As a child growing up off University Boulevard in east Orlando, Dasha Kuret ’12 dreamed of attending UCF one day. She didn’t foresee, however, that a degree in health sciences would land her a career in which body slams, suplexes and pile drivers are everyday occurrences.
Yet, here she is – a UCF alumna turned World Wrestling Entertainment ring announcer who is about to spend the next several days gearing up for one of the biggest events to hit her hometown: WrestleMania 33 on April 2.
“I have so many fond memories inside of the Citrus Bowl [now Camping World Stadium] that I cannot wait for WrestleMania this year,” Kuret said.
Better known by her stage name Dasha Fuentes, Kuret joined the WWE in 2014 and is based out of Orlando, where she has lived her whole life.
Kuret was an honor student in Orange County public schools, and with her mother’s encouragement, made her dream of attending UCF a reality.
While she worked toward her health sciences degree, Kuret – then Gonzalez – was chosen as Miss UCF 2009 and said she was proud to represent one of the nation’s largest universities. Looking back on it now, Kuret said it’s really not that surprising that she pursued her role as a ring announcer and on-camera interviewer at the WWE.
“Competing in pageants and being Miss UCF – that helped me with motivational speaking, with learning how to fail, with learning how to speak in front of a crowd. Studying science, that helped me understand body mechanics and why it moves certain ways,” she said. “Everything I [did] served a purpose at the end. When you sit back and you reflect it all comes together.”
Kuret, a former gymnast, originally joined the WWE in May 2014 as a Superstar hopeful within its development league, NXT. She trained at its Performance Center in Orlando, but one day the company needed someone to fill in as a ring announcer.
Kuret saw more opportunity for growth and longevity, so she started pursuing a career in the role full-time. After a year of ring announcing within NXT, she was drafted in November to SmackDown Live, which airs on Tuesday nights on the USA Network.
A “normal” work week for Kuret is anything but.
She typically flies on Friday or Saturday to cover live shows Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights before her television appearance Tuesday on SmackDown. When she arrives home on Wednesday, she said she usually stops in to the Performance Center to familiarize herself with the up-and-coming talent.
Fluent in Spanish, she polishes her proficiency with foreign-language classes on Thursdays and usually takes a yoga class on Friday before repeating the process the next week.
“Lots of driving, lots of flying. Being able to balance work, staying physically fit and active, eating healthy on the road, trying to find time to sleep – it’s difficult but it can be done,” she said. “I always wanted to be a positive role model and find a job where I could be intelligent and I could speak in front of people. I wanted to work for a company where they are philanthropists, and they are constantly involved in the community promoting education and physical fitness and well-being. … [This] checked all the boxes pretty much.”
She is thrilled to be part of the excitement surrounding WrestleMania’s return to Orlando, where it took place in 2008. Part of her job responsibilities will be at Axxess, a four-day fan-interaction experience at the Orange County Convention Center beginning today, March 30.
On Sunday, April 2, WrestleMania will broadcast live on WWE Network and pay-per-view in more than 180 countries. Kuret’s show, SmackDown Live, will stick around Orlando at the Amway Center for its regularly scheduled Tuesday night slot on April 4.
Kuret, who attended her first WrestleMania last year in Dallas, said this year’s mega-event is extra special to her because she loves to represent UCF and her city, and knows the whole world will be watching.
“The community of UCF and the community of Orlando is something that is a bond that can’t be explained,” she said. “I grew up with my family being very strong, and I feel like the community of UCF is very strong and getting stronger as the years go on. For me, that’s what makes me proud to be a Knight. It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter who you are, UCF accepts you. They give you the tools to succeed as long as you’re willing to find them.”