The NXT UK champions are holding on to their titles with vice like grips. Men’s champion, Walter, is rapidly closing in on a mammoth 800-day reign. Women’s Champion Kay Lee Ray, on the other hand, is currently the longest reigning Women’s champion in any of WWE’s brands with close to 650 days. A stalwart of the independent scene, the Scottish Superstar has conquered all challengers to her title in an astonishing reign. Her star has continued to rise, appearing in NXT’s WarGames and the Mae Young Classic tournament, but is the biggest challenge in her WWE career yet to come? Nicknamed The Final Boss, Japanese sensation Meiko Satomura, gets a championship rematch for Kay Lee Ray’s title. Our wrestling editor, Andy Spoors, caught up with Ray for an exclusive interview ahead of this huge match…
Rushonrock: It’s been about three months since your last match with Meiko Satomura. Are you expecting a different type of challenge this time or do you just go in to the match with the same tactics as before?
Kay Lee Ray: No. I’ve said this before, Meiko Satomura is one of the best, if not the best, wrestlers in the world today. She’s done so much in her career but she’s never beaten Kay Lee Ray. I am the only person in this world that knows what it feels like to defend that title against Meiko Satomura. Not only do I know what it feels like but I won! I can tell you that I really, really, really don’t want to go through that again. This time, I nearly swore there, I’ve really annoyed her, so she’s going to come in hot headed but she’s going to make a mistake. And we’re going to get through this quick. That’s the way it’s going. That’s it. Meiko Satomura is not walking out that building with my NXT UK Women’s Championship.
Rushonrock: The first match you had with her was critically acclaimed but you’ve also had other outstanding matches throughout your going on 650 days as champion. Where does that first match with Meiko rank in terms of your favourite matches you’ve had in NXT UK?
KLR: The match with Meiko was the one for me that was a dream match. To do this in WWE, for the title and, if you’d asked me beforehand, she would be the one that I’d have picked. So there was a lot of respect there. Now? Not so much. She had her chance, I got what I wanted and I didn’t say she could come back a second time.
Rushonrock: With each title defence that you have, do you feel more or less pressure than the one that came before it?
KLR: I’d say it’s always about the same. There’s always that feeling you get before a match, that you know you need to do everything you can to not just keep that person down but keep yourself getting back up. So, it’s always about the same for me. It doesn’t matter who I’m standing in the ring across from, you need to get yourself in that mentality to fight.
Rushonrock: If you defend the title on Thursday, what is there left for you to actually accomplish in NXT UK, because you seem to be running rampant through all challengers?
KLR: Just keep just keep challenging, just keep defending. Whoever comes across me is going to get put down by the ‘Forever Champion’.
Rushonrock: You mentioned in an interview that you would like to face off against the Four Horsewomen (Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Bayley & Sasha Banks). What is it about those four that — six years on since they debuted on the main roster — makes them so relevant even now?
KLR: I think for those girls, they’ve worked very, very hard to make themselves names. The top names in the company. You’ve now got your Rhea Ripleys and Bianca Belairs coming up, rubbing shoulders and standing tall with them, which is really nice to see. These girls are what we are aiming for. They are the top of the company and if I’m not aiming for the top of the company, then why am I even here?
Rushonrock: One of the other top people in the company right now is Walter. He went across to the States during WrestleMania week and defended his title against Tommaso Ciampa. Is there anyone in NXT at the moment that you’d like to step up and challenge you?
KLR: I know it got mentioned quite a lot when she was champion so right now, I’m going to say Io Shirai. I wrestled her on the independent scene quite a lot, wrestled in Japan and a couple of times in England but never on TV. She can step up and challenge me if she wants…
Rushonrock: You mentioned the independent scene there and we’ve seen you perform a few times at WCPW, Defiant, ICW and Progress. After the battering that the British wrestling scene has taken in the last year, why is it still so important and why should people be supporting their local shows?
KLR: I made my name on the independent scene. I had a lot of good people looking out for me. My partner Stevie Boy and so many other Scottish people and people in England as well. We all worked so hard to get the wrestling scene together and got eyes on it. I’m so happy that me and my friends ended up with jobs with WWE but we wouldn’t be where we are today if we didn’t come up through the independent scene. And we worked on that independent scene to make it what it is. There are so many different kinds of wrestling out there. There will be something on the independent scene that is for you, so please give it a try.
Rushonrock: The WWE Universe returns to shows Stateside next month. Is there any kind of jealousy from the UK guys and girls about there not being any set dates over here?
KLR: It’s phenomenal to see that fans are coming back and admittedly I’m a little bit jealous but we will get there when everything is safe to do so in our country. We want to do everything right and we don’t want to put anyone at risk, so as much as we might be jealous, we will get there.
Rushonrock: It’s been nine months since you started using the BT Sport studios. Does it get any easier to get in that mindset of working in front of no fans?
KLR: I mean it comes with its challenges but then again, so does working in front of crowds as well. Both of them make you think in different ways. Working in front of a crowd is different from working in an empty arena but I do my training in an empty warehouse, so walking into that wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. But yeah it’s just a different side of the coin.
Rushonrock: The NXT women’s division is often called the best in the world by Wade Barrett. Do the women’s roster in the UK take exception to that? Or is there maybe a mentality that if I perform well here in the UK, I can follow in Rhea Ripley or Toni Storm’s footsteps and make it in the US?
KLR: I do think the NXT girls are incredibly talented and that gets said for a reason. But like I’ve said, there’s a lot of younger girls who are talented on our roster and I think once they find their feet completely, they will be giving those girls a run for their money.
Rushonrock: Out of those girls in NXT UK, who’s career are you looking forward to seeing develop the most?
KLR: I said before, Amale and Xia (Brookside), but also all the girls there are incredible. You’ve got Millie McKenzie, there is an incredible amount of young talent in there. They’re starting to find themselves and starting to find their feet so it’s really exciting. With them getting better, I get better as well because I know I need to stay on my game. So it’s good to see.
Rushonrock: How did your finishing move the ‘Gory Bomb’ come to fruition, what was the inspiration behind it?
KLR: So for me, the first match I ever sat down and watched when I realised I actually liked wrestling was Shawn Michaels versus British Bulldog. Maybe a few years before that, my little cousins were watching a wrestling match. It was Chavo Guerrero against Rey Mysterio in an ‘I Quit’ match. This was the first time I’d ever really seen wrestling and I remember feeling that hatred for Chavo. I didn’t know anything about wrestling at the time. Didn’t know who this masked guy was, didn’t know who Chavo was. All I know is he hit Rey’s knee with a chair and made him quit and I was furious. That was the first time I ever felt something for wrestling and I dismissed it because I didn’t think I’d be allowed to be in to it. Years later when I was actually in and doing it, my partner said why don’t you use this Gory Bomb? When I looked into it, the move was used by the Guerreros. I thought about it and as he was the one who really made me feel something about wrestling first, it was a really cool little tie. Then I did an independent show with him and realised I had to go up to him and be like ‘do you mind if I use it please?’. So there was a few cool little things behind it.
Rushonrock: Besides witnessing your historic championship reign, why should people be watching NXT UK?
KLR: People should be watching NXT UK because we are doing something different. We’re not doing the cinematic matches, we are focused on what is happening in the ring. So there’s no crowd noise, this is all the focus and we’re giving people something that’s a little bit different from what they see on the rest of WWE TV. I don’t want to give too many things away but join in and watch it because you won’t regret it.
Tune in to NXT UK every Thursday on the WWE Network to see Kay Lee Ray in action.