WrestleMania 36 will mark the first time WWE has no live crowd for its signature show, and it will also be a two-night event. The company has decided the show has to go on, and so did we. WWE offered to media the interviews they couldn’t have done, and we will share them with you all week long. Legends, main roster, and NXT wrestlers, this week is all for them.
Former MMA fighter Shayna Baszler transitioned into wrestling in 2015, perfecting her craft in ROH, SHIMMER, Stardom in Japan, and the independent circuit. Baszler entered WWE’s Mae Young Classic tournament, and even if she was defeated in the final by Kairi Sane, her future with WWE was sealed. Five months after her debut on TV with NXT, she became the Women’s Champion, a title she would retain 416 days.
At Survivor Series, last year, Baszler won the triple threat champions match against Raw Women’s Champion Becky Lynch and Smackdown Women’s Champion Bayley to win Survivor Series for the NXT brand. Her feud with Becky Lynch was just blooming in front of our eyes. On the February 10, 2020 episode of RAW, Baszler appeared and attacked Becky Lynch, biting the back of her neck furiously. At the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view on March 8, Baszler became the number one contender for the Raw Women’s Championship when winning her first Elimination Chamber match, earning the right to compete against Lynch at WrestleMania 36.
Find out what her state of mind is a few days before the biggest match of her career at ‘The Grandest Stage of The All’.
How has your MMA background influenced your WWE career so far?
“Obviously, there is a familiarity with making that walk to the ring, or a cage, or whatever it may be, to face someone in one on one personal combat. Someone is there to stop you. You are there to stop them. Being in that situation and also in front of a large live audience, and also all the lights and stuff that comes with being on TV, that is a very familiar feeling for me. There was no “adjustment time” as far as that happened. I’ve been in every situation you can think of in a contest like that. The “submission magician” isn’t just an invented name, I’ve never lost. Mauro called me that when he was calling one of my MMA fights. I have something in every position I’m in. There’s something available to me. I think just never feeling lost or stressed out is the biggest advantage I have coming from Mixed Martial Arts.”
Has Ronda Rousey been a big influence for you?
“If it was up to Ronda’s mother, she would take full credit for the way my life and career has gone at the moment. There was a time where I was living with Ronda. We were all living in a house in Venice. I’ve always been a fan of wrestling, and I happened to have wrestling on the TV, and I was watching wrestling. Ronda’s mum came over, everyone gets up to go greet her at the door, and I didn’t because I was like fully enthralled in what was going on the screen. She came to the living room, she’s watching me watch wrestling, and she goes ‘you are not watching this, you are studying this’, and she said ‘keep that in mind’ and then walked away. At that moment, she may have pushed me in that direction. I was wrestling before Ronda, but Ronda definitely set the four of us (Ronda, Shayna, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke) up in a way that we could concentrate on being exactly what we are. You don’t make a lot of money in MMA, especially at first. It’s hard, and you have to work a job, you have to go to training still, it’s a hard life. She set us up so that we could just concentrate on showing up at the gym. It was always a big important thing to set up equity for later. We were looking at that aspect. We were free to concentrate on being whatever it is we wanted to be, and that is what really set the tone for where I am at today.”
For those who may not know, why are you called the ‘Queen of Spades’, tell us where it comes from.
“Well, the ‘Queen of Spades’ happens to be the card of fate. The ace of spades is the best card. I think it’s a very ominous sort of name to be attached to, but it just kind of worked out. The first time I met Josh (Barnett, her wrestling trainer), I was at an afterparty for an event that I fought at. I introduced myself, and we were all having a good time and drinking, and I was going around the whole room doing sleight of hand card tricks. I know some sleight of hand, and I’m not like great by any means, but it was an interest I had. I did this particular trick for him that involved the ‘Queen of Spades’, and I kept in touch with him, and I started training with him. The first fight I had with him as my coach, he told the announcer without my knowledge to announce me as the ‘Queen of Spades’ so it just kind of stuck, especially at a time in the sport where everyone was trying to be like, “we were super serious fighters.”
What would it mean to you to become RAW Women’s Champion at WrestleMania?
“It’ll crush Becky Lynch. She wants to talk about my whole life being a lie. Fans have gotten used to wrestling being a certain way, and I come from an upbringing in wrestling that wrestling should be a certain different way. Fans that aren’t familiar with the way that I wrestle, I’m here to show them a little bit of reality. This is what’s real. This is what happens if you get in a fight with someone that you shouldn’t. This is how it works. This is what happens when you put a small animal in a lion’s dens, and the lion wants to play with its food. This is reality. I think that having the RAW women’s title isn’t so much about I have a burning desire to be the RAW women’s champion. For me, I have a burden that I have to show what reality is, and if I have that title everyone will be forced to look at it.”
Which other WrestleMania 36 matches are you looking forward to watching as a fan?
“Brock vs. Drew. There’s so much story behind each. I think Brock is so hated that it gets missed sometimes what a great professional wrestler he is. He’s one of my favourites to watch, so that, but I also think Drew and his story of going and reinventing himself and coming back and now the biggest match of his career. Everyone’s been looking for that since the Rumble. I think that’s probably the biggest one. Obviously, I’m going to pay attention to any women match going on, just because you get to know the business you’re in. I’ll be watching to see how Bayley handles having to face half of the SmackDown locker room and see how that one goes. Obviously, Edge being a legend and coming back in having a match with Randy Orton, that’s really intriguing. Edge is my niece’s favourite wrestler of all time, so I’ll be watching that one as well.”
Do you have a final message for Becky Lynch heading into WrestleMania?
“I think that Becky Lynch, and her fans included, have gotten so used to seeing ‘fake’ – that for her to stand in a ring and talk about everything I do becoming a lie, that I’m about to show what happens when reality hits you. Everyone’s about to get hit with a hard dose of reality. I am that reality.”
WrestleMania 36 will air on the WWE Network on Saturday, April 4th, and Sunday, April 5th.
Special thanks to DS Communication – All pics and videos courtesy of WWE