There's a healthy amount of buzz around WWE these days, as the company is coming off the thrilling Clash at the Castle event in Cardiff and has kept the momentum going with teases of more surprises and welcome announcements, such as the recent revelation that Survivor Series is being rebranded as Survivor Series War Games and won't be in the traditional Raw vs SmackDown format. ComicBook.com had the chance to talk with the best of all time Natalya ahead of tonight's SmackDown, where we discussed not only War Games but also her thrilling feud with Ronda Rousey, Triple H prioritizing Women's Wrestling, and how she feels about being so nice while she's playing a heel on TV.
Currently Natalya is a heel on SmackDown, but regardless of whether she's a heel or a babyface, she's always kind and embracing of her fans on social media and at live events, and that's part of why her fans have always supported her.
"You know what's funny is, you're literally taking the words right out of my mouth. I think because of my family, because of my background, because I've just been at it for so long, chipping away and just working at this thing called pro wrestling, I feel like the fans have just always had my back," Natalya said. "So whenever I've been a heel or whenever I've been a good guy, good girl, bad guy or bad girl, whatever you want to call it, whatever role I've been in, in WWE, the fans, they're still respecting me. They always respect me."
"It's challenging sometimes because we do have a lot of new girls coming in, so I really want my role to be defined so that we don't swim upstream. And I sometimes feel like it's easier for me to be a good guy, because then it's so much easier when you're brand new, to make people hate you than it is to make them fall in love with you," Natalya said. "It takes time. It really takes time and equity for our audience to build trust and fall in love with a character. So I'm still standing and they're still behind me, so I'm grateful for that."
Natalya seems to be having a great time as a heel though, especially during her feud with Ronda Rousey. In a matter of just a few weeks, Natalya and Rousey built a compelling feud that included stellar battles on social media and entertaining sequences on TV, including Natalya's impersonation of Rousey in the ring, complete with a baby stroller. If it seemed like she was having fun, she truly was.
"I was having the time of my life, and I remember saying to one of our head writers, I sent him a text and I was like, listen, I want to dress up as Ronda. I want to dress up as Ronda and I want to get under her skin. And I really want to want this to feel like, just what I'm feeling inside. I think it'll piss her off if I'm dressed up as her, and so we made it happen and I think it shocked everyone," Natalya said. "Because Vince McMahon at the time was still there and he was laughing so hard when he saw me heading to the ring and I had the baby carriage and it was fun."
"What I loved about that program with Ronda is that Ronda and I do have a lot of history. We trained together before she ever came to WWE. We had a friendship and we hadn't really had a program together before. We hadn't had a rivalry before, but it was a way for me to also remind people of the range that I have as a performer. You want me to be good, I'll be the good guy. You want me to be the bad guy, I'll be the bad guy. You want me to get on the mic and cut a promo, I can cut a promo. I just need to be able to do it. I need a story that excites me and that story got the audience so invested," Natalya said.
Natalya and Rousey built anticipation to their match in a short amount of time, and their stellar use of social media was key in making that happen and getting people to invest.
"Even though it was only four weeks, I was able to transform myself into a heel, get people excited about a storyline, and reinvigorate something between myself and Ronda. I didn't have the crazy three, four month build that Charlotte and Ronda had before their WrestleMania match," Natalya said. "We only had four weeks, but with the power of social media, with us going back and forth a little bit on Twitter. She said some things that hit a soft spot with me. I said some things that hit a soft spot with her, but at the end of the day, I wanted people to watch us on SmackDown, tune in and be like, wow, that was great. As Vince would say, great. S-H-I-T and people did, people liked it. The stuff I did with Ronda was some of the highest-rated stuff on the show, so I was just happy that people received it well and it made our match, that we finally had at Money In The Bank, it made it exciting because we had this really fun story."
It's also been an exciting time in WWE for the Women's division overall, and Triple H and Stephanie McMahon's new roles have given the Division a welcome momentum. "I think that's what we're seeing now with the emergence of Triple H taking over as far as creative goes, especially for women. With Stephanie being the Co-CEO of WWE, it's like Triple H really cares about women. He cares about women's wrestling. He cares about women having more visibility, and so does Stephanie," Natalya said.
"Now we're seeing more women. We saw the women main event Raw last Monday. We're seeing more women's matches on pay-per-views. You're seeing more women's representation. You're seeing just women, women, women, all throughout the show, and I think for a little while there, we started to get away from that. And I think that was a priority. It was a priority of Triple H to get the girls back front and center," Natalya said.
"That was one of the things I was most excited about when Triple H came back. I was like, this is going to be really, really good for the women, and I can't speak for all the talent, but I just know that the women were just craving more representation. And Triple H, he's been leading the charge for that representation since I headlined the very first NXT Takeover in 2014. So we're grateful. We're just super grateful and hoping that we can just keep up that momentum," Natalya said.
Speaking of Triple H, he recently made the big announcement that Survivor Series would be headlined by War Games matches, which became popular in NXT TakeOvers. Now there will be War Games matches during a main roster event, and since there have typically been men's and women's War Games matches during past events, Natalya definitely wants in on the Women's match at Survivor Series.
"I would love to be a part of War Games. I love all the new concepts. I love all these different, fresh ideas. I love getting new women in the division," Natalya said. "I've never done a War Games match, but I've been a part of a lot of firsts. I've been a part of the first-ever women's Ladder match. The first-ever women's Royal Rumble, the first-ever women's Table match, the first-ever Diva's Championship match. The first match in Saudi Arabia for women. I've been a part of a lot of firsts. I've never been in a War Games match, and that would be so awesome to be a part of that."
"It's the first for me, so I think it's cool, and I just like all the fresh new ideas that are coming in and how there's really a focus right now, more than ever, on wrestling," Natalya said. "We're a wrestling company. I know we're an entertainment company, but we wrestle. When you think about World Wrestling Entertainment, the name WWE, the heart of that name is wrestling. So I think that Triple H having been a wrestler himself, I think that he really understands our struggles. He understands the journey. He understands what it's like to lace up a pair of boots and to do that for a living. So I think we can be expecting a lot more cool concepts and a lot more women's representation as things pick up steam, but WWE right now is on a roll and it's really cool to watch it and to be a part of it," Natalya said.
You can watch Natalya in action every Friday night on FOX as part of SmackDown, and up next for WWE is Extreme Rules, which will stream live on Peacock on Saturday, October 8th.
Do you want to see Natalya in the War Games match? Let us know in the comments or as always you can talk all things wrestling with me on Twitter @MattAguilarCB!0comments