RondaRousey.com’s Wrestler of the Week series profiles significant wrestlers from the past and present.
RondaRousey.com’s latest Wrestler of the Week is Nikki Cross, who has risen over the past few years from indy wrestling star to NXT standout to WWE main roster newcomer. Standing at only 5’2”, Cross makes up for her small stature with what WWE.com calls “unbridled fury and a penchant for pain.” The actions of WWE’s ultimate wild card may be impossible to explain, but hopefully this profile manages clear a few things up.
Cross started training to be a professional wrestler at the Scottish Wrestling Alliance in 2008 and made her debut for the company as “Nikki Storm.”
Around this time, she also started trying out for larger promotions. She performed on Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling’s British Boot Camp 2 reality show in 2014—in which British wrestlers competed for a chance to work for TNA—but didn’t end up gaining a contract. However, she soon had a successful tryout for another company: WWE! After trying out in 2015 in London, she was announced as a WWE Performance Center signee in April 2016. She made her NXT TV debut as “Nikki Glencross” in a six-woman tag team match alongside Carmella and Liv Morgan, but it would be a few months before she reappeared as the Nikki Cross everyone knows, loves, and slightly fears.
Cross made her true NXT debut along with the rest of the SAnitY stable (Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, and Sawyer Fulton—who would later be replaced by Cross’s now-husband Killian Dain) in October of 2016. She supported her teammates—usually with tactics outside the rules of wrestling—starting at the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. At NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, Cross’ interference helped SAnitY win the NXT Tag Team Championships from the Authors of Pain. Despite her important contributions to the group, Cross was not called up to SmackDown with the rest of the squad in the 2018 Superstar Shake-up and stayed to fight more battles at NXT’s home of Full Sail University.
Even as Cross continued to support SAnitY, she had built a unique identity of her own in NXT. A few months after her first singles victory against Vanessa Borne, she fought her way into her first championship opportunity when she helped NXT Women’s Champion Asuka fend off an attack by Billie Kay and Peyton Royce… then attacked the undefeated champ as well. All of these women then ended up wrestling a fatal four-way title match at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, which Asuka won.
Though Cross never captured the NXT Women’s Championship, she had several more opportunities to do so that led to her maniacally brawling her way into WWE history. After a #1 contender’s battle royal ended with a beatdown by the champ, Cross vs. Ruby Riot vs. Asuka went down at NXT TakeOver: Chicago and got an elimination rematch on a regular episode of the black and yellow brand’s show. The match ended in a no contest when Cross and Asuka took the fight backstage, leading to these women having the first Last Woman Standing match in WWE history on the June 28 episode of NXT.
When Asuka moved to the main roster, Cross failed to win the fatal four-way for her vacant title in November 2017. But at the beginning of the next year, she began a memorable feud with the new NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler. As Cross’ WWE.com profile mentions, “the unhinged Cross enjoys pain so much that she has been known to bite her own hand and claw at her own face in the middle of a match,” which came into play in their NXT TakeOver: Chicago II title match. These types of responses to pain—combined with her unpredictability—made her a difficult opponent for the “Submission Magician,” though Baszler ultimately managed to choke her out with the Kirifuda Clutch for the win.
After some cryptic participation in solving the “Who attacked Aleister Black in the parking lot?” mystery and a short feud with Bianca Belair, Cross was called up to the main WWE roster in January 2019. She had already technically debuted on SmackDown a few months earlier when she responded to an open challenge from SmackDown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, but she made her in-ring RAW debut as the surprise tag partner for Bayley and Natalya against The Riott Squad. It looked like she might be a force for chaotic good for a while, but she returned to her devious ways when she teamed up with Alicia Fox to try and earn a place in the Elimination Chamber match to crown the inaugural WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions against Sasha Banks and Bayley.
At this point, we don’t really know where in WWE Cross will continue to wrestle or who with, or what her goals on the main roster might be. All we know for sure is that she’ll keep looking for more women to “play with” and, judging from her past work, it should be fun to watch her do it.