Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez are a force in WWE's tag team division. But just over a year ago, they weren't even teaming.
WWE changed that.
Now, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winners, it was the company itself that had the vision for the duo.
"They actually came to us with this idea on the creative side," Dakota Kai told Fightful. "Hunter was the guy and the team, they really were the ones who paired us together. It’s crazy thinking about it now because Raquel was my first match at the Performance Center after I got signed and I was one of her first matches, too. So, everything has really come full circle. But, I think the main thing us that a lot of us girls in the locker room are super, super stoked about was she was at the Performance Center before I was. So, she was there a while and she never really had that breakout moment or really given any opportunity to be on the big stage of being on NXT TV."
Raquel Gonzalez was waiting for an opportunity, and Kai was looking for a fresh start after being a bubbly babyface for so long. Even more than for herself, Kai was excited for the woman who would become her partner in crime.
"When the idea was finally brought out us, everyone—not just myself—we were so stoked for her. Because she’s one of the hardest workers and super lovely, too, and I knew we’d get along. You don’t want to be paired with someone and be like ‘Oh, no.’ But, she’s so nice and she’s the hardest worker. She’s super strong. She’s a freakin’ powerhouse. So, it only helped my sort of… I’d just turned heel a few months before. So, it really helped my creativity in terms of opening up more potential opportunities to play that role," Kai said.
The catalyst for the pairing was Kai turning on former Team Kick partner Tegan Nox at NXT Takeover: Wargames 2019 in shocking fashion.
A generally nice and likable person, playing a deplorable, disengenous bad person on-screen was a categorical change for Kai. Being a babyface was natural, as it was the role she'd been in for well over a decade prior.
"Okay, well, I’m in my fourteenth year of pro wrestling right now, which is really weird to say, and for 99% of those years I was playing babyface. Because it was the most natural role for me to play. It was easy. There were no real challenges there. I was just myself. When this idea was originally brought to me, I did have some reservations just because it was a newer role. I did play a little bit of the heel role back in Australia in MCW, because it’s easy for the Kiwi to be the bad guy in Australia because we have that rivalry there. But, never anything to this extent. So, I have to admit I did have some fears just because this wasn’t going to be easy for me to do and there were going to be big challenges there. But, once the turned happened at War Games everything started rolling and I started gatherng more confidence with everything that I did. Then, the pairing with Raquel helped me so much more because I did feel like I hit a ceiling in terms of what I was doing as a heel even if it was only a few months. But, once she was paired with me, it was like, ‘Oh, we’re taking this ball and we’re running with it,’ you know what I mean? I feel like we’re still doing that to this day," Kai said.
Part of being on the NXT roster is being able to pick the brains of some of the most experienced names in the world. Kai found that helpful in finding her inner jerk.
"I think it was definitely a team effort. Because they knew that I was not comfortable in the heel role because it was just new to me. But, I think everyone really helped out—you know, Hunter (Triple H), Shawn (Michaels), Road Dogg, Sara (Amato)—they all contributed in me taking on this new role. Whether it be things for my facial expressions to how I am in the ring to my voice and my promos and things like that. So, it was definitely a team effort and I needed that team so bad because I was like a feakin’ deer in the headlights, I tell you," she said.
Kai now has a huge match ahead of her, when she teams with Raquel Gonzalez to compete for the WWE Women's Tag Team Championships on March 3. You can see the action on WWE NXT Wednesdays at 8 PM EST on the USA Network