Raquel González won the NXT Women’s Championship last week from Io Shirai, creating a moment in her first TakeOver main event at Stand & Deliver.
González, who is 30-year-old Victoria González, is in the midst of an incredible rise in NXT. She got her start in both editions of the Mae Young Classic, losing each time in the opening round. But she then made her debut as Raquel González in February 2020, serving as the muscle for Dakota Kai, igniting this current run of success.
Partnering with Kai has led to some incredible chemistry, and the two even became the first Women’s Tag Team Champions in NXT after winning this year’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. Her breakthrough year elevated to even higher ground last week when she defeated Shirai for the NXT Women’s Championship, and she now seeks to put her own stamp on one of the most meaningful titles in the entire industry.
Ahead of NXT’s Tuesday night debut on USA Network, González spoke with Sports Illustrated, discussing her title win, emerging as a force for NXT and her goals as champion.
Sports Illustrated: You are in the midst of a phenomenal run. Was there a particular moment over the past year that brought you to this moment as champion?
Raquel González: It’s been a crazy year. When I had my debut [in February 2020], that was at a live TakeOver in front of thousands of fans. We were doing shows—and then COVID hit. That was such a mind game. We didn’t know what to expect or what was next.
We kept on with the weekly show, and that gave me an opportunity to control what I could control. For me, that was becoming a better athlete and wrestler. That time was for me to learn my craft and push myself. Every time I had an opportunity, I used it to buckle down and push forward. I think that’s a big reason why I’m now NXT Women’s Champion.
SI: Your title win at TakeOver set the tone for WrestleMania 37, where NXT stars dominated. Rhea Ripley won the Raw Women’s Championship from Asuka, and Bianca Belair main-evented the opening night of WrestleMania with Sasha Banks.
RG: I’m very humbled to be part of that—three new champions. Since my beginning in NXT, I’ve always looked up to Bianca, as a wrestler and a human being. She pushed me to up my game, and the same goes for Rhea. Those are two powerhouses. So for me to start it off, then see Bianca win in the main event, and then see Rhea win, it’s an honor to be grouped with two phenomenal athletes.
SI: What makes Io Shirai so special in the ring?
RG: Io is the best in the world. She must know that, but she’s still so humble. She’s out there, she’s creative, she’s different. I love working with her, and we’re both of the same mindset to create something that was worthy of an NXT TakeOver main event.
I told her she’s so crazy for the things she’s willing to do. Jumping off the cage at WarGames with a trash can over her head. Jumping off that skull last week. And she said, “You’re the crazy one—you take it!” We work really well together, and I was grateful to share the ring with her.
SI: The pacing and psychology of your match with Shirai was different. It was a different presentation of you, an unstoppable force in the ring who struggled throughout the match to gain the advantage. While that wasn’t the traditional blueprint, it was refreshing to see a new story told.
RG: We wanted to create something different and special. As a big powerhouse, it’s hard to not be in control. But it’s different with Io. The way that she fights, she can be in control. That’s something she can do. And I was the underdog.
I’ve read the comments. I know people think I’m still green. I definitely am still learning, and that was something we wanted to put in our story. It’s an honor for me to work with Io, someone who has so much experience. So the match showed that even a dominant force can get knocked down, but it’s all about how you recover. That’s something we were able to tell in our match.
SI: Waiting is the hardest part, especially for such a massive moment in your career. What was it like last Wednesday, waiting all day for your moment to win the title?
RG: I’m naturally a morning person anyway, and I love getting in my workout then. But I woke up at 5:30 in the morning that day. I just needed to get my mind right and stay positive, so I got in a workout and then did a couple interviews. And I don’t like to keep in my head that I know the outcome. Things change all the time. I’ve seen that happen in the ring, so mentally I was prepared for anything. About an hour before the match went on, I was ready, so I needed to save that energy and adrenaline.
SI: When did it feel real?
RG: It hit me when [referee] Darryl [Sharma] placed the title in my hands. I was banging against the mat, and I was so excited that everything went the way we wanted. I was just grateful for Io, Darryl and myself making it work in our time limit. When he handed me the title, and it was finally in my hands, I saw my dad’s hands go up. My parents were there to see me, and that’s when it set in.
Later that night, we had a meeting. Triple H said he remembered when NXT was airing live on USA, and it was the night I was supposed to have my debut. But they pulled me a couple hours before and said I wasn’t ready. That was very humbling. And it means so much I’m now someone he can trust with the NXT Women’s Championship.
SI: There have been a plethora of great champions in NXT, and you now have a blank canvas for your reign. What comes next for you as champion?
RG: I overcame a battle against Io, one of the greatest in the world, so now the first goal is to establish my dominance. The very best come in different shapes and sizes. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. I want people to know I am my own person. I am Raquel González because that’s who Victoria has become.
I am going to show that I belong at this level, that I’m not just being grouped with Bianca and Rhea because I won a title. I’m going to prove I belong here, that this is where I should be.
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