The Queen of Harts’ reign is extending, though not necessarily in the way you might think. While Natalya’s status as SmackDown Women’s Champion might change after she battles Charlotte Flair at WWE Hell in a Cell, she will nonetheless surpass Trish Stratus’ record for the most pay-per-view matches of any woman in WWE history with 44 contests to her name. WWE.com caught up with Natalya before the big day to discuss the record, hitting her stride and what benchmark she’d like to set next.
WWE.COM: Tell us about the record you’re about to break.
NATALYA: Well, it’s very cool. Come this Sunday at Hell in a Cell, I will be breaking Trish Stratus’ record for most pay-per-view matches by any woman in the history of WWE. It’s a huge honor because Trish Stratus is somebody that I absolutely idolize and look up to. She’s a huge reason why I’m here today.
The last two years ... I've actually been able to embrace what I love, what I was training my whole life to do, what I was literally born to do.
WWE.COM: That’s quite a record. Was it something you were keeping an eye on?
NATALYA: I actually wasn’t aware of it until somebody brought it up. Somebody brought it to my attention and I said, “Wow, that’s crazy.” I wasn’t even keeping track of it. And then I was told I was going to break it. It really reminds me of all the incredible opportunities I’ve gotten in WWE and especially being featured on pay-per-view, which is awesome.
WWE.COM: Does Trish know you’re about to break her record?
NATALYA: I haven’t spoken to her. I didn’t want to text her and be like, “Hey, Trish. Just so you know, I’m gonna break your record.” She doesn’t know, but I have definitely paid my dues and put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears at WWE, so to be able to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Trish Stratus is very cool.
WWE.COM: In breaking such a record, that means you’ve been performing for quite some time. This year, Total Divas will break 100 episodes, you’ve been on every season of Total Divas, and you’re the SmackDown Women’s Champion. Do you feel like you’re just hitting your stride?
NATALYA: I feel like I’ve been so lucky that I’ve been able to pursue my dreams for so long in WWE. I’ve gotten to wrestle and compete and perform against some amazing women, but now that WWE is really embracing this Women’s Evolution, it feels like I’m finally starting to do what I was born to do and that’s wrestle. I’m finally starting to hit my stride. I’m finally starting to, I feel like, do the best work of my career. That’s also attributed to the fact that we’ve got some of the best women wrestlers in the world right now in WWE.
WWE.COM: Breaking down the record of your career so far. You’re a former Divas Champion, current SmackDown Women’s Champion. You’ve seen a lot of stuff change in this division and just alluded to the fact that you can now do what you always wanted to do. Was that difficult for you not getting that opportunity to wrestle as much? Or did you feel like you didn’t get to wrestle as much because you were better than the competition?
I have definitely paid my dues and put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears at WWE, so to be able to even be mentioned in the same sentence as Trish Stratus is very cool.
NATALYA: I just feel like the timing wasn’t always there, and now the timing is there. The last two years, especially with the Women’s Evolution, I’ve actually been able to embrace what I love, what I was training my whole life to do, what I was literally born to do. When I first debuted in WWE, the emphasis wasn’t so strongly on women’s wrestling. I adjusted and I tried to adapt and fit in where I could because I always knew that one day we’d get to do the wrestling part. But when you go to work and your job is to work at WWE, one week you wrestle, and sometimes you do a Diva Dance-Off, sometimes you’re dancing with The Great Khali or [hanging out backstage] with Hornswoggle. I never looked down at those things, but I always knew that I would cherish and savor the moments that I’d be in the ring much more. And now you see the girls doing so much more wrestling.
We’re just wrestling. It’s literally a wrestling revolution, and I know we’re Superstars in WWE, but when the bell rings, you gotta be able to go. And you see the girls breaking down barriers doing Hell in a Cell Matches, main-eventing Raw, main-eventing SmackDown [LIVE], doing Tables Matches … for me to be a part of when we had the Divas Championship and now to see this Women’s Championship separately on SmackDown, there’s two champions in the company. At WrestleMania this past year, there were two women’s matches. I started wrestling when I was very young, so I’m fortunate I’ve had a lot of time to grow and evolve and really find myself. Some people start out a little later in life, and by the time they finally figure it out, it’s too late. I feel like I’m just starting to hit my stride, and I think about all the possibilities of wrestling Asuka or Shayna Baszler or Bianca Belair. I want to work with those girls. They’re so good. I feel like it’s really just the beginning.
WWE.COM: As you look up to Trish and Beth Phoenix and all your previous opponents, what advice do you have for a young woman attempting to break into WWE?
NATALYA: I think I would tell them to seize the moment and pursue it. It’s about following your passion and following your dreams … I always say to people, you have to be a fan of this. You have to be a fan of the product to actually want to do it. It’s not just about the glitz and the glam because there’s a lot of late nights, early mornings and redeye flights. The other morning, I had a flight at 5 in the morning, I had to get up at three, and I got a flat tire on the way to the airport. That happens. People don’t always see how tough the road can be. That’s where you really find the road can make or break people. You have to really, really, really love this. If you’re driven, if you have a passion for WWE and you really want to have fun, I think it’s a great place to work. I love when girls feel like they’re inspired by watching us because it makes me that much more driven.
WWE.COM: You’re surpassing Trish’s record at WWE Hell in a Cell with Charlotte Flair; what is the next record you want to break, and whom do you want to break it with?
NATALYA: Somebody that I’d love to compete against is somebody that actually helped me become better with submissions and catch wrestling, and that’s Shayna Baszler. She was in the Mae Young Classic finals with Kairi Sane, and she just impresses me so much. We both have a passion and love for wrestling, and Shayna’s taught me a lot. But I would love to go toe-to-toe with her in a WWE Iron Man Match and put our submissions to the test. She would be a dream opponent for me.
WWE.COM: So you think The Queen of Spades vs. The Queen of Harts in a Submissions-Only WWE Iron Man Match?
NATALYA: Yes. That would be badass.