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Different side of Roxanne Perez ready to be unleashed at Great American Bash [Exclusive]

Coming into WWE with a nickname like “The Prodigy”, is bound to bring with it certain expectations. Since signing the contract to join NXT over 16 months ago, Roxanne Perez has certainly lived up to the billing and proven to be worth the company’s investment.

That’s not just my opinion, but also that of Senior Vice President of Talent Development Creative Shawn Michaels.

Cageside Seats took part in Thursday’s NXT: Great American Bash Media Call and had a chance to ask Michaels about his brand’s talented 21 year-old. And while the WWE Hall of Famer says Perez has exceeded her lofty expectations, she’s now learning the necessary tools to take her career to the next level.

“She’s a very young lady and she’s already had fantastic success here in NXT. And look, sometimes that’s tough, right? You have so much success early, how do you follow that?”

And that’s the next part of Perez’s progression as a Superstar that we may start to see take shape this weekend. She takes on Blair Davenport in a Weapons Wild Match Sunday night at the Great American Bash, and Perez has promised to unleash a side of herself that the NXT audience has not yet seen.

Michaels is looking forward to seeing just exactly what this new unshackled Roxanne Perez brings to the table, because figuring out who she is when she’s not in the title hunt, is going to serve her well in the years ahead.

“One of the things she’s learning here is to evolve and expound on who she is and who the character, and who the Superstar, that Roxanne Perez wants to be overall in the future,” Michaels said. “That’s something that all of us learn over time in this business, is to evolve and to have different layers to our character. And I think it’s a great learning tool. On one hand for Roxanne Perez, you know, the individual and the athlete, but also as the WWE Superstar. She might as well learn it here, now, in NXT.”

Cageside Seats also had the pleasure of sitting down with the former NXT Women’s Champion this week, the latest in our “Going Over” interview series. Roxanne Perez is thrilled to be heading back to her home state of Texas for Sunday’s Great American Bash Premium Live Event.

We dove into her match with Blair Davenport, this week’s brawl at a grocery store, and just how far she’s willing to go to shed this “sweet and innocent” perception once and for all. Also, which main roster Superstar would she challenge this Tuesday if she could? Read our entire Q&A below!

Roxanne Perez, Blair Davenport

Disclaimer: The questions themselves have been edited to provide additional information and better fit the written format.

Cageside Seats: So Roxanne, you have a big matchup at Great American Bash this Sunday against Blair Davenport. Ever since she attacked you, much of the build up has centered around the believe that you’re too sweet and innocent, or at least you look too sweet and innocent, for this business. And Blair aims to take you out for your own good. Listening to your promo a couple weeks back, I’m willing to bet there’s some realism in there that you have heard the “sweet and innocent” line a time or two throughout your life.

Roxanne Perez: “Yeah. You’re not wrong (laughs). I think my whole life I’ve kind of heard that. And I have always tried to be the nice person. I’ve always tried and I still am. I saw this quote where it said, you can still be a good person and tell people, excuse my language, to F-off when needed [still going out of her way to censor herself]. And I think that’s kind of where my character is going. I think that Blair Davenport thinks that she can continuously poke at me and poke at me. Tell me that I don’t have the killer instinct. But I’m pretty sure this past week I showed her that I kind of do.”

CSS: This is something I’ve experienced a bit in my life. I do not look 35. I’ve been told this often. Not a bad thing, but it often times has not served me well throughout my career. When some people meet me, they get it in their mind that I’m this young kid, and not a married father of two with 15 years experience in broadcasting and journalism. Now there’s nothing wrong at all about looking sweet and innocent, but there’s a perception that comes with that. And in professional wrestling that look and that perception isn’t always necessarily what you want to go for. Would you say that that’s been one of your biggest hurdles in your career?

Roxanne: “Yeah, definitely. I definitely feel like I relate to you in the sense of like, I can be really pissed off and I can say what I need to say, but I still have this baby face to where you’re kind of like, Hmm, I don’t know. But, in the same way that you said, I have eight years under my belt of experience. I am the former NXT Women’s Champion. I have accomplished so many things, made history here in NXT within the short amount of time that I’ve been here. So you wanna say that I don’t have that killer instinct. You wanna underestimate me? Well, I don’t think Blair is underestimating me anymore after what everybody saw this past week. And she’s definitely gonna see a different side of me this Sunday at Great American Bash.”

CSS: Let’s dive into that because you are going into a Weapons Wild Match, which is something that we have seen you in before. You defeated Cora Jade at Halloween Havoc. So with that said, you’re promising this new side. How far are you willing to go in this match to really shed that persona and kick that perception to the curb, once and for all?

Roxanne: “I’m willing to go as far as I possibly can. I think, I’ve said this before, but I truly feel like Blair Davenport specifically targeted me because she knew that she needed me to be completely taken out. She knew that she needed me out of sight, out of mind, because if not, she would not come close to touching the NXT Women’s Championship without me being out of the picture. But, jokes on her, because I’m about to take her out of the picture this Sunday.

CSS: So let’s talk about the brawl this week. I feel like at one point in our lives, we’ve all wanted to, at least, punch somebody at the grocery store and we don’t all get to do it. Take me through the experience of this fight that looked like it was at like a Gas n’ Go slash Subway combination shop. What was that exactly?

Roxanne: “Yeah, it was this little Mexican grocery store, actually.”

CSS: Okay. So you two are in this tiny grocery store, fighting all over the place. What was that filming experience like?

Roxanne: “That was really cool. And I think what made it even cooler was the fact that like, I got to pay homage to my trainer, Booker T, and his bit with Stone Cold. I think that was super cool and that was like one of my favorite things to watch as a kid. Like go back and like look it up on YouTube because I thought it was just insane and hilarious at the same time. I thought it was great. So, when Shawn told us that we were going to recreate that... I was like, hell yeah, I’m so down to do that. Like, how much can we actually get away with here? We were not allowed to like, throw powder around or throw some milk on each other.

CSS: I was gonna say. That’s what was missing for me, because Booker got covered in everything. So, unfortunately, you guys weren’t allowed to do that.

Roxanne: “No. We had to clean up afterwards. So we were like, all right. [The stores owners] were like... don’t go too crazy, but like, you can go crazy.”

CSS: Now how old were you when you first saw that that Booker T/Stone Cold fight? Because that happened like a month after you were born.

Roxanne: “I probably watched it when I was like 12 or 11, like on my little iPod, like scrolling through YouTube as I was watching those little music videos that they used to do. Where they would like do the storyline feuds and add music behind it. I was just sitting there watching all of those. I was probably like 12 years old, which is insane.”

CSS: And now, here you are not even a decade later at this point and you’ve not only trained with Booker, but now you’re getting to work with him. How beneficial has it been to have your trainer and mentor here with you on this first leg of your WWE career?

Roxanne: “Oh, super. I think it’s really cool that he was able to help me out and train me since I was like 16. And then obviously transitioning to the WWE is pretty scary and nerve wracking... My first few months he was not here. When I found out he was coming over here to be a commentator, I was like, oh my God, this is amazing. I think just having that level of comfort there. And then also, I still learn from Booker every single day. So, you know, it’s cool to have him there and then he comes to the back and after my matches I’m like, ‘Hey, what did you think? What can I do better?’

And he’s always there to give me all the advice. Telling me when I’m messing up, telling me when I can do better. He’s always been so honest with me, so I appreciate that so much. Yeah, it’s been really cool to have him here.”

CSS: You both are from Texas. And the Great American Bash is going to be another opportunity for you to have a moment in your home state. You were in the Royal Rumble earlier this year in, in San Antonio, which was a nice moment there. I have spoken to wrestlers before though, who seem to love the hostile environments more than they do the hometown friendly crowds. What is this little extra home cooking going to do for you as a performer?

Roxanne: “I definitely feel like it’s going to make me that much more comfortable with the fact that like, it’s in my hometown. I used to wrestle there on the independent scene every single weekend, just so I could make it to that stage with WWE. So, I think that that is gonna be really cool and surreal and it gives me the chills right now thinking about it.”

“It was really crazy to able to make my debut at the Royal Rumble in Texas. But, you know, to actually have like a one-on-one match in NXT, and establish myself alone in front of my home state is gonna be so cool. And my family’s gonna be there. My hometown friends are gonna be there. So, it’ll be awesome.”

CSS: “You’re gonna be one of eight women on the card this Sunday and this is a division that has been undergoing a shift since the WWE Draft. We saw well over a dozen talents get taken by either Raw or SmackDown. Zoey Stark, Isla Dawn, Alba Fyre, Kayden and Katana among them. What has this transition been like for you as yourself, Tiffany Stratton, Cora Jade and others have now kind of stepped up into being the faces of this division?”

Roxanne: “I think it’s been really interesting to see who has been stepping up. I think that I’ve tried to solidify myself since I first got here as like one of the top faces of this company, of this division. And I think now it’s kind of cool to see, now that they are gone... Katana, Kayden, Indi Hartwell, all of ‘em. I think it’s cool to see now these new people that are stepping up. People like Blair Davenport that [are] trying to come after me, trying to target me. There’s a couple athletes that are stepping up as well that got here not too long ago. Kelani Jordan is one of ‘em. She is so talented, I think. She got here probably like, I could be wrong, but I think it was about like five months ago. And she was a gymnast before this and it’s just crazy to see how fast [Kelani and others] learn and how fast they adapt to the wrestling world and having matches and whatnot. I think [Kelani]’s gonna be a really big star one day.”

CSS: I’m glad you brought up Indi Hartwell, because it reminded me of a moment and tell me if I misread the situation here, but it was at Stand & Deliver. It was the Ladder match where she won the NXT Championship for the first time in her career. Now you had just lost the title, but the camera catches you on the ground and I saw a really big smile on your face as her and Dexter are celebrating in the ring. You looked extremely happy for her in that moment.

Roxanne: Yeah, I didn’t even realize that the cameras were catching me. I was like, oh, that’ll just be on her. Right? No (laughs). But Indi Hartwell has been one of my closest friends since the Indies, actually. We knew each other from the Indies and then she made me feel so comfortable when I first got here, and just being able to see the trials and tribulations that she went through being here a few years and then being able to experience that with her firsthand. And then for her to finally like, overcome all of that and become NXT Women’s Champion is so cool. And I think the fact that like, I know how much she loves this business. I know how much she loves wrestling in the WWE and how much she wanted to become NXT Women’s Champion. So, yeah, that made me so happy for her regardless of whether I lost [the title], you know? But I cried a little in that moment.”

CSS: Ultimately, Indi did have to relinquish the title and NXT held a tournament to crown the new NXT Women’s Champion. As we all know, Tiffany Stratton came out on top. She is somebody that has stepped up in a major way much like yourself and has caught the eye of a lot of people in the WWE Universe now. She’s somebody that you wrestled almost a year ago in the breakout tournament. Fast forward to this year and she beats you this time around. Between then and now, what has been something about her growth as a performer that has really impressed you?

Roxanne: “I feel like when I first wrestled her, she had this like natural confidence to her and obviously she’s so athletic in the ring. I think now her confidence has slowly been building and building with the matches that they have been giving to her. She’s showed out. And I think it’s cool to see how we went from me beating her at the Breakout Tournament, to a few months later, she beats me in [the NXT Championship] Tournament. We still have one more to go, you know?

I went through a tough time. Where I lost the NXT Women’s Championship and I feel like... the championship was sort of my identity in a way. And I think I kind of just lost my footing for just a little bit. But I’m back now. I’m back and I want that championship back. After I’m done with Blair Davenport.

CSS: Now, in your quest to regain the NXT Championship, obstacles can pop up anywhere. Unbeknownst to you, somebody else could come into the fray from any brand and we have seen that more frequently as of late. People like Natalya, Dana Brooke, and Rhea Ripley have been coming back, and not just stopping in for one segment or one match, but they have been sticking around to be a regular part of the show. What has this integration of NXT with Raw and SmackDown Superstars been like for you and the rest of the locker room these last few months?

Roxanne: “I think it’s awesome. It’s really important for us to kind of like, cross over with them. I think it really helps elevate us and I think it helps us get ready for that next level because they’re up there, they’re doing it, they’re doing it week in, day in, and day out. So for them to come down, share their knowledge with us, help elevate us a little bit, get us ready for that next level, I think is so important.”

CSS: If you could issue a challenge to anybody on the Raw or SmackDown roster to come face you for one match on a Tuesday, who are you asking to come step in the ring with you?

Roxanne: “Hmm. I think I would go with Asuka and I would challenge her for that [SmackDown Women’s] Championship.”

CSS: Dang, I wasn’t expecting you to say that. That’s a good one.

Roxanne: “What were you expecting me to say?”

CSS: Any one of the Four Horsewomen tends to be a popular answer for those types of questions.

Roxanne: “You know, I was thinking Becky [Lynch] and then I thought Bayley, because those are the two people that are dream matches I wanna have. I’ve been able to get in the ring with Bayley, but I haven’t had a singles match with her. And I really, really wanna get in the ring with Becky Lynch. But I also want to test myself, I guess, against a champion. And I think Asuka’s a legend and I just respect her so much and I would love to just test myself against her.”

Roxanne Perez takes on Blair Davenport in a Weapons Wild Match this Sunday night at NXT: Great American Bash. Coverage starts at 8pm ET on Peacock, and you’ll be able to follow along with the action in our live blog.

You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more of his work.

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