WWE Superstar Lacey Evans, who last year took on Natalya in the first-ever women’s wrestling match in Saudi Arabia, is not one for emotions — or for hugs. But at the end of that momentous match, the former U.S. Marine found herself caught up in both.
Surely, you could excuse Evans for breaking down — and breaking “kayfabe,” the professional wrestling term for maintaining the illusion that a character is real — while she and her opponent made history back on Halloween 2019.
Ahead of Sunday’s 18th annual “WWE Tribute for the Troops,” TheWrap asked Evans if that touching moment was, like Natalya’s win, preplanned.
That would be a resounding “no.”
“I am not a hugger. I’m not an emotional type,” the “Monday Night Raw” wrestler said. “I’m emotional when it comes to my passion — but don’t touch me. I’ve got some demons in my closet.”
Three things made Evans spontaneously drop her guard that night. First was the fact that she was across the ring from wrestling royalty. Natalya Neidhart was a major part of WWE’s so-called Women’s Evolution, a movement that opened the door for female wrestlers to be treated — and booked — more like their male counterparts, and not just as eye candy.
“Everything she’s been through throughout her career to pave the way, and as a woman to show what women are capable of… and then she gets this opportunity, it’s just like, this is history,” Evans said. “This is incredible — she’s worked her ass off her whole life and here she is.”
The second factor was Evans’ daughter, Summer, who has since been featured on WWE TV as part of the “Sassy Southern Belle’s” storylines.
“Right before I went out of the curtain, I thought of my daughter and how I am trying my best to raise a confident, outgoing, badass little lady that knows she can do whatever she sets her mind to,” Evans, who definitely did not have that same support system in her own childhood, said. “And my music’s about to hit, and [I’m] thinking, ‘I’m going through the curtain and [there are] all those young little girls in the crowd.'”
Finally, Evans and Natalya “didn’t even know [the match] was gonna happen” until the last minute — which is not unusual for the way Saudi Arabia seems to do business.
“So here we are, just praying: ‘Please, just let us have this match in front of these women, in front of these baby girls,” Evans recalled.
Well, it happened. And those women and baby girls in attendance got to witness a small but significant bit of progress in a country that could use some.
So yeah, “that hug was legit,” Evans said. “We frickin’ did it. We set the example, we opened a door.”
Readers can watch history unfold at “Crown Jewel” via the video above.
“WWE Tribute to the Troops” will air on Fox Sunday adjacent to the regional NFL broadcasts. Those with a football game on Fox at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT will get “Tribute to the Troops” at 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT. Fox viewers with an NFL game at 4:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. PT can watch the WWE special at 3 p.m. ET/noon PT.
“Raw” airs Mondays on USA Network starting at 8/7c.