By Chuck Carroll
(CBS New York/CBS Local) — WWE is just days away from a historic main event at WrestleMania, and Becky Lynch will be there in the thick of it. For the first time in the 35-year history of sports entertainment’s grandest spectacle, women will close the show, as Lynch squares off against RAW Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey and the surprising new SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair. But the triple-threat match, as it stands now, almost didn’t happen. In fact, the entire last epic year for Lynch almost didn’t happen. Not winning her second SmackDown Women’s Championship, not winning the Royal Rumble, not becoming arguably the most popular Superstar in WWE. None of it.
Six years ago, shortly after Lynch signed a developmental contract with WWE and began work in the NXT brand, she was almost fired. There were a number of people inside the company who thought she would never have the “it factor,” let alone become one of the leaders of a women’s revolution that shattered so many glass ceilings that history-making moments became expected.
What if the doubters had their way back then? Would the presence of Rousey alone be enough for the women in the locker room to clear that hurdle? It’s impossible to say. However, one thing is for sure — the WWE Universe would not be nearly as vested in the match.
Fans have rallied around the 32-year-old, forcing their will on the powers that be, including WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, in much the same fashion as they did with Daniel Bryan leading up to WrestleMania 30. And now, here we are five years later, and history may be on the verge of repeating itself. WWE has not yet made clear their plans for the triple-threat match, since Flair only captured the SmackDown championship on Tuesday. Could both titles be on the line in much the same fashion as Bryan was able to double up on his historic night? Anything is possible.
What we do know is that Lynch is not in this match by accident. Her rapid ascension to the top of the roster is a product of a relentless work ethic and tireless drive to make her feud with Rousey as gigantic as possible. And she’s done just that, largely through sharp jabs on the mic and even sharper jabs on social media, where her war of words with Rousey is masterfully blurring the line between reality and fiction. Even the most devoted longtime fans are struggling to tell the difference between the two.
I had the opportunity to catch up with the über-popular Irish-born WWE Superstar as she puts the final touches on her preparation for the momentous match. Lynch said the media frenzy and hype leading up to the match have been insane, but despite all the demands placed on her, she was relaxed and had an easygoing demeanor during our conversation. If she felt any pressure from the chaos, she wasn’t letting it show. She was simply relishing the moment.
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How gratifying has this whole last year been for you? Everything really that you must have been working for is really coming together, and your career has taken off and launched into the stratosphere. Now you’re in the main event at WrestleMania. Talk to me about the emotions of this entire year.
I think one day, when I sit down and actually let it sink in, I feel like my head just might explode off my shoulders. I got a couple of text messages this week from people here at work and NXT or worked in the office side of things. (They said) I don’t know if you knew this, but there are some people that wanted to fire you when you were in NXT. Congratulations on the main event. I was like, “Well, no, I knew that.” Then there was other people that were like, “Wow, I never in a million years would have expected this, and congratulations on the main event.”
I came in with such low confidence, and such low self-esteem, I really had to believe in myself, more than anything. But there was always a part of me that was like, “Nah, you’ve got something, you’ve got something different, you’ve gotta let it out.” But I have to allow myself the opportunity. If it wasn’t for those fans making their voices heard… It comes back to the beginning. No matter what, they’ve always been there. They’ve always supported me. Now it’s on such a bigger level, but I think what happened is that Money In The Bank, every time I stepped on that ladder they went crazy. It just made people pay attention. Like, Becky’s got a bond with these people. That’s something you can’t manufacture. No matter how much they want to freakin’ throw grapes at Rhonda and Charlotte or whoever else. What I bring they can’t manufacture. Come WrestleMania or wherever else, I won’t be throwing grapes at people. I’ll just be throwing lefts and rights.
You guys are closing a show with Brock Lesnar facing Seth Rollins and Triple H versus Batista on the card. Kurt Angle is wrestling his final match that night. So, forget about the fact that women are in the main event for the first time, but just as a WWE superstar, what does it mean to be main-eventing a show when you have so much star power on there?
That’s the thing. It’s one thing to main-event if there’s no good matches. This WrestleMania is stacked. Absolutely stacked to the brim, but I have been obsessing about this. Not just this year but since I was 15 years old wanting to come into WrestleMania. So, it really is the culmination of my entire life’s work. Just as soon as I got hot, I was just strategically planning this. How could I make the story so compelling? How could I get people so invested that they have to see this as the main event because they’re just so invested? Even though it feels like this build has been happening for about 12 years now, I think the blowoff at WrestleMania is perfect.
WrestleMania entrances have historically been epic, and we learned this week that Ronda Rousey is going to be played to the ring by Joan Jett. What are you working on?
Yeah, and I mean last year Charlotte was carried in on a throne. I’m sure somebody will just stand in the corner with a party popper. It is me after all. I haven’t heard anything. So, we’ll see. To be honest, my sole thought process is on how this ends, and that’s with me standing in the ring with 80,000 people holding the RAW women’s championship.
The RAW Women’s Championship is involved, and now we see the SmackDown Women’s Championship will also be part of this match. What do you think of the idea of a winner-take-all scenario, where someone walks out with both championships?
If anyone’s going to do that, that should be me. That will be me. That sounds spectacular. And I would like to be able to defend both of them. Be the first-ever women’s champ champ. I think that sounds pretty freakin’ fantastic.
SmackDown in the Fall moving over to a new network. You’ve made no secret about how much you enjoy the blue brand. Are you hoping to stay there, or are you open to the idea of going over to RAW, or do you want to be a floater like you’ve been the last month or two?
Well, if I’m the champ champ, I’m going to have to be a floater.
That is a good point.
I love my brand. I’m so proud of that brand. I feel like they always categorize it as the “B show,” but I think we both know it’s the better show. I think it’s got people who [they] don’t necessarily roll out the red carpet for… but it’s people that the fans care most about. And that’s what’s important, that’s what they built on. Not your corporate golden girls and boys. Ever since I went to SmackDown, I want to make that women’s division the one to watch. Any opportunity, when I’ve been in a story, I’ve tried to take that ball and run with it. On stage, the SmackDown Women’s Title is the talk of the industry. It was the hottest title in town. Unfortunately, it’s fallen a little bit, but I would like to bring it back up to where it was.
You were talking about doing everything in your power to make the build to this match as special as it could be. One of the ways you have been able to do that has been on social media. Just as you’ve caught fire in the ring, your Twitter account is absolutely fire. Talk to me about those Tweets that you’re sending out and those memes. Is that all you? Do you sit there and come up with these things?
Yeah, because I obsess about this. We have maybe five or 10 minutes if we’re lucky when we’re on TV every week. But when we have social media, we have a live microphone 24/7. So it’s a chance to get my message across unfiltered, uncensored and get people to really care and [to] entertain. Of course, I’m not tech-savvy, so I have someone else Photoshop things for me. It’s just a matter of obsessing about that and making sure that people care more about this than they do about anything else. And my way of doing that is making sure my voice is out there all the time. All the time in people’s faces, whether it’s polarizing, offensive, or funny, or whatever. At least people are talking, and at least people want this to be the main event.
You never worry about going too far with it?
What’s too far?
Some could say it’s subjective.
Exactly. You can post a picture of a cat at the moment, and somebody thinks that’s too freakin’ far. You know what I mean? People will look for a reason to be offended about anything. I’m looking for people to be entertained. I’m looking for people to have opinions about things. And that’s what it’s gotten. So, I’m looking for people to want us in the main event. Whether they love me, hate me, whatever it is. They want to see this match.
WrestleMania 35, featuring Lynch, Rousey and Flair competing in the main event, will be held on April 7 at MetLife Stadium and will stream worldwide on the WWE Network.