As noted here at Last Word On Pro Wrestling, April 8’s Friday Night SmackDown promised a new era. This included the debuts of NXT 2.0 stars Gunther and Ludwig Kaiser, as well as Raquel Gonzalez. Like Kaiser, formerly known as Marcel Barthel, Gonzalez has been rebranded. Now, as a member of the SmackDown roster, she will be known as Raquel Rodriguez.
Raquel Rodriguez Makes SmackDown Debut
What to Know Following Debut of Former NXT Women’s Titleholder
— WWE (@WWE) April 9, 2022
Rodriguez’s first SmackDown appearance was a backstage interview segment, in which she was harassed by Los Lotharios, Angel, and Humberto. Rodriguez kept her cool and dismissed her erstwhile suitors.
Rodriguez’s apparent SmackDown debut comes just days after the end of her second reign as an NXT Women’s Tag Team Champion alongside on-again, off-again partner Dakota Kai. Although they regained the titles at NXT: Stand and Deliver, Kai and Rodriguez lost the tag titles to Toxic Attraction on the April 5 episode of NXT 2.0.
For most of her time on NXT and NXT 2.0, Rodriguez portrayed a tough as nails and unassailable heel character. Dubbing herself “La Chingona”, her persona borrowed aesthetically from towering and formidable World Wrestling Entertainment stars of the past such as Kevin Nash, the Undertaker, and Chyna with her mien of motorcycles, leather, an unflappable attitude and a punishing powerlifting-based in ring repertoire.
She first appeared for WWE in the inaugural Mae Young Classic, in 2017, and the second installment of the event in 2018. In 2020, she reemerged as Kai’s bodyguard. The two formed a villainous tag team, whilst Gonzalez also pursued the NXT Women’s Championship. Kai and Rodriguez’s star rose quickly, as they emerged the victors of the first women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, and claimed the first women’s NXT tag team titles. Rodriguez achieved the NXT women’s title at NXT Takeover: Stand and Deliver in 2021.
The dawn of NXT 2.0 saw a transformation in Rodriguez’s character. She lost the NXT women’s title to Mandy Rose during 2021’s installment of Halloween Havoc. Throughout the remainder of 2021, and into 2022, Rodriguez was a babyface mentor figure paired in a tag team with newcomer Cora Jade, before allying once again with Kai.
The new incarnation of Rodriguez didn’t have much to do on April 8’s SmackDown besides defend herself from Los Lotharios, but her presence on the SmackDown women’s roster may lead to a collision with fellow NXT alumnas Shotzi and Aliyah.
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