Slam’s Alex Podgorski caught up with WWE veteran Natalya to get her thoughts on not only her chances at winning tonight’s Royal Rumble but her career as a whole.
Natalya: When I first got signed to WWE, Slam was so supportive, so supportive.
Alex Podgorski: I actually remember, there was a time you were writing for Slam briefly, wasn’t there?
Natalya: I was writing for the Calgary Sun.
Alex Podgorski: I think there was a bit of crossover between Slam and Calgary Sun.
Natalya: Yes! Slam when it was part of Canoe.
Alex Podgorski: How do you feel about this year’s Rumble being scheduled ahead of one of the biggest Wrestlemanias of all time?
Natalya: Every pay-per-view we do it just keeps breaking records. WWE is on a roll right now. Especially with the news about us partnering with Netflix. We’re just on a roll in a really big way and it’s exciting! I’m so proud of everything that we’re doing but I’m especially proud of where the women are going in WWE. I feel like 2024 is going to be the biggest year ever for the women’s division. Whether it’s NXT, RAW, SmackDown, the girls are going to be doing really big things and it’s just a great time to be a female in this industry.
Alex Podgorski: Do you have any specific expectations for what might happen, whether it’s the show closing match or whether it’s the opener, what are your thoughts going into this year’s Rumble?
Natalya: Well, I thought last year’s was the best that we ever did. I’m expecting that we’ll top that this year and it would be really, really cool if we main-evented the show but to be the first match on there’s also something magical about that. It’s the start of this huge show and everybody knows that Royal Rumble is really the road to WrestleMania. It’s where it kicks off.
Alex Podgorski: Do you think you’ll be in it this year?
Natalya: In the Royal Rumble? I’m hoping. If I’m a part of this year’s Royal Rumble I’ll have been in every one of them. So that would be a huge, huge honor for me and something that I wouldn’t take lightly.
Alex Podgorski: In the event that you’re not actually physically in the ring or anything like that, do you see yourself doing any other kind of major role? Whether its helping other women or just working in some other backstage capacity?
Natalya: I mean, I’ve helped on my days off. I work with the women every week. Women that are from every corner of the industry. So I love being able to give back. I feel like every single woman and man that I work with, I think that’s always that we should all be thinking about giving back. The more we give, the more we’re all going to get out of it and the bigger the company is going to be. My husband has a backstage role. For me, I think one of the best parts of my career in WWE in 17 years is giving back. I’ve been giving back whether I’m in front of the camera or behind the scenes. It’s maybe the most rewarding part of what we do.
Alex Podgorski: With all the work that you’ve done behind the scenes and as the focus of the women’s division has shifted onto other people, is there one person you can say you helped and say I gave them a helping hand?
Natalya: One match that I’m the most proud of in my career is the match against Charlotte Flair at the very first NXT Takeover in 2014. I got a chance to work with Charlotte when nobody really knew who she was and I saw something in her that I don’t think she saw inside of her own self. So it’s really been one of my proudest moments having worked with her that early in her career. Just seeing her evolve and really discover who she is. I’m just so proud of what we accomplished in that match and knowing that. It was a really special moment for me but it was a pivotal time for her and her career. I’m so grateful that we were able to share that together.
Alex Podgorski: One of the biggest news events of the last few years for women’s wrestling was the Evolution pay per view. There hasn’t been one since then for one reason or another, but if there were to be another one, what would you, what would be your role in that?
Natalya: I would love to main-event it. I would love to main-event all women’s pay-per-view. I think it’d be amazing. I think to me, what I loved so much about evolution is that we got to celebrate women from the past, the present and the future. And there’s just so many talented women that love this and that have a passion for this. I feel like moving into 2024, I feel like Triple H is going to really put a spotlight on women that we’ve never seen before.
Alex Podgorski: If you were to try and sell WWE to someone who may not have seen it before, may not understand it, or may have perhaps some false preconceptions about what it is, what it stands for and all that stuff, what would you say to sell WWE to a skeptic and the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania and just the whole industry.
Natalya: I think the best thing to do if you’ve never ever seen WWE or don’t know what it is. Go to one of our live events. There’s so much fun! You get to see us live and living color! I love being able to high five people and throw my shirt out and give a kid my sunglasses. It’s just an up close performance that is really, really cool and really special, but it’ll give you a different sense of appreciation for what we do. I feel like they’re just so much more interactive. My little sister was never into it, even though she grew up in a big wrestling family. You know, growing up in the Hart family, she had never been to a WWE show. So she came to a Monday Night RAW in Orlando and she was like “Oh my God!” That night that she came, there was all these stars. I think Brock Lesner was there and the Rock was there. It was like a big night where like there was a big woman’s match and it was just like pyro was going off. There was a guest there, they had some like celebrities there. There were sports stars there. She’s like, this is a celebration of all these athletes coming together. It’s like a rock concert meets the Olympics.