WWE/SHAYNA BASZLER: 'Queen of Spades' ready for pro wrestling (Argus Leader)

Posted on 10/12/117 by Mike Informer

For the past two weeks, Sioux Falls native Shayna Baszler
has been busy training to be a pro wrestler.

The 37-year-old Lincoln High graduate made her World
Wrestling Entertainment debut in the circuit's first all-
female tournament, the Mae Young Classic, televised live
from Las Vegas in September.

Although Baszler fell in the final match to 28-year-old
Japanese star Kairi Sane, WWE offered the former mixed
martial arts fighter a full-time position in the
organization.

"It's a different city and a different method to the
training, but its still physical," said Baszler, who
entered pro wrestling in 2015 after spending 16 years
competing in MMA, racking up 15 wins and 11 losses.

More: Sioux Falls native falls in finals of WWE tournament

She is the second South Dakotan with MMA ties to make a mark
in WWE. Webster native and former UFC heavyweight champion
Brock Lesnar remains one of the company's biggest stars and
holds the companys Universal Championship belt.

Baszler understands that some critics might see her
transition away from MMA as a sign she can no longer handle
fighting. But she views her new career in WWE as the next
step in her evolution as a martial artist.

"I got to a point in my MMA career that I was just going to
work," she said. "I kind of lost the spark for it. I love
MMA. Its what I studied for most of my adult life, but
there comes a point I think when youre just not as hungry
anymore and it was starting to show up in my results."

When Midwest All Pro Wrestling owner Nick Dinsmore met
Baszler in Sioux Falls two years ago, he knew right away she
had the talent to make it big.

Dinsmore, a former WWE star and coach, hopes Baszler's pro
wrestling career will drum up excitement for the sport
locally, especially among women.

"Its always good when you have a hometown hero," said
Dinsmore, who used to work at the WWE Performance Center in
Orlando, Fla., where Baszler now trains.

As a crossover artist, Baszler hopes to battle the non-
competitive stigma that hovers around pro wrestling. She
aims to bridge the gap between the two disciplines.

Despite the us vs. them attitude in the world of combat
sports, wrestling and martial arts have been intertwined for
decades.

"It's important to me to pass on that history and make
people look at pro wrestling in a way that they havent
before," said Baszler.

Although WWE and MMA have a shared history, their current
approach differs greatly.

"In MMA, you're trained to tune the audience out," said
Baszler. "In sports entertainment, youre trained to feed
off what the audience is thinking and feeling."

Previously, the veteran fighter was only concerned about
winning and didn't care if the fight was boring to the fans.
Now when she enters the ring, crowd opinion matters.

"Theres a lot more emphasis about making the crowd feel
certain emotions about certain things," said Baszler, who
sees the storytelling as only an added spin to the work she
has been doing for nearly two decades.

More: What to do in Sioux Falls, Oct. 9-15

With the emphasis on plot, Baszler is allowed a break
between each round.

"In sports entertainment, you can take your time and digest
whats going on along with the audience," said Baszler, who
is keeping her Queen of Spades nickname from MMA. "It's
really learning that you dont have to be in this panic
mode."

She's eager for her first fight as a full-time pro wrestler
and expects to start with a bang.

"I'm on call whenever they have a body for me to come in and
break," she said, warming up to the task already.

If you have an event or story idea that fits into the Sioux
Falls dining or entertainment theme, Alexa Giebink can be
reached at agiebink@argusleader.com. Follow her on twitter
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