Kacy Catanzaro joined the WWE after building a legendary career in the world of America Ninja Warrior. She was the first woman ever to qualify for the finals of that series, and remains the only woman to finish a City Finals course.
In the lead-up to her first televised match in the WWE, as part of the Mae Young Classic tournament, Catanzaro recently spoke to ESPN about a variety of topics. From her groundbreaking work in American Ninja Warrior, to the difficulties in adjusting to working in the squared circle, to how much fun she thinks she could have in playing the "heel" role, Catanzaro relays how her experiences to this point in her life and career have put her in position to thrive in a new environment.
ESPN.com: The WWE has had women breaking down barriers and reaching previously unheard of accolades over the last few years. Tell us about your experiences in breaking the glass ceiling in American Ninja Warrior.
Kacy Catanzaro: When I was watching American Ninja Warrior, it was really big that no woman had ever completed the course. I was sitting there and I was like, I really think that I can do this. I know it's going to be hard, but I think that I could get through those obstacles. That would be really cool -- something to show everyone that women can do it.
In my first season I got to the second-to-last obstacle that was right before the Warped Wall. I remember everybody saying to me, "You did really good for a girl. You should be happy." And I was bummed because I didn't make it. I'm a competitor and I wanted to finish the course. Everybody was trying to make me feel better by saying you did really good for a girl and it honestly did the opposite, because I was like, "What does that mean that I did good for a girl? What does 'for a girl' mean?" You're saying we're not as good as what the regular good is? I remember it sparked this extra fire in me being like, "Oh, I'm going to come back and I'm going to do good, period." There's going to be no "for a girl" and everybody's going to know that we can keep up with the guys and we can beat them.
I came back the next season and I made it up the Warped Wall and I was the first woman who completed the course. I wanted to do it to prove to myself that I could do it, but my favorite part about it has been this ripple effect since then, where all of these women have come out [to compete]. It's kind of like when you think something is impossible and you realize it's not and you want to do it. Everybody thought that it was this impossible thing, and once they were able to see that it wasn't, all of these amazing women came out and started getting up the Warped Wall.
Kacy Catanzaro walked into the WWE Performance Center without a shred of experience in the word of professional wrestling. For the better part of the last year she's been training hard, and she shares what her experience has been like thus far. (Interview courtesy of KC Joyner).
What has been the most difficult part of transitioning into a WWE career?
There are so many things about wrestling... that your body has trained itself its whole life not to do. Everything that you do in a wrestling match is something that your body doesn't want to do. Your body doesn't want to take these huge falls or jump off the top of a ring, these things that you never thought that you would be doing. It's been this really cool but difficult thing to train my body to learn all of the amazing aspects that this sports entertainment business is, but it's been really hard.
Your [personality] obviously trends toward being a "babyface," yet Paul "Triple H" Levesque was quoted as saying that he thinks you could transition to "heel" at some point. Are you ready for that?
I remember that quote from Paul as well. Before I arrived here and I didn't know much about it, people asked me if I would be a babyface and I was like "Yeah, I'm sure I'll be a face because I'm nice and Paul said to me, "I think I'm nice, but I made a lot of my career by being a heel".
I think it would be really fun [to be a heel]. Honestly, for me, I feel like there's so many times that you have those moments where that heel wants to come out of you in normal life, but you decide to be a good person so you don't let it come out. I feel like I have those moments a lot, and I'll know these are my two choices. I could flip out on this person or I could be the bigger person and walk away. Walking away is what I usually try and choose, but I think it would be fun to be in a situation where I could choose the other one and to be a little bit "heelish."
Kacy Catanzaro talks about what inspired her to pursue American Ninja Warrior, the experiences that drove her to excel and how she views her role in inspiring others who look to follow in her footsteps.
It is very possible that there will be a women's main event at WrestleMania in the near future. Is being in a WrestleMania main event your new "Warped Wall" goal?
Definitely. Coming in here, anything I do I'm not going to be like, "Cool, I'm going to come here and see how it goes and maybe I'll do it and some cool things will happen." I come in here with a goal that is hopefully the same goal that everyone else has, which is you want to make it to the top. You want to do main event WrestleMania, you want to do all of these amazing things that we enjoy watching.
How do you feel about competing in the Mae Young Classic?
Mae Young has been such a constant presence in this business for women. She didn't care what anyone thought women could do, or that they didn't want her in this spot or told her she couldn't do that. She never let that get to her. She never let that get in her way. She didn't accept it. She pushed it and broke through those ceilings. And Mae Young, along with a lot of other women, they sacrificed so much and everything that they have done has made me sitting here be possible because of what they endured and what they didn't accept and because of all of the hardships that they went through. They did all of that and now I get to be here when there is this amazing women's revolution and when we do get to be part of those main events that they didn't get to. It's amazing to see that process and be a part of it now and know that they paved the way for us and we, being here, get to blaze the path for the future women.