Raquel Gonzalez had the biggest match of her career at NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver, and after a hard-fought match against Io Shirai it was Gonzalez holding the NXT Women's Championship and kicking off a brand new era on the black and gold brand. Gonzalez will start her reign on tonight's first Tuesday episode of NXT, and ComicBook.com had the chance to talk to Gonzalez all about that epic TakeOver moment, the women of NXT ruling WrestleMania week, the moment that she knew she wanted to become a WWE superstar, and even some cosplay talk, and Wonder Woman fans should be pleased.
First though we had to talk about the moment of winning the NXT Women's Championship, the moments that followed, and if it's still all a bit surreal.
"Yeah, definitely. I think that in the moments after I was just full of so much joy and I just felt full in general because I was able to actually have my parents here to experience it live with me and having them here just meant so much to me because it's been such a journey," Gonzalez said. "I'm so close with my family. I haven't been able to see them as much and they live in Texas, so it was awesome to finally have them here and to watch me live because my mother, she hasn't seen me wrestle in maybe two or three years thanks to the pandemic."
"It was really cool. I'm still kind of processing it all, just because I was on Wednesday night and then Thursday night was so awesome and jam-packed as well, and then, of course, there was SmackDown and then WrestleMania and Bianca's main-eventing WrestleMania night one, and she wins the SmackDown Women's title, and then Rhea Ripley last night winning the Raw Women's title. It's just like, I'm just so honored to be put in this position this week where I get to say, we did it. We, as women as powerhouses, we did it. We have conquered the Women's titles in WWE."
Gonzalez was thrilled to be a part of such an impressive showcase of not just what NXT is capable of but also the talented women and powerhouses of this company that grabbed the main event spotlight and never looked back.
"Yeah, I think it says a lot for NXT because here at NXT, we're a family, and even when I started at the PC, I looked to Bianca because right away I noticed her work ethic and the way that she just puts her head down and she grinds and she grinds. And of course, her natural athleticism that just made me want to push harder and be at the same level as her when it came to everything we did," Gonzalez said.
"In the combine, I tried so hard to be neck and neck with her as much as I could and same thing with the combine the next year after. And it's just stuff like that, that really makes us want to make each other better," Gonzalez said. "I think because we come from athlete backgrounds, it tells us that we are a team and we acknowledge that we're a team and that we're trying to create the best team possible. And so when Rhea Ripley came in as well, it was one of those where all three of us are powerhouses, we're all competing with each other, but we're all also rooting for each other. And I think that's what made this such an amazing moment was that we try to push each other to make each other better, but at the same time, we just want the best for each and every one as well."
As for the match against Shirai, there were several highlights, but the biggest one that stands out was the high dive from atop the Stand & Deliver skull.
"Yeah. I think my favorite moment from the match was definitely seeing lo Shirai fly 20 feet in the air off of the skull onto my body. I just think it was something that did not happen at all and it was so unique and it was so different and it was so risk-taking, and it really shows that both lo Shirai and myself were willing to put it all on the line for this NXT Takeover night one, because we really wanted to set a really high bar, not just for ourselves, but for the entire week to show that NXT can produce," Gonzalez said. "We are the third brand. We are not just developmental. We are a brand all on our own and we are unique and we are creative and we are here to run with the wolves, and I think that's what we proved."
The Gonzalez who fans first saw in the Mae Young Classic and her early days in NXT is not the same person who now holds the title, and in talking about her early days in wrestling we wanted to know the moment she knew this was what she wanted to do.
"I think that moment has kind of hit me at different points throughout my entire career because my dad did wrestle when I was younger, and so I always wanted to do, I was such a daddy's girl that I wanted to follow in his footsteps," Gonzalez said. "I wanted to do everything he did, but I had to focus on other things first because at that time women's wrestling had a completely different style and it was something that my father really didn't want for me at that time. But I think it was graduating college and thinking in my head, I still want to try and pursue this dream that I had as a little girl and I want to try and see if I can make something of it because I still have a passion for it. I feel like it's something that I would be able to produce at, and lo and behold, I got my opportunity to have a tryout and then to get signed with the WWE. And then I thought, okay, this means it's real. This means it's cemented, that I do belong here."
"But of course, with the performance center and growing and learning a new craft and trying to hone your skill and become this entertainer, and also a sports athlete, there's a lot of bumps in the road and there's a lot of dips and there's a lot of lows, and a lot of that did make me kind of switch my mindset at times to think like, 'oh, is this the right path for me? Am I in the right shoes right now? Should I try and think of something else?' But I just tried to keep myself positive, and I tried to keep myself pushing because at the end of the day, I'm not a quitter and I don't give up, and that was something I didn't want to do. I didn't want to give up on myself. I didn't want to give up on my family who has been supporting me since day one with everything that I choose to do in my life," Gonzalez said.
This year has also had its share of challenges but also amazing firsts for Gonzalez, including her first Last Woman Standing Match and the first War Games match, and it meant the world to compete in the former with Ripley.
"And so not giving up and then finally getting my debut three years later, I thought, okay, now, this means I do belong here. And then with it just being such a crazy year with COVID and no fans and then some fans, and trying to figure out how we're going to work around this and getting my storyline with Rhea, someone who I'm very close with and we have a huge bond, her and I, and getting to do matches like Halloween Havoc and The Last Woman Standing match," Gonzalez said. "That was my first Last Woman Standing match ever, and my first War Games ever. It was my first time in a cage ever and all of those times coming out and feeling so happy and so proud about what I was able to do in that moment. I thought, okay, this is it for me, this is really happening."
Now she's in truly elite company, but the fun is just beginning.
"Even on Takeover, I thought the same thing. I'm like, yes, I am on the right path. I'm finally here," Gonzalez said. So I think it was just a lot of moments throughout my entire journey that cemented in me and in my heart that, yes, I'm so proud of myself for not giving up when things were getting hard. I'm so proud of myself for making it this far, and I'm so honored that I get to hold the NXT Women's title and be a part of an elite group of women that produce amazing, amazing matches and it really solidifies that I do belong here."
Now, we would be remiss not to bring up the stellar She-Hulk cosplay Gonzalez created with iLLite FOTOS, and after bringing the powerful Marvel hero to life, we wanted to know if there were any other heroes coming up. While she didn't reveal if she was already working on one, she did reveal one she's thinking of tackling next, and DC fans will be quite happy.
"I'm definitely thinking about it. Yeah. I mean, I love watching X-Men and I love watching all of the Marvel films," Gonzalez said. "I mean, Wonder Woman, of course, is a big iconic woman that I think a lot of powerhouses look up to because she's strong, she's beautiful, she's confident, and she has this persona that gives off just poise and grace to everything around her."
As for why she chose She-Hulk, Gonzalez said "She-Hulk's a little bit different. She's strong and she's sexy, and she knows that she's this gorgeous woman, but at the same time, she knows that she's this powerful human being and she puts both of those together. And I think that's why I gravitate to her so much because it gives me a confidence that I feel I can relate to her, and that's something that I want to embody as well and share with other people."0comments
Hopefully, we get to see Gonzalez take on more superheroes in the near future, but in the meantime, you can see her kicking off her Championship reign on tonight's NXT, which airs on USA Network at 8 PM EST.
Who do you want to see Gonzalez take on next? Let us know in the comments or as always you can talk all things NXT with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!