WWE Diva Natalya was one of many wrestlers doing all sorts of media and appearances last week in New York during the run up to SummerSlam at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. In Nattie’s case, it was also for a good cause: Famously proud of being WWE’s “cat lady,” she was invited to the Friskies Create and Taste Kitchen this past Thursday for a media event. There, she joined famed memetic felines Grumpy Cat and Nala Cat for an event pushing a new Twitter campaign that will feed kittens in need. During the event, I was able to catch up with her and talk about not just cats, but also the Divas Revolution, NXT and what the NXT TakeOver Charlotte match meant to her personally, her relationship with Triple H, what it means to be a main event wrestler, and much more.

Before I get to anything else, how is T.J.’s recovery going so far?

“T.J.’s doing really, really well. I can’t believe how mentally strong he’s been. He’s starting to feel OK again. Thank you. Thank you for asking.”

Who’s the biggest Grumpy Cat fan in the household: You, T.J, [cats] Louie, [and] Makaveli??

“Oh gosh. I think my cats feel they could give Grumpy Cat a run for her money. I fully support Grumpy Cat in her partnership with Friskies, because Grumpy Cat is here with us at Friskies’ Create and Taste Kitchen, lucky to be supporting something that’s so awesome. We’re going to be giving cats in need over 10,000 meals. So if you use the[Twitter] hashtag #TeamSaucy, then that’s when we donate a meal. And then there’s Nala Cat, who…Makaveli has a little crush on Nala Cat, she’s on Team Tender. So if you use the hashtag #TaamTender, then we’re gonna donate a meal as well.

But I’m not gonna let the other cats here know that my cats feel like they’re superior to these cats. Makaveli is working on a new rap video. We haven’t started filming it yet, we haven’t written the lyrics, but we’re definitely looking at partnering up with Snoop Dogg, possibly. [beat] I’m just kidding. [laughs]”

Did your parents have cats when you were growing or did being a cat lover come more from your grandparents?

“Our whole family has been crazy lovers for my entire life. So, most people don’t know that the Dungeon was full of a lot of cats. The cats would go down there and pretty much do whatever they wanted to do down there. Lemme just leave it to your imagination. There was a lot of times where you’d get your nose rubbed in the mat during wrestling practice and…there’s a lot of cat pee down there, put it that way.”

While Calgary and Florida are/were your home, does New York have a special place in your heart, especially with our grandmother being from here and your grandparents meeting here?

“New York is a very special group of WWE fans. New Yorkers crave wrestling. They will really let you know if they like you, they’ll let you know how they feel. They’re the most passionate fans in the world. If they don’t like you, they’ll tell you that.”

And selling out the same building three nights in a row this weekend is incredible.

“It is, it’s awesome. It’s a testament to the fact that NXT is a brand that stands on its own. Look at SummerSlam, it’s a four hour show this year, and obviously Raw [as well]. [Other than the] next WrestleMania, I don’t know what’s gonna be bigger. It’s cool that I am able to use the platform of WWE and my reach to do something as cool as what I’m doing right now at the Friskies Create and Taste Kitchen….do you have a cat?”


“Well, if you have a friend that has a cat, get them to go the Friskies website and they can find out if their cat is a ‘saucy’ cat like Grumpy Cat or a ‘tender’ cat like Nala Cat. I think it’s time for you to cat a cat. [laughs]”

What are your thoughts so far on the what they’re calling the “Divas’ Revolution” has gone?

“I think it’s something that’s been long overdue. There have been so many talented Divas in the WWE and it’s really awesome and refreshing that we’re finally getting a real chance to showcase our talent. I think it’s a testament to the fact that WWE fans across the world are pretty much demanding that the girls get treated better.

It’s not like anybody ever intended for the Divas to have one minute matches before, but if you’re silent and don’t stand up for yourself and you don’t have a voice and don’t use your reach? You can get whomped on. Nobody wants to be a doormat. Nobody wants to be treated like a doormat. As far as the voices of the Divas being heard, I think Vince McMahon is listening. I think you can really see that in the last month or so with the Divas’ Revolution. It’s something that’s really awesome. I’m really proud of all the girls.”

Looking back 15 months ago to the match you had with Charlotte at NXT TakeOver, in the grand scheme of things with the Divas’ Revolution but also to you personally, what does that match mean to you?

“It meant everything to me. It was somebody actually believing in me and understanding that wrestling is not just in my blood. It’s something that I think about constantly. I have a passion for it, I’ve studied the history of it, I’ve wrestled all over the world before I ever came to WWE. When you look at Nattie, the character is really just someone who embodies wrestling. So, for me, to be able to show the world a masterpiece like the match I had with Charlotte, it wasn’t just about Nattie, it was about paying it forward.

And that’s what life is all about, is giving back. It’s about using what you have, your reach, your equity, and also being able to help somebody else shine, too. I’ve talked to Charlotte about this: The way that I paid it forward to her, she needs to use her skill to pay it forward to someone else down the road. So hopefully, all of the girls get the opportunity to do that at some point. That match meant everything to me and I think that people really started to look at women’s wrestling differently when they were saying ‘This isn’t just the women’s match of the year, this is one of the best matches of the year.'”

Right, that really felt like the first time, at least recently, where the women were positioned in a real main event style match.

“Part of being considered a main event match is telling a story. It’s not just doing wrestling moves, but telling enough of a story to make people care. That’s part of being a main event player, it isn’t just giving movs and doing spots. It’s about making people care, making people feel something.

It’s funny, because a lot of people will give John Cena a lot of flack about what we’ve all heard: ‘Let’s go Cena/Cena sucks.’ Well, every time I see John Cena i’ a match, especially the feud that he had with Cesaro and Kevin Owens, he really made you believe that…it sounds crazy, but he doesn’t need anyone plugging or endorsing him…I’ve seen some matches where I thought ‘John Cena’s got so much equity that he just doesn’t have to do all of this.’ You go in there and watch John Cena reinvent himself, because John Cena’s got that fire inside of him where he doesn’t forget his hunger. And that’s what main event players are made of, they have an insatiable hunger to continue to want to be better.”

And that’s what I thought made that match great, some of the other great women’s matches in WWE history, like Jumping Bomb Angels vs. Glamour Girls, or Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano, it seemed like what the fans were getting into was just the highspots. You had a great, complete match; even though I always knew you were incredibly talent I came out of it looking at you differently just how polished you were when it came to things like facial expressions, and I just thought it was incredible.

“Part of that match I had with Charlotte was that it really embodied everything I was feeling in my wrestling career. So many people saying ‘Nattie, you’re so underrated,’ and ‘You haven’t gotten to accomplish all the things you wanted in WWE.’ A lot of people say that to me, it should’ve been this, that, and everything else. For the longest time I’ve always said how happy I was, and how grateful I am, and those things are the truth.

At the same time, that match was the moment that actually allowed me to showcase my ability and reach my full potential. There’s nothing worse than being a person that knows the ability that you have and knows talent that you have, and not being able to reach your full potential. That match was my WrestleMania moment. It really was.

I think that being in front of 400 people, in that intimate environment, I was using everything I ever learned in my career and putting it on the line, showing that I always had it in me. But actually getting the opportunity, that’s what the girls today are getting to do. So I think the girls will do a great job this year at SummerSlam, I think they’ll really knock it out of the park.”

You and T.J. both seemed really reinvigorated from your time in NXT; what exactly did you find that it helped you with, and do you think more of the talent, especially the ones based in Florida, should consider should consider spending some time there?

“Well, I think that NXT is more than a developmental territory, it’s a separate brand, a separate entity. There are so many resources down there. If you want to learn how to talk, you work with Dusty Rhodes. Dusty helped T.J. immensely. People would say ‘T.J., you can’t cut a promo,’ or this and that, and really, he wanted to prove everyone wrong. If you want to work on ground wrestling, you work with Norman Smiley. There are so many different people there. Sara Del Rey is a phenomenal coach.

Triple H…actually, I felt like I never really had a relationship with Triple H before I started going down to NXT; it’s not his fault, he’s a busy guy. But Triple H is the one who gave me all the time for that match [with Charlotte] to start with. I mean, I probably shouldn’t say this, but he gave me no time limit. He actually said ‘There is no time.’ Most people don’t know that, but he said ‘Paint whatever picture you want on this canvas.’ We all knew how special it would be.”

Do you think that being on WWE Network instead of regular commercial TV, over time, the company will start to exploit more, as far as not having a fixed end time and having a show that can go over? That it’s something we’ll start to see more because of the network?

“Yeah, the network is Pandora’s Box being opened. If you look at the network the last year, and the great shows and content. There will be times where I will be at Raw, and SmackDown, and all the live events, and I’ll come back from Australia, and [I’ll put on the network and] I’ll see a match from WCW from 15 years ago with Big Al vs. Tank Abbott. I’m just joking, but sometimes, with T.J., he’s the poster boy for the network because he loves it to go back and watch all those old matches. He’s like a kid in a candy shop.”

You can follow Nattie on both Twitter and Instagram at @NatByNature. Today is the last day of Friskies’ Twitter hashtag campaign for the food donations, so for all of the details, check out their press release.

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