EXCLUSIVE: Nikki Bella Opens Up About Her 'Scary' Neck Injury Following Most Memorable Year Night on 'DWTS'
By Desiree Murphy
Nikki Bella isn't taking a day of her life for granted, and that includes her time on this season of Dancing With the Stars.
The WWE star and her pro partner, Artem Chigvintsev, stopped by ET for a Facebook Live interview with Lauren Zima on Tuesday, where they opened up about their emotional, inspiring, contemporary routine to Rachel Platten's "Fight Song" during Most Memorable Year night.
"I've been meaning to show that emotion and kind of break that wall," said Nikki, who was commemorating 2016, the year she came back to the ring seven months after she underwent surgery for a neck injury that could have ended her career for good. "It's just all tough. Opening up like that is just so tough."
"I think any time you hear that you're about to paralyze yourself, or even worse, it's just scary, because you start to realize how precious life is," she added, recalling the exact moment she was told her neck was about to break in half. "I felt like, in that moment, I was taking it for granted. I was loving being the champion and I wasn't listening to my body. I almost felt like I was untouchable in a way -- that I could just keep going and everything would be OK. I fortunately was lucky enough to catch it before then, but when you hear that stuff ... I had to be so strong, mentally."
Nikki continued on, telling ET that during this difficult time, her now-fiancé, John Cena, never left her side.
"He was very supportive and he motivated me a lot," she gushed. "He just gave me such an inner strength that [made be believe] I can overcome this. Because so many people were like, 'You've done it all. Like, just give up. Just live the rest of your life healthy.' And he kinda was like that, but he knew what I wanted at the end of the day, so he really helped push me, in a good way."
"I feel like you need that support system," she added. "I realized that at the time. Support systems and support groups are so important, because that's what makes you stronger."
And on DWTS, that support is her partner, Artem! He chimed in, explaining how he plans to take Nikki into the finals -- and, hopefully, score his second mirrorball.
"Wow, hard question," he confessed. "I feel like what's going to happen this way is, going to be very happy, cheesy dance. Because she hasn't been yet, happy and cheesy."
"So, we're doing the jazz this week," he teased of their upcoming Disney-themed routine. "Which is interesting, because I'm more the Latin type of expert, not the jazz type of expert. But we have a great, great movie that hasn't come out yet called Coco. It's a new Disney movie and it's going to be awesome."
Although Nikki has been absolutely slaying it on the dance floor each week, she admitted the process has been very difficult -- and a whirlwind of a difference from wrestling!
"Dancing [is harder on the body]. It's crazy. I did not even think it was possible," she explained. "But you're just using so many other muscles that you never use, and then I'm learning how to use my body correctly, because I guess I haven't been for forever. It is SO hard. And then it just makes me feel old because every step I take I'm like, 'Oh. Owww. My knees, my back, my shoulders, my arms.'"
So difficult, in fact, that Nikki said both John and her sister, Brie, have told her they'd never be able to do it.
"[John] was like, 'I could never do that. That's, like, the hardest thing ever.' So he's so impressed," she revealed. "Even last night, but it's just 'cause he loves me, he was like, 'You look like a professional dancer.' I'm like, 'You're sweet.'"
"But he just can't believe it... he's impressed by everyone," she added. "[Brie] said she doesn't think she could [do it]. She says she's amazed by how everyone moves, but she's like, 'I don't think I could do that.'"