After eight by-the-books entrants into the Women’s Royal Rumble, with the biggest surprise probably being the return of Shayna Baszler, who was absent from television for much of January, spot number nine featured the first true bit of intrigue in the sixth-ever running of the female version of the show’s titular match, as Roxanne Perez, the current NXT Women’s Champion, ran out of the back and entered the ring to vie for a spot at WrestleMania 39.
While the idea of having an NXT star appear in a Women’s Royal Rumble isn’t particularly new, as it’s been happening since the very first running when both Kairi Sane and Ember Moon came out to compete, it was a cool feeling to see Perez emerge from the back, get in some offense, and look like a main roster-caliber star, even if she was eliminated fourth after B-Fab, Dana Brooke, and Emma at the hands of Damage CTRL’s Bayley, Dakota Kai, and IYO SKY.
For fans who have been watching Perez for years, dating back to her time as Rok-C in Ring of Honor, this was a pretty incredible showing, but none of that compares to how Perez felt herself, as despite being disapointed in her elimination, she was excited to make her WWE “Premium Live Event” debut, as the reigning NXT champ, as she pointed out to Cathy Kelley after the show.
“You know, I’m a little disappointed because I did want to point at that sign and go to WrestleMania, but I’m so grateful because the Royal Rumble was the first-ever Pay-Per-View I ever went to, and now Royal Rumble is the first Pay-Per-View I was ever in, so it’s a full-circle crazy moment,” Perez said. “But I promise you one day I am going to go to WrestleMania and, I mean, it did take three people to take me out, so, just saying…”
Will Perez eventually perform at WrestleMania? Yes; call me presumptuous, but Perez has already appeared on WWE television multiple times and has worked against main roster talents like Damage CTRL and Rhea Ripley on multiple occasions since making her NXT debut in 2022, but until then, Rok has to turn her attention to both members of Toxic Attraction, as they have a date at NXT Vengeance Day that will decide whether or not her reign continues or if Gigi Dolin and/or Jacy Jayne reign supreme as singles or maybe even joint champion.
The NXT Women’s Champion @roxanne_wwe may have come up short in the #RoyalRumble Match, but she promises she’ll be back one day to capture her #WrestleMania moment. pic.twitter.com/MeAurfpLqU
— WWE (@WWE) January 29, 2023
Roxanne Perez has found an unlikely big sister in WWE.
While on-screen, Perez has had an antagonistic relationship with Bayley since joining NXT, with the leader of Damage CTRL wrestling her, Raquel Rodriguez, and Shotzi on television and then eliminating her at the Royal Rumble, backstage, they couldn’t be closer.
… wait what? WWE performers who are in feuds can actually like each other when the cameras stop rolling? What in the Kayfabe heck is that? Well, according to her appearance on Under the Ring, Bayley became like a big sister to Perez and some of the other NXT girls when she was in the PC rehabbing from injury before making her triumphant return at SummerSlam 2022.
“There’s a couple people, but one that really sticks out to me is Bayley,” Perez said via USA Today. “While she was down in the PC for rehab, we kind of got close, and she kind of took me, Cora [Jade], Jacy Jayne and Indi Hartwell under her wing. She gave us so much advice, and to this day she’ll text me, ‘oh my gosh, that was a great match,’ and she’ll give me some critiques.
“She’s so awesome. She was always so open to me going up to her and just asking her wrestling questions or life questions. She’s been like a big sister to me.”
In a way, what is 2023 Roxanne Perez but an updated version of NXT Bayley? Both are small, brown-haired gals who work face, get cheered by the crowd, and have a life-long love of wrestling. Perez dressed up as OG Bayley for NXT Halloween and probably even brought Bayley matches to Booker T’s wrestling school, Reality of Wrestling, when she was training in order to learn how to work like her. While Bayley obviously now plays a very different character than her old NXT gimmick, it must be pretty incredible for Perez to get to not only meet her idol but actually get to work with her and connect with her enough to consider her a big sister-type figure. In a sport as cut-throat as professional wrestling, that’s a sweet story worth celebrating.
I’m still a hugger @itsBayleyWWE #NXTHalloweenBattleRoyal #NXTMelbourne pic.twitter.com/Nqv8VPLj7U
— roxanne (@roxanne_wwe) October 29, 2022