Natalya Talks Her WWE Longevity & Dream Casting Paul Walter Hauser as Her Dad

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For nearly two decades the one reliable constant within the WWE women’s division has been Natalya. The daughter of legend Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, granddaughter of Stu Hart, and niece of Bret Hart has built a Hall of Fame-worthy career all her own. One that has brought multiple milestones, championship wins, and even recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records.

Even after all these years, the Total Divas star’s fire for pro wrestling remains hotter than ever. She takes pride in being the respected veteran in the locker room who has helped everyone from Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey to Cora Jade and Tegan Nox. The BOAT (Best of All-Time) of WWE caught up with us to talk about her longevity, the potential of a Hart family movie, and helping the next generation.

You’ve been a part of so many big events. How does it feel to be a part of every women’s Royal Rumble? 

Natalya: To me, they are all so special. I was in the very first women’s Royal Rumble. We’ve seen decades of men’s Royal Rumble, so to be part of the women’s is so special. For me to participate in all seven is not lost on me. I’ve been in all of them, I’ve got to work with talented women from Ronda Rousey to Becky Lynch to Charlotte Flair to Summer Rae. There are so many like Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix, and Sasha Banks. There are so many great women I’ve got to work with. Each year I feel we top the next.

Natalya

WWE

Coming from a pro wrestling family, I’m curious if you’ve seen The Iron Claw. If so, what did you think of the movie? 

I loved The Iron Claw. After watching I said to Bret, ‘Wow, this Von Erich movie is so inspiring and sad at the same time.’ Bret told me, and I never knew this, that Fritz Von Erich got into wrestling through my grandfather. He met my grandfather in Edmonton. My grandfather Stu said he should get into wrestling. So had Fritz not met Stu, the Von Erich family may not been in wrestling. Fritz and the family lived on my grandfather’s property, the Hart house. It was so cool because I never knew that. I met Kevin Von Erich and the grandkids and didn’t know this. They told me, ‘Yeah, your family is very special to us.”’The Von Erich family is very special to my family. My dad was one of Kerry Von Erich’s last matches, so watching that movie brought back different emotions.

You posted a photo on Instagram with Rory Culkin, as well as Jordan Levine, and Jordan Beckerman of Yale Productions in New York City. This got people thinking we might be seeing a potential Hart movie after what we’ve seen with The Iron Claw. Is there something in the works? 

I am working on something near and dear to my heart. I can’t confirm or deny what I’m working on, but it’s very special, and I’m really excited about it.

Is there any dream casting of who you would want to play your dad? 

If I were going to do a movie and could choose who I would personally want to play my dad, it would be Paul Walter Hauser. Paul is a huge wrestling fan. He just won the Emmy Award and called out [wrestler] Matt Cardona in his acceptance speech. I love Paul’s passion for the industry. I see old footage of my dad and think, ‘If there was a movie on the Hart family, call Paul Walter Hauser.’ I can’t unsee him as my dad. He has to be my dad. I love Paul. I think it’s so commendable that someone from his world has so much respect for us.

Natalya WWE

WWE

One thing I love about you is you genuinely love what you do. So much you and your husband TJ [Wilson] have this space with a ring where wrestlers from WWE and other places come to work out. It’s become this pseudo-wrestling school. 

TJ and I rented a warehouse. A little warehouse. There is no air conditioning, one small bathroom, and a wrestling ring. And the only thing you need is passion. We have friends who work in every corner of the industry. We have friends from every promotion. Our ring is not a school where you can sign up, or pay a fee, or just drop in. It’s invite only. You have to know a friend who knows a friend who knows a friend. It’s kind of a wrestling workshop for intermediate to advanced people. We rent the space, but “The Dungeon” is our way of giving back to the industry. It’s our love letter to wrestling. I love being able to give back from women of NXT to women in the independent industry to women who love this industry.

Anyone in particular you’ve seen come through you enjoyed working with? 

When Jade Cargill asked to train in “The Dungeon,” I was so honored because when she asked she had just lost her mother. I thought, ‘That shows me right there the women we are going to get in WWE. Someone who has such passion for this.’ Having just lost a parent and thinking, ‘You know what? This is a positive focus for me and a way to shift my focus to work hard.’ I have so much respect for her for wanting to train during that difficult time in her life. “The Dungeon” is our love letter to professional wrestling.

You’ve been with WWE through many eras and so much change. What do you make of your longevity?

The other day I saw The Rock doing an ESPN interview, and he was talking about being third-generation. I’m a third-generation. He says he can’t imagine growing up as a kid in the industry and seeing WWE and wrestling be as big as it is today. When I was a little girl, I always thought once my dad’s carer was done, that was it. Once your career as a wrestler is done you have to go away. That’s not the way it is anymore. To see The Rock have a huge role in the industry. He doesn’t have to be competing in the ring every night. He is now on the board of directors for WWE and TKO and in this massive way.

He shows that far beyond what we can do in the ring, we can also impact lives. I feel inspired. I’ve been in WWE for 17 uninterrupted years, which is the longest of any woman in WWE history. It’s funny because even now I love what I do. I love working with women. I love working with women from every walk of life. Girls from NXT, legends, women just debuting, women who are athletes and have never done this before like Ronda Rousey. I  feel so inspired by every woman I get to work with. It’s a true sisterhood and a privilege to be here this long. I feel like I’ve earned my spot and am proud to say I’ve earned my spot.

WWE Raw, Mondays, 8/7c, USA Network

WWE SmackDown, Fridays, 8/7c, Fox 

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