In an era that has been defined by women breaking barriers in professional wrestling, Lacey Evans seems like she doesn’t belong.
Or at least that’s what Evans and WWE want you to believe.
While the majority of the stars who have spearheaded WWE’s “Women’s Evolution” built their characters and reputation on being just as good as their male counterparts, Evans, a 29-year-old Marine Corps veteran, is doing the complete opposite.
“I’m not gonna sit back and allow people to forget the feminine beauty of women in general,” Evans told Yahoo Sports. “Everybody is so quick to do what men do that they forget women are unique and just as powerful. I’m the prime example, I can bake a pie just as good as I can fire a weapon. I think all women should feel beautiful and feel confident in their looks, their lipstick, their heels and be able to get the job done.”
Evans’ persona — the “Sassy Southern Belle” — has served as a stark contrast to every stereotype WWE’s women’s division has fought to overcome in recent years. If Paige ushered in this era as the “Anti-Diva,” Evans is trying to undo all of that work one strut at a time.
It’s what makes her the perfect foil for WWE’s biggest star, Becky Lynch.
“It’s a story I want to be able to tell and I want to show that I’m capable of telling it,” Evans said. “The story now is there’s this gung-ho female who is all about empowerment and that she’s ‘The Man,’ and then here comes Lacey Evans to interrupt everyone and remind women to get back in the kitchen and remember the feminine side and what women are capable of.”
Despite only officially debuting on WWE’s main roster in January, Evans has been placed in one of the most coveted spots on the “Money in the Bank” event. On Sunday, she’ll square off with Lynch for the Raw Women’s Championship in her first pay-per-view singles match.
While Lynch has pushed the narrative on television and on social media that Evans has gotten to this point due to her looks, the truth is that Evans is really good at what she does.
“I feel like people are quick to judge in life, period,” Evans said. “With this whole movement it’s kind of contradictory if you ask me. They want to emphasize what women are capable of and showcase them, but they go straight to my beauty and think that [I’ve gotten to this point] because I physically look a certain way without doing the research.”
After debuting as the first entrant and lasting 29 minutes in the women’s Royal Rumble match, Evans was relegated to interrupting matches and shows, simply walking up and down the entrance ramp during the months leading to her feud with Lynch.
Without laying a finger on another person, Evans was able to confuse and anger the audience, generating the kind of heat needed to play the heel in a rivalry with a red-hot champion.
“Initially it started with the walkouts, but at no point did I have any idea what it would lead to,” Evans said. “I didn’t find out until the day that I laid hands on Becky that there would be an angle. I didn’t expect anything, I just went to the shows ready to do anything that they needed from me. That’s what they needed and I took it and ran with it.”
Part of what makes Evans so unlikeable — in a good way — is that she flawlessly executes a classic professional wrestling tactic.
“[My character] transitioned to the ‘Sassy Southern Belle’ because more people can relate to it in this heel-ish, bad guy way,” Evans said. “One of the things that really gets under people’s skin is the confidence and class. I tell the world that I am a prime example of what all women should be. There’s just so much confidence and poise about me that it triggers people. I swear that I’m just perfect.”
While Evans riles up fans and plays her part impeccably on television, it’s hard not to root for her when you learn of her remarkably inspiring backstory.
Evans grew up in a home where she encountered substance abuse and depression. According to a 2017 interview with ESPNW, Evans and her seven siblings lived in tents at times during her childhood.
Despite that, Evans juggled school and work, became a nationally ranked amateur wrestler in high school, enlisted in the military at 19, and now, a decade later, is a WWE star, wife, and mother to a 6-year-old girl.
Her difficult upbringing and the obstacles she has overcome to get to this point in her life are not topics Evans shies away from.
“There’s a reason why I’ve been put on this platform and it’s a lot deeper than just because I have what it takes to be a sports entertainer,” Evans said. “I want to show them that it doesn’t matter where you come from. That drugs, addiction, depression, it’s all beatable if you keep your head strong, and I am a prime example of that. I want to show the world that you don’t have to accept a certain life.”
Evans admits that, at times, it is difficult to juggle playing a character on television and finding ways to incorporate her background and passion for inspiring others into it. After initially debuting with a military-inspired persona, Evans drastically overhauled herself to fit the needs of WWE.
“They didn’t hire me per se to come right out of the gate and inspire people,” Evans said. “There’s this fine line that I’m trying to walk between wanting to touch the world and pick them up while also being this bad guy.
“You need to be able to represent and conduct yourself in a way that emotionally triggers people. If a U.S.A. sergeant came out and saved the day, it’d be hard to be seen negatively in that light. God forbid though a sassy, sophisticated Southern woman comes prancing out and about — boom all of a sudden you want her off the screen.”
So while everything Evans does on television is designed to make you think she doesn’t belong in this generation of female superstars, the truth is, she believes she’s right where she needs to be.
“Life is short and I’m so blessed and grateful to be here and do what I do that I don’t feel like it’s work. It’s such an amazing job and opportunity that I’m just excited.
“I am a role model.”
WWE’s “Money in the Bank” event can be seen starting at 7 p.m. ET on the WWE Network.