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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Shayna Baszler Q&A: On life with the WWE, a potential 'gnarly' match with Ronda Rousey and becoming a role model

The NXT Women's champion discusses how she has adapted to life in the company from her MMA background, and how she used to book her TV with her housemates to ensure she watched WWE

Shayna Baszler celebrates her NXT Women's title success at WWE Evolution on Sunay in New York. Image courtesy of WWE
Shayna Baszler celebrates her NXT Women's title success at WWE Evolution on Sunay in New York. Image courtesy of WWE

Shayna Baszler has become one of the most talked about superstars on WWE programming in 2018.

The 38 year old became the two-time NXT Women's champion on Sunday when she beat Kairi Sane at the historic Evolution pay per view held by the WWE in New York.

It was the first show the company staged that was made up solely of women's matches, and Baszler was involved in the only title change to happen at the event.

Baszler, who is a former housemate and training partner of Raw Women's champion Ronda Rousey, sat down for an interview with The National before Sunday's show.

During the chat she discussed her role in the company, adapting to WWE from her Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) past, the development and future of the women's division in the company, and how she feels about a potential match with Rousey at some stage in the future.

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On her reaction on there being so much speculation as to whether she would be called up to the main roster after Evolution

"I take enjoyment in I guess the fans being so interested in what is going to happen and being so invested in what is going to happen, so it is definitely a compliment."

On how she has formed her style for WWE

"My coaches before I signed were Josh Barnett and Billy Robinson and they are very old school. If it was up to them I would walk into every locker room and say 'who wants to fight tonight’ and do it back there and assert my leadership over the locker room that way and it is not that way in this day and age but it was when Billy was coming up.

"It was in the back of my mind when I signed that I would have to juggle this kind of lineage that I came up with and the way wrestling is now.

"So it has been very important to me that I stay true to that, while fitting in to what the wrestling scene is today."

On how important it is WWE held Evolution

"It is more historic then we are going to comprehend until later on in the future.

"I think it so important. We all know how important it is for it to be successful and I think the way we are now, with all the women focused on elevating women’s wrestling as a whole."

On what is next for the women's division after Evolution

"I think there will be more in-depth stories then just the one focusing around the title. I think we are already seeing more time given for matches. We are seeing an all women’s pay per view and to your point on where the future is going, I don’t think we’d have thought we’d be in the situation we are in now three years ago so it is an exciting time to be in.”

On how she and Rousey began their interest in WWE and their journey to winning titles in the company

"It is an awesome story and Ronda will tell you the same thing so this isn’t me taking credit by any means. When we moved in, the four of us, in Venice we were in a house. I’ve been watching wrestling non-stop since I was a kid and the other three girls, like a lot of wrestling fans, would watch it, get out of it, and watch it in different periods of time.

"But because I moved in I reserved the main TV every Monday for Raw and I think SmackDown was on Fridays at the time. I reserved the TV. It was on and they got sucked back in.

"There was a time when I was watching Raw I believe and Ronda’s mother had come over. You know, there is a big commotion and everyone goes to the door to say hi and I didn’t move. I was still watching wrestling. And her mum comes in the room and she goes ‘you’re not watching this’. And I looked at her like what are you talking about and yeah I am watching it. But she said ‘you’re studying it and this is different’ and she just walked away.

"She’ll take full credit for planting that seed and now we are all here.

"It is crazy. I never would have imagined an all women’s pay per view. I never would have imagined a lot of things. There is a strong chance by the end of tomorrow night myself and one of my closest friends are going to be champions at the end of the night. So it is crazy to think that we are on the same pay per view, both in featured title fights, so it is pretty cool.”

On a possible match-up with Rousey in the future

"Way back when we were all fighting, Ronda and I were in the same weight class. Before I had met Ronda, just an abridged version of MMA history, I was ranked in the top five for a long time, while Ronda was on TV and making waves and getting all this attention.

"So people had talked about this in MMA for a while. So when we started training together and became teammates it was like you know what we will do if the time comes, and if it is the right time for the title. People always ask about that, and I always say if a linebacker in the NFL has a quarterback friend on the other team he is going to try and hit him even harder.

"I don’t think it will be any different if her and I do meet up, out of respect for each other, and it would be gnarly."

On becoming a role model

"It is funny as it was not initially a thing I thought about when I was getting into this. But now, with the event in Abu Dhabi and a whole arena chanting ‘this is hope’ it gives me chills still talking about it.

"And now with Evolution and seeing the change that it can affect. And then personally getting messages and being tagged in tweets by mums with their daughters and how encouraging it was and how I’m an inspiration. And that is crazy to me. It is something in the back of my mind constantly now.

"You do not realise the effect on change you can have by just being you and I think if there is anyone listening to this out there that matters to you can change the world simply by being you. Be authentically you.

"It is not something I went out of my way to do. I am just me. I love rock and roll and loved getting on wrestling mats since I was six and I have never been ashamed of it."