WWE Superstar Natalya talks Ireland, Ronda Rousey and being left off the recent Saudi Arabia card
Some interesting thoughts from the WWE star.
We caught up with WWE superstar Natalya before last week's Dublin event. Natalya addressed Ireland, Ronda Rousey, and the entirety of the women's division being left off the recent Saudi Arabian card.
Given the fact that Natalya is 10 years deep in the game, she could be forgiven for not having the same level of enthusiasm and energy that she did when she first started. But she maintains that this is not the case. She says she still gets the same buzz, especially in places like Dublin and Belfast.
"It's crowds like that that really give you the energy as a performer to give it your all," she says.
"Just walking down the ramp and just looking out and seeing how many people, and everyone just being so enthusiastic and energetic. It was just really awesome and it makes all those long flights and early mornings, crowds like that in Belfast, they just make it worth it."
Speaking about Ireland in particular, Natalya had nothing but good things to say.
"I've been to Ireland many times, and Ireland is one of my favourite places in the world to perform. I love the passion in Ireland. I'm very good friends with one of our coaches, Findley, he's Irish and he's been working with the women of the WWE for 10 years with me, and gosh even longer than that before me. He's been an inspiration for me, and he really represents the people of Ireland - the passion, whether it's wrestling, or different sports or their family, it's just loyalty and passion.
"And you see that in the audience, I saw it last night with the people of Belfast. That same spirit that Findley passes on to the women of the WWE when he's helping coach us, you can feel it in the audience. People believe in you. They're behind you 100% and they're loyal and they're relentless and they're passionate about you doing your best work so I love the enthusiasm of the Irish people."
Speaking about her own career, Natalya didn't hold back when discussing her achievements, but she was very quick to reinforce the idea that she has a lot more left to do, both inside and outside of the ring.
"Really, I love what I do in the ring, but I don't just love being a wrestler with the WWE, I love being an ambassador for the WWE - the work we do with Make a Wish, the work we do with (paediatric cancer research charity) Connor's Cure, and kids that are going through so much around the world.
"Whether it's battling a life-threatening illness or teaching kids about respecting each other and not bullying, there's just so much I do outside of the ring, it's just such a good time to be a woman in the company."
Clip via WWE
"Yes I was a women's champion, yes I was a Diva's champion, yeah I've been a part of the first ever women's Money In The Bank ladder match, and the first ever women's royal rumble, and the first ever women's table match... And yeah, I guess I have done so much, but I also feel like, at 35, I'm really in a great place, because I have experience but I still wanna grow," Natalya adds.
"I wanna work with Ronda Rousey, I wanna work with girls I've never worked with before. I've never had a singles match with Sasha Banks. I'm excited to be drafted over to Raw, it's a fresh new start. Overall, I'm excited. As long as the fans feel my enthusiasm, we're all on the same page together."
After Natalya touched on former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, we asked just how impressed she has been with Rousey's start, and whether she believes she'll be a success in the WWE.
"I really like Ronda," Natalya says.
"She makes it really hard not to like her. She's a good friend of mine. I'm impressed by her on so many levels. Her work ethic, her attitude, her drive, her determination to be innovative and different but to still stick to her roots. But she's still really humble. I like being around her.
"When I train with her and work with her, she makes me wanna be better. Even though she doesn't have a whole lot of experience in WWE, she performed at Wrestlemania a little over a month ago, or less than a month ago? I'm not even sure what day it is... She just did so well. It was a testament to her commitment and to her hard work.
"She's stepping into a whole new world, this is not her world. But she's an example that change is good, and that there's always something new that we can be challenged by. I love Ronda."
Clip via WWE
Given that wrestling in Ireland has been on the up for a while, and the WWE boasts three extremely talented Irish superstars, we asked Natalya if there was anything that set them above the rest, inside or outside of the ring.
"When I look at Finn (Bálor) and Becky (Lynch) and Seamus, it goes back to the same thing I said about Findley - there's something about the Irish," Natalya tells us.
"They're so passionate. Passionate, loyal and relentless. When I look at the three of them, they all had different journeys to the WWE, but they were all relentless about getting there because they knew that this is where they wanted to be, and this is what they wanted to do and they didn't let anything get in their way. It's the same with Findley, and he passes it on to all of us. I feel that same spirit in the Irish people. There's a mutual respect, and it's kind of inspiring."
One of the WWE's best achievements in recent years is their improvement when it comes to their female talent.
Years ago, women were nothing more than eye-candy, with bra and panty matches and wet t-shirt contests being the norm. Since Natalya's debut, the WWE has improved dramatically when it comes to women's wrestling - to the point that women are at the forefront of a number of the biggest shows.
We asked Natalya for her thoughts about the increased role of women in the WWE and whether or not she felt the journey had just begun.
"I think there's a lot more room for us to grow, and that's a great thing," she says.
"It's one of the main reasons why I really love my career in the WWE, and why I really want to grow with the company because we have evolved so much, even in the last few years. You look at the women in the last couple of years, we've main-evented RAW, we've main-evented Smackdown, we've pay-per-views, we've main-evented the Royal Rumble.
"I think the women in the WWE would love to main-event Wrestlemania. We still would love an opportunity to do so much more. We have to start small build, we're building and we've kind of hit the ground running. It's awesome because the fans, our WWE universe, have kind of let the WWE upper management know 'hey this is what we want' and it's great because we feel like we're making a difference. Our voices are being heard, and the fans' voices are being heard. We're in it together."
Clip via WWE
"It was an awesome show," she says.
"And I was thinking 'wow this is so cool, I really want to be a part of this one day' and it goes back to everybody evolving. It takes time to grow and move forward. I believe everything is going in a positive direction.
"Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say, but I think definitely we'll get there, I'm excited about it. I was talking with several of the male talents that were over in Saudi Arabia, and Roman Reigns said it was just so incredible, and that he can't wait to go back. So it's exciting for us to think about going there.
"I think one day I'll be there for sure."