Nikki A.S.H. Shoots on Being WWE Raw Women's Champion, SummerSlam, Gimmick, More
In a relatively short period, Nikki A.S.H. went from sitting on the sidelines in WWE to winning the Raw Women's Championship. Now, she has a huge Triple Threat match ahead of her at SummerSlam in Las Vegas on August 21.
Both Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley have been hot on her heels since she became champion in July and pose legitimate threats to her title reign. Despite that, Nikki has proved time and time again that she can overcome any obstacle put in front of her given that she embodies everything a superhero should be.
Although the character has been met with criticism from a certain segment of the audience, there's no denying that she's been a success story. In addition to becoming the Raw women's champion, she won the women's Money in the Bank Ladder match, defeated top talent and already has her spot set on the SummerSlam card.
Superhero or not, Nikki has long been a fan favorite with the WWE Universe and was waiting for the right opportunity to come her way. Now the question is whether she will be able to maintain this momentum and walk out of SummerSlam with her title.
Before Monday's Raw, Nikki spoke with Bleacher Report about her recent triumphs, capturing singles gold for the first time in WWE, why she's almost a superhero and more. Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide, and read on for the highlights.
How She's Preparing for Her SummerSlam Title Defense
Nikki A.S.H. has been involved in her fair share of multi-woman matches over the course of her career in WWE and has come out on top in more than a few of them, most notably at Money in the Bank in July.
Her Triple Threat title defense against Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley at SummerSlam, however, presents a completely different dynamic. Despite being the Raw women's champion, she is the underdog going into that contest.
She will also be the smallest Superstar in the match, though she's hoping to use that to her advantage.
"When you're smaller, you kind of have to rely on speed and techniques and certain technical moves," Nikki said. "For me, I've been working a lot on quick-pinning combinations because when you are smaller, you have to think about these things. I'm not quite a superhero yet. I'm almost a superhero, so I don't actually have super strength yet."
Black Widow is one larger-than-life superhero she's specifically modeled her moveset after and aims to use a technique or two of hers come SummerSlam.
"For me, going into this match, it's making sure my quick-pinning combinations are as tight as they can be and working a lot on speed and agility—basically the way Black Widow prepares," Nikki said. "I was really inspired by a lot of the things she does because she does a lot of hurricanranas and head-scissors and things like that."
What Nikki A.S.H. Is All About
Nikki debuted her new superhero shtick earlier in the summer, so there is more about the character that has to be fleshed out.
It's been established that she feels she's almost a superhero, which is what drives her to be the best she can be. She prides herself on being that ultimate underdog and being a role model for those who could use a beacon of light.
The Raw women's champion likened the Nikki A.S.H. gimmick to Steve Rogers before he came Captain America in the comic book world. Not having superpowers is where the mentality of "almost" being a superhero stems from.
"For me, Nikki A.S.H. has the same moral compass as a superhero," she said. "When you think of Captain America, when you think of Steve Rogers, he was already standing up to bullies before he got the super serum. Iron Man, when you take away his suit, is still this absolute genius. Black Widow doesn't have any powers, but she's one of the best trained fighters on the planet.
"For me, with Nikki A.S.H., the way I view it is that I have the same moral compass, the same drive, the same persistence as a superhero, but I don't have super serum or a magical ring or something like the Iron Man suit. The idea is that you put on the cape and the mask and you feel like you can try anything, and if you fall down, it's OK because you can pick yourself back up."
Her Biggest Inspirations for the Character
WWE Superstars are essentially superheroes in their own way, but WWE itself hasn't had many wrestlers portray actual superheroes over the years. Before Nikki A.S.H., there was the trio of The Hurricane, Rosey and Mighty Molly, who were a significant part of Raw from 2004 to 2005.
They didn't have much success as far as championships were concerned, but they left a lasting impression on the WWE Universe. Nikki A.S.H. hopes to do the same, also citing Black Widow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Spider-Man among her biggest inspirations.
"I get really, really inspired by superhero movies," she said. "Spider-Man was another big influence for me. Supergirl on CW, I absolutely love and adore that show, and there's actually so much that represents what Nikki A.S.H. believes in.
"I've been lucky enough to be able to pick the brain of The Hurricane. Shane Helms has been absolutely amazing. He's been so supportive and so helpful and giving me some great advice. When I first debuted the character and when I won the Raw Women's Championship, I came through Gorilla and one of the first people I saw was Hurricane. I've been lucky enough to get some great advice off him, and I'm grateful to be able to pick his brain."
How Her Connection with the Crowd Fuels Her Despite Detractors
Since Nikki's new persona seemed to come out of nowhere in late June, some fans weren't sure what to make of it. Even once she revealed soon after that it was her idea, there was still some skepticism that the gimmick would be rejected by live crowds upon WWE's return to the road.
By and large, she has been well received by crowds. Not only did those in Fort Worth, Texas, approve of her Money in the Bank win, but her cash-in the next night on Raw also garnered a great reaction.
Nikki is concerned with her those who have supported her more than she is her detractors, who likely aren't in the demographic she and WWE seem to be targeting with the character. That positivity has fueled her to be better and to keep evolving the act.
"One of the most important things is connecting with for fans, and I love exploring that connection, and I'm excited to be in front of live fans again at live events leading up to SummerSlam," she said. "There's been so much positivity and joy. I've seen the fan art, which I pretty much share on a daily basis on my Twitter and on my Instagram, and all the outpouring of messages from everyone. I'm inspired by it. I'm empowered by that.
"I'm just so excited. And the connection is the most important thing, and I'm looking forward to exploring that and for people to see this character and become invested in it. That's what I'm focusing on and thinking about."
Reacting to Her Rapid Rise to Superstardom
At this time six months ago, Nikki's appearances on Raw were far and few between. She was seldom seen on the show, and whenever she did pop up, it was usually to lose to someone such as Alexa Bliss.
She took matters into her own hands by pitching the Nikki A.S.H. character to management and surprisingly getting it approved. Regardless of what your thoughts are on it, the success she's had is undeniable—and it's unbelievable to Nikki herself.
"Money in the Bank, winning that in Texas, the ladder match, and then cashing in the next night, it's been a whirlwind," she said. "It's been an amazing whirlwind and almost like an amazing dream that I don't want someone to wake me up from. ... I'm enjoying this wave of momentum, and it's taking me to SummerSlam in a Triple Threat for the Raw Women's Championship where I will be defending my Raw Women's Championship. I'm on cloud nine."
Nikki noted that July's Money in the Bank contest marked only the third ladder match of her career: one being another Money in the Bank ladder match in 2019 and the other having happened in Scotland almost a decade ago. She went in there with the intention to steal the show and feels that they were able to showcase the level of competition in the women's division by what they did in that match.
"I did a promo afterward for WWE Digital, and I said that this contract represents the women that have fought for this contract," she said. "The women from the generation before me who didn't have this opportunity, and it represents my own journey. Winning the Money in the Bank meant a lot, and it led me to becoming the Raw Women's champion."
Looking Back on Her Time in NXT and Believing Everything Happens for a Reason
Perhaps the coolest part of Nikki's swift rise to superstardom for fans who have followed her career is that she was never looked at as a focal point of NXT's women's division for as long as she was there.
From late 2016 to early 2019, Nikki was a staple of the scene and contended for the NXT Women's Championship on a handful of occasions but never held the gold. Just under three years later, she's the Raw women's champion.
Amazingly enough, her final televised match in NXT was against Bianca Belair, who is the SmackDown women's champion. Their journeys reaching similar heights simultaneously is not lost on Nikki.
"I love looking back on the last five years, and I was incredibly fortunate to be involved in these awesome stories in NXT. The Last Woman Standing match with Asuka is the match I'm most proud of in my career, so I'm so fortunate to be a part of what I was a part of in NXT. It's been incredible for both [me and Bianca], and I'm so over the moon for Bianca as SmackDown women's champion.
"I think everything happens for a reason, so when I look back at the last five-and-a-half years, everything has prepared me for this moment. I'm ready to represent the company in this way, and I'm honored and privileged to hold this Raw Women's Championship."
Who She Hopes to Defend Her Raw Women's Championship Against
Every superhero needs a villain to play off of, which is why there is no shortage of potential challengers for the Raw women's champion.
The most obvious opponent for her at some point is Alexa Bliss, with whom she has history dating back to their days as tag team partners. They also briefly feuded during Bliss' move over to the dark side late last year, so revisiting that rivalry with the updated dynamic would be interesting.
Nikki named a variety of talented individuals she looks forward to facing before long with her gold up for grabs, assuming she can remain Raw Women's champion post-SummerSlam.
"We have so many female Superstars that as almost a superhero, as the Raw Women's champion, I'll be a fighting champion," she said. "I'll defend my championship against anyone and everyone. Personally, I'd love to mix it up with Mia Yim. I'd love to mix it up with Tamina. One of my favorite matches of my career was at a live event that me and Tamina had in San Diego a few years ago, so I'd love to mix it up with Tamina.
"I'd love to mix it up with Naomi, Liv Morgan—so many women I'd love to do something with. Also on Raw, we have Eva Marie and Doudrop, and I know Doudrop from Scotland. That would be an amazing moment, getting to fight against her. We went to the same wrestling school in Scotland, and we've both had amazing journeys but very different journeys. I'd love to do that match."
Catch Nikki A.S.H. every Monday night on WWE Raw at 8/7c on USA Network.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.