NXT’s Dakota Kai Is on the Verge of Her Biggest WWE Moment

Dakota Kai has made tremendous progress since arriving in NXT and could hoist a championship for the first time on Wednesday.
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NXT stars Dakota Kai and Raquel González will team up Wednesday night in a tag title match against Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax.

The women’s tag-team championships are on the line, yet there is far more at stake in this encounter.

This is the type of match in which people from outside the wrestling world may ask, “Isn’t it all predetermined?” For those with a different perspective, there is a much deeper meaning. González is currently presented as a major player in NXT, which is the result of nonstop effort and determination over the past four years. Baszler has lost so much of her mystique since her move to the main roster, but a return to NXT could serve as an antidote to some lackluster main-roster booking. Jax also has the chance to showcase her ability, especially in the ring against González, with the added caveat that this is a chance to prove she can draw a strong TV rating opposite AEW’s Dynamite. And there is also Kai, a breakout star who has the skill and intangibles to become the top star for NXT.

Cheree “Charlie” Crowley is now interchangeable with the Dakota Kai character, and for good reason. Kai—which translates to “ocean” in Hawaiian—flew over the Pacific Ocean to embark on her pro wrestling journey in WWE, full of optimism and dreams of stardom. She also left behind a piece of her heart, eschewing a life back home in New Zealand in pursuit of a fleeting chance to live forever in WWE.

“I miss home. I miss my family,” Kai says. “That’s a sacrifice I made.”

Fourteen years after her start in the industry, Kai has found a way to blend together her athleticism and personality in a magnetic manner. Alongside González, she is a natural villain, and her work becomes more gripping every week, embedding subtle nuances that add a tremendous amount to her presentation. And, when considering all those she left behind back home, Kai has given herself no other choice but to be great in pro wrestling.

“It was hard to move my life here,” Kai says. “The sacrifice I made equates to the way I work in the ring. I sacrificed everything to be here. That’s why I have a fearless approach.”

Kai is well seasoned in her travels across New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the United States, creating her own distinct pathway to success.

“I’m the first-ever Kiwi woman signed to WWE, so I’m blazing a new trail,” Kai says. “And there is still so much to accomplish.”

The next step up this climb could be attained Wednesday night if Kai and González win the women’s tag titles. This would mark the first time those titles belonged to full-time, active NXT talent, and it is especially exciting because the title would be treated with such prestige on NXT programming. Kai and González are exactly what is needed in the women’s tag division. Instead of two stars randomly thrown together, they share history, chemistry and a real purpose together in their work, all of which was visible during their run in the first-ever women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

“We’ve been together for a little over a year, and we’re building on that,” Kai says. “Raquel has been at the Performance Center longer than I have, and I have seen the work she’s put into this. There is some real-life connection, and that shows in our team. She is big and powerful, and I am quick on my feet, and that juxtaposition works well for us.”

Working so closely with Shawn Michaels at the WWE Performance Center, the pairing of Kai and González draws natural parallels to a young “Heartbreak Kid” and his bodyguard Diesel.

“We like using their pose during our entrance,” Kai says. “And if anyone sees similarities in our work, then that’s the biggest compliment in the world.”

Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez pose after winning a match on NXT

The importance of Baszler’s return to NXT, and her connection to Kai, also cannot be overstated. Unfortunately, even though she is returning with a title, this is not as glorious of a homecoming as it should be. Despite being one of the most talented wrestlers in the world, it often feels as though there is a disconnect between those in charge on Raw and the manner in which Baszler should be presented. Unlike on the main roster, where she is presented as another merely challenger, she built a fearsome aura and mystique in NXT. And she pushed around a babyface Kai whenever she felt like it, which is a story line that will be highlighted during this match.

“We had a rivalry in NXT, and I’ve grown a lot since then, as a person and competitor,” Kai says. “Shayna’s in for a big surprise when she sees what I can do now.”

Attaining notoriety in wrestling is difficult, especially with as talented a roster as NXT possesses. Kai noted that she is continually drawing inspiration from former NXT star Bianca Belair, who is now a major presence on SmackDown.

“Bianca is the definition of superstar,” Kai says. “We were really close in NXT, and she’s one of the sweetest people in the world, and she always gives me so much strength. I’m so happy for her. Her in-ring presence is just insane. She deserves the world, and I can’t wait to watch her face Sasha at WrestleMania.”

Many characteristics define a career in pro wrestling, with two indispensable ones being sacrifice and endurance. Kai has come alive as a heel, and her breakthrough was inevitable—she sacrificed, endured, fought and battled, arriving here from another continent, leaving behind her life in pursuit of a dream. Now she has the chance to bear the fruit of her hard work by overcoming Baszler and Jax, and claiming the tag titles with González.

“We’re going to have a lot of fun bringing the WWE tag team championship to NXT,” Kai says. “We’re going to take them to every brand, even NXT UK if we can. Think of all the different match combinations. I can’t wait. This is our moment, and we’re going to take it.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.