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By Mike Johnson on 2020-10-28 04:30:00

While 2020 has certainly been a tumultous year for everyone, for WWE NXT's Raquel Gonzalez, it has also proven to be the biggest year of her WWE tenure to date.  Tonight, Gonzalez will capitalize on her recent work for NXT, stepping into the ring for the most high profile match of her career to date, facing former NXT Women's Champion Rhea Ripley in a grudge match as part of Halloween Havoc.  Yesterday, Gonzalez sat down to discuss her run in the company, facing Rhipley, Havoc, diversity and much, much more.  Transcript by Billy Krotchsen.


Mike Johnson: It is Tuesday, October 27, 2020 and as we get our goblins and our cobwebs together for Halloween, we are about 24 hours away from the return of Halloween Havoc, which is being resurrected like every great movie monster always is. Wednesday night on the USA Network, NXT will present Halloween Havoc under the WWE banner and as part of that broadcast on the USA Network. Our guest at this time Raquel Gonzalez will go one on one with Rhea Ripley. Raquel Gonzalez has been one of the most improved and one of the most dominant women in the NXT division over the last six months, and while 2020 has been a crazy year for just about everybody, it’s also been a breakout year for Raquel. First of all, thanks for sitting down and for talking to us today. This has been your breakout year. You’ve been part of the WWE NXT system for a couple of years now, but this seems to be where everything kind of crystalized and the doors blew off for you. What’s it been like taking in this moment, where everything you’ve been working for, all the momentum has blown through and we’ve seen a fully formed version of who Raquel Gonzalez can be in the ring?

Raquel Gonzalez: It’s been pretty surreal. This entire year has felt so long but at the same time has gone by so fast. It seems far away now that we were in Portland and I had my debut and we were traveling and we were in front of live audiences and things were kind of going somewhere and then all of a sudden with everything going on in the world with the pandemic, everything just stopped. But the one thing that didn’t stop was of course NXT and WWE, we were giving people this outlet from reality but we ourselves were also living this reality. It’s almost been like a surreal, double world type of thing, so it’s been something for me to…I have to sit back and think about it and realize that yeah, this has been a big year for myself and my career and coming out and having my debut and having these moments on Takeovers and how finally getting to have a singles match with Rhea Ripley on Halloween Havoc, the return of Halloween Havoc, it’s mind-blowing, it’s absolutely mind-blowing. Even talking about it and thinking about it right now still gives me a little bit of goosebumps to know that it’s tomorrow and I’m honestly so excited and I can’t wait because there’s just so much that I want to do and I want to show and want to prove and I feel like tomorrow is kind of just the beginning stepping stone for that.

Mike Johnson: To me, Halloween Havoc show almost feels like a Takeover in a way. Obviously for fans who are older, there’s that nostalgia for Halloween Havoc as it existed from 1989 until the early 2000s, but for the NXT crew, for the locker room, what’s the buzz been like amongst the competitors, amongst the performers, about bringing the show back to life? I joke, oh it's being resurrected like a movie monster, but this is the first time we’ve seen this concept done in many, many years. Obviously there’s a fun element to it, there’s a unique element to it, with the Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal some of the matches, but amongst the locker room and even for yourself, what’s the excitement level like seeing this brought back to the forefront by WWE NXT?

Raquel Gonzalez: I can tell you the level is out of this roof. It is so high with everyone that is involved in NXT, and it’s mostly because I was just saying this but every single person here that I have spoken to loves Halloween. We love the holiday, we love the theme, we love the costumes, we love getting dressed up, everything about it. Halloween is probably the favorite holiday of everyone here at NXT and it brought the excitement up so high that everybody wants to come out on Wednesday and give 120%. We are definitely treating this as a Takeover because it’s the resurrection of Halloween Havoc and because it’s such a big deal and we want it to be something amazing and great because we want to bring it back again next year. It’s something that we would love to have every year and it’s obviously a big thing to live up to as well because of what it was in the past and what the older crowd sees but I hope it brings in a couple more viewers of the older crowd who miss seeing it and it makes them want to watch not just Halloween Havoc but NXT a whole lot more.

Mike Johnson: So over the last couple of months we’ve seen you forge quite the alliance with Dakota Kai during her wars with Tegan Nox and that has helped build towards your rivalry with Rhea Ripley. What has it been like building that relationship on screen and off screen with Dakota Kai and what’s your thoughts – I’ve seen a lot of these floating online, the Shawn Michaels and Diesel comparisons, to your duo with Dakota?

Raquel Gonzalez: I would say that me being in a team with Dakota has leveled us both up because she brings being a veteran and a skillset and a mindset and a speed that I was lacking in my ability and in these past 6 months it’s helped me in my career and in my in-ring skills to really take my skills to the next level and be something that I know I can be. Kind of the same for her, I feel like I brought a lot of power and strength to the group and that’s something that we’ve both been able to feed off of and give each other confidence off of. So right now while I handle business with Rhea and she’s handling business with Ember, we both know that we still have each other to fall back on and we have that confidence because we’re in the same mindset here, we have the same goal. We are here to show that we are a force to be reckoned with in the NXT Women’s Division, take that NXT Women’s title and then eventually start going for the WWE Tag Titles and kind of just going from there. I was just saying it would be great for us to have those tag titles here in NXT and almost tell the girls from Raw and Smackdown, “Hey you want them, come get them, now’s your chance.”

Mike Johnson: So obviously you did a lot of training in the WWE Performance Center. We speak about resurrections and changes and evolutions, now it’s the Capitol Wrestling Center. What’s the difference like in that atmosphere performing in the ThunderDome sort of environment compared to Full Sail University or other NXT venues that you’ve performed at in the past?

Raquel Gonzalez: Being in the CWC is so mind-blowing, especially when everything is on – the cameras are on, the crowd is hot, it’s amazing to have that feeling again because I didn’t have it personally that much in Full Sail with a live crowd. When I was working at Full Sail these last 6 months it was always in front of our NXT crew or it was in front of no crowd. So going from 1,000+ people at NXT Takeover: Portland to 0 to now being in the CWC where we have a few fans that have been tested, everything is still blocked off, and then we have the virtual fans as well, it’s very mind-blowing. I still can’t get over it, every time we make our entrance, that this is where I get to live my dream.

Mike Johnson: So I want to ask you about your background. There seems to be different versions of your heritage and your lineage in professional wrestling. So can we clarify – are you related to someone who was wrestling? Is it Ray Gonzalez who wrestled in Puerto Rico? Is it a different Ray Gonzalez from Texas? Was it Rudy Boy Gonzalez from Texas? I see all of these different patches of, “Well Raquel Gonzalez is related to this person, she’s related to that person,” can we clarify what exactly is the lineage here? Because you know on the internet it has to be true, so what’s the truth here?

Raquel Gonzalez: [laughs] So my father, his name is Rick “Desperado” Gonzalez. He was wrestling in TWA. He was there when Shawn Michaels started a school in San Antonio, he did a lot of wrestling in Mexico, Oklahoma, Ohio. He worked with a lot of big names as well. Him and Rudy Boy Gonzalez, who took over Shawn Michaels’ school, actually got started in the school together and worked a little bit together as well. So I am a second generation, my father was Rick “Desperado” Gonzalez. He did most of his stuff like I said south of the border and a little bit in Texas and Louisiana and Oklahoma and Ohio. So I kind of picked my passion for wrestling from him because we lived right on the border of Texas and Mexico in Texas and when my dad would wrestle he’d have shows in Corpus, which is two hours away, or San Antonio, which is like four hours away, Houston – six hours away. So it was kind of a family event where we would take road trips on the weekend, go with him. My sister and my mom would go off to the shopping malls and that wasn’t really my scene, so I would stick around and hang with my dad and I always loved watching him be in the ring and do what he loved to do and it was something that I’ve wanted to try since I was a little girl. But yeah that’s kind of where it falls under and I’m very, very proud to be coming from that lineage and from my dad who taught me everything I know about basketball, wrestling and not giving up and working hard for where I am right now.

Mike Johnson: What’s it been like getting feedback from your father?  Obviously, everyone always wants to please their father and you’re working in such a unique genre. What’s it like getting feedback from him on your WWE NXT exploits and adventures?  

Raquel Gonzalez: I think because I’ve been around him so much when I was little and like you said, I’ve always wanted to please my father, whether it was in basketball or anything I did, I never really cringed hearing feedback from him. Anything that he has to say I take it with a grain of salt, I ingest it and I kind of digest everything that’s happened. There’s so many opinions when it comes to everything that’s going on in this world and in this business, that everything is something that you have to take and choose for you and what you feel is true for yourself. For me, I always try to go based off of that, like OK, I totally understand where this opinion is coming from but is Raquel that kind of a person that she’s going to do that? So I take it with a grain of salt and then I think, is this something that I could incorporate or is this something that I can put towards something else in whatever position I may be in at the time.

Mike Johnson: So you mentioned, especially in your childhood, your dad working shows in Mexico and you going to shows in Texas. Diversity and representation is very important in today’s world and unfortunately it’s also a hot button issue in certain circles. What’s it like having that opportunity to show a ferocious, strong Latin woman on WWE programming and what does that mean to you as someone who grew up around the wrestling industry and as a Latin woman?

Raquel Gonzalez: It means a lot to me. I know that we are very underrepresented in a lot of things in this world, so being able to be bilingual, speak Spanish…my grandfather, he actually moved here straight from Monterrey and he never spoke a lick of English, so growing up my parents were like, “Work hard on your English so your English is good because that’s the primary language that’s going to get you far in this world,” but having my grandfather who didn’t speak English and still having that opportunity to learn Spanish and to communicate in Spanish really gave me a better sense of my culture and the person who I am, because my culture is everything to me. Stuff that we believe in and things that my grandmother brings to the table – our food, our traditions, how strong our family values are – just those things alone have really kept me grounded, strong and to keep pushing forward in everything that is going on in this world because even as a strong Latin woman and playing women’s basketball, that was something that was very underrepresented as well. So getting to do that and play basketball in college was a big step for me, getting to be here and take part in these types of events and living a dream that I’ve always looked forward to, and I know a lot of girls, especially younger girls, are looking for those types of opportunities as well, it puts me in a position where I just want to represent them and represent them well. I want to be someone that these girls can look up to and say, “You know what? My culture is strong, I love my family, I love this, but I can also step outside of the box a little and do something different and be someone else and be someone that I want to be.”

Mike Johnson: Well, we’re going to get to see who you want to be tomorrow evening when you step into what might be the biggest singles match of your WWE career to date. Give us some idea of what you envision we’ll be seeing when you step in the ring tomorrow with Rhea Ripley on Halloween Havoc?  There has to be excitement here.

Raquel Gonzalez: There’s no doubt that the excitement is here. I’m so excited, nervous, angsty, I honestly cannot wait to get in there, hear that bell ring and just go at it, because I feel like we have so much built up tension both Rhea and I, that we are both just sitting on the edges of our seats just ready to get called in. It is two minutes left in the game, I’m on the edge of the seat, Coach better put me in because I just want to frickin’ block some shots and make some shots, you know what I’m saying? [laughs]

Mike Johnson: Indeed. I want to thank you for sitting down and talking to us for a little bit. I hope we get to do it again when the paths in the constellations properly align. I want to let everybody know that they can follow Raquel on Twitter at @RaquelWWE and of course, for everything WWE related you can go to WWE's website. So Raquel, last question – you mentioned Halloween being your favorite holiday. Do we have a costume yet? Are there any big Halloween traditions that in a normal world you usually like to do? Once we get past Halloween Havoc and everything is good and well, what’s the big Halloween plans for you and Dakota Kai?

Raquel Gonzalez: Honestly, every Halloween is about getting dressed up. I don’t have a costume yet so I’m still thinking of one, but it’s just getting dressed up and hanging out with friends and celebrating this opportunity to be something else again, you know? I can be anything I want to be – if I want to be Iron Man, I can dress up like Iron Man, if I want to be a bruja, I’ll dress up like a witch. [laughs]

Mike Johnson: Well we’re going to see what Witch's Brew WWE NXT cooks up for us on the USA Network, including Raquel Gonzalez against Rhea Ripley and two Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal matches, and a whole lot more. We’ll have complete live coverage here on We thank all of you for your support of the site and Raquel, I look forward to when we get to do this again. I wish you and your family nothing but the best professionally and personally and we’re looking forward to the match with Rhea Ripley. Thanks so much for sitting down and talking to us and stay safe, stay healthy and we look forward to following the continued adventures of Raquel Gonzalez in NXT and beyond.

Raquel Gonzalez: Muchas gracias, thank you for having me. I’m very honored to be on your show and to be on tomorrow’s show. I look forward to seeing what everyone has to say.

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