Winning the first-ever women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic with Raquel González was a career highlight for Dakota Kai. One of those moments that make all the hard work worth it. The road for this kicking Kiwi hasn’t always been smooth, enduring a torn ACL that put her on the shelf for much of 2019. It was first serious injury for Kai.
“I had to undergo surgery and be out 8-9 months. While the physical side of rehab is tough, that’s so easy compared to the emotional and mental side of it,” she said. “That’s where the struggle lies. Even after I came back and made my re-debut and returned to NXT TV, you’re still in a weird mind space. You’re worried. You’re paranoid. You don’t want to have that happen again with the risk of tearing your ACL a little higher just because you rehabbed and strengthened the knee so much that they might not be evened out.”
Although she says the WWE medical team makes sure that is not a thing that happens, but the risk is there with such a physical job. When the superstar came back, it was with the same mindset as in the past. She wanted to put on a great show and tell captivating stories.
“More than anything you want to make sure your opponent is safe and that you’re there for them,” Kai added. “ I really couldn’t afford to be paranoid or unsure. I had to be sure of myself because I feel like at the end of the day that’s the only thing that could break me out of the mental struggle.”
The determined performer channeled all her frustrations into success with an attitude adjustment on TV that paid off. A new era for Kai that was jumpstarted at NXT TakeOver: WarGames, turning on beloved partner Tegan Nox. An alliance with González brought a new edge to her presentation. The two proved a formidable duo as Kai went after Io Shirai’s women’s championship while González turned heads against Rhea Ripley. Another highlight was competing in the Royal Rumble. Kai will always remember the 2020 event and the reaction from the thousands of fans in attendance.
“The entrance itself is really all that matters. As soon as I came out, that was an intense moment for me,” Kai recalled. “Royal Rumble is one of those pay-per-views you watch as a kid. Being in one was very overwhelming to me. Being part of this year, even under different circumstances it’s still very much right of passage for NXT talent to do something like that. While there wasn’t as much representation of the black and yellow brand this year it’s still a very cool moment given the circumstances.”
The women’s division in NXT is seen as the best consistently given its roster depth. Beyond skill and ability, Kai believes there is another reason why they’ve been so successful.
“We are so selfless,” Kai said, describing the locker room. “At the end of the day, we want to put on the best story and show possible and whatever that is, we’re going to work together to do that. We all trust each other 100 percent. That locker room is so full of crazily talented ladies. But at the end of the day, the reason why we are so successful and put on great stories and matches, we’re genuinely like a big family.”
WWE NXT airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on the USA Network. Subscribe to The Wrestling Inc. Daily on your preferred podcast platform to get our daily interviews as they are released. You can find the full audio and video of Scott’s interview with Kai via the embedded players below.