On the most recent episode of Pro Wrestling’s Illustrated PWI Podcast, Senior Writers Al Castle and Dan Murphy revealed Nikki Bella as the top-ranked wrestler in this year’s PWI Female 50. The announcement comes a few days ahead of the digital release of the new issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, which will feature the complete list of female rankings for 2015.
Nikki’s ranking as the No. 1 women’s wrestler is a bit controversial, as the female grappler has a fair share of detractors, particularly among the much-maligned “Internet Wrestling Community.” Addressing this, Dan Murphy compared and contrasted the work of other top female stars during the evaluation period, which spanned from October 1, 2014, to September 30, 2015. Murphy noted that the acclaimed NXT bout between Sasha Banks and Bayley fell outside of the aforementioned period and, while it was one of the better women’s matches in the recent past, it was not a factor in either woman’s ranking for 2015.
Nikki Bella commented on her achievement in an interview recorded for the podcast, expressing heartfelt gratitude for the recognition.
“It’s an honor for me … In our industry, PWI is like our Sports Illustrated, our Forbes Magazine. It truly is an honor to be number one. It’s a dream come true and it’s a huge accomplishment.”
Nikki also talked a bit about her evolution in the wrestling business, noting that when she first grabbed the spotlight along with her twin sister, Brie, the two women were frequently cast based upon their looks as opposed to their potential skills and respective personalities.
“When I came into this industry over eight years ago, I was simply looked at as arm candy and it was like, ‘Oh, don’t worry. You don’t have to learn to wrestle that good’ and I was like, ‘No, that’s the reason why I’m here—because I want to be a wrestler. I don’t want to just be a Diva that’s on some guy’s arm or valeting them down to the ring…’ I wanted to be a female wrestler.”
She also discussed the difference between her history and development as a wrestler compared to many other female workers who came into NXT and WWE after establishing themselves through work in smaller promotions.
“I didn’t come from the independents, and believe me I wish I did … For Brie and I—we were just ‘model tired.’ I was told to get a boob job, I was told to lose weight. Brie and I had a big struggle… Brie and I legit hopped in our cars, went to Georgia, jumped in a ring, and said, ‘Hey, you’re going to sign us. We want to be here.’ I know everyone thinks it was really easy for us, but it wasn’t.”
Later in the podcast, Dan Murphy and Al Castle discussed the other women in the top five slots of this year’s PWI Female 50. Paige, who was No. 1 last year, grabbed second place. Sasha Banks, who recently moved from NXT to WWE’s main roster, came in at No. 3 in the highest debut for a wrestler in the history of the magazine’s female rankings. Reigning NWA women’s champion Santana Garret was ranked No. 4, and TNA’s Gail Kim rounded out the crop at No. 5.
In addition to her work as an in-ring performer and as a prominent member of the WWE Total Divas cast, Nikki Bella recently made her debut as a motivational speaker. In October, she made an appearance at a public event held by The Helen Gordon Davis Centre For Women in Florida, in which she spoke on women’s empowerment and her achievements in the male-dominated business of professional wrestling.
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