WWE Superstar Raquel González on Her NXT ‘Halloween Havoc’ Big Battle With Rhea Ripley
Imposing Latina Raquel González has been the effective muscle behind Dakota Kai, one poised to break out on NXT. She could do just that Wednesday, October 28, on Halloween Havoc, when the basketball-player-turned-WWE superstar goes up against fellow powerhouse Rhea Ripley, with whom she has been on a collision course for months.
This is the first time in 20 years that NXT is putting on the beloved themed event that originated in the defunct WCW (World Championship Wrestling) under the black-and-yellow brand. We sit down with González as the 6-footer prepares for what is arguably the biggest match of her career.
Have you watched any old Halloween Havoc events to get ready for the show?
Raquel González: I’ve watched a few to get a refresher of exactly what we’re stepping into here. Honestly, the biggest takeaway I’ve gotten is everyone embracing the theme and the energy behind that. I know Halloween is everyone’s favorite holiday at NXT. I’m excited to embrace the whole atmosphere and go from there.
Do you have a favorite Halloween memory or costume growing up?
Me and my sister would always get dressed up in two or three different costumes. It was like a weeklong affair for us. We would share our costumes because my sister and I are two years apart. I remember we did it for school and church gatherings and parties and trick-or-treating. My favorite costume I dressed up in was from the movie Nacho Libre. My sister and I wore homemade costumes. She did Esqueleto and I was Nacho. We got my friend to be Encarnació. I think we won a costume competition that night because we were so accurate with the movie, the moves, the lingo. Everything.
With your dad Ricky “Desperado” González a wrestler and knowing the hardships of the business, did he try to deter you from following in his footsteps? And what does he think of your success in WWE?
When my dad would work, we’d go to Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Houston, and all of those places that were two- to five-hours away. It was like a weekend family trip. My sister and mom would love to go to the malls or in the city. Sometimes I was up for that, but a lot of times I didn’t want to go shopping. I would sit around and hang with my dad and wait around the venue with the other kids. I just loved the atmosphere [and] watching my dad do what he loved in the ring. When I told him about wanting to wrestle, he wasn’t happy. It was a different time for women in wrestling. He did try to deter me from it.
He told me I needed to go to school first and get an education. I’m so happy he did because that’s probably an accomplishment I wouldn’t have made otherwise if I didn’t have his support. He inspired me to start playing basketball. He started coaching at one of the schools my sister and I were going to. They only had a men’s team. I sat in on a practice and said, “Dad, I want to play.” From there, he took me to the Boys & Girls Club and started me on a team. Because I was so tall, I was immediately seen by coaches who did AAU [Amateur Athletic Union]. That was the turning point. Basketball was my life.
I switched my mindset from wrestling into that. Then, of course, getting a scholarship in college [was] a dream come true for me and my family. When I graduated I said, “Dad, I’m getting my degree and appreciate it. But I still want to try and wrestle.” At that point, he gave in and said, “I can’t stop you.” He ended up encouraging it.
Your partnership with Dakota Kai has been likened to Diesel and Shawn Michaels when Diesel was Shawn’s bodyguard. What do you think about the comparison?
It’s an absolute honor to be compared to two legends. It’s mind blowing. Us being paired together has been a learning process and confidence boost for us both. She brings so much more to the ring than I do. I give her that power and strength boost. It has given us a confidence we didn’t have in our own selves. Even though we are taking care of our separate businesses, we’re still there together.
You’ve come so far since the Mae Young Classic, a tournament that provided a great platform for women worldwide to showcase their talent. Do you feel this is something WWE should bring back?
I would like to see it come back. It was a good platform. There is a variety of different talent within the women’s division. There is so much women’s wrestling going on in the world.
Who has predominantly been coaching you at WWE?
Everyone at the WWE Performance Center has been so helpful and kind to me ever since I started. Sara Amato has been the one in the past year that really helped me hone my skills and my skillset, and bring in some new stuff that could help me differentiate myself from the other big girls. I have to give the biggest thanks to her and her class last year.
Scotty 2 Too Hotty helped me at the beginning of my career, as well as Robbie Brookside, and Norman Smiley. They’ve all taught me a different set of skills. Scotty brought [out what] is more of the attitude part I feel like I needed to work on. It has really been an all hands-on project. Sarah has helped me the most at this time, though.
You’re facing Rhea Ripley next. What has it been like to build up to this anticipated match?
It is arguably the biggest match of my entire career. The nerves are definitely there. The excitement is there. I’m a 100% ready for it to happen. I’m excited it’s against Rhea Ripley who has built such a big name for herself. She’s a tough competitor holding the NXT U.K. women’s title. She wrestled Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania this year. This is a big deal. I can’t even think about how to put it into words of how excited I am.
When you look at the history of women’s wrestling and beyond, to whom do you look for inspiration?
I studied Stan Hansen for so long because of his wild aggression and grittiness. That’s something I try to portray because I am a big, strong powerhouse. I’m also gritty. I also watched a lot of Madusa. I just loved the way she moved in the ring. Her athletic ability, her creativeness, her skillset. It was different stuff she did for women’s wrestling. I take a little from Eddie [Guerrero] with his style and attitude. Then I watch The Undertaker and Kane and their stature and how they carry themselves as the big men on the roster.
What does this upcoming match mean to you?
My mindset going in is that I have this obstacle to overcome, and I will overcome it. It’s an opportunity to showcase what I can do. I’ve only worked with other superstars who may have been smaller than myself. The high-flyers like Kacy [Catanzaro] and Io [Shirai]. So getting this opportunity to face another powerhouse puts me in a position to think outside the box. I’m excited to show everyone I can hold my own in my first big singles match.
Has your dad given you any last minute advice?
I talk to my dad every morning. He has told me to keep a good head on my shoulders and stay calm and not stress out. It’s been a buildup, so he knows how I can get very anxious. Knowing he believes in me and that my family is behind me really gives me that sense of peace going into this match. No matter what happens or the outcome, my family is going to be proud of me and how far I’ve come.
WWE NXT, Wednesdays, USA Network