Just over four months removed from her return to the ring, Ember Moon is ready to take the next step in her WWE NXT journey: winning the women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic at TakeOver: Vengeance Day.
It’s the first of its kind, though the men’s Dusty Cup has been around since 2015. Introducing one for the women of NXT was long overdue considering how stacked the division has been for some time.
Moon added herself to the mix when she resurfaced last October and showed no signs of ring rust despite being on the shelf with a career-threatening injury for nearly a year. Not only is she back and better than ever, she and Shotzi Blackheart want to make history as the first-ever winners of the women’s Dusty Classic.
The finals, set to take place on a special Valentine’s Day TakeOver, will see Moon and Blackheart take on the dominant duo of Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez. In an exclusive interview with Daily DDT, The War Goddess had a ton to say ahead of the event about the Dusty Classic, her return to the black-and-gold brand, her Royal Rumble experience, and more.
Ember Moon feels Shotzi Blackheart was the perfect partner for her
Throughout her five-year stint in WWE and NXT, Moon has seldom been a tag team wrestler. She’s competed in many tag team matches (including in her Raw debut), but being the self-admitted loner she is, she’s typically thrived in singles competition.
That’s why taking part in the women’s Dusty Classic was a foreign concept to her, but knowing it was an unprecedented opportunity, she took full advantage of it. After the two showed signs of great chemistry in WarGames back in December, she felt Shotzi Blackheart was the perfect person to join forces with for the historic tourney.
“Never in a billion years did I think I would be in a tag team because I’d been very adamant about being a solos wrestler,” Moon said. “I’ve said it in interviews, but something about Shotzi just made this feel special for me and it felt right. We did some stuff at WarGames where I thought, ‘Oh, man, she thinks the same way as me.’
“If I’m going to tag with anyone, it’s her because when I was on Raw and I was on SmackDown, everyone and their mom asked me to be their tag team partner,” she joked. “I was booked in so many random tag teams to the point where I thought about getting a shirt made that said Ember Moon, Everybody’s Favorite Tag Partner. Sarcasm aside and joking aside, Shotzi just felt right and it felt like it was going to be special and it is special.
“When it comes to the Dusty Cup,” she continued, “when it comes to the tag team tournament, the first ever of its kind, I want this to feel special and it does. We’re going to TakeOver as a team like two kindred spirits doing the same jam. I feel like this is finally our time to make history, our road to redemption. To have our names be the first on something… I’ve been with WWE for five years. I’ve been a part of a lot of firsts, but I’ve never been the first and this is my opportunity to do that.”
Tag team wrestling is almost entirely new to Moon, or at least as far as doing it consistently. It’s a whole other beast, in her opinion, and not having much prior experience with it made tag team matches more difficult for her early on.
It’s been a slow process to find that chemistry with Blackheart, and she knows not to take Kai and Gonzalez lightly come TakeOver.
“I’d be lying if I said [tag team wrestling] came naturally because it just doesn’t come naturally,” she said. “We’re trying to blend our two styles and make magic in the ring which has worked so far in our favor so I cannot complain there. We have Dakota and Raquel who are a well-oiled machine and have been doing this a lot longer than Shotzi and myself. We have a lot to live up to and we understand the threat that is Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai.”
Ember Moon dishes on her return to NXT and still wanting gold
As soon as Moon returned to NXT at TakeOver 31 and confronted NXT Women’s champion Io Shirai, she made it quite clear that she wants gold around her waist again.
She was firmly planted in the NXT Women’s title picture before the women’s Dusty Classic came along. That was when she shifted her sights over to the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship instead, currently held by Raw’s Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler.
The last four months have breezed by for her as she feels it’s no different than the rhythm she found herself while on Raw and SmackDown.
“It’s just getting back into the grind,” she said. “It’s different for me because I’m not based in Orlando, so I’m still traveling every week in and out through NXT. I still feel like I’m on that grind that I was on on Raw and SmackDown, but it feels different. I don’t know, it’s such a different atmosphere at NXT and the Performance Center. I’m just happy to be back, man.”
Bringing the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship to NXT is a top priority for Moon and Blackheart. The belts have been around for two years this month and have shockingly never been property of the black-and-gold brand despite them boasting the best women’s division in all of WWE.
Once she and Blackheart get past Kai and Gonzalez, their sights are set on taking those titles from Jax and Baszler. The matches they could then have with the rest of NXT’s women’s division are limitless.
“Time and time again, NXT has wanted the tag team gold,” Moon said. “I told you guys when I first got back that momma was hungry for some gold, and while it’s not Io Shriai right now, it’s the WWE Women’s Tag Team titles and I think our division is so much stronger as a whole,” Moon said. “I feel like if we brought those tag team titles home, the amount of matches [you can have] with Kayden and Kacy and then you have Candice and Indi and Dakota and Raquel and there’s so many countless others that are amazing that you guys don’t even know about.”
Moon made it a point to acknowledge that a one-on-one match with NXT Women’s champion Io Shirai still leads her list of things to do in NXT. They had the chance to team up at WarGames, which gave Moon a small taste of what she can expect when they eventually do battle as opponents.
“For the past decade, Io Shirai is someone I considered the best female wrestler in the world hands down,” she admitted. “I’ve seen the chaos she’s done in Japan and the insane amount of things [she’s done], she’s crazy good. Being able to share a ring with her and seeing jump off of a steel cage with a trash can on her head and no fear, it’s definitely eye-opening. Her dedication to keep her title is bar none, but I’m going to need her to win at TakeOver because momma’s coming for that, too. I’m not joking when I said I’m hungry for some gold. I want to be the first-ever double champion in NXT and I’m going to do that.”
Ember Moon reveals who she wants to see in NXT and talks her Royal Rumble return
While out injured, Moon didn’t see a spot for herself on Raw or SmackDown. That was why he chose to return to NXT where she saw the women’s division thriving.
Finn Balor went through something similar when he went back to the brand one year earlier and has also done some of his strongest work since then. When asked about who she’d like to see follow in their footsteps back in NXT, Moon specifically mentioned The Riott Squad, if only because it would mean that she would be able to share a ring with them again.
“Take myself out of the equation doing WWE Backstage,” she said. “‘I don’t know if I fit at Raw. I don’t know if I fit at SmackDown. I fit at NXT.’ I just feel like everybody’s doing a phenomenal job on TV right now and we’re getting to see a lot of new stars get their just due on TV, even those we haven’t seen in a while like Carmella and Bianca winning the Royal Rumble. Personally, just because I think I’m a little jelly and I enjoy working with them or wrestling with them so often, I would love to see The Riott Squad [in NXT], but I think it’s just my personal jealousy of wanting to have matches with them again because they’re awesome. They really, really are. Honestly, I would love for Billie Kay to do drive by NXT and pass out some resumes. She’s just so fun.”
Her return at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view last month was another highlight for her in recent months. It marked her first main roster-related appearance since September 2019, and although she didn’t last long in the match, she did have an impressive outing while she was in there.
The former NXT Women’s champion admits she didn’t know how to feel about being in the Rumble upon finding out a few days beforehand. She wasn’t sure what the reaction would be from both the fans and her fellow Superstars, but it ended up being an enjoyable experience.
“It was kind of weird because I was like, ‘Oh, man, I just left all of that and now I’m going back.’ I was very mixed about it because I was like, ‘I don’t know how I feel about it. Am I going to be happy to see my old friends again? Am I not going to happy?’ Because I didn’t tell anyone I was coming back to NXT. I didn’t tell anyone at all other than Alexa Bliss who’s my bestie. It was just weird and I didn’t know what the reception was going to be. I remember seeing all the girls I share a locker room with there and they were so happy for me, which was so weird [laughs]. Because you’d think they’d be like, ‘You didn’t tell us?’
“I didn’t know what that reception was going to be and it was so warm and welcoming that it actually kind of took me aback because I’ve always been a loner,” she continued. “I’ve always been by myself until recently with Shotzi. I always had Bliss there who is a phone call away, but it felt so warm and welcoming on a different level that people were just excited to see me back It was special and where I was worried I guess I shouldn’t have been. Being a part of the Rumble, which is my favorite pay-per-view, that’s always just fun.”
Catch the finals of the women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day this Sunday, February 14th at 7/6c on WWE Network.