Tegan Nox is living her best life as WWE NXT Women’s Championship opportunity approaches

WWE NXT, Tegan Nox Photo: WWE.com
WWE NXT, Tegan Nox Photo: WWE.com /

Before challenging Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship on WWE NXT, Tegan Nox chats with Daily DDT chats about her huge opportunity, the Women’s Evolution, wanting a role in ‘Captain Marvel 2’, meeting Kane, and more.

WWE NXT boasts one of the strongest women’s divisions anywhere in wrestling today, and among those leading the charge is Tegan Nox.

The 25-year-old Welsh standout has been a part of the black-and-gold brand longer than most may realize due to a pair of unfortunate injuries that kept her on the shelf for the better part of two years.

However, heading into her first opportunity at the NXT Women’s Championship against Io Shirai this Wednesday night on NXT at 8/7c on USA Network, she’s living her best life, both professionally and personally.

Based on the surreal year she’s had so far, it isn’t hard to see why.

“I got to do some really, really cool things,” Nox said about the 2020 she’s had in NXT in an interview with Daily DDT over the phone earlier this week. “In Portland, I was in the first women’s TakeOver Street Fight. That was cool. I was kind of part of WarGames before Dakota [Kai] sort of turned into a bit of a mean lady and took me out, so that was cool that that happened. I was in the Royal Rumble, I was on SmackDown. So much has happened in the past three years that it’s changed me as a wrestler and as a person that right now I’m living my best life 100 percent.”

The only other time Nox and Shirai went one-on-one was nearly a year ago at an NXT live event in Buffalo, NY. It was shortly after she had been cleared to compete again but right before she returned to WWE TV in the crowd at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff.

Nox fell short of victory that night but recognizes that a lot has changed for the both of them since then. She also knows how aggressive Shirai actually is going into their highly anticipated rematch and is more prepared to take the fight to her this time around.

“I know she hits hard. Io hits hard, so I know I need to duck some stuff. I want to walk away Thursday not in pain,” she said. “It was a fun match in Buffalo, but I think we learned a lot about each other from how I’ve come back from so much stuff and Io has changed and adapted to the American style so quickly. I think [tonight is] going to be tough.”

Nox initially signed with WWE in April 2017 and was originally intended to debut as part of the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament that same summer. Before the tournament could even get underway, she tore her ACL and spent the next 10 months on the shelf.

Exactly three years later from when the Mae Young Classic began filming at Full Sail University, she is vying for the prestigious NXT Women’s Championship. Had she gotten this same chance at superstardom back when she first joined the company, she admits she wouldn’t have been ready as she is now.

“In the three years I’ve been with NXT, injuries happened, but they changed me better mentally,” she said. “I was just a kid when I came here and now I’ve evolved into someone that’s been through stuff. I’m a fighter now. I’m so much stronger and better as a person, and that’s made me better as a wrestler. I think if I had this situation three years ago, it definitely wouldn’t go my way, but tomorrow, I’m pretty confident.”

Upon appearing in the audience at TakeOver: Cardiff last August, there was speculation among fans that she’d be NXT UK bound. Despite that, she wrestled two matches on the brand, including one against NXT UK Women’s champion Kay Lee Ray, before making the move full-time to NXT.

To Nox, NXT has always been her home. She saw NXT UK as more of a pit stop but still hopes to work with more of their women someday as she continues to climb the ranks of NXT’s women’s division.

“I just so happened to be on NXT UK because I happened to be there, but NXT’s always been my home,” she said. “I enjoyed my time in NXT UK, I really did. There’s so many women that are there that I want to compete with and want to work with, but NXT is my home. As soon as I got the opportunity to come back, I was definitely going to take it and run with it.”

With Monday marking the five-year anniversary of Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch making their main roster debuts and ushering in the Women’s Evolution, Nox doesn’t take her participation in the movement for granted.

Molly Holly has always had a huge influence on Nox as she inspired her to break into the business in the first place. Nox believes the future WWE Hall of Famer helped lay the groundwork for the Women’s Evolution in WWE long before it became known as such.

“Obviously, Molly Holly shaving her head was a big thing because you didn’t see women do that,” she said. “She did that match specifically to elevate the women’s division anyway, so that’s a big thing for me. And then Trish and Lita main event Raw for the first time. There’s just so much stuff. And then Sasha and Bayley at Brooklyn is one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. It’s one of those matches you can watch over and over again, you’ll always find something new and you’ll enjoy it in a different way.

“Honestly, being a part of it knowing it’s an actual thing that’s happened like the women’s empowerment and evolution is something people are fighting for is probably the best part of it all.”

Among the Women’s Evolution moments she cherishes the most include this year’s women’s Royal Rumble match due to her involvement in it. She didn’t last long before being eliminated by Shayna Baszler, but just knowing she was in the same matchup as her idol Molly Holly was enough to keep her smiling in defeat.

“That was a cool day,” Nox said about the experience. “We’ve had women like Molly Holly, Beth Phoenix, Lita, Trish [Stratus] and we then moved to Charlotte [Flair], Bayley, Sasha, Becky [Lynch]. Now we get the chance to elevate that even further, take what they built and build it even more for the next generation to build that even more and continue. This uprising has been such a heartwarming experience and to be an even tiny part of that is such a big deal means more to me–obviously I want a championship–but being part of something like that to me means way more than anything else could.

“That’s what I want to do: just open the gates and build a platform for the next generation of female wrestlers that come in. Being a part of the Royal Rumble with Molly was ridiculous. Being backstage, hearing her music, watching her stand there and go out there and do her business, and then afterward she texted me saying I did a good job, blew my mind. I was back in my hotel room practically in tears, as I usually do (laughs). But it was cool, it was really cool.”

Along with Molly Holly, Beth Phoenix also lead the list of potential dream opponents for her if an Evolution 2 were to happen as has been rumored lately. She had to sit the last Evolution pay-per-view out due to suffering a serious injury in mid-2018 and would jump at the opportunity to be a part of the next one.

From the current roster, Nox would enjoy facing Ruby Riott, Candice LeRae and Bayley at some point as well.

“Obviously, I grew up idolizing Molly Holly and still do to this day along with Beth and Ruby is just incredible,” she said. “She’s one of my best friends and just a nice, genuine person and such an incredible talent that she’s at the top of my list. There’s a couple of other women. If she decides to be nice again, I’d love to wrestle Candice at an Evolution. Honestly, I’d love to have a singles match with Bayley. I think that would be super fun. I was in the tag team championship match against her and Sasha [Banks] with Shotzi [Blackheart]. It was such an incredible learning experience and such an enjoyable experience that I’d love to have a singles match with Bayley.”

In addition to Molly Holly, Kane has been one of Nox’s long-standing favorites in WWE. She’s gone so far as to incorporate some of his move-set into her matches, including the patented chokeslam.

The monster-turned-mayor surprised Nox on WWE’s The Bump last year ahead of her WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match with Dakota Kai. Their interactions have been limited since then, but she did cherish that first face-to-face encounter (over Skype) and aims to continue making him proud.

“He followed me on Twitter and I about lost my mind. He did it on both [accounts]! It was a big day. It was a very big day, a stressful day,” she said. “He was super nice on The Bump and wished me luck and told me my chokeslam was cool, so anybody that says I shouldn’t be using the chokeslam, that’s all that matters. He’s such a nice guy and it shows just how much of a nice guy that Kane is that he took time out of his mayoral duties to come on The Bump and take to a girl that’s basically a massive man of his. He didn’t have to do that. He’s just helped me being a wrestler. Just watching him is something I always learn from myself.”

The NXT Universe got to see a new side of Nox in her documentary, The Comeback, that was released on WWE’s social platforms and WWE Network. It chronicled both of her roads to recovery since joining WWE and how she emerged from the experience faster, stronger and shinier than she was before.

While the inaugural WCPW Women’s champion doesn’t want to be known as “The Comeback Kid” going into her latest battle with Shirai, she admits that the feedback to the piece was nothing short of incredible with people all over the world sending pictures of themselves watching it.

“It was a long process, it was a year in the making if not more,” Nox said. “Seeing such positive reactions about whether how proud they were of me or how hard I’ve worked or how I inspired them to work hard. I’ve had people messaging me saying they were going through injuries or issues with their mental health and how I’ve helped them. That’s all I really wanted from this. I didn’t want exposure for myself. I just wanted to help other people like I was helped by my friends and family. If I could do that with a documentary about a tough subject, then I was more than happy to. All of the feedback was positive, which I’m super thankful for.”

Part of the documentary explained her admiration for 2019’s Captain Marvel film and specifically the role Brie Larson played as Carol Danvers. She saw it at a time when she was feeling down on her luck about making a successful return to the ring but walked out of the theater more motivated than ever.

Her Captain Marvel fandom can be seen any time she walks to the ring, as her entire assemble is inspired by the character. A sequel to Captain Marvel has already been announced for 2022, giving Nox just enough time to petition for a spot in the cast, even if it’s just in the background.

“I think I’ve burnt out my [Captain Marvel] DVD. That was the first thing I’ve watched on Disney Plus. I’ve watched it so many times,” she said. “It’s one of those movies that will always give me chills. People have stopped watching the movie with me now because I just say all the lines along with the movie. I would like to be in [Captain Marvel 2], if that’s a possibility. I don’t need a speaking role, I can just walk in the background. Just put me in the movie. That’s all I ask.”

Nox has been very vocal about how Captain Marvel helped with her mental health and got her out of the dark place she was in at the time. With the platform she has in NXT, her goal is to have that same impact on others and encourage them to just be themselves without making any apologies for it.

“For me, I’ve been lucky enough to have such an incredible support system with my friends and my family and the WWE family in general,” she said. “Everyone was wanting to help me. No one was putting themselves first, they were putting me first, which is what I did. I always put people first instead of me, but they kind of forced me to put myself first which is nice. I was lucky enough to have all that, so when people messaged me saying they don’t have a support system, I’m happy enough to reach out to them or check in with them every few months or weeks. I keep an open gateway. If someone’s struggling and I can help them, I will. That’s all I want in life. I want to use my platform, my name to help people overcome any type of thing.”

Outside of the NXT Superstars and Performance Center recruits, there won’t be any fans in attendance for her title shot on this week’s NXT. Hearing the roar of the crowd was what drove her while rehabbing her injuries in recent years, and the chance to feel that same adrenaline rush again eventually will motivate her to take home the title against Shirai as well.

“The fans are the heart and soul of the WWE and NXT Universe. They are who we do this for,” she said. “We like to make them happy and with what’s going on right now, we are still doing that by putting on shows weekly and making them smile and bringing them some entertainment. Out of everyone I know, everybody in WWE and NXT are so excited for the crowds to come back and being able to travel. Coming out of that curtain and seeing that first kid’s face when we come out and the smiles. We’re all super excited for that.”

As a well-documented die-hard fan of The Office and Captain Marvel, a dog lover and an avid gamer, Tegan Nox is the ultimate fan favorite and, in reality, the NXT Universe really have no reason to not root for her come her championship clash with Shirai on Wednesday night.

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When asked what other interests she has, Nox said: “I don’t know! I like food if that helps. I really like food. I think you nailed it all on the head right there other than I’m going to bring the fight to Io. The woman she faced a year ago is not the woman I am now. I think that pretty much says it all.”

Watch Tegan Nox challenge Io Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship this Wednesday on WWE NXT at 8/7c, only on USA Network.