Calling a Spade a Spade: Why Shayna Baszler Is Everything That’s Right With WWE’s NXT Women’s Division

She is exactly what she claims to be. During her time in the UFC, Shayna Baszler was able to make an immediate impact. And as skilled as she is in mixed martial arts, there is nothing about her that appears contrived or even slightly tampered with. Often when it comes to professional wrestling some talent has presented in-ring characters that appear tweaked or worked with. While her character could be a carbon copy of what Sonya Deville presents on the Smackdown Live roster, as a fighter trained in multiple disciplines. Baszler is capable of delivering so much more. However, before fans can come to understand where Baszler is, it’s important to acknowledge where she has been.

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Baszler is trained in multiple fighting disciplines, including Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, with a brown belt in the latter. She has a mixed martial arts record of 26 wins and 15 losses, in a career that began over eleven years ago. What is remarkable about Baszler‘s success is that while she is considered more seasoned by today’s fighting standards that just made her more of a force. Her fighting career began later in her twenties, with her most recent transition to professional wrestling showing just what she can accomplish in a short time.

Photo: UFC

An interesting note about Baszler‘s wrestling training is that, while much of it was with Josh Barnett, he wasn’t in California where she was training out of. Barnett created videos for her. In them, he was demonstrating a breakdown of moves and holds, along with tips on how to improve on her promo skills. It was Barnett that first referred to Baszler as the ‘Queen of Spades,’ based on her ability to do card tricks. That is, however, where the tricks end, as each and every time Baszler has walked into the ring or octagon she has left an immediate impact on those she is facing regardless of whom they are. Baszler has competed for such MMA promotions as Elite XC, UFC, and Strikeforce.

Photo: WWE Network

There is a legitimate toughness about her that was evident from her first appearance and her in-ring debut. As a member of the UFC’s Four Horsewomen alongside Ronda Rousey, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke, Baszler has something the others don’t have; while they are all bound by their love of mixed martial arts, Baszler carries with her an ambition that goes beyond the octagon. As a result, in the professional wrestling world, she has ascended to the top rather quickly. Many may know that she trained under Barnett and only had her first professional wrestling match in the fall of 2015. It was just under a year later that Baszler captured her first championship, winning the AIW women’s title by defeating Heidi Lovelace, who has now come to be known as Ruby Riott in the WWE. Over the course of a couple of years, the buzz about Baszler was quickly gaining ground. This was because she brings a legitimacy to what she does in the ring with her tough as nails persona that is impossible to deny.

Photo: WWE

After competing in the Mae Young Classic, the discussion was, how long would it be before Baszler would emerge as someone WWE wanted to have in the fold? The answer was, not very long. In the Classic, she faced notable competitors such as Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, and her former trainer Mercedes Martinez, before ultimately losing to Kairi Sane in the finals t. The finals had little to do with what Baszler had been, but rather where she was going. It is very rare for someone in their debut to immediately turn heads and have fans stand up and take notice. There is no try with Baszler’s character, it just appears very natural, as though with every step there is an intent, with each action there is a consequence.

Photo: WWE

For her in-ring debut with NXT, the match finish was a referee stoppage after she brutalized and choked out Dakota Kai. Whether Kai suffered an injury or not it was clear that Baszler could manipulate the human body in a manner that few others could. Her short time in NXT has already been met with immediate results. She attacked Kairi Sane from behind, leaving her unconscious at the top of the ramp way. She then attacked a prone Aliyah, who had just lost to Lacey Evans during a recent episode of NXT.

Photo: WWE

Baszler imposes her will because she can. Whether that makes her persona a bully or an opportunist can be argued. What can’t be argued is that she walks to the ring with a purpose. Much like Kevin Owens did when he first fought Sami Zayn in NXT, she has a goal in mind. It is clear that Baszler isn’t in to play games or mince words. Her role is to make an immediate impact in the promotion. From the moment she stepped onto the NXT stage, Baszler was intent on ensuring she would be heard, and the NXT women’s championship is clearly in her sights. She is the embodiment of what women’s wrestling is and more importantly where it is going. At a time where fighting back and being heard is crucial, Baszler stands out for all the right reasons. Her ferocious nature, her calm demeanor and violent intent is something not commonly seen in the women’s division, but has certainly grabbed the attention of those watching. The only question is who is actually safe from the Queen of Spades?

Photo: WWE