Natalya Opens up on Emotional Season of WWE ‘Total Divas’ and Helping Emerging Female Talent


Natalya has seen many of her best and worst moments chronicled through the lens of WWE Total Divas. And season nine of the E! reality series is no different as the veteran superstar is fighting through the loss of her father, Hall of Famer Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Here the former women’s champion sits down to reflect on an emotional year.

This season we’ve seen Ronda Rousey join the cast. What has it been like for you to see her show a different side?

Natalya: I think having Ronda on the show has been special. So many people see Ronda as this hard shell. She’s a bad ass. She is one of the most well-known women fighters in the world. Sometimes she can appear to have a tough exterior, but this show really opened up a side of her most people don’t see. I got a chance to see that in the last year working with her. I was so excited she could be a part of it. Like, “Hey, I’m Ronda Rousey. The baddest women on the planet. But I also cry. I also make mistakes. I’m also vulnerable. I have moments when someone gets on my nerves or I want to share a story.”

During a recent episode you visited her farm and got emotional about your late dad. That looked like an emotional day.

It was a hard season for me to watch back. I really didn’t like watching myself back after my dad died because I didn’t realize how much I was actually going through. I had to step back and watch it on the episodes. I was bawling my eyes out watching last week’s episode at home. I realized I wasn’t okay. I realized I was struggling. We started filming the show after my dad died. My dad and I were very close. My parents are like my best friends. When I watched the scene back where Ronda was trying to take my mind off things, I didn’t think about what she was trying to do. I thought we were being goofy and silly and going on the farm and scooping goat poop. I watched it back thinking Ronda’s mom did what I did when her dad died. Ronda opens up about her dad committing suicide.

You don’t ever hear about her opening up about that. You did on the show because it was relatable to me and what I was going through. She lost her dad at a very young age to something tragic and traumatic to her. She said to me that I reminded her of her mom because she didn’t know how to cope. Ronda’s mom just kept working and working, trying to almost run from it. I realized Ronda was right and I was running from my dad’s death. I’m literally watching this having an epiphany on my couch. I didn’t want to cope with my dad’s passing so I was literally working myself into the ground, so I didn’t have to think about it. I was not okay. I was absolutely not okay, and Ronda pointed it out to me. I want people to watch that and have it resonate with them. Maybe they went through it to and maybe they lost their grandma and my parents or brother or sister or best friend. Everybody has gone through something hard in their lives and can relate to me and Ronda as she showed this human side.

Photo by: Tony Kelly/E! Entertainment)

Do you see Ronda returning to the ring?

I think eventually Ronda will. I’m a big believer on never say never. In wrestling it’s like Hotel California. You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. Once you get the wrestling bug, it’s there. I don’t think Ronda realized WWE would be such a big part of her life. It’s a family here. Family is a feeling. When you’re here in WWE, you’re part of our family. I think she’ll come back, and when she comes back, I want to wrestle her. I pray Ronda comes back because I think her, and I would have an incredible match and hopefully it would be on a huge stage. We never got to have that rivalry and feud with my dad passing away when he did. It happened abruptly, and I had high hopes of feuding with Ronda. Then I was dealing with something out of everyone’s control. It would be really cool to see her come back. I think she will. Fingers crossed.

What we get from the show and on WWE TV, you are seen as this support system. Someone who others can go to for advice, motivation, an ear. You’ve been also trusted by the company to help elevate up-and-coming talent like a Lacey Evans. The recent match between the two of you really took Lacey to another level.

I never thought I’d say this, but Lacey really grew on me a lot. I was talking to one of my old coaches Dr. Tom Prichard, and he asked me about that last woman standing match. I told him that I really liked working with her. I enjoyed our matches. We had a series of matches, and Paul Heyman saw one of them. It was supposed to be a one-off with the fun little match we had. Paul was so motivating and inspiring when he told us, “I think we can make this an incredible story.” That’s why I love working with Paul because he has such a good pulse on the industry. All these incredible matches and moments kept happening for me and Lacey. We got a chance to show what we can do. I walk into work to find out about the Last Woman Standing match. Lacey, she really pushed me to my limit. I almost fell off the stage trying to powerbomb her. I did it. When I beat her in that match, I felt like it was one of my favorite matches that I’ve had in years. I feel like I literally slayed the dragon. I felt like a UFC fighter scaling the cage and getting excited like Conor McGregor.

Photo by: Mario Perez/E! Entertainment

I think why it was so special to me because when Lacey came up there was much learning to do. With my role in WWE, I wear so many different hats. One of my most special attributes as being part of our women’s division is the fact I was born and raised around wrestling. I’m part of an incredible wrestling family, but I’ve been paying my dues since I was a teenager. I have the experience to help other girls get the experience. So, one day someone like a Lacey Evans can do the same to another girl coming up one day. I look at my match with Charlotte Flair, it was the same thing. She was nervous and new. She wasn’t sure of herself. When you can give someone a moment like that and do what Charlotte and I did. Look where Charlotte is now. At the end of the day, we are all paying I forward. We want the women to have the same equality as men. I want to see women main event WrestleMania for many years to come. I want to see every woman of our roster included. I want to see every single woman from Sarah Logan and Lacey Evans to Liv Morgan and Dana Brooke. I want them all to be featured and highlighted. We all need to work so we can do that.

You have this almost motherly role in the locker room. With some of your peers becoming moms over the years, do you see that in the cards for you?

I’m going to be brutally honest with you. I don’t want to have kids. I’ve never wanted to have kids. When I was a little girl, I never said I wanted to have a baby. When I see other people’s kids, I don’t know. I feel like I don’t have that inside of me. I just don’t feel it’s my destiny. I do love children. I’m quite motherly to a lot of the girls I work with. I don’t mean to be, but I am. I’m very close to my sisters and my sister’s children. TJ and I, we just don’t want kids. I’m okay saying that. I think it’s important for women to know and understand it’s okay you don’t want to be a mom. It’s important to recognize what makes you happy because tomorrow is not promised to anyone. My dad died very suddenly. Nobody knows what the next moment will bring. It has taken me losing my dad to where I’m at now. I’m okay being me and not wanting to like everyone else. It’s like every girl in the locker room wants to have a baby. I don’t, and that’s okay.  Other women should know it’s okay to not have kids.

What can we expect for the rest of the season?

I love being part of Total Divas. So much of my family memories with my dad, mom and sisters. They’ve all been on. I think the show has been a fun focus for me. You have such a unique group of women.  You have Sonya Deville’s journey, being the first openly gay woman in WWE. She is not afraid to say, “This is my journey. I’m a gay woman. I’m trying to show people they can be inspired by my journey.” She has her relationship with Ariana on the show. It’s really fascinating to watch. Ronda’s struggled that she got the itch with wrestling and also struggling that she made a promise to be there more for her family. And she wants to be a mom. She also knows the commitment required for her and her family. Trinity has been on the show with me since the beginning. She is one of the OG’s. She goes through a lot of ups and downs with relationships like we all do….

Carmella, we all have been watching the last year with what she has gone through. I remember when all that stuff broke about Carmela and Corey Graves. I remember her bawling her eyes out. She was so upset that she didn’t eat. She wasn’t sleeping. She was traumatized over it because they were saying things about her that weren’t true. She went through a tough time. And to see her happy now, it’s a good feeling. You can watch that journey on the show.

You still see the Bella Twins on the show. They are two of my closest friends. I love still having them on the show…. The girls still turn to Nicole and Brie for a lot of stuff. They make quite a few cameos. They will always be a part of this company, even if they aren’t wrestling. Nia Jax is our most controversial figure this season. Nia does something that I wish I could be more like in some ways even though she is blunt, bold and not afraid to ruffle feathers. Nia really says what she feels 100 percent of the time. Sometimes that can resolve a lot of conflict, even though it can also cause problems. Nia shows that, “Hey, I know everyone isn’t going to like what I’m saying all the time. I’m making no apologies for it. That’s who I am.” I learned from Nia this season. Although I think there are moments where Nia needs to settle her tea kettle.

WWE Total Divas, Tuesdays, 10/9c, E!