Shayna Baszler gets candid about WWE Raw run, NXT return, Nia Jax and more

WWE, Shayna Baszler Photo:
WWE, Shayna Baszler Photo: /

The future of WWE’s women’s tag team division is entirely dependent on the outcome of this Wednesday’s WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship clash between current champs Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax and the duo of Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez.

Love them or loathe them, Baszler and Jax have dominated the tag team scene for as long as they’ve been together. In just over 40 days, they’ll surpass The Kabuki Warriors for the longest cumulative days as champions, assuming they can emerge from their upcoming outing with Kai and Gonzalez victorious.

NXT is familiar territory for both Baszler and Jax, though the former spent far more time there than the latter. From 2017 to 2020, she was a staple of that stacked women’s division and reigned as NXT Women’s champion for the better part of two years.

Before she returns to her old stomping grounds this Wednesday on USA Network at 8/7c, The Queen of Spades talked to Daily DDT about teaming with Jax, what she’s learned since arriving on Raw, why a Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen match is still intriguing, and more.

Shayna Baszler talks about her return to NXT and how it compares to WWE Raw

Other than a one-off appearance two weeks ago, Baszler hasn’t been seen in NXT for over a year. She’s done well in the tag team ranks alongside Jax, but of all the teams they’ve taken on as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, they’ve never battled a tandem as cohesive or as dangerous as Kai and Gonzalez.

Kai and Gonzalez initially joined forces just over a year ago at NXT TakeOver: Portland when Gonzalez aided Kai to victory against Tegan Nox. It’s been a mutually beneficial partnership since then and now they have their sets sight on becoming champions and bringing those titles to NXT.

“I think it’s going to be a very physical match,” Baszler said about what fans can expect from her and Jax’s encounter with Kai and Gonzalez. “I think all four of us in this match are very physical wrestlers. You’re not going to see anyone baby anyone. Obviously, Nia and I are not in the business of babying anyone, so I think it’s going to be one of the most physical women’s matches people have seen in a long time.”

During their confrontation on the Feb. 17 episode of NXT, Kai acknowledged her history with Baszler from three years ago and assured Baszler that she won’t be stepping in the ring with the same Dakota Kai from 2018. “The Captain” has evolved since then, but “The Queen of Spades” has changed, too.

Baszler took the time to remind Kai that she, too, has grown leaps and bounds as a performer in the last year and that she is more dangerous than she’s ever been.

“Everybody’s trying to talk about how much Dakota has changed and how much she’s ready to stand up to me, who used to bully her, but people are forgetting that I’ve had a road of my own,” she said. “If people think there’s not a difference between NXT and Raw, for example, just look at how long it took me to get my footing. I came in all hot-headed like I ruled NXT and it’s only been recently that I’ve gotten my wheels turning and going somewhere. The fact I’m now doing that shows I’ve grown, too.”

Baszler has spent enough time on NXT and Raw to know what the biggest differences between the two brands are. Even without crowds at the moment, she knows that Raw and SmackDown are much bigger stages than NXT and aren’t as intimate, which is what she was used to during her days as a mixed martial artist.

It was up to her to change up her style to appeal to a much broader base of viewers. Despite some initial hesitation, she believes she’s finally figured out what works for her (and everyone else, including Vince McMahon) on the grand stage.

“The way I had to broadcast my message definitely had to change,” she said. “It doesn’t translate as well in a less intimate setting. That’s not good or bad, that’s just the difference. Raw’s been around forever, so it’s going to be a lot bigger. I think the biggest thing was rather than beating my head against a wall and insisting that this worked in NXT so it should here, it was realizing I also had to change for the different type of audience that is on Raw.”

Shayna Baszler has only just recently found her footing on Raw and as a tag team wrestler with Nia Jax

While on Renee Paquette’s Oral Sessions podcast recently, Baszler brought up how it took her quite a few months to feel comfortable with the main roster style and how only recently has she found her footing.

Additionally, that adjustment period is ongoing, she believes, and that you should always be learning, adapting, and growing if you want to be successful. As far as showing the whole world what she’s capable of, the former NXT Women’s Champion has barely scratched the surface.

“I think if you’re ever satisfied with where you’re at, that’s a bad spot to be,” Baszler said. “I think any good wrestler will tell you they’re not there yet, they’re still getting there, even if they’re a champion which I am. I think even though, yes, I am more comfortable and gaining traction and gaining ground, I’m still headed somewhere. It’s not the full form of me yet. I think that’s going to be true as long as I’m in this business. Hopefully, when that doesn’t happen I know I should be done.”

Fans who followed her work in NXT are well aware that she isn’t primarily a tag team wrestler. That was why those same fans were flabbergasted when she reluctantly paired up with Nia Jax and entered the tag team ranks last August.

Of course, it’s hard to argue with their success. They quickly unseated Sasha Banks and Bayley as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions at the Payback pay-per-view, and aside from dropping them for a five-week period from TLC to Royal Rumble, they’ve been on top of the tag team scene ever since.

Their dynamic is different than anyone else’s in WWE at the moment. They’re far from friends (and Baszler even admitted that they don’t typically text each other every day), but they work well together and have no intentions of splitting up any time soon.

“At the beginning of our team-up, you saw two singles wrestlers tagging in and doing something on their own,” she said. “Now you do see us working together. Now you do see us helping each other out and maybe making saves that are well-timed and needed. If you want to talk about tag team wrestling and these great tag teams that you think of when you think of that, I don’t think we’re even close to that. But also, that’s our dynamic. To say we’re not one of the best tag teams to come around is also wrong.”

Shayna Baszler never let the pressure or the negativity get to her upon arriving on WWE Raw

By the time Baszler lost the NXT Women’s Championship to Rhea Ripley following a 416-day title reign, she was well overdue for a move to the main roster.

There was originally a fear among fans that she wouldn’t be booked like the star she was in NXT, and although that may be true now, it certainly wasn’t the case early on in her run on Raw. Instead, she had a strong showing in the women’s Royal Rumble, attacked Becky Lynch in her official Raw debut, and won an Elimination Chamber main event match in record time.

Being called up to Raw or SmackDown on the road to WrestleMania is a huge ask for anyone. In her personal opinion, she thrived off the pressure and in her words “showed up,” though she still had some learning to do.

“One thing I don’t think fans realize is that just because you’re signed to WWE and are a champion in NXT and are moved to Raw, it doesn’t mean that you’re ‘it’ immediately,” Baszler said. “My learning just so happened to be done at the most visible time in my career. I didn’t do any worse or better than anyone. I just think people saw a different stage with where I was at. Some people come up and they’re not necessarily in the main title picture but they’re here and it takes them a year or two before they start gaining ground and then they really start turning heads. That part where they’re not in the main title picture, I was, so you got to see my whole learning process.”

Adding on to that pressure was the report of Vince McMahon not being high on her, at least according to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestle Talk’s Andy Datson). Interestingly enough, that surfaced days before she wound up winning the Elimination Chamber match and punched her ticket to WrestleMania 36 to face Lynch for the Raw Women’s Championship.

Baszler admitted that she saw the scuttlebutt and essentially laughed it off, knowing Vince didn’t have any issues with her work at that point at all. Knowing the behind-the-scenes secrets and even her friendship with Ronda Rousey, who was notoriously scrutinized by UFC and WWE fans, have helped her maintain a positive attitude and not listen to the naysayers as much.

“I think there’s a big part of the business that we wrestlers hold sacred and I think that helps a lot because even if a dirt sheet writes it or fans are tweeting it, there is a side to us that are like, ‘Well, they don’t know, we know the secrets,'” she said. “No matter how inside someone thinks they are, you’re not inside unless you’re in this locker room with us.”

“You see it scroll by and you think, ‘Okay, I’ll read this thing,’ and it says, I don’t know, ‘Vince isn’t high on Shayna right now! Read this!'” she continued. “Also, I can know that fans don’t know that he actually talked to me yesterday and it was not any of this. It’s good to have that sacred part of the business that’s ours only and it really helps deal with that negativity.”

Shayna Baszler reveals her thoughts on Raw Underground and a potential Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen match

On the subject of Rousey, Baszler made mention of how the interest would absolutely still be there for a Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen match at some point in WWE, if the stars aligned. For those unfamiliar, Baszler, Rousey, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir were the first to refer to themselves as the Four Horsewomen in UFC, while Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch later adopted the moniker in WWE.

It’s a bout that’s been brewing for a while, but the timing has never been right for it to happen. Rousey and Lynch are currently taking time off, but once they inevitably return, Baszler sees no reason why fans wouldn’t want to see the two super-groups collide inside the squared circle.

“I think that can be intriguing at any moment,” she said. “The other girls, Charlotte, Becky, Sasha and Bayley, they’re still at the top of their game right now. I think any time would be a time to ignite that. I’ve always said they’re four great wrestlers. They’re four of the best wrestlers there have ever been. Nobody’s ever argued that. The four of us, Ronda, Jessamyn, Marina and myself, we’ve never denied that. We’ve never not proclaimed that they’re four of the best. But we’re a team. We’re an actual team.

“You can’t just pick 11 random good football players and call them the Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” she added. “That’s a specific team. That’s what we’ve always argued. If fans want to see us show what being a team and being what four random really good wrestlers is, then we’d always be down to do that. We never turn down fights.”

Finally, throughout Baszler’s one-year main roster run, never at any point did she feel more comfortable than she was when she competed in Raw Underground. It was a short-lived concept that lasted roughly six or seven weeks, but Baszler was in her element whenever she showed up at the dingy warehouse looking for a fight.

“I loved [Raw Underground],” she said. “I don’t know what fans thought about it, but that’s, like, the most comfortable I’ve felt. Obviously, you can bring up my MMA background and how I climbed my way… I was doing shows that looked almost exactly like [Raw] Underground in MMA that were just in a warehouse with people standing around with sign-up-at-the-door type stuff. That was very familiar to me. Even on top of that, coming up in pro wrestling, obviously being trained by Josh Barnett and Billy Robinson, that UWFI style is very Raw Underground. Honestly, I talk about finding my footing and feeling comfortable as myself, I think Raw Underground had a hand in that.”

Regardless of whether she walks out of Wednesday’s NXT with the tag titles still in her possession or not, WWE fans can expect plenty more of Baszler’s brutality for years to come.

Catch Shayna Baszler in action on WWE NXT this Wednesday on USA Network at 8/7c.