Athletes & Celebrities

WWE Mae Young Classic Winner Kairi Sane Talks About Fighting Shayna Baszler, Leaving Japan, and Her Future in NXT

"The end of something is also the beginning of something new."

With 30 competitors eliminated from the WWE's first-ever Mae Young Classic tournament, this week's final match pitted Japanese fan-favorite Kairi Sane against former UFC competitor Shayna Baszler.

In a hotly contested final broadcasted live from Las Vegas on the WWE Network, Sane eventually came out on top, thanks in no small part to her trademark devastating elbow drop.

But the "The Pirate Princess," as she's known, has only begun to make her mark on the WWE.

After Sane's Mae Young win, WWE Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative Triple H announced that Sane will be one of the challengers for the currently vacant NXT Women's Championship belt at NXT Takeover: Houston on November 18. NXT is WWE's developmental branch, at which current WWE superstars like Becky Lynch and Charlotte proved their mettle on the canvas.

In an interview with Muscle & Fitness Hers, Sane spoke about her MYC win, her decision to leave Japan for the WWE, and how she feels about the NXT Championship match. (And while Sane was impressed with the little Japanese we remembered from college, we were thankful that WWE provided a translator to assist with the conversation.)

What was your reaction to winning the Mae Young Classic?

Since it was the very first woman's tournament, I was very proud of myself to participate as a Japanese athlete.

Were you nervous at all before the finals, knowing you had to face Shayna Baszler?

Yes, I was nervous. I would say half nervous, half excited. But I would also say many of the athletes I encountered were also very strong. At the end, I was proud of myself to be one of the finalists, and then I had to believe in myself, and I did my best. 

You made a huge name for yourself as a wrestler in Japan. What made you decide to compete in the United States?

It's been about six years since I started this, and more recently I had an opportunity to go overseas. I observed that even with the language barriers, people, the audience, they are happy to watch me perform and then they cry for me sometimes. That made me feel, “Well going overseas is great!” I actually enjoy it very much. Also, WWE is an organization that has a lot of athletes I respect. I had been always watching WWE tournaments when I lived in Japan.

Did the success of Japanese superstars such as Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura influence your decision at all?

Yes, both of those affected me, and also there are a few others who have joined WWE earlier. I respected them very much, so I always watched them and wanted to be like them. 

Along those lines, now that you're in the running for the NXT Women's Championship, do you feel intimidated at all by possibly being the next champion after Asuka, who left undefeated? Do you feel you can live up to that kind of legacy?

Well, I finished the tournament yesterday, and right after that I learned about the next step—it was a surprise to me. And I'm happy, but very surprised. I consider the end of something is also the beginning of something new, so I'm ready to do this. I will make both my mind and my body stronger.

How do you train? Have you been training differently since you started to work with the WWE?

I went to the WWE performance center to train there, and there's the ring training and the gym training separately. The coaches there are wonderful. I respect them so much and I completely trust them. They even give advice on what I eat and my diet, so I believe that the training I'm getting here is even better than what I was getting in Japan.

You originally had a career in yachting as well as acting. What made you decide to become a wrestler? Are you ultimately happy with your decision?

Actually, my start in wrestling was a coincidence. When I was an actress, I played a wrestler, and as a result I was scouted by an agency to become an actual wrestler. But yes, I think my decision the right one. As an actor or as a professional wrestler, my purpose in life is to give others vitality, courage, and challenges. So you know, that's the kind of person that I want to be, to be able to encourage others. So now I think that professional wrestling will be my lifelong career, and I really believe that.

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