Champions demands your attention when they enter a room.
It doesn’t matter if it’s three-time Stanley Cup champion Sidney Crosby, two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, or former UFC heavyweight champion and current WWE Universal champion Brock Lesnar. They all make you stand at attention.
The same can be said for WWE Smackdown Live Women’s champion Charlotte Flair. She’s a champion and you know it, bringing her flare into every room, arena and stadium she enters.
You might be excused, though, for thinking WWE Raw Women’s champion Alexa Bliss doesn’t fit the champions blueprint.
Bliss walks the aisle at five foot one and doesn’t necessarily turn heads when she enters a room.
However, Bliss has been making championship waves ever since she was moved from WWE’s developmental system to the main roster in July 2016. Despite failing to capture in any gold in NXT, Bliss quickly established herself as a top star in the women’s division in WWE, becoming the first woman the capture both the Raw and Smackdown Live women’s championships.
Now Bliss will take her championship accolades on to the grandest stage of them all, when she defends her Raw Women’s Championship against Nia Jax at Wrestlemania 34 on April 8.
As Bliss approaches her title defence, Sportsnet caught up with, “The Goddess” ahead of an appearance in Toronto on March 23.
Sportsnet: This is your second year in a row on the Wrestlemania card. What’s different this year in regards to the buildup to the event?
Alexa Bliss: This year is more personal. WWE has really embodied my and Nia Jax’s friendship and we’ve used that now to fuel a story for Wrestlemania. Having someone who was your best friend, and being able to have a storyline with them, you can go a little more personal. You know things about them that the audience doesn’t know. It’s more real and it’s more captivating. Watching back our last few weeks of (Monday Night) Raw, we’ve both had real emotions in it. I’m going against my best friend … ex-best friend, and things are getting personal and you have to set friendship aside for competition, so now I’m proving a point.
SN: How do you stand out on a Wrestlemania card featuring over a dozen matches, including two one-on-one women’s championship matches?
AB: I feel like with our match, it’s going to be the story. People are going to be invested in the story that we tell, not the moves that we try to do or the things that we try to put together. People know we’re best friends, people know we’ve had issues, so they want to see us go in there and physically and emotionally beat each other up.
SN: After working a six-woman match at Wrestlemania last year, do you feel more comfortable working a singles match with someone that you’re familiar with this year?
AB: I do feel more comfortable working with Nia one-on-one, but it’s going to be a struggle. Obviously, I’m not going to pick Nia up and suplex her, let’s be honest. It’s not going to happen, I’m five foot. My tactic has to be completely different facing Nia than it does any other woman on the roster because she is a female monster. I have to take a different approach to it and use my brain more rather than relying on my technical wrestling skills. I know that I’m going to have to bring her down to my level, bring her down to my height. So I might have to take out a knee or two.
SN: When you first started your pursuit of becoming a champion, how did you want to be viewed?
AB: Well first off, I’m a bad guy. What I thought my character, as a champion, should be, is someone who is cowardly, who thinks that they can talk a big game and back it up, but knows deep down they can’t really back it up. I like the fact that I am an easily beatable champion but somehow I retain my title when it matters. That’s what gets me hated as champion and that’s what I want my reign to be. I want to be that champion that people can’t wait to see lose the title but somehow I retain it every single time.
SN: Is there somebody that you worked with in NXT who taught you that mentality?
AB: I learned psychology through Terry Taylor. In NXT we have different levels of classes. When you’re getting ready to move up to the main roster you go to Terry’s class and that’s the finishing class and that’s where you really learn psychology. The mentality of, “a bad guy should always lose” is something that I picked up from Blake and Murphy’s (NXT tag team) title reign when I was paired with (them). I noticed that the people hated them because they weren’t seen as great in-ring competitors but somehow they still won every match. I knew if I were to ever be a champion as bad guy, I didn’t want to be a flashy champion. I want to be that person that people genuinely don’t like as a bad guy. I feel like that’s the only way that you’re going to set yourself apart. There are people who portray bad guys but still want to be liked or want the cheers and the glory. I want my character to be genuinely hated. … If I get a positive reaction, how do I turn it into a negative?
SN: Is there someone helping you behind the scenes that the general public might not know about?
AB: My mother. When I was first in NXT, I was terrified of promos. I could not speak in front of people. I couldn’t do it. I would look down. I would cry. I was very awkward. So what my mom would do, was she would make me practice promos in the living room until I was comfortable speaking. There were also times when I thought, with the travel and with how difficult everything is, maybe this isn’t for me. (But) she’s always been the driving force that’s said, “No you’re going to be something one day, you’re going to be fine.” I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for her, and if it weren’t for my fiancé, Buddy Murphy. He’s the one who came up with my title pose, he’s the one who came up with my ‘insult-to-injury” move, he’s the one who kind of started the cosplay (look), so lot of at-home factors of what Alexa Bliss is.
SN: Alexa Bliss has progressed as a character since arriving in WWE. How do you keep evolving?
AB: I feel like you have to constantly evolve because if you’re not changing, the audience gets bored. Everyone has a really short attention span nowadays with social media, our phones. Even me, I can’t go without touching my phone every five minutes. My mentally for my character is you have to be first, better, or different. I know that I’m not the best at everything, in fact I’m not the best at a lot of things, so I’m going to be different or I’m going to be the first one to do it. You have to constantly change and evolve because people get bored. Look at The Undertaker, he’s evolved so many times. Stone Cold (Steve Austin), even though he’s seems like same person, he’s evolved so much attitude-wise, the way he would cut his promos. Everyone evolves. Triple H, John Cena … it’s constant evolvement. You have to change. You have to evolve yourself to make yourself interesting and to make yourself stay interesting.
SN: Speaking of being first to accomplish something, you’re the first woman in WWE history to capture both the Raw and Smackdown Live women’s championships. What else do you hope to accomplish in the future?
AB: I would love our women, and I would love to be a part of it, to main event Wrestlemania. I think that’s the top of the women’s evolution to say, “This is it, we did it.” I would love to a part of that. I don’t think it’s very far off. With how much we’ve progressed in the last two years with this women’s evolution, I think main evening Wrestlemania isn’t very far off.
SN: Is there someone on the WWE or NXT roster that you’re looking forward to wrestling in the future?
AB: (NXT Women’s Champion) Ember Moon. I’m a big fan of Ember. I spent some time with her in NXT. She’s a great person and I really respect her story. She had (multiple) WWE tryouts before she actually got signed. She’s really great to work with and I would to have a match with her.
SN: The road to Wrestlemania continues Friday with a stop in Toronto at the Ricoh Coliseum. Do you find the Canadian sports entertainment audience to be different from the American audience?
AB: I feel like because we don’t come here as often (compared to the USA), the fans are always more excited to see us. The fans are always more energized, which is awesome because at live events, we feed off the crowd energy. We determine our matches based on crowd reaction at live events. I love travelling and seeing the different types of fans that we have and their passion for what we do. Sometimes, though, there’s just crowds who favour the bad guys and you just can’t do anything about it. Last time that we were in a town like that, I ran across the ring and slapped Bayley in the face, but I got cheered. Sometimes you just can’t do anything about it.
SN: What kind of experiences will a fan get at a live event that is different from TV?
AB: There’s more crowd interaction. WWE superstars are more free to interact with the crowd and (perform) based on their reaction, which we don’t do for TV, and that’s why I like live events a lot more.