After a long and successful run atop the NXT women’s division, Shayna Baszler was called up to the main roster in early 2020. She immediately dominated a women’s Elimination Chamber match and then challenged Becky Lynch for the Raw women’s championship at WrestleMania 36.
Shortly after losing at WrestleMania, Baszler’s push quickly went south. There were rumors about Vince McMahon “souring completely” on her. She disappeared off television altogether from mid-May into mid-July, during the early months of the global pandemic when WWE was running shows inside an empty warehouse.
Speaking with Renee Paquette on her Oral Sessions podcast, Baszler explained that she had a difficult time trying to figure out what Vince McMahon wanted to see from her inside a WWE ring. Here’s the transcript of her account, courtesy of WrestlingNews.co:
“You come in with this image that [Vince is] this unhinged, crazy guy, but he’s always so nice and critiques me really well. He’s never been the way you imagined. You build up this monster in your mind so much. When I first started wrestling on RAW, he gave me a talk that was like, ‘Look, you have something different to offer. You have a unique look. The thing you have to start learning now that you’re on RAW is that your workrate is shown on PPVs, so don’t get so hellbent on weekly RAW TV, because that’s where we build the story for the workrate that you can do on a PPV...”
“I have this match and it looks like I’m going off the map and beating someone up. He loved it. The next week I did it again and he loved it. The next week I had a match with Nattie. Nattie is way more experienced at this obviously. Nattie has trained with me in an MMA gym. I said, ‘Let’s just shoot around a little bit and then we’ll get to what we need to get to.’ We do it. He hates it. I went in the back and he said, ‘It looks like you are just fighting each other.’ He makes us do it again. This was when we were doing the stuff at the [Performance Center] and we were recording some episodes and doing some live. He has us do it again right away. I was flabbergasted. I was still new and didn’t know how stuff is.”
“Nattie said, ‘I got you. We’ll do this.’ We go and we do a match that she basically calls to me and it’s a normal match. We go in the back and he loves it. I’m so confused at this point. We did headlock, takeover, dropdown, leapfrog. I don’t understand. I go and I sit outside Vince’s office for a long time. It’s scary and you’re asking the guys outside if he’s in a good mood today. It’s nerve-racking. I go in there and I don’t even know what I wanted out of it. I think it was just to get it off my chest. I said, ‘I know I have what no one else has. I know I can bring a certain legitimacy to this that no other female has. I don’t know how to figure it out week to week yet. Just give me a chance. You’ll never have to worry about me being in shape. If you want me to go out there and wrestle the same match a hundred times, I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out. Just give me time. I’m just letting you know I’m aware I don’t have it. Just give me time. I’ll make you money.’”
“He’s like, ‘Can’t wait.’ I think it was finally when I started working with Sasha and Bayley where I think in the ring I stopped trying so hard to impress Vince and just started feeling comfortable in my stuff. It was finally where it started being like, that’s it, and going in the back and he said, ‘You’re getting it.’ So, it has been this big learning curve...”
I find it incredibly fascinating that a wrestler can be such a dominant presence on NXT television but then come up to the main roster and have her confidence significantly ripped away, reaching the point where she admits to the boss that “I don’t have it.” It’s also interesting that the conversation between her and McMahon took place after she already had high stakes pay-per-view matches on the main roster such as the Royal Rumble, Elimination Chamber, and a WrestleMania championship match against the biggest star in the promotion.
Going from live matches in packed arenas to taped matches in an empty warehouse likely played a part in Baszler’s confusion. But it’s quite clear from her account that it doesn’t really matter what goes on in NXT. Vince McMahon has his way of doing things, and it doesn’t seem like NXT is focused on developing talent to adjust to what they’ll eventually encounter on the main roster.
That definitely sounds like a confusing situation.