The Queen of Harts has built a fantastic legacy (Photo: WWE)
WWE superstar Natalya has thrown her support behind inter-gender wrestling and insisted there is ‘no gender gap’ in the company.
Over the years, the sports entertainment giant has moved on from past eras – where the women were largely presented as eye candy and given minimal time to shine in the ring – and flipped the switch, with the likes of Sasha Banks, Bayley and Charlotte Flair ruling the roost as some of the top names on Raw and SmackDown.
Just last week, the blue brand featured something of a rarity as Banks – the brand’s Women’s Champion – faced off with former Cirque du Soleil acrobat Reginald Thomas in a unique match-up.
Speaking exclusively to Metro.co.uk: ‘Sasha and Reginald, their match was fun! It was fun, it was outside the box. I know we can’t do that every week! But it showed that WWE – there’s no gender gap.
‘The girls can hang with the guys, and the guys better be prepared to hang with the girls because we will whip their ass!’
Sasha and Reginald had a creative and entertaining match (Photo: WWE)
As the only woman ever to graduate from her family’s infamous Hart Dungeon – which has produced the likes of her uncles Owen and Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, late dad Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and even her husband Tyson Kidd – Natalya can certainly back that claim up.
Indeed, as the sole female wrestler who actually completed her training there, she learned her craft by battling against – and working with – men, which helped her grow in the business.
She explained: ‘I love wrestling men. I know that might not be the politically correct thing to say, but I love wrestling men. I love wrestling women – I just love wrestling.
‘But when I was first training in the Dungeon, I really didn’t have anybody else to wrestle with other than men – like, my cousin Harry Smith, Teddy Hart, Jack Evans, TJ Wilson, my husband.
‘There was one girl that would come and train with us occasionally. I was just very lucky that I had great people to work with, but so many guys that taught me how to be strong.’
As this weekend’s Royal Rumble approaches, the 38-year-old star is heading into the flagship bout with clear and justifiable confidence.
She’s a former Divas and SmackDown Women’s Champion, and holds the honour of the longest time in a female Rumble at 56:01 in 2019 – while she also holds the cumulative record with 1:36:18 across the three matches thus far.
Despite the pressure of her family legacy, she’s more than delivered in her own right without shying away from the weight on her shoulders.
Natalya is one of the greats (Photo: WWE)
She smiled: ‘In and out of WWE, I think the biggest obstacle has been the pressure that I put on myself. I’ve always felt like I have to be great. When your family is Bret Hart, Owen Hart, the British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid, Owen Hart, Stu Hart, my dad. Those are big shoes to fill.’
However, she’s embraced the pressure and become a vital part of her family’s rich wrestling history – and one she looks to add to this weekend.
‘I worked my ass off my entire career not to walk in my family’s footsteps but to blaze my own trail. To be Nattie – to be the first female in the Hart family to compete in the ring,’ she enthused.
‘This is a totally different era, but I’m going to be the best Nattie I can be – to honour my family, but again, blaze my own trail.
‘I think my grandfather would be proud of me carrying on the legacy, but also just doing my own thing, having my own identity, working hard at something for myself.’
*Watch WWE Royal Rumble on Sunday, January 31 at midnight on the WWE Network.