Even without the championship, WWE star Becky Lynch remains the face of the women’s division on SmackDown Live. Lynch spoke with Sports Illustrated to discuss her charitable work with WWE, memories of the early stages from her career, and called out the talent she would like to see appearing each week on SmackDown.
SI.com: You helped steal the show at WrestleMania 32 in a triple-threat match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks. Did that experience help prepare you for WrestleMania 33?
Lynch:I’m more aware of what I’m getting myself into. I’m more aware of the size of the crowd, and that intimidation factor is a little bit, though not entirely, lessened. You’re able to be calmer and enjoy the moment. Last year was just incredible, my brain couldn’t fathom it.
SI.com: Winning the inaugural SmackDown women’s championship last September remains the highlight of your career. What did the moment mean to you, and how proud are you of the collective work from the entire women’s division on SmackDown Live?
Lynch:It didn’t hit me for a while. It was a culmination of my entire life’s work, that was what I set out for, that was why I left home when I was so young, that was my entire dream. To be able to be the first-ever Smackdown Live women’s champ, I’m so proud of that. I’m so proud of SmackDown Live, I really am. Being on that brand and being able to be a leader of that division has meant everything to me. To see where it’s come and how much people are now invested in it, I feel like that’s been my highest accomplishment to date.
There are so many different characters and everything is fresh. People that we didn’t see before–we hadn’t seen Alex Bliss or Carmella, Nikki Bella came back with the greatest comeback of all time. To comeback from that neck surgery and do the things she did, she is a hero. I will say that time and time again. Nattie with her new attitude change is just absolutely hilarious, and Naomi came with her glow and that’s just incredible. There is so much excitement on the SmackDown Live women’s roster, and it’s amazing to be a part of.
SI.com: There is a healthy competition between the women on the Raw roster and the women on the SmackDown roster. Purely in terms of personality, who has the more entertaining collection of talent?
Lynch: Hands down, SmackDown Live. Sometimes I’d travel by myself, and I’d ride with Carmella from time to time, but Charlotte and I are back together and we are Thelma and Louise. Now I’d love to see Seth Rollins, Cesaro, Sheamus, and Finn Balor come to SmackDown.
SI.com: What does it mean to you to be part of WWE’s efforts with the Make-A-Wish Foundation?
Lynch:This has been the most fun. These kids are so incredible, and they have been through some really tough journeys, ones that I can’t imagine, and they keep persevering and fighting. That’s my inspiration, and that’s the message that we, as WWE performers, like to give out–don’t give up. That’s what John Cena says, “Don’t give up!’ Keep persevering. That’s what these kids have done, so they keep inspiring us. And they’re so excited, and I’m so excited to see them, and there is this mutual excitement and an explosion of energy.
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SI.com: You have displayed a great deal of perseverance in your own career. Although you are now in an enviable spot as one of WWE’s top performers, you put in a great deal of tough to work to arrive at this point. Do you recall your first-ever match?
Lynch: My first match was in a little school hall in Bray County, Ireland when I was 15 years old. I actually came in managing my brother, and I did a hurricanrana in that match. Then I was in a battle royal, and someone just sent me the video of that, but I just couldn’t watch it. It’s crazy to think where we started to where we are now 15 years later.