One is not simply bestowed a nickname like the “Baddest Woman on the Planet.” You have to earn it through blood, sweat, tears and pain. At least that’s what Shayna Baszler did at SummerSlam this year and that debt of pain is one she is still feeling to this day.
Baszler has her sights set on capturing the Women’s World Heavyweight Championship this Saturday at WWE Crown Jewel, but before speaking with Cageside Seats about her future, she took some time to dive into her history with the former “Baddest Woman on the Planet” in Ronda Rousey.
Their MMA Rules Match at Ford Field in Detroit received mixed reviews this summer. Many pro wrestling diehards were critical of WWE’s adaptation of the MMA style. But for those mixed martial arts purists out there, it was a match tailor-made for them and a match-up many had waited over a decade to witness.
“When Ronda was first on the scene in the UFC, she was brand new. They started the division because of her,” Baszler said. “I’d already been fighting for a good 10-12 years. And there had been some discussion about Ronda facing those of us that were in the top five, top 10 at the time. And it never really happened in MMA.”
And that’s why Baszler says that night was such a big one for both herself and Ronda Rousey, but also for the deep cut, hardcore fans of Women’s MMA who had been following the sport since it’s inception.
“I remember Jessamyn [Duke] texting me and she was like, ‘This was like watching a retired Ali versus a Mike Tyson. This is a fight that people that were fans of the sport always wanted to see. And you gave that to people.’”
A young Jessamyn Duke was just starting out in her own MMA career, finding herself on undercards while Shayna Baszler was headlining shows for Invicta Fight Championship.
For people like Duke, who were busting their butt to get to the same level as Ronda Rousey and Shayna Baszler, SummerSlam was a true dream match come true. And being able to deliver that for them, is something that really makes Baszler smile.
“We knew there’d be a lot of people that didn’t really understand what they were watching, but I had plenty of friends from my past, from the fight world, that messaged me and they were like, ‘That’s the coolest wrestling match I’ve ever seen. That was the coolest thing ever.’ And that stuff. I’m proud of what we put together.”
Ronda Rousey may be gone from WWE now (and our conversation with Shayna happened before her Lucha VaVoom match or the announcement of another tag match with Marina Shafir for an upcoming Pro Wrestling Revolver show, so we couldn’t ask about it), but she certainly has not been forgotten.
Shayna Baszler is still holding on to the effects from that night as she heads into her Championship opportunity this weekend.
In the days after their fight in Detroit, Baszler was sporting a black swollen eye, broken thumb, hyperextended elbow, and countless other scrapes, bumps and bruises. She told Cageside Seats, it’s very rare she leaves a fight in that condition. Even dating back to her MMA days.
“People that wanna talk about the dreaded ‘F word’ [fake] or, you know, wanna say that we weren’t hitting each other hard or something. Like legitimately, [that’s] the most messed up I’ve been in years.”
So how could this hard-hitting, dream match up have translated better to the WWE audience? What did the company learn so that similar mistakes can be avoided the next time an MMA Rules Match takes place?
Assuming there is a next time.
When the idea of bringing a cage into the mix was brought up, Baszler had a different solution in mind. Something much simpler than finding a way to hang a cage from the roof of Ford Field.
“You could say adding the cage. I had really wanted there to be rounds, but I think with the Heritage Cup stuff going on with NXT, they didn’t wanna confuse the two rule sets, which I can kind of understand. The argument made about the cage was the logistics of being in the stadium, “Baszler said. “Like it wasn’t just a regular arena where they could have it there and lower it. So there was some discussion about that. But I think the thing that would’ve really helped us is the television audience got to hear the ref kind of explaining the rules at the beginning when we were doing the face-off. I wish they would’ve done like the UFC does and have the announcer come and put the mic through so that the arena could have heard it.”
There were rumors coming out of SummerSlam that the rules of the match itself were heavily debated amongst the creative heads in the department ahead of the event. Baszler ultimately didn’t care what rules they landed on, she just believes the 59,194 people in attendance would have benefited from knowing what they were before the bell rung.
“I come from a time in MMA where we’d show up to the event and be like, all right, do you want knees on the ground? Do you wanna allow elbows? What’s the rule on this? Are we gonna allow this? And we’d kind of come up with a rule set then. So I wasn’t so nitpicky about the specifics of the rules, but I do wish they would’ve maybe shown a graphic or mic’d to the ref or something, just so that it was a little bit better explained.”
There will be no confusion this Saturday at Crown Jewel. There are no rules in a Fatal 5-Way. Anything goes as Baszler, Zoey Stark, Nia Jax, and Raquel Rodriguez all battle it out to try and pry the World Heavyweight Championship away from Rhea Ripley.
Check out the rest of our conversation with Shayna Baszler below as she talks about her match at Crown Jewel, her ongoing recovery from SummerSlam, favorite travel experiences, Jade Cargill coming to WWE and more!
Disclaimer: The questions themselves have been edited to provide additional information and better fit the written format.
Cageside Seats: You talked about how banged up you were after that match with Ronda at SummerSlam, but then two nights later you’re out there on Monday Night Raw wrestling Zoey Stark for 12 minutes. Was it important for you, as the new Baddest Woman on the Planet, to go out there and perform that night?
Shayna Baszler: When medical came to talk to me about possibly having a match that night, obviously what they say goes. If they are not gonna let me, I’m not gonna talk them out of it, but they kind of gave me some leeway to be like, how do you feel though? Do you feel like you want to do this? And I was like, I absolutely need to get out there and show people... I think the baddest or whatever. It’s not even just enough to beat Ronda in a match like that. I have to also show that I can carry this, immediately after that. I think it was just important for people to see, not only did I take my licks and still end up on top, but I’m still gonna come out here and, not at my best, still beat people up.
I don’t know if I can verbalize... why, but it was very important to me to show the world, I’m all banged up and look like this, but I’m still gonna come out here and beat [people] up and be confident about doing it.
cSs: How long was it until your eye was back to normal?
Shayna Baszler: Oh, man. So the color went away, I wanna say like a week or two [later], I think a week later I still did like a backstage thing and I had some color. The color went away pretty quick, like a couple weeks. But I still had some tenderness that wasn’t visible. I remember getting my makeup done in the makeup chair and I’d be like, ‘ow.’
For a while it was strange. My broken thumb, like still kind of aches. I paint Warhammer 40,000 miniatures and I’ll be painting and I’ll have to take breaks because my thumb. I broke a bone in [my lower thumb], so it wasn’t like I broke my thumb, thumb. So like, when I’m painting, it’ll cramp up and be sore and I’ll have to take breaks. I still feel that.
It’s something I’m gonna feel forever. The hyperextended elbow, I mean, that’s a thing I think that everybody that does submission, grappling, experiences at some point or another. So that’s a little more familiar to me. But this thumb has been annoying. I’m not gonna lie.
cSs: Going back to the match you had on Raw after SummerSlam. Zoey Stark is someone that has seemingly caught the attention of a lot of folks in WWE. I’ve spoken to a few people who genuinely enjoy working with her. Can I add you to that list?
Shayna Baszler: Yeah. Ultimately we all wanna win every match we’re in, but all of us have a little bit of crazy in us that like these sorts of matchups, right? Where you kind of beat the snot out of each other. And I think Zoey’s one of those people that if you put us in a ring together, we’re gonna beat the snot out of each other.
She’s interesting, because she’s got a very exciting ring style. She does a lot of cool, you know, spring-boardy, flippy-do stuff, but she also can kick your head off.
cSs: She’s a little badass.
Shayna Baszler: Yeah. I think she’s gonna be a star, you know what I mean? She already is. But I mean, especially with her ring style, she’s not the baddest but obviously she’s pretty badass.
cSs: Yourself and Zoey are two of the give competitors in this Fatal 5-way for the Women’s World Heavyweight Championship at Crown Jewel on Saturday. This is gonna be chaotic with the five of you in there. I can’t imagine what it’s gonna be like in that kind of scrum.
Shayna Baszler: And it’s gonna be, maybe, another one of these matches where I come out all banged up. This isn’t just five girls in the division doing this. I think even singly, you have Rhea [Ripley], a very dominant champion. Obviously strong, beats the crap out of people. I think you put her in a singles match with any of the other four of us and each of us is a threat. I don’t think you can overlook any of us. And now you put us all in the same match at the same time. It’s gonna be crazy.
cSs: This will also be your first match in Saudi Arabia. Is competing over there something that you’ve wanted to experience and cross off your wrestling bucket list?
Shayna Baszler: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been over there doing work with the UFC and grappling and whatnot. We kind of toured the military bases over there, but that was alongside the military and kind of working with them. So it’s a little bit different. And for people that don’t know, if I’m going to like a U.S. military base, even in the Middle East, it’s like a little tiny piece of the U.S. in there. You don’t get to experience like the actual culture of the country that you’re in or whatever. So, I think it’s gonna be cool to go over there.
I love travel. I love experiencing the flavor of wherever I’m going. So I think that part’s gonna be cool. I also think it’s something to be said, and this gets brought up every time there’s a Crown Jewel, but [there] being women on the card and badass women on the card at that... I don’t think any of the five of us are your typical, like, centerfold women. I think it’s cool that we’re the match that gets to go over and show people what we’re gonna do. That part I think, is one of the coolest things.
Note: This conversation took place BEFORE a second women’s match was added to the show.
cSs: I love how we have gone from having no women’s matches on these shows to now a Fatal 5-way for the Women’s WHC can be booked and, honestly in the best way possible, it’s no big deal anymore. It’s great to see how far things have come in not really that long of time.
Shayna Baszler: Yeah. I think, if you look at the first one where there were no women on the card, to the progress that’s been made just on the WWE cards leading up. You can see that there are some, I don’t know, walls being broken down and progress being made. These things don’t come, you know, it’s not like we’re gonna show up and then the whole world’s gonna change. That’s not how change happens realistically. It’s gonna be these little examples of one small step forward at a time. And I think when you look back, is how you see how far you’ve come.
cSs: You mentioned you love traveling. One of the things that I’ve noticed with pro wrestling, is that it can take you to some crazy, strange places. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had traveling, that you can attribute to signing up to be a part of this crazy world that is pro wrestling?
Shayna Baszler: Man, I have to go back to, this sounds like such a typical pro wrestler answer, but I have to really go back to my time when I was like living and touring in Japan. You’re gonna hear a lot of wrestlers say that, but I think especially for me. When you start pro wrestling... every single wrestler will dream of their WrestleMania moment and they wanna be like the cool guy, right? Like, I wanted to jump off the top rope and the cool [does elbow drop gesture].
I’m like “the fighter”, right? So, I wanted the noon to six elbow off the top, the illegal elbow, to be a move I did. And hearing my coaches Billy and Josh and the lineage I come from, very old school wrestling style, and hear them be like, ‘No. You don’t have to do that in the way that Batman doesn’t have to fly.’ Could he come up with some technology where he could fly around just like Superman? For sure. He’s Bruce Wayne, but he doesn’t have to. He’s badass enough without it.
And I think going to Japan and experiencing a crowd that understands that style, but also the crowd in Japan is like different than in the States. They’re quiet a lot of times. I went over there to fight MMA in 2006 and it’s the same way. They’re the same way where like, they’re quiet until the parts where like something happens, then they cheer. I think getting comfortable with a crowd being quiet and understanding quiet, obviously the chanting and the cheering is cool, but quiet is almost just as good. It’s the murmuring where they’re like leaning over talking to their friend and on their phone that you don’t want. And I think learning that when I’m doing my stuff and people are silent, because they’re going, ‘Oh, no,’ and they’re kind of watching between their fingers, that changed everything for me.
On top of the fact that like, you know, what goes on in Japan stays in Japan. There’s just some experiences living over there as a foreigner pro wrestler that, it’s just a fun time and the friendships and yeah... that was my favorite time. It was before I got signed and I remember being like, ‘You know what, if I never get signed, like this is pretty cool.’ I remember having that moment in a hot tub in Japan. So, it was a fun time.
cSs: Great stuff. I believe I’m short on my time, so one more question and we have reached the low hanging fruit portion of the interview. You look across the landscape of the WWE Women’s Division and the present is fantastic. The future is bright and I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the newest jewel in WWE’s Crown [see what I did there?] in Jade Cargill. She is somebody that is being presented as the absolute attraction and the star that she is. How do you feel about her coming over being now a part of WWE and are you excited to get to work with her one day?
Shayna Baszler: Anytime someone comes over and they have limbs to tear off and necks to twist around, I’m excited about it. Obviously she’s got a huge following. She looks like a star. You can’t argue the presence she has. I mean, her thing right now is getting out of cars and walking into the arena and she always has a camera on her doing that. So you can’t argue.
Someone’s gonna clip that and take it as me being salty. That’s not what I mean. I mean, she has yet to really do something and she’s bringing this much attention.
Imagine the attention when she’s ready to get in there. Now that being said... I think we have the best Women’s Division in wrestling, talent-wise. And so I think she’s gonna learn that. She obviously is someone that carries herself with a lot of confidence and I think she’ll have to learn that the hard way. You know, it all comes out in the wash, especially when you’re in the ring. You can’t fake the funk when you’re in there. So, we’ll see how it comes out, but I’m excited for the audience that she brings for sure. None of us should complain about that. She’s bringing eyes. So let’s put some eyes on what happens when I grab a hold of a limb of Jade Cargill.
Women’s World Champion @RheaRipley_WWE creates an all-out melee between Nia Jax, @RaquelWWE, @ZoeyStarkWWE and @QoSBaszler during the contract signing for the Women’s World Championship Fatal 5-Way Match at #WWECrownJewel. pic.twitter.com/QvzChpBY9f— WWE (@WWE) October 25, 2023
Will the Baddest Woman on the Planet be able to over come four other women and take the WWE Women’s World Heavyweight Championship off he shoulder of Rhea Ripley? Tune in to WWE Crown Jewel this Saturday afternoon on Peacock. Coverage starts at 1pm ET/ 10am PT.
Make sure to check out our full conversation with Shayna Baszler in the video at the top of the page. You can follow Rick Ucchino on Twitter and subscribe to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast Channel for more in depth interviews with WWE and AEW talent.