Ask Sasha Banks who loves professional wrestling more than she does, and her response is quick and firm: "Nobody." That might be a fact.
The Boston-bred NXT grad and current WrestleMania contender for Charlotte's Divas Championship (in a triple-threat match including Becky Lynch) hit the indie circuit at 18 via promotions like Chaotic Wrestling and never looked back. Her headlong leap into sports entertainment was the culmination of years spent studying icons like Eddie Guerrero and the trailblazers of All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling. That acumen helped her rise through the ranks of WWE's developmental system after being signed in 2012. But Banks (real name: Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado) also just has it, and that charisma and talent coalesced around her "Boss" persona in NXT, and has translated to asses in seats since she was permanently added to the main roster last summer.
Having just gone through the whirlwind of a SmackDown taping in her hometown, Banks is a bit spun around but no less eager to talk about owning the night on April 3, possibly sharing some of the spotlight with cousin Snoop Dogg, incorporating K-Pop flourishes into her character and moving her old co-workers to tears.
You just tweeted about visiting your old job while in Boston. What was said 'old job'?
I used to work at a hotel. I was the order-taker for room service. My mom worked at the hotel as an accountant. To go see your old co-workers – the people you switched hours with so you could go to your independent shows and WWE tryouts – some of them actually started crying and were like, "Wow, you said it and you did it." I was trying not to cry, but knowing I got to be there before WrestleMania motivated me so much more.
How have you handled the transition from dream-pursuer to someone inspiring your fans to go for theirs?
That's surreal for me. I get people who come up to me and are like, "You make me wanna live my dream." I was them, so I'm like, "Me, out of all people? No way." Eddie Guerrero did that for me, so to have little girls and guys tell me I inspire them, I didn't know that came with the job, but it's so cool.
Fans have expressed some misgivings about this year's WrestleMania matches. Does that set you, Charlotte and Becky up to potentially steal the show?
[Laughs] Have you see any of my matches boo-boo? I always steal the show, so it's nothing new for me. I actually look at the card and I go, "Wow, yes, I'm definitely gonna steal the show." I think this match is gonna open the doors for the women of WWE. This is a huge opportunity to show that not only can we hang with the boys, we can be better than the boys. I always want to have people talk about my matches. With this, I don't add extra pressure on myself, but for sure, I know we can do it.
With so many male wrestlers hurt, maybe it's time to seriously explore more inter-gender angles?
I definitely agree with that. I just think it takes time. I went from two-minute matches when I started with NXT to eight, to 10, to 12. I definitely think after this match at WrestleMania, we're gonna be given more opportunities like that. Not only will we show it, we're gonna demand it.
And as time goes on, do you want to feature aspects of your personal passions, like K-Pop, as part of your character?
I definitely think so, from anime gear to more Sasha Banks from the outside in. That's gonna be with time. It's gonna have to come naturally. I don't wanna go out and be like, "Hey, I'm gonna change this and that." I have to feel the crowd and go with the flow with them.
Has it been incredible to watch the WWE machine manifest and market the Sasha Banks persona in such a short period of time?
It is, but it was all me to be honest. When I was in NXT, I was doing nothing and like, "What am I doing with my life?" So the Boss came out, and I [realized] I need to show people why I'm the best. And now that I see I have action figures – and hopefully next year I'm on the WWE [2K17] game – and all this stuff, it's surreal. When you have little girls bringing you your action figures for you to sign, it's like, "Wow, things are happening and dreams do come true."
And in terms of going big, why haven't we seen your cousin Snoop Dogg perform during your ring entrance yet?
[Laughs] Maybe you should watch WrestleMania and you might see it, you never know! I don't need someone to walk me to the ring every week and hold my hand like Charlotte does, but Snoop can make an appearance once in a while. Some people need their daddy to hold their hand and walk them down to the ring, which is fine. Some people need fire to have an entrance, which is OK. But I'm a Boss. I don't need that stuff.