During the War Games main event at NXT Takeover in November, Dakota Kai turned on long-time friend Tegan Nox. Since then, Kai and Nox have locked into an intense rivalry where the expectation is that the victor should close in on an NXT women’s championship opportunity.
Before she steps into the ring Wednesday night on NXT (8 p.m. ET, USA Network) in an important tag match with her bodyguard Raquel Gonzalez against Nox and Shotzi Blackheart, the 28-year-old Kai speaks with Sporting News about working a program with Nox, how she’s coping with COVID-19 limiting her schedule to working one day a week and if NXT going head-to-head with AEW has raised her game.
(Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Sporting News: Right now, NXT is only doing shows on Wednesdays due to COVID-19. What do you do from the time you leave Full Sail on Wednesday night until the following Wednesday?
Dakota Kai: (Laughs). It’s so weird to me to not have the loops through the weekend. Let me tell you it’s been nice to let my body heal somewhat. I’m staying busy. I’m gaming. I might get back into streaming on Twitch. I’m working out as much as I can just to fill time and watching shows. It’s been such a change to the schedule. It’s so weird. I’m finding new hobbies to do. I’m getting back into photography I bought a damn telescope because I’ve always had a love for space. I have time now to really get into it.
SN: I’ve talked to different talent, and the one thing you said is, “yeah we want to be on the road performing in front of the fans, but we also get this time to heal our body” because you guys and girls you’re on the road over 200 days a year. How good does your body feel at this point?
DK: At this time where we’re only having to go on Wednesdays. Initially, my body was confused. So it was still sore, but I think it was more like ‘Hey, why are we not like wrestling right now? Why are we not bumping’? It was a time where I had to actually adjust to not wrestling. I’m worried that when everything goes back to normal, then I’ll just be like, ‘Oh gosh’ (laughs). As a wrestler, we do things that no one else does that sort of conditioned our body to do what we do. Now that we’re not doing it as much, it’s very strange. It’s still nice to be able to heal. My body feels great now, but I think that when we get back into it, it’s going to be another adjustment.
SN: Bad things have been going on in the world with everything going on, and it affected WWE last week when a bunch of your peers, unfortunately, got released from the company. How did that make you feel having to see people that you’re friends with and been going through the trials and tribulations of being a pro wrestler?
DK: It is genuinely heartbreaking watching all of that go down along with the rest of the world, we see it all unfold. As you said, a lot of those people were my peers. It’s such a tough time. But it’s tough for every company right now. WWE is in the limelight. All of that stuff was made public. I know that even back home, my brother still has his job, but a lot of people in his company were let go. My sister, she’s a fighter over in Bali. Everyone’s struggling. It’s just such a strange, sad time.
SN: Did you worry that you would be released or did you feel secure about your job? Was there a day or two of like you didn’t know what was going to happen?
DK: No matter what your position is in the company, it is always that sort of unknown, right? No one’s ever 100 hundred percent safe, so it was terrifying in that sense. I’m super grateful to still be able to do what I’m doing.
SN: You’re doing great things right now, and you have a big match this coming Wednesday with Raquel Gonzalez as you ladies are facing Shotzi Blackheart and Tegan Nox. I was in Chicago when you made the heel turn on Nox. I was very disappointed in the turn. What’s the transition been like for you going from lovable babyface to the dastardly heel that people want to see get their comeuppance?
DK: Initially, when I was told that that was going to go down, obviously, I had inklings that it was going to happen the way it (did). Everything leading up to War Games, I knew that they were planting the seeds. But when we got told that that was going to happen for real when all the girls at War Games were sat down by Triple H and told that was going to happen, I was like, ‘Oh, this is happening for real. You guys didn’t just randomly start like maybe we’ll do that. It’s going to happen.’ Even now, it’s scary having such a change in your character for something that you’ve known for such a long time. Even before it was signed, I really only played the babyface role. It’s been a challenge, and it’s been such a cool creative outlet, and even with the addition of Raquel, it’s taken my character in the development of both of us really to a whole new level because she’s so fun to play off of. It’s just been creatively freeing to be able to experiment with the look and how I should be and my in-ring style. It’s been creatively fulfilling.
SN: What’s it been like in this role with Tegan for the last five months, and how has she raised your game to a different level?
DK: We got signed at the same time. We really didn’t know each other. We landed at the Orlando airport at the same time and shared a rental car, so we became fast friends. Being able to tell a story with one of your best friends is one of the best things in the world because you can’t fake chemistry. You can’t fake anything in a ring. If you have chemistry with someone, you have chemistry with someone. I’m putting all of that down to trust because we are so close in real life. In the ring, we’re able to trust each other completely to be able to tell the best story possible and really put our lives in the other person’s hands. It’s been great. In saying that, I would have loved a longer tag run with her, but maybe in the future.
SN: NXT has competition on Wednesday night. People call it a war, but to me, it’s really good competition. It’s really good for the fans and the wrestling business. Knowing that there’s another legitimate wrestling promotion out there, does it raise your game knowing there’s another game in town competing on the same night as you guys.
DK: One hundred percent. That’s the essence of competition. If there is something else out there that’s also bringing a great product, you want to elevate your own. That’s just how it would work. So honestly, I think it’s so good for the wrestling business. I wish a lot of people online would see that. The online community is small compared to those that watch it at home. I really wish that people would just be happy with both and not get into such heated debates about either. Wrestling is for everyone. It’s great for wrestling in general that there is competition out there; otherwise, how is anything going to be elevated in general? I love it. I just wish that people online would also see it that way and not take it so personal.
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