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Wrestling quite literally is in Victoria González’s blood.
González, the current NXT women’s champion, grew up watching not just Latino and Hispanic stars such as Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio in WWE, but also her father, Rick González, who was an independent wrestler in south Texas.
“My dad used to wrestle when I was younger and I remember being on the road with him, my mom and my sister watching him,” González told Yahoo Sports. “At a young age I told him I really wanted to do that and I was such a daddy’s girl that I wanted to do everything that he was doing. Watching my dad wrestle here in south Texas and Louisiana, where the Hispanic culture is so strong and seeing the mix of luchadores and American wrestlers interact with each other, I always loved the passion.”
González’s wrestling dreams would have to wait as she took up basketball, playing at the private school her dad coached at, the Boys and Girls Club and then eventually collegiately at Texas A&M Kingsville and Sam Houston State. Finally, once she finished her education, González’s father relented and let her train to become a professional wrestler, and the character of Raquel González was born.
In 2016, González signed with WWE and joined its Performance Center, located in Florida. González, like all other prospective WWE stars, was asked to submit a list of first and last names for her future character. On the lists were her real first and last name, but she wound up getting to use the moniker Raquel González, which pays tribute to her father and her wrestling roots.
“The one [name] that they did push back on was Victoria, my actual name, because it had been used a couple of times, but González wasn’t a problem,” González said. “It was very important for me to keep it because my father went by Speedy González and Rick ‘Desperado’ González. I wanted to keep those initials. It was important for me to have a first name that started with R. I think that they loved the González part because it added something different to the women’s division at the time.”
Five years later, González is the focal point of NXT’s women’s division. As champion, she is the standard bearer and represents part of the next generation of female stars in WWE.
González’s ascent began in earnest in February 2020 — weeks before the global COVID-19 pandemic altered the world — as she debuted alongside Dakota Kai as an imposing, heel bodyguard figure and drawing comparisons to Kevin Nash’s “Diesel” character from the mid-1990s.
As COVID-19 forced WWE to host all of its shows in Florida during the majority of the pandemic, González was surrounded by standout talent such as Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley and Adam Scherr (known in WWE as Braun Strowman before his release from the company earlier this year).
“To see these other two women athletes [succeed], it pushed me to know what I needed to do to take the next step and be a better version of myself. It meant getting into the gym a little more, doing bodybuilding workouts and making the sacrifices, putting in the time, having the patience to work on myself and my diet, things that I can control,” González said. “With COVID and everything these past two years, it has been those kinds of thoughts that have kept me going and positive.”
Scherr in particular helped González — a physically imposing character compared to some of her peers — reach new heights creatively on a weekly basis.
“Even just being around Braun Strowman and having that time to pick his brain, being a bigger person and character in the ring, it helped me get a better grasp of the kind of wrestler I wanted to portray myself as when I stepped into the ring,” González said.
González’s transformation, both physically and mentally, helped her move up the ranks in NXT’s women’s division. Eventually, González earned a spot in the main event of the show’s WrestleMania week event, TakeOver Stand and Deliver, where she won the NXT women’s championship by beating Io Shirai.
Amid all of this, González has remained true to her heritage, paying homage in subtle ways and even naming her finisher the “Chingona Bomb.” Chingona is Spanish slang that refers to a “boss” or “badass” woman.
“I try my hardest to incorporate [my roots] in different things that I do,” González said. “Whether it’s my style or on my boots. I have the word ‘Chingona’ on my boots and I fought to have my finisher be called the ‘Chingona Bomb.’ I use Spanish in my promos every day because I want to show that I am proud of my culture, that I embrace it, that I want to bring it more to the WWE platform.”
Authenticity is important for anyone in professional wrestling. Audiences tend to gravitate toward stars who present their characters as amped up versions of themselves, and González is no different. As González’s profile has grown, she has moved on from being the strong, silent enforcer to a more outspoken, babyface leader.
It’s an adjustment González has handled relatively well.
“I think the transition from heel to babyface hasn’t felt too different,” González said. “I feel like I am still being true to myself. Another big change is being more vocal. When I was a heel bodyguard, I was silent and kind of kept to myself. Now, I can open up about me, my character and who I am.”
As for the future, as González continues to open up and connect with crowds, she hopes to become a role model for Latina girls, drawing parallels between herself and Selena, another Texas native of Mexican descent — a Tejano star in her own right.
“I know this sounds cliche for Hispanic girls everywhere, but I grew up listening and watching Selena,” González said. “When I would watch her stuff, I viewed her as humble and as a light in people’s lives. You never hear anything about her being a negative or someone that people couldn’t look up to. You see someone who sacrificed and pushed herself to get to where she was, but also someone who always kept her roots. That’s how I view myself right now.”
And, at the end of it all, González looks back to the people who inspired her passion for the business.
“No matter where I’ve gone or how far I’ve moved, they constantly visit and I talk to my dad and sister every day,” González said. “Staying connected, grounded and true to who you are is the message I want to send.
“It's wrestling, but lucha, it’s part of our culture. It’s not just another sport, it’s something that allows all of our families to come together and bond. It’s beautiful.”
Raquel González can be seen on WWE NXT Tuesday nights on USA Network at 8 p.m. ET.