi Tuft

Which is why it was such a relief when wife Priscilla approached her "and asked me if there was something I wanted to talk to her about," the 45-year-old revealed. "And I was able to tell her that if I couldn't live my life as a woman, I didn't want to go on living. And I really believe that the moment she said, 'Honey, I know. And I love you and we'll get through this,' is when everything changed."

Though the parents to 12-year-old Mia are "in the process of working on a divorce," noted the GLO Podcast host, Priscilla was her wing woman on that first night out in Austin's gay district. 

Sitting in the truck's passenger seat, Gabbi allowed herself to imagine every worst-case scenario. "It basically boiled down to, 'Everybody's going to look at you, they're going to say something, they're going to laugh at you,'" she recounted. But Priscilla insisted that, no, she really could do this and everything would turn out fine. "That support got me out of the truck," the California native shared. "And once I closed the door, there was no going back. There I was."

All nearly 7-feet of her because, as Gabbi noted, "early in transition, a lot of my sisters, including myself, feel like heels are the way to go. On a 6-foot-2 human, a pair of 5-inch spikes, oof. I was like, 'I don't want to stick out. But at 6-foot-7, I was sticking out, honey.'"

Leading the way, Priscilla approached the bouncer at the door "and she says, 'Hey, it's my wife's first time out in public. She's a little nervous. What can we do to make her feel comfortable?'" shared Gabbi. "And he's like, 'Come on over here, sweetheart. Can I see your ID please? Let me get you a table.'" 

Courtesy of Gabbi Tuft

Remembering how they "rolled out the frickin' red carpet" for her, Gabbi said the experience left her feeling enveloped in love.

"They didn't care how early I was in my transition," she shared. "They didn't care that I was wearing heels and 6-foot-7. They didn't care that I didn't have breasts. They're like, 'Come on in, have a good time.' By the time I left there, I didn't care what anybody thought. I just walked free as a bird back to the truck."

Not to say it was entirely easy to spread her wings. 

Having retired from the WWE in 2014, the certified personal trainer had built up a roster of clientele eager to sculpt the sort of figure that made Gabbi such a success in the ring. "I was the poster boy of alpha male fitness," she recalled. And so after she officially came out as transgender in 2021, her customers didn't "want to follow a male who gave up his manhood. They're looking to be that alpha male. I don't blame them, I would probably have done the same thing. But the business crashed."

Courtesy of Gabbi Tuft

The day she swiped her debit card to discover all of her accounts were red ("I had nothing") was the figurative elbow drop to the stomach that she needed.

"I could no longer hide," noted Gabbi. "No matter how uncomfortable I felt with the way that I looked or my hair hadn't grown back in yet, or the amount of muscle I had, if I didn't take action, I couldn't pay my mortgage, I couldn't put food on my table, my daughter and I were going to be on the street. That was the breaking moment, I could either roll over and put all four legs in the air and give up or I could take action."

She sold off nearly everything in her garage—including two racing bikes—at a fraction of their worth and took to social media with an announcement: She was accepting new clients and ready to share her hard-earned, evidence-based wisdom online with the guarantee that she could help anyone meet their fitness goals. 

"By the end of the week, I had one or two clients," she said. "By the end of the second week, I had a couple dozen. And by the end of the first month, I was paying my mortgage. And it was just me busting my booty, doing everything I could to ensure these people had the highest level of success." 

Courtesy of Gabbi Tuft

And then there was everything she was doing to achieve her own measure of success. 

Despite coming armed with three decades of fitness experience, a slew of certifications in sports nutrition and a wealth of scientific knowledge, finding the right formula to help her body shed muscle "was not easy," Gabbi explained. The answer proved to be a combination of intermittent fasting, following a ketogenic diet free from carbs or sugar and doing an hour of high-intensity cardio a day without so much as looking at a dumbbell. 

"It's beyond what most people are capable of," Gabbi noted of her do-not-try-this-at-home routine. But she was so determined to have the life that she desired "and when you know your why, you know that driving force behind everything that you're doing. It's not, 'How am I going to do it?' It's, 'Why do I want to accomplish that goal?' And when that's in your mind, the impossible becomes possible." 

Courtesy of Gabbi Tuft

But for Gabbi the physical element was just one sliver of her transition. Learning to love who she was on the inside was a much larger piece

Three months before her facial surgery, she had to stop getting Botox and allow any fillers in her face to dissolve so that the surgeon could get an accurate picture. And, for three months after she wouldn't be able to wear any wigs or hairpieces.

"I realized at that very moment, I had three months to get right with myself," Gabbi shared. "I looked in the mirror and I asked myself, 'If for any reason, this surgery didn't go through, would I be able to live the rest of my life like this?'"

The answer: An unequivocal yes. "I don't care what I look like, I love me," she explained. "I'm a great human. My family loves me, my friends love me, I have a great time wherever I go. I'm helping people change their lives, like, it doesn't matter what I look like. And then I started to venture out as me, no makeup, no hair, just whatever my body was at the time. And I slowly became comfortable with that."

Courtesy of Gabbi Tuft

Fast-forward a few years and not only is she feeling like a winner, but she's also ready to kick ass and take names, teasing a return to the WWE

"It has been a mixed bag," she admitted of the response from the wrestling community. "Fifty percent of the people want to see me out there, 50 percent of people don't want to see me in the ring. Am I stepping in the ring with a guy? Am I going to destroy him? Is he going to destroy me? Or am I going to step in the ring with a female? Is she going to beat me? Or am I going to beat her? So love me or hate me, the entire world is going to be watching. And that's exactly what I want to happen."