NZPWI had the opportunity to speak to New Zealand WWE NXT Superstar Dakota Kai late last week.
Kai made her WWE debut as part of the Mae Young Classic last year. She is now a weekly fixture on WWE NXT, where she has battled NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler for the title throughout 2018.
Kai also made her WrestleMania debut as part of the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal in New Orleans at WrestleMania 34.
NZPWI’s David Dunn spoke to Dakota Kai about her WrestleMania 34 appearance, training with Ronda Rousey, the upcoming Evolution pay-per-view, and more in this exclusive interview conducted Thursday, August 2.
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NZPWI: What sort of culture shocks have you experienced now that you live in the United States of America?
Dakota Kai: Even though I did do a few States tours before living here, nothing can really prepare you for how different it is. For one, petrol was so cheap [laughs]. Learning to drive on the other side of the road was a little bit insane. When I landed in Orlando last year for the first time they gave us a rental and were pretty much like, ‘Okay, there you go, see you later’. There were a few scary moments involved, but nothing major bad happened. It’s been cool though, I really have adapted to life now. I think going home will be a little bit rough now, a bit different for me now, but I really have adapted. It’s been cool.
When did you find out you were going to be part of the WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal?
We found out after [NXT] TakeOver, the night before. About 10:30-11pm. I’d been working Axxess all weekend so they put us on a bus straight to TakeOver and Triple H pulled us into a room—the girls that would be involved in it—and told us that we would be part of that the next day. It just goes to show that everything within this business can be so last minute, so on the fly, you just have to be prepared for anything. And it’s just as crazy as you would imagine it to be, doing that, working that WrestleMania match was absolutely insane.
What was it like walking into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the first time?
Even now it’s a bit surreal to think that that even happened, months later. When I first walked into the stadium… I wrestled an Axxess match that morning so I hopped on the bus and went straight to the venue and it was really overwhelming. I’m trying to think of different words but that’s literally what it was. Looking around at how high up the stands were, just the whole stage, and looking at the ramp and just thinking to yourself ‘That’s where I’m going to be walking down in a few hours, that’s crazy’. The ring looks so small in the scheme of everything around it. It’s really, really crazy, and actually walking out, later on, was just insane – mind-blowing.
Have you had many other ‘pinch-me’ moments like that? Whether it’s being trained by Shawn Michaels at the Performance Center, or The Rock mentioning you on Twitter…
I think that that WrestleMania moment is probably the top. I’d say it’s the top moment just for the amount of feelings that I experienced to be able to be part of that match, it was insane. And our NXT girls having that moment in the ring. You can watch WrestleMania on TV but actually being there—let alone in a match—nothing can compare to that. It really is the most insane thing in the world.
You trained with Ronda Rousey prior to WrestleMania. What was it like to share the ring with her?
That was such a cool opportunity. They took a couple of us girls and flew us up to Connecticut to train with her in the lead-up to her WrestleMania match. She’s so lovely so it really is very, very cool to be able to see such a lovely, humble person just killing it on a completely different platform to what she’s done. And the fact that their WrestleMania match was super, super awesome, it really does feel cool that we almost had a little helping hand in being able to get her ring-ready.
What does Ronda Rousey mean to WWE? What will be her legacy as a WWE Superstar?
Ronda’s done so much. She really is just bringing a certain legitimacy to WWE. The fact that there’s an all-women’s pay-per-view is insane, so the likes of Ronda Rousey—she’s done so many things in her career—the fact that she’s here and putting on these amazing, amazing matches, she really is seen as a trailblazer in a way, not just within WWE but within all sports. The more opportunities women get, we all have to help each other out. I think it’s awesome she’s here.
Where were you when Stephanie McMahon announced Evolution on WWE Raw?
I was with my friend, Tegan Nox. We were watching it together. And, honestly, goosebumps. There were rumblings and rumours about what it could be but when [Stephanie McMahon] legit made the announcement that it would be the first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view ‐ such a cool feeling. We both stood up and were like, ‘What the hell?!’ I can only hope to be involved in that but the fact that this is happening is amazing. It really does put the bullet-point in this evolution. It’s going to be good for everyone involved.
Is this pay-per-view something you ever thought could happen? There haven’t always been the same opportunities for women’s wrestling.
Ever since I’ve started training I’ve always held true to that I want women to be take seriously. I want there to be more opportunities for women. Even on the independent scene working the likes of promotions like SHIMMER which put a very big emphasis on women being athletes, it was never really far from my mind. Especially in the last few years with the women’s revolution, it hasn’t been something that’s completely crazy, and with the announcements that we’ve had – with women being referred to as Superstars as opposed to Divas, the first-ever women’s Money in the Bank, the first ever women’s Elimination Chamber, it was only a matter of time.
We’re putting the evolution in the revolution amd these things that are happening are going to be good for all the women that are involved right now in WWE. It’s cool that it’s happening. Obviously a few years ago before the revolution started happening it was hard to think that would be the case, that there would be an all-women’s pay-per-view, but now it fits. It’s not crazy to me that this is happening. It’s almost like, ‘Yes, finally, this is what we’ve been waiting for’. This is what all the women have been working towards, let’s do this!
What do you think of the idea of a women’s tag team title?
I feel like that’s the next step. We’ve got so many women involved with Raw, SmackDown, and even down here in NXT, it makes sense that women’s tag titles would be the next step, and I am all for that. I was a very active tag team wrestler on the independent scene—I’m happy to do both: singles; tag—but tag titles would have to be the next step, and it’s only a matter of time, I think. I can’t wait to see that be announced because really, it has to be, it’s the next logical thing.
How many countries have you been to this year? You’ve had a European tour, and you’ve just been part of the NXT:UK tapings…
We did the Download Festival which was in the UK, then from there flew to Paris, then from there flew to Belgium, and this weekend just gone I was in Cambridge in the UK, England, doing the first-ever NXT:UK set of tapings which was really, really cool to be involved with. The UK crowd is very, very passionate about everything so they were just awesome.
What is it about the UK that makes it so hot?
I think everything stems from the roots. The independent scene over there is absolutely insane, you have the likes of PROGRESS leading the charge. I think all that rumbling within the independent scene is only going to spill up so I think being involved over there with NXT:UK, that was the next logical step, y’know? The UK scene is so hot, so passionate about wrestling over there it only makes sense to bring the product to them. I’m really happy to be involved and be a part of the NXT family.
Is it something that could make its way down here? Could Australia and New Zealand catch on in the way the UK has?
Absolutely! The UK scene hasn’t always been as hot as it is now. I think the more Australia and New Zealand work together in terms of bringing great product on the independent scene… eyes from management within WWE, they’ll always be looking wherever the next big thing is. I think that Australia-New Zealand scene, there is a lot of hidden gems down there and the more they work together and bring a really, really great product to the international eyes then, yeah, not far-fetched at all, I think we’re only going to spread.
A lot of people may only know of The Bushwhackers when they think of New Zealand wrestling, but now you’re in WWE, representing New Zealand for a new generation. How does it feel to be flying the flag for New Zealand on an international stage?
That’s crazy to think about for me. I never thought of myself as this big star. Even on the independent scene I was just doing it for the love of it. I’m always so passionate about wrestling, so the fact that I get to represent New Zealand on such a grand scale, that’s still really cool to me. A very overwhelming feeling and I love to be able to represent my homeland with everything that I have and I only hope that I do them proud. If I’m brought up as the face of New Zealand wrestling, that’s cool. That’s crazy to me, I think I have a long way to go before that happens! It’s just cool to be able to represent New Zealand where I am.
WWE NXT airs Thursdays from 12pm NZST on WWE Network.
WWE Evolution airs October 29 on SKY ARENA and WWE Network.