For Nattie Neidhart (aka Natalya), fight night Sunday in Brooklyn was truly a night unlike any other.
That's because Neidhart — granddaughter to Stampede wrestling icon Stu Hart, and niece to former world champ Bret (the Hitman) Hart — became a world champion in her own right Sunday. She won the WWE's Smackdown women's championship at Summer Slam in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"It was just a surreal feeling to win my first ever women's championship," Neidhart said on the Calgary Eyeopener.
"And to do it in front of the world ... [World Wrestling Entertainment] is in over 180 countries. Anybody that was watching Summer Slam on the WWE Network or on pay-per-view could see me win the championship. It was something I wasn't expecting."
'I feel like I'm following in my family's footsteps'
At the same time, as part of a family of wrestling champs, becoming world champ was perhaps as inevitable as it was surprising.
"I do feel like I'm following in my family's footsteps," Neidhart said. "We all share this passion for wrestling and the WWE, so it's just very, very cool and surreal to carry the torch they passed me."
Neidhart's journey to world champ was hardly an overnight success, either — or embraced by her family, which was all too aware of the potential physical hazards a wrestler faces.
"I was the first girl," Niedhart said. "My father was very apprehensive about me being a wrestler when I started wrestling, as my dad knows how physical it is. He used to play football and he was a shot putter. He didn't want me to get hurt. But then, when he saw my first match, he was my biggest cheerleader."
Neidhart received lots of helping hands, attending a wrestling school run by her uncles Bruce and Ross Hart.
She also had a conversation on an airplane with her Uncle Bret that changed her way of thinking about being part of the Hart family legacy.
Words of wisdom from The Hitman
"I remember telling him on my first trip to Japan, 'I don't know if I'm good enough,'" she said. "'I just feel like everyone expects me to be as good as you, and I'm worried about disappointing the fans.'
"Bret said, 'You know, Nattie, you're so different ... you just have to embrace that you're blazing your own trail' — and so those words have always been with me.
"Right now, women are at the forefront of the WWE, and it's just a great time for us."
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener
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