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Raquel Rodriguez only debuted on WWE's main roster in April of this year but is already a force to be reckoned with. The former NXT Women’s Champion stands at an imposing six feet tall and has already become a mainstay on television and a fan-favorite Superstar. Despite the fast pace of the first few months of her career, USA Insider secured a moment to sit down with Rodriguez for an exclusive interview and get a glimpse into how these first few moments on the main roster have felt, what she's most excited about, and what’s next for the former champ.
When Superstars debut on RAW or SmackDown, it usually takes them a few weeks to find their footing. That has not been the case for Rodriguez, as she already captured the Women’s Tag Team Championship and has faced off against some of the biggest stars in the ring, including Ronda Rousey and IYO SKY. When we asked Raquel about her unusually quick rise, she said it’s been such a whirlwind she hasn’t even had time to sit back and really reflect.
“I’ve done a couple of interviews where they’ve asked me if I’ve had the chance to sit back and really soak it all in and it’s in the moments of the interviews that I really take a second to step back and take it all in and really look at the couple of months that I’ve had and think like, ‘Wow,’” Rodriguez explained.
She elaborated on her start, saying, “It really has been an adventurous first couple of months for me on SmackDown and I’m just so grateful for the experience I’ve had already. And to know it’s just the beginning makes it even sweeter.”
Part of the reason it feels as though Rodriguez has been shot out of a cannon is that she quickly captured Women’s Tag Team gold with her partner, Aliyah, by winning a tag team tournament featuring some of the best teams in WWE such as Toxic Attraction. Despite their inexperience, the duo upset Damage CTRL in the finals and had a ton of fun along the way.
“It was really fun teaming up with Aliyah. She’s such a good, positive person and she’s just fun and spunky all the time. She’s always got a good attitude and I think we realized that us winning the tournament was going to be a possibility in the semifinals," she said. "We were really just having fun. We were going out there and giving it our all, but at the same time just being us and being two friends who met a long time ago in NXT and built this connection.”
And before we even got the chance to ask, Rodriguez addressed the controversial finish to that finals match, in which Aliyah pinned the nonlegal competitor to win the titles. Even with the controversy, Rodriguez feels they were still the legitimate champions.
“Even if the finish was a little bit controversial, I still feel like since we carried the titles for two weeks, we were still the champions," she said. "And we still had to defend them. So we still went out there every Monday night and Friday night with the mentality of, ‘We have to defend these titles,’ because we have to prove we are the rightful champions. I think that just made it that much more interesting for us and it made it that much more of a competition for us.”
Although Rodriguez was more than ready for her NXT and main roster debuts, nothing could have prepared her for facing her former best friend and partner, Dakota Kai, in the finals of the Women’s Tag Team Championship tournament. Despite the emotion that comes with each bout, she says Kai is one of her favorite opponents.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it over and over again: I love working with or against Dakota Kai. Every time I step into that ring with her, I feel like I learn something. I learn something new about myself, I learn something new about wrestling, about performing … She initially brought me in as her backup, as her bodyguard in NXT, so I’m forever grateful to her for building that bond with me. But it’s because of that bond that we have and all of her experience and all the knowledge she shared with me in NXT as partners that I feel like I am where I am now. And even getting to be her rival and having that again in WWE- it came full circle for us and I’m looking forward to having so many more matches with her, I can’t wait," she said.
Of course, the biggest difference in facing someone like Kai in NXT versus the main roster is the pressure.
“Right now for me, the biggest difference is the amount of audience we are working in front of ... because there’s just so many more eyes on you. And you know it and you feel it at the same time when you’re out there. But NXT is just as competitive as SmackDown and as RAW. I feel like it’s even growing more so with competition now that all this new talent is coming in than it ever has been before," she said.
Rodriguez certainly falls into that category of new talent coming into WWE, even without a wrestling background. Rodriguez played college basketball at Texas A&M and Sam Houston State before being recruited by NXT. For the first few years of her career, she worked with Triple H, so him taking over WWE has been an easy transition for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winner. Although the transition has been relatively simple, Gonzales noted that she really enjoyed working with the old regime too."
“I’m definitely enjoying this new sorta aura that WWE has around it right now with the new regime, but I was also enjoying my first call up and working with Vince McMahon and working with Bruce [Pritchard] and Johnny [Laurinitis]. It was really a good experience for me and I’m so grateful for that on both parts. And I’m really happy to have Triple H back as well because he’s an absolute genius and I credit him a lot as well for working with me in NXT; him and Road Dogg," she said.
As for what's next? Even with such an unpredictable and busy start, Rodriguez already has her sights set on gold: “You know, we still have our rematch so whenever Aliyah is good and healthy and ready to come back I would be happy to be in that rematch with her. But yeah, I’m definitely looking forward into the future at a possible Women’s Title reign, maybe facing Ronda Rousey again for the SmackDown Women’s Title. I’d love to step into the ring with Bianca Belair, I’ve yet to have the chance to work with her. Another dream match for me would be against Beth Phoenix and I’m so excited for Rhea Ripley who has the opportunity to go up against a legend like that. It’s gonna be absolutely insane.”
You can relive all of your favorite Raquel Rodriguez moments on the WWE Network on Peacock!
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