Audaciously talented and aesthetically dominant it is perhaps no surprise that Ayesha Raymond, the self-styled 'Amazon' was a top pick for WWE's Mae Young Classic. This hard-brawling east-ender is no stranger to the wrestling ring. With ten years of experience under her belt, overseas glory achieved and a passion for sports entertainment that goes back to primary school, she has long been destined for WWE stardom.
The Mae Young Classic, named after the inspirational superstar and WWE Hall of Famer, will bring together 32 of the premiere female athletes from across the world to compete in a single-elimination tournament. The Classic aired exclusively on the WWE Network with the first four episodes yesterday. The Bracketology special, also exclusive to the WWE Network has revealed that the UK's own Ayesha Raymond will face Australia's Toni Storm. We had the chance to speak with Ayesha about her feelings going into the classic and a lot more besides. Read on and make sure you have the Network (new users can sign up for a free month and £9.99 thereafter) in order to watch the full Mae Young Classic.
How did you find out that you were going to be competing in the Mae Young Classic?
Well, I had my initial try-out a year and a half ago. When I was part of the first group to have such a tryout at the SSE Hydro in Scotland. It was the first time WWE had done any kind of event at the Hydro that wasn't NXT. After the tryout, it literally all started rolling. So I kept myself very busy and the call came, I'm entered.
How are you feeling about it?
It's weird because it has finally happened now. I've watched wrestling since I was five years old. I've been training since I was 15, so it's almost ten years now. Just for all that to collectively be happening, all at once now... it's overwhelming. I'm processing it slowly but it's still kind of unreal that I can sit on a bus and be surrounded by all the people I admire, and used to watch when I was younger, and think "this is actually my life now".
The Bracketology was announced by WWE after Summerslam. Who do you consider to present the greatest challenge from amongst your fellow competitors?
I've always said that the biggest challenge will be myself. I am my own worst enemy. I won't belittle any of the women that are there. Everybody works amazingly hard, we're all trained athletes in our way. In all honesty, it's me, I'm my own worst enemy.
Have you faced any of the other Mae Young competitors before?
Toni Storm and I have been announced for the first bracket and we've been crossing each other's paths for years. It's weird but when I first went over to Australia, she came to England and so, we didn't actually meet each other until the Mae Young Classic. It was like everything coming full circle. The fact we got to do this, it was something that was meant to happen four years ago. Kay Lee Ray, Piper Niven (Viper), Alpha Female was a former Tag partner of mine. There are people I came across over the years but there's nobody like me.
How would you explain Ayesha Raymond to somebody that's not seen you perform before?
Ayesha Raymond is me getting the free reign in the middle of the squared circle that I don't get outside of it. Anything that I can't say or do in this reality, I get to do in that one - that's me.
You are a qualified fitness trainer and a bodybuilder. How has that background prepared you for the sports entertainment and the Mae Young Classic?
Putting them both together, it's almost the same world. I was always taught by my trainers, Justin Richards and Robbie Brookside that in order to be part of this business, it's not just a living, it's a lifestyle. So, you have to live it, to breathe it and to put the parts together in order to succeed. You can't do it halfway, it basically has to become your life. I've been a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger since I was younger. That obviously chimes with wrestling, he's a very big wrestling fan and to be able to live that life, to breathe it and be able to do professional bodybuilding competitions as well as being a sports entertainer is my dream come true.
Did [NXT trainer] Robbie Brookside give you the inside track before the Mae Young Classic? Has he been helping you out?
No! I get treated the same as everybody else. Rob has been a guide for me over the past three years and then I had Justin when I first started off. But I'm treated exactly the same as everybody else. There is no favoritism, no coddling. I get the football kick if I do something wrong. I'm exactly the same as the others.
You've been active for nearly a decade, how has the UK scene changed in that time?
So much! There was a time when the scene consisted of four girls in England, now there's almost 40! The fluffy boots multiplied in the space of five years! I remember going up and down England with Erin Angel, it was just me and her at one point. Now there's so many different girls. I'm not going to say everybody looks the same but like I've said, nobody looks like me!
Looking at the superstars who competed in the UK Championship Tournament, there's a chance we may still see you in the UK, perhaps at Progress or elsewhere. Has your phone been ringing?
Everyone's fully aware of how to get hold of me. I'm the World War Wrestling Women's Champion, I'm going back over to Germany this month, November and December. People know how to get hold of me if they need to.
What does the future hold for you? You'll want to win the tournament but where would you like to see yourself?
The emblem is there. We call it the mirage. I was playing a game with friends in which we had to draw what our personal mirage would look like. We all drew the same thing. It was the WWE logo. That stage, after getting a taste and going out there, I have no doubt in my mind that is where I'm supposed to be. You'll be seeing me there with the British flag behind me and the dream will be endless.
Let's hope that Ayesha Raymond's climb to the top is indeed limitless. Make sure to follow it for yourselves and watch the Mae Young Classic, the all-new women's tournament which streams exclusively on the WWE Network