In her youth, Dawn Marie was a fan of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). She was raised to be a tomboy. Her father was a zookeeper. Growing up, Dawn admired Bob Backlund and Roddy Piper as well as his Piper's Pit.
At the age of 23, Dawn Marie found herself out of NYU business school and into a real estate consulting firm in Manhattan, New York. Dawn was working as the Director of International Real Estate before deciding to move into the entertainment industry with the goal of being either a model or actress.
Later, during an autograph signing for an independent promotion in Florida Dawn met a wrestling talent agent. He had asked her if she wanted to get into the business. Shortly after, she received a phone call telling her she was booked on a show in New Jersey. She reluctantly went, managing Tony Atlas that night in a match against Jimmy Snuka. She stopped modeling and acting and started to learn all about the wrestling industry with the help of Snuka (who became like a second father to her) while she was traveling the Indy circuit. She made her debut in January 1995.
Four years later, after valeting for various promotions, Dawn heard that Mark Lamonica (better known as Bubba Ray Dudley) from Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) had an interest in her and invited her to try out for the company. Dawn left for Philadelphia where ECW promoter Paul Heyman paired her with Lance Storm. In her first night with ECW, Dawn lost her dress and was left in the ring in her underwear. Dawn was only billed to be with ECW for one night but Paul Heyman loved her chemistry with Lance Storm so much that she was offered a developmental contract. She was then immediately added to Lance Storm's current storyline.
Dawn was soon put into a high profile storyline involving Chris Candido's manager Tammy Lynn Sytch. Her alliance with Lance Storm put over Storm's storyline that had him feuding with Candido. During this time, Dawn was dubbed Dawn Marie Bytch, to spite Candido and his manager. Dawn worked with Lance through his solo career in ECW as well as with Lance and Justin Credible as part of the Impact Players faction. The trio had a high profile run until Lance left for World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in May of 2000. Dawn was offered a contract by WCW as well, but she declined in order to stay with her fianc in ECW.
Dawn also was involved in various cat fights while in ECW and did some color commentary before working with her real life fianc Pat Kenney (better known under his ring name 'simon Diamond) in late 2000 and early 2001, until ECW closed down. During her ECW tenure, she also worked with Justin Credible, Raven and Shane Douglas.
After ECW's demise, Dawn decided to return to the independent promotions and worked in various promotions with Pat until she was contacted by the WWE. Dawn made her wrestling debut for the WWE on 13th April at a live event, on May 30, 2002, Dawn made her WWE television debut on SmackDown! as Vince McMahon's legal assistant, Dawn Marie Renaldi.
Dawn's first PPV match was at No Mercy in which she lost to Torrie Wilson.
In her next angle, Dawn was in a relationship Torrie's father Al Wilson. Torrie shared a lesbian kiss with Dawn at a hotel to avoid her marrying him. Despite this, Dawn and Al Wilson married anyway. As part of the storyline, Al Wilson died during their honeymoon. Outside of kayfabe, Dawn was called Mom by Torrie.
After being on hiatus from SmackDown! programming, Dawn began a feud with Miss Jackie, bragging that her and Jackie's fiance Charlie Haas had an affair. This angle lead up to a match between the two at WWE Armageddon 2004, with Haas as the guest referee. Dawn won the match but afterward, Haas confirmed their affair and broke off both relationships.
On April 15, 2003, in Norfolk, Virginia Dawn Marie along with Rhyno, Rey Mysterio and Sable, visited the USS Vella Gulf, a guided missile cruiser. The WWE superstars expressed their gratitude to the Navy for their efforts during the Iraq War. Dawn Marie also gave an emotional speech to the soldiers about how she knows what its like for their families at home since Dawn has a brother in the military.
During the WWE's tour of Iraq, Dawn spent the night in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces. The palace was gutted and slept on a cot as did the other WWE Superstars.