From “The Best in the Galaxy” on the independent scent to “NXT’s Twisted Sister” to Alexa Bliss’ sidekick and tag team partner, Nikki Cross has had quite the career in professional wrestling. Not necessarily a straight line—which makes sense for a character as somewhat chaotic neutral as Cross—but, somehow, it’s all worked out quite well for her.
How well? Well enough that Nikki Cross is now experiencing her first title reign in WWE, as one-half of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions (alongside the aforementioned Alexa Bliss). Which means that a lot of us have had to eat our words about Bliss turning on her and not really being her friend. Especially Bayley.
RondaRousey.com recently had the chance to interview Nikki Cross, and she spoke with us about the experiences professional wrestling has provided her, how much SAnitY meant to her, her unexpected partnership with Alexa Bliss, and more.
First of all: Congratulations on your and Killian Dain’s wedding.
Oh! Thank you so much. It was a long time—a long time coming—and he’s kind of stuck with me now.
How does it feel being a married woman?
It was great. We’ve been together since 2008—so that was like 11 years. … And then we went home to Scotland for the wedding. So it just felt very nice to spend it with friends and family. … It was quite a kind of intimate wedding, so we just kept it very… you know, like just friends and family. It was nice to celebrate with everyone. And my mum got to see me walk down the aisle, so I think she was very happy with that.
Had you two planned to get married a long time ago or were you just waiting for the right time?
It was about a few years ago … we decided to [get engaged]. … It was a case of just waiting for the right time. … And then, I think it was Christmas last year—2018—that we decided we wanted to take the plunge and do it.
That’s so nice.
Yeah, it just felt right. The timing just felt right.
Well, other than getting married: I like to ask, how do you unwind from wrestling mode? Or are you always in wrestling mode?
Obviously, it’s my job, and it’s always been my dream job. And it’s always been my passion. But … actually, I got some really good news yesterday. I went back to college, so I’ve been doing some courses with a college here in Florida. And I was doing women’s history and American history and also art history. And from that, I kind of decided to go back and pursue my Master’s degree.
I actually applied for a course at Edinburgh University in Scotland, and they do … a completely online degree, which obviously suits me because I want to do this stuff. And I actually got the email a couple of days ago that I’ve been accepted into the course. So that was actually great news. That was very good news to wake up to on Monday. We had RAW on Monday, so it was very good news to wake up to on a Monday morning, I was like, “Oh yay! I got accepted.” Because I wasn’t expecting a response back for about four weeks. So that was really nice. … So I’ll be going back to school. I kind of took a break—this summer, I took a break from study—and then I go back in September. That’s kind of what I do outside of wrestling.
Wow, that’s amazing.
Oh, thank you.
Do you have any other hobbies or loves, outside of academics? Any favorite television shows or movies that you love to watch?
We are actually … big TV people. Right now, we’re watching seasons of Supernatural. We just got done with Jessica Jones. I watch a lot of programs. … I just got done watching the new Scream series.
We also like going to the movies—we’re big cinema people. … We actually just saw [Spider-Man: Far From Home] a couple of months ago because we both love the Marvel movies. We’re big cinema people, we’re big movie people. We like watching TV and just relaxing and chilling, going out for dinner, things like that.
When we are home, we just try and do the things that we enjoy doing. I like reading as well. … I like reading a lot of crime thrillers.
Do you have any book recommendations?
I like Patricia Cornwell. She writes the Kay Scarpetta—I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that right—[novels]. I like her stuff. James Patterson [novels]. I usually read a lot.
And I actually really like reading wrestling biographies. I just read AJ Lee’s book and also… the Daniel Bryan autobiography and stuff like that.
Obviously, it’s a whole other grind now, but how exactly did the grind of the independent wrestling scene prepare you for NXT and now WWE as a whole?
I think that independent wresting just really showed me that if you really put your mind to something, you will reach your goals and you’ll achieve what you want to achieve. The scene on the independent scene was such a rush. … I got to travel the world. I got to wrestle in Japan and wrestle in Europe and wrestle in Canada and wrestle all over the United Kingdom. So I really got to see the world before coming to NXT. That’s where I worked with different styles, worked with different people, and I gained so much life experience. … You know, I started in wrestling when I was 18 years old, so I feel like all my adulthood has been in this world, been in wrestling.
So I’ve had so many amazing, amazing experiences that I just wouldn’t change for anything, because it really made me who I am as a person. When I was almost 10, I always wanted to get to where I want to be now. So all those experiences—whether it be talking on the microphone, working with the different styles, doing media, and obviously just everything I’ve done—just prepared me. Like I said, it showed me that if I put my mind to something, I’ll achieve it. And obviously, coming to Florida and coming to NXT, and then now on SmackDown, it’s the same idea.
If I just put my mind to something and just work really hard and just try different stuff and don’t be afraid to try anything… Don’t be afraid to try something new. And when it is something new, just completely devote myself 100%—just go all in with it. … Don’t be self-conscious—just do it and you’ll be okay.
You brought up how all of those experiences coming together prepared you for the spot you’re in now. Could you maybe talk about British Boot Camp Season 2 and how that helped out as well?
Yeah, that was one of my first times being on TV, with the cameras on me and seeing the production. That was my kind of first taste of that. I had done streaming pay-per-view with some independent companies and that was a great experience. … I gained a lot of production stuff which I wasn’t familiar with yet, and then British Boot Camp was just another extension of that. Seeing the way things worked when there’s TVs involved and when there’s cameras involved, production notes… And I met some really great people on there and formed really good relationships.
I had a great experience out of that. It was a lot of fun as well. And like I said, anything that I’ve had prior to coming to WWE, everything just prepared me because … it all shaped me and I learned from each experience and I was able to take what I learned and just always take it forward into what I do now.
And with these past experiences, in the past few years, WWE has signed a lot of indy stars and those people you’d crossed paths with. Like—just in terms of the women—Piper Niven and Kay Lee Ray, who were on British Boot Camp with you. They’re also still signing fresh faces to the business. Do you prefer to wrestle those people you’ve wrestled a ton before or do you like the experience of working a new, different competitor?
I just love performing. For me, there’s something great about working with someone that you have great chemistry with, but there’s also something so great about working with … and challenging yourself with someone who you’ve never faced before. So to me, it’s all great. I just love performing and I just love doing what I’m doing in front of our fans. … It doesn’t matter who I’m chasing. … I just love being the best I can be and telling these amazing stories that we have such a privilege to tell in front of our fans.
Well, when you were getting into the business, just as a fan —when you first caught the bug— were there any wrestlers or matches specifically that inspired you?
For me … I remember when I first started watching wrestling, it was Lita and The Hardy Boyz and Trish Stratus and Test & Albert, and they would just have such fun interactions. And when Lita and Trish … main evented Monday Night RAW … it was incredible. You know, the women evolved over the years. And to see the way the division grew and the different generations and different years… I just take inspiration from many different things, and I was just very happy to see all that and see that growth. It was amazing.
Molly Holly was always someone that I would talk [watch], and Molly Holly would have some great matches. ... And there’s Mickie James. There’s just so many good, so many amazing talents—and like I said, over the years, we saw it grow, we saw it develop. We had the Evolution pay-per-view last year, and it was just amazing to see the way everything grew.
You’re absolutely right. And it’s not just in-ring: During your time in NXT, you had memorable feuds with Asuka and Bianca Belair, but you were also the key to NXT’s Agatha Christie-esque storyline, “Who attacked Aleister Black?” Can you talk about being a part of these really memorable NXT storylines pretty much back-to-back-to-back?
I look back on that time and …just feel so lucky and feel so privileged and honored to have those type of opportunities. I can’t tell you how much fun it was. I love working with Asuka. We challenge each other to be the best. We push each other to be the best. We push each other to our limits. … I always dissect my matches, and I would say that the Last Woman Standing match was easily one of my favorite matches of all-time. I was so pleased with that. I was so proud of that. I was so proud of what we achieved.
Then the stuff [with Bianca]… Bianca’s terrific. I always enjoyed those matches with her. Again, pushing myself, challenging myself to be the best I can be. She’s pushing herself to be the best she can be.
And then the Aleister Black storyline, it was just so much fun. It was really fun. … It was just all the layers of the personality. The NXT Universe had seen Nikki Cross in different ways, and I think that was just adding new elements that they could see. It was just great to explore that and explore those elements, and that’s what I love doing.
That’s what I love. I love people seeing the different layers of my personality. … Like, they may see something one week and another thing another week and something else another week. It’s just adding all these layers and elements, which—to me—it’s just exciting. I love people seeing that and I love exploring that and showcasing that.
Is there anyone—who was in NXT at the same time as you—that you didn’t get to work with but really wish you had?
Io Shirai. We actually got together in Japan, 2015. So I would have loved to have worked with her in NXT, but the stars didn’t align for that one. But hopefully in the future, the stars align and we can work together. I loved working with Candice LeRae—I thought that was amazing. I’ve worked with Dakota [Kai], so I’d like to explore that more. Tegan Nox as well, that girl from Wales. I would have loved to work with her as well.
That’s the beautiful thing about wrestling, is that there’s so many people you would have loved to have worked more with, but you’ll always get a chance to because everything kind of comes full circle. So there’s people that I didn’t think I’d get the chance to work with and I got the chance to work with. So the way I see it, I’ll get to work with them one day. So that’s the beautiful thing about wrestling, is that you always get to [eventually wrestle] people that you want—you will get to work with them again. There’s never any goodbyes in wrestling.
I really hope the WWE Network does the Worlds Collide special again, because that was really interesting, especially for the women’s division. To see these match-ups you weren’t going to see any other time. Like Sonya Deville against Io Shirai. Candice against Kay Lee Ray. It was really good stuff.
Yeah, Piper wrestled Zelina [Vega] and then I worked Bianca and Toni [Storm]. So that was a turning point, and then I know that—just the fan reaction for the show on social media—people were really excited for those match-ups. I’d love to do more stuff like that. That … It was just exciting times. Like you said, there’s always these dream match-ups.
Always. But going back to the past, could you speak for a bit about your time with SAnitY?
Working with those guys was such an amazing experience because, obviously, I was working … alongside my husband, which is always fun. He’s also got such a fantastic mind [for the business]. And then I was working with [Alexander Wolfe], who’s a really, really good friend of mine. Working with him was amazing because he’s got such a creative mind. He would help me in so many different ways. And then there was Eric Young, and … all three guys have been in the business for such a long time.
[Killian] has been in the business for 15 years. [Alexander] is the same. He’s been working—similar the years, roughly. And then Eric Young has been wrestling for 20 years. I was lucky enough that I was able to learn from those guys and really, they helped me so much. … Obviously, I’m married to [Killian] and then [Alexander] is still a really good friend, and I see EY [on the road]. The bond of that friendship and those bonds that were formed in those three years, that doesn’t go. That still remains which I hold very dear. Because like I said, I was incredibly privileged to be able to learn from those three guys and just kind of pick their brains, because their knowledge was so good.
It was so much fun working with SAnitY. … It was such an amazing time to look back on and it was so much fun.
And now, you are part of one of the most compelling storylines of the year with Alexa Bliss. Can you talk about how that came to be? It kind of came out of nowhere.
Me and Alexa discovered that we have really good chemistry, in terms of [how] our personas very much bounce off each other very well. And we just have so much fun together—we’re having a lot of fun right now. Like I was just saying … anything where we just get to show different elements of the characters—which people might not have necessarily seen before—there’s nothing more exciting than that to me. I think a lot of people are enjoying that. I think people are really compelled by it. They’re intrigued by it and I’m excited to see what’s next.
I’m excited for the fans to see what’s next. … I think Alexa is showing these different elements of her personality that you’ve never seen before and likewise with me. People that know me from NXT, they’re seeing a whole new side of me, and … I love that. I love that it’s almost like an onion with the layers, you know? You’ve seen Shrek? You know that reference?
It’s almost like an onion with … all these different layers. And I just, I love that and I just love taking the fans on that journey.
Because of this journey, I guess you’re able to tell all the members of the WWE Universe reading this: How does it feel to know that Bayley is such a terrible person?
I would [be able to tell]. We had the chance at Extreme Rules, me and Alexa in the handicap match, with Bayley. It was actually a great chance for me to really show the world the way we work so well together, not just outside the ring but inside the ring. So this was a chance for me and Alexa to show the teamwork, show the chemistry in the ring as well as outside the ring. That was a great opportunity for us to be able to show that.
You guys are a great tag team. If I weren’t always rooting for The IIconics, I’d be rooting for you. [Ed. note: This interview took place before Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross became the new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, while The IIconics were still sitting atop the mountain as the longest-reigning—defending—WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions of all time. So we didn’t get into how conflicted I felt after that night.]
I appreciate that. Thank you so much.
You’re also actually the first non-MMA fighter-turned-wrestler I’ve interviewed for the site. So I was wondering, have you ever had any interest in that world? Whether it’s just studying fighting styles or possibly ever having an amateur fight or anything like that.
I really respect what that world does. I respect that world and I appreciate what they do and it’s amazing. For me, my heart and my soul was always inside professional wrestling ever since I was 10 years old. … [But] it’s so amazing. Obviously, Shayna [Baszler] came from that world and entered professional wrestling, like Ronda [Rousey]. It’s so exciting to see and I think … both industries are so badass. I think it’s an amazing time. For women, it’s exciting and it’s amazing.
I respect any athlete, no matter what sport. I respect them, because at the end of the day, no matter what sport you’re doing, you get up in the morning and your life is that sport. And whether it be professional wrestling, whether it be MMA, amateur wrestling, boxing, dancing, cheerleading, football, soccer, baseball, basketball… Anyone that gets up in the morning and dedicates themselves to sport, you have to respect that because that’s what they do. They work. Their life is that. Their heart is that and their soul is that. So for me, you get up in the morning and no matter what the sport is, I think you deserve credit for that and you deserve equal respect.
Oh, yes! I love goats. Goats are very cute. They’re very fascinating. I remember, actually, I was in Ireland … once. And there was a path, and I ended up taking a walk and there was a goat on the beach. And the goat kept walking towards me. Like, “I think the goat likes me.” And the goat gravitated towards me. I feel that I’ve got a good energy with goats. So, I would be happy to do a goat walk.
I’ll make sure Ronda knows because I feel like the world needs to see a Nikki Cross goat walk.
They like me, honestly. … Like I said, I can’t explain it. I had the connection with that Irish goat.
I think this actually segues perfectly into my last question: If you had to have a profession gimmick like the ones in the early ’90s, like The Goon or IRS or Duke “The Dumpster” Droese, what would be your gimmick? Now I’m thinking it would have something to do with goats.
Well, as much as I’ve got a connection with goats, I’d probably be like a coffee maker.
Like a barista?
Yeah, [like a barista]. Because travel a lot, and a lot of the time, I’ll go to cities and just try and find a local coffee shop. Just try and support local coffees and just try differents coffee corners, corner stores.
As much as the goats love me and I love the goats, I think the coffee would be my calling in life at that time.