Dakota Kai felt the weight of responsibility at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day. She was opening the show with tag team team partner Raquel González against Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon, but not in any old match. This was the finals of the first-ever Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

“I think anyone involved in that tournament was super grateful and overwhelmed,” Kai said. “It was such an emotional thing when it was announced for us. It’s another check in the box for the women’s evolution movement that happened. It meant a lot to everyone involved. I know a lot of the girls in the locker room right now weren’t necessarily involved with Dusty because unfortunately he passed before we could interact with them. But we only hear positive things. His spirit is very much kept alive.”

The show-stealer resulted in Kai and González being the first names added to the tournament trophy. One for the history books where all four women involved lived up to the high expectations set. And two of their biggest fans in Triple H and Shawn Michaels were waiting at the gorilla position backstage to congratulate the winners.

“They told us we set the pace for the whole show, which means a lot,” Kai recalled. “[Triple H] also pulled Raquel and I aside after the match was finished and told us something that meant a lot to both of us. He told us, ‘Dusty would have been proud of us tonight.’ That was very heart-warming and meant a lot to us that he said that.”

Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai
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The recent accomplishment has Kai reflecting on how far she has come with González together. Their partnership really kicked off almost one year to the day at NXT TakeOver: Portland. It’s when the imposing González proved a difference maker in the New Zealander’s clash with rival Tegan Nox. The emerging talent  formed a bond from there that only grew stronger in the months that followed.

“Everything came full circle,” Kai said. “Her and my dynamic is also what sets us apart from other teams. You have her the ultimate powerhouse. And me who uses my strikes and speed. We really compliment each other well. That juxtaposition of styles has only worked in our favor. I think over the past year while we’ve had each other’s back and been there for each other with our storylines and goals like when I went after Io [Shirai], War Games and her last [woman] standing match with Rhea, which was awesome. We’ve both been there for each other.”

For Kai, the Dusty Classic win was the first time they really got to work together for something on the highest of levels. A chance to put their tag team on full display. They’ll get another opportunity to do just that as number one contenders for the WWE women’s tag team championship. With Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler holding the gold, it adds another layer of intrigue given past events.

“A lot of people are really familiar and remember the rivalry [Shayna and I]had in NXT where we crossed paths multiple times and the stories we told,” Kai said. “Along with that, I was actually Nia’s first NXT match when she debuted. I was still on the independent scene as Evie, so I had history with both ladies. I think it would be such an amazing match.

“I feel like I would be looking forward to the moment that Raquel steps foot in the ring with Nia. I think they are both powerhouses in their own right. I think that moment in itself. And if it happened at WrestleMania, that would be awesome.”

WWE NXT, Wednesdays, 8/7c, USA Network

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