Shotzi Blackheart is on the precipice of the biggest match of her career, teaming with Tegan Nox this Wednesday on NXT against WWE Tag Team Champions Sasha Banks and Bayley.
The California-raised Blackheart (27-year-old Ash Urbanski) is overflowing with breakout potential, to the level where she could one of WWE’s premiere stars. Constantly putting her body on the line, Blackheart’s style in-ring work is breathtaking, but she is more than just a highlight reel.
There is such passion and devotion embedded in Blackheart’s work. She is one of the rare talents in wrestling, regardless of gender, that simply does not blend in with the rest of the stars.
Blackheart spoke with Sports Illustrated about Wednesday’s tag match, her style, and what she hopes to accomplish every time she steps in the ring.
Justin Barrasso: Wednesday’s tag match has the potential to be a monumental moment for you, but news broke out of WWE late Monday night that a developmental talent tasted positive for COVID-19. As far as you know, is your match for Wednesday still on schedule to take place?
Shotzi Blackheart: As far as I know, it’s still going on.
JB: Were you tested today?
SB: I have, I tested today.
JB: In terms of the match, this tag is your biggest opportunity yet in NXT. What was your immediate reaction upon learning you’ll be sharing the ring with Sasha Banks and Bayley?
SB: The first thing in my mind were the amazing matches that Bayley and Sasha put on together against each other. They broke ground for women’s wrestling at [the first Brooklyn] TakeOver. I’ve always been a big fan of theirs. Bayley is from San Jose and I was born in San Jose. It’s all just really cool and really insane to me that this is happening.
JB: You are a wrestler that takes such immense pride in doing whatever it takes to ensure that your moments in the ring are felt and are real. This match is such a significant showcase for you. How do you plan on showing the wrestling world what you are capable of on Wednesday?
SB: I like to go into a match balls to the wall, so that’s what I’m going to do. I like taking risks. I like to sling my body everywhere and just run wild.
JB: I want to focus on your passion for wrestling, but you are also so passionate about making a positive impact in society. Proceeds from your new t-shirt will be donated to the Trevor Project. What makes this so meaningful to you?
SB: I definitely want to give back, especially since it’s Pride Month. Recently, someone in the wrestling community committed suicide, and it was just heartbreaking to me. I dealt with a lot of depression as a kid, and I think that the Trevor Project is a beautiful thing and I really wanted to donate to that.
JB: You carry such excitement and electricity in your work. That speaks to your devotion to the craft, and you bring a very unique style into the ring where you certainly aren’t afraid to put your body at risk. I think back to that tope suicida onto a collection of steel chairs from last summer’s EVOLVE Anniversary show. You mentioned that you like taking risks in the ring. Mentally, is it better not to think of those ahead of time, instead keeping a short focus on what is in front of you?
SB: I try to bring that Evil Knievel, daredevil spirit to the ring with me. That’s how I see my character. I kind of have tunnel vision and I just do it. I try not to think about it. It’s more, ‘This sounds crazy! Let’s go!’
JB: Over the past six years, you really honed your craft in the indies. What did the indies mean to you?
SB: I got a lot of time on the indies to find myself as a wrestler and as a performer, and I’m really thankful for that. It gave me a lot of independence, and I’m a really well-rounded businesswoman because of it. Essentially, as an independent wrestler, you run your own business and you are your own business. I loved that. It was a lot of fun, it was silly at times, and it shows you how much heart you need to make it.
JB: So many wrestling fans were first introduced to you last summer during the EVOLVE Anniversary show that aired on the WWE Network. What did EVOLVE do for your career in terms of confidence?
SB: That anniversary show at the ECW Arena, I knew it was my time to show out. I knew that I needed to give everyone the taste of crazy. I’m very thankful for EVOLVE giving me that opportunity, and that ECW crowd is just so hot. It was so much fun.
JB: How do you balance fearlessness in the ring with longevity? Or is that a concern for another day?
SB: I try not to think about it too much. When you start getting in your head about getting hurt, that’s when you actually get hurt. That’s how I look at it. Obviously my style of wrestling is a little risky, but I just go for it. I’m just looking to have fun and do me.
JB: You have such a natural disposition for the wrestling business. Does that have anything to do with the way you were raised back home in California?
SB: I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Bay Area definitely has a swag to it. We live fast. My dad rode motorcycles and he taught me at a really young age. I’ve always lived that fast, rock-and-roll life.
JB: You could have signed a lot of places. Why was NXT the right fit for you?
SB: It was always my dream to come to WWE. I didn’t really know about the indies or anything else, I just slowly fell in love with it.
I love working here, I love the environment, the people I’m surrounded by, and how much I’m pushed. There is nowhere I’d rather be.
JB: Was there ever a possibility that you would have to change your name in NXT and you’d no longer be Shotzi Blackheart?
SB: Deep down, within me, I had a feeling they weren’t going to rebrand me. I feel like, you just can’t. I’m just too loud. You can’t contain me too much.
I did get told by a lot of people, ‘Oh man, you’re going to have to change your name, you’re going to have to change your gimmick. You won’t be able to do this or do that.’ So it was great to come here and learn that everyone was on-board with what I already had going on. I’d already done it on the indies, and it was working, so why mess with it?
JB: If you had to change your name, do you know what you would have chosen?
SB: I always thought I could come out and be Christine Fury, an ode to one of my favorite movies, Christine. She’s a demon car named Christine and she’s a Plymouth Fury.
JB: You mentioned your California swag, which is certainly apparent in your work. But what is the biggest difference, positive or negative, to living in Florida?
SB: Since being here, I’ve been very focused on NXT. I don’t really get out too much besides work, but I have been to Disney World. I’m a big Disney fan, and that’s all I ever get out and do, so that’s awesome. But I miss my people in the Bay Area, I miss my friends.
JB: You possess a gift that allows viewers to feel your heartbeat and passion while you perform in the ring, which is incredibly difficult to do. Is that the goal for tomorrow? To ensure that people watching—whether they’re fans of you, Bayley, Sasha, or wrestling in general—feel your work?
SB: Definitely. I’m very aware that this is the biggest match of my life so far, and it’s against two amazing women that give it their all in the ring. There’s going to be a lot of chemistry, and I’m just excited to get in there with two girls that are just as passionate as I am.