Wednesday’s WWE NXT, airing on USA Network at 8/7c, is shaping up to be one of the black-and-gold brand’s most stacked shows in some time. In addition to the men’s and women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classics continuing, recent Royal Rumble winner Edge is advertised to appear and Finn Balor will respond to Pete Dunne’s attack on him from last week.
Among the announced matches is Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter vs. Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez in the semifinals of the women’s Dusty Classic. The winners will advance to face either Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart or Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell in the finals on an upcoming episode of NXT.
Few fans expected Catanzaro and Carter to make it past the first round considering their opponents were Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez. However, the plucky underdogs managed to overcome the odds and pull out the impressive victory, only their second ever as a team in NXT.
Now it becomes a question of whether lightning can strike twice for the dynamic duo when they take on Kai and Gonzalez in the semifinals, a team they previously lost to on a June 2020 episode of NXT. This time around, however, the stakes are high and their bond is stronger than it’s ever been.
Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter are ready to go all the way in the Dusty Classic
“Me and Kayden are so different than what we’ve been able to show people up until now,” Catanzaro told Daily DDT in an exclusive interview. “We really haven’t gotten much of a chance as a tag team or even on our own to show all and people get these little glimpses. When people get these little glimpses, they always want more and we really haven’t been able to give it all yet.
“This is the tag team classic,” she said. “This is it. This is huge. This is monumental, and we finally get to be out there together. I have her in my corner. We have evolved so much as far as not being afraid anymore and showing who we are. Now we’re in there together and we want to win the whole thing. There’s nothing that’s going to stop us.”
Both Catanzaro and Carter competed in the 2018 Mae Young Classic, so neither of them are strangers to tournaments. Whether it be Mae Young or Dusty Rhodes, Catanzaro appreciates any opportunity she gets to honor a legend, and thus finding out there would be a women’s Dusty Classic this year was extremely exciting for her.
Carter signed with WWE soon after Catanzaro did in 2018, but it wasn’t until they started teaming up on the NXT house shows that they realized that there was something there for them as a team. The more they joined forces, the more chemistry they developed.
Their eccentric styles make them the ultimate unit.
“She always jokes that people call her a high-flier and she’s not, but she has that lucha feel to her,” Catanzaro said. “We balance each other well with that. After that, we were like, ‘This can really be something.’ We became friends on the outside of work and tried to get those moments where we could show people that if you give us the chance, we can really show you the things you’ve never seen before. We’re trying to do that every little bit that we can every chance we get.”
Kacy Catanzaro reflects on her NXT journey thus far and her hiatus in 2019
After making a name for herself on American Ninja Warrior, Catanzaro officially signed a developmental deal with WWE in January 2018. With no prior wrestling experience, she admits that it took her a while to find her footing as a performer and to realize who she was supposed to be.
“I came in and felt like, ‘I don’t know if I belong here. I don’t know if I’m going to be welcomed here. I don’t know if I’m going to be good enough.’ All those doubts, all those worries. I feel like for a while, I let that put me in a box where I was supposed to be in this corner of this box and only do this and only say that and I’m going to do that and that’s what’s going to happen. That just didn’t work. It didn’t work for me in the ring, it didn’t work for me mentally, it didn’t work for my well being. When I came back and showed this is me now and I’m not going to be this scared person in the corner and I’m going to show what I have, it was crazy that people loved it. Now I get to be myself.”
The time she took off to heal a back injury in the second half of 2019 did her a world of good, she feels. She ended up coming back better than she was before in a women’s Battle Royal on a January 2020 episode of NXT to a huge ovation from the fans in the audience.
Rumors ran rampant at the time that Catanzaro was potentially leaving the wrestling business, when in reality all she was doing was reassessing her goals and if this was what she really wanted to do. She added that with the business being as tough as it is, she’s always asking herself what’s next and that you have to have grit and patience if you want to make it as a WWE Superstar.
“[Time off] is crucial for athletes and especially in this business. Our bodies and our minds are so important to what we do and sometimes those don’t line up and at that point I was recovering from an injury that I had and recovering from that injury really gave me that time to work on my mindset. ‘When I am here, how can I improve on myself and my well being and me as a person here in order to be the best wrestler I can possibly be out there?’ That time off and rehab with my injury really allowed me to figure out that, ‘Wow, when I’m cleared and ready to get back in the ring, what do I want to be? I get to choose this.’ It cleared my mind and made me come back with such a better mental aspect of it that allowed me to make myself better in the ring.”
Rey Mysterio was Kacy Catanzaro’s biggest inspiration upon entering wrestling
In such a stacked women’s division, Catanzaro has successfully stood out in NXT so far with her unbelievable athleticism and innovation. Look no further than the finisher she used to beat Toni Storm in the quarterfinals of the Dusty Classic, a move so unique that it’s difficult to describe exactly what it was without seeing it.
Catanzaro confirmed she practiced it beforehand to ensure it went off without a hitch.
“Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez are two of the toughest women in NXT,” she said. “Going into that match, we were like, ‘We need to do everything that we can. There’s no holding back. This could be our only moment. We need to do it.’ For me, I have my gymnastics and that aerial awareness and I was like, ‘I need to flip and twist as much as I can to try and hit Toni as hard as I can to keep her down when we pin her.’ And it worked. So, that was exciting.”
She has given off Rey Mysterio vibes from the moment she first stepped foot in NXT. She’s constantly channeling The Master of the 619 in her matches because of how much he influenced her growing up.
“Rey Mysterio has always been a huge inspiration to me because he’s always been one of the smaller guys, but that doesn’t matter and that really showed me that doesn’t have to mean you can’t be up there with the big guys. For years and years and years, he’s been in my eyes and in a lot of people’s eyes one of the best wrestlers in the whole world. To see him and everything he’s been able to accomplish and everything he’s been able to overcome and the people he’s beaten, all of that inspiration mixed in with his athleticism that I love. The physical and emotional aspect of that, I’ve always felt very connected with him.”
Meeting her hero was a surreal experience in itself for Catanzaro. In addition to Mysterio, she’s always been in awe of The Hardy Boyz, so getting the chance to chat with all three of them since coming to WWE was super special for Mighty Kacy.
“You know how every now and then people will be like, ‘Don’t meet your heroes’? If everybody in the world could meet Rey, I would say this is what he is a hero,” she said. “He’s one of the best wrestlers in the world. If he walked around and didn’t have time to speak to anyone, nobody would ever be offended. But he goes out of his way to make time. I came in not having been on NXT TV yet or anything and saw him at a taping one time and he treated me like I was his best friend he was chatting with and talking to me about wrestling.”
Kacy Catanzaro shares her thoughts on the 2021 women’s Royal Rumble and her own Rumble experience
Catanzaro was fortunate enough to be backstage for Sunday’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view and witness Bianca Belair’s big victory firsthand. The two of them came up in the NXT ranks together, so it was as emotional for her as it was for Belair when she was declared the winner of the women’s Rumble.
“I had so much personal experience with [Belair and Rhea Ripley] as people that seeing them in the ring at the end… you could see the emotion, you could see the brawl, you could see the despair and excitement. When it was Bianca at the end, just to see in her face you know that moment is so real. Just to see that for her and to know Bianca personally and be a friend to her and know her journey, all of us girls in the back were holding back tears.”
In a photo that surfaced online after the event, she was pictured with everyone who took part in the women’s Rumble. That led to speculation she was supposed to be in it. Catanzaro confirmed that she was indeed a back-up in case anyone had to be pulled for whatever reason.
She may not have gotten her Rumble moment this year, but she was fortunate enough to partake in the annual Battle Royal for the ladies back at the 2019 installment. It was only one year removed from when she joined the company, so the nerves she had hearing her music and reminding herself to wave to the crowd while walking to the ring were unmatched.
“When us few NXT girls found out that we were going to get to be in it, it was really cool for me. Having never been on the main roster and having never been on a pay-per-view before, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is huge.’ We had tens of thousands of fans there and I remember when, I was number 19, so it went by really quick.
“It’s such an amazing feeling,” she continued. “When people say, ‘This is why I feel this way.’ You’re like, ‘Oh, that must be cool.’ But in that moment, you realize, ‘Oh my god, this is what they’re talking about. I feel it. This was amazing.’ And then it’s over and you want that feeling again. That’s where that fire comes in, that’s where that drive comes in. You want that feeling.”
Catch Kacy Catanzaro in action alongside Kayden Carter as they take on Dakoki Kai and Raquel Gonzalez tonight on WWE NXT at 8/7c, only on USA Network.