Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is referred to as the “Steel City.” Along with its 300 related steel businesses, 466 bridges, 30 skyscrapers, and two inclined railways, at one time in our nation’s history, the city was the leader in metal production.
Steep curved streets, the three rivers, and the vibrant colored landscape portray a uniqueness that sets Pittsburgh apart from other metropolitans. The population falls under a half million people, but it still keeps the feeling of a neighborhood vibe. Between the professional football and hockey teams, they have set a precedence in winning with 11 championships in total. Those achievements have established a reputation for excellence.
Pittsburgh has deep blue-collar roots. No matter the industry that currently fuels the city’s economy, it will never lose the hard-working attitude which made the city a success. There is a sense of pride that dwells in western Pennsylvania and it is the main characteristic that is prevalent there.
The Steel City has also claimed several professional wrestlers as their own. Whether the mat stars were born or just reside there, they are now Pittsburgh property! Bruno Sammartino, Johnny Valiant, Shane Douglas, and Brit Baker are a shortlist of grapplers who share and have shared ties to the city. However, there is a new face on the scene and she is determined to make a name for herself and leave her mark on the sport of wrestling as well. Introducing 18-year-old, Nikita Knight, the Spartan Warrior.
Who is Nikita Knight? The answer: the wrestler who debuted against Thunder Rosa on AEW Dark just two days after she became legal to compete professionally.
“When I saw my name on the board next to Thunder Rosa’s name, I thought I was going to pass out or pee my pants,” Nikita Knight said. “Rosa dictated the match and walked me right through it. I wasn’t concerned about that at all. I just wanted to make sure that I did my part.”
One would have to admit that the pressure that comes with that particular situation has to be weighty, however, many wrestlers there the day of her taping helped make Nikita’s experience at AEW very positive. In a wrestling promotion where the elite of the sport gather, the young rookie was astonished by the respect, cohesiveness, and professionalism displayed throughout the company.
Assuring her that all would be well, Q.T. Marshall and Dustin Rhodes consoled and advised Nikita for her upcoming contest with the acclaimed wrestler, Thunder Rosa. Many wrestlers do not get to experience an atmosphere quite like that when they make their debut in pro wrestling. So, for Nikita it was both special and memorable.
Starting in bingo halls, high school gyms, and small venues is usually the norm for new talent. A scene like AEW or even the WWE is a goal for most pro wrestlers. Many athletes put in years of in-ring work before they perform with major companies such as those. AEW currently showcases professional wrestling by matching superstars with up-and-coming wrestlers from around the country to be featured on Youtube. The concept is not new. WWF was famous for their squash matches, but they were not known for developing young talent amid Hulkamania. It appears as if AEW is scouting and preparing wrestlers to potentially be their future stars.
While Nikita was 17 years old with just 10 months of training to her credit, she had an opportunity to attend a wrestling seminar that was put on by Q.T. Marshall. Marshall works as a wrestler and a producer for AEW. He is also a trainer and co-owner of The Nightmare Factory with Cody Rhodes and Glacier in Georgia.
Performing some basic drills at the seminar did not go as planned for the teenager on that particular day. However, she continued through the session and sought counsel with her trainer Brandon K. when it was over.
“It was pretty embarrassing, but afterward Q.T. asked me how old I was. I told him when my birthday was and he asked for my promo pictures and videos of any matches,” Knight admitted. “I sent him what he asked for that evening and he asked if I wanted to come for the next AEW Dark taping, and I said yes!” It made me feel good that somebody with his kind of experience thought that I had potential.”
With Marshall believing in Nikita it gave her a boost in her confidence. But let us not forget who we are talking about. Nikita is from “Steel City!” She’s tough and has proved it! Hard work and determination are characteristics that have been instilled in Nikita since she was a young girl. By the age of four, she was training in gymnastics. The school where she was enrolled believed if the skill was not perfected at an early age the athlete would never see progress. The practices were four hours long and were extremely intense for any age level. The 30 minutes of conditioning was strenuous but necessary to maintain the high demand for stamina during competition.
“I blame gymnastics for every good and bad thing in my life that has ever happened to me. It prepared me for almost anything stressful, “Knight responded “When I was performing on the mat, I was the only one out there being judged. I knew when I sucked and when I didn’t.”
She achieved a level nine out of ten in her gymnastics skill level at the age of 14. Upon starting high school, she was ready to take on a new challenge. That test was competitive cheerleading. Nikita found the adrenaline rush and the same competitive edge that gymnastics offered her.
Traveling was a big part of cheerleading and due to her team’s success, they earned several offers to perform in prestigious tournaments. One of those was at the world level which took place in Orlando, Florida. One year before the cheerleading season ended, Nikita suffered a disappointing setback when she broke her fibula during a routine. Nikita’s coaches asked her to compete in the upcoming cheerleading contests. Reluctantly she agreed, but after each contest, she immediately put her orthopedic boot back on. Nikita knew she had to take the time to heal, but when she was required to try out to keep her spot on the team, she knew it was time to move on.
“I’m about safety and I felt like it wasn’t safe anymore,” Knight stated. “I need my body for the rest of my life, so I said goodbye to that.”
Practicing Jui-Jitsu filled the void that cheerleading left behind, but only for a short time. Being choked out was not what Nikita aspired for. Though she enjoyed contending on the mat she was not a fan of being strangled. Nikita knew that she loved competing and physical activity, so she was determined to find her path.
Scrolling through Instagram one day led her to a posting of the WWE. Following the wrestling news sparked an interest in her and she started watching more of it on television. Wrestling encompassed everything Nikita loved. It contained the hard work that gymnastics had, the performance side that she experienced in competitive cheerleading, and the fighting aspect that Jui-Jitsu offered.
“I like single-person sports because I can control my pacing. I went to my dad and I asked him how could I get into pro wrestling,” Knight commented. “He looked at me like I was crazy, I told him that wrestling was what I needed to be doing.”
As soon as Nikita turned 17, she was able to start training. Learning the multi-facets of the profession began for her at the Stronghold Wrestling Academy in Lamont Furnace, Pa. From the beginning, Nikita felt right at home because of Brandon’s emphasis on safety.
Focusing on acting and character development is important to Nikita. Due to her background, in gymnastics and cheerleading, performing flips is just something she is accustomed to. Being partial to the Lucha Libre style of wrestling is something the Spartan Warrior has always gravitated to.
Wrestlers like the Undertaker and Randy Savage have always been entertaining for Nikita to watch, but that has changed. Rey Mysterio, Rey Fenix, and Pentagon Jr. are now her favorites. It has a lot to do with the similarities to her very first sport.
Being signed to a major wrestling company such as AEW or the WWE is a goal for Nikita. However, at 18 years old, she is in no hurry to rush the process. Nikita is comfortable with the advice and guidance that she is getting from Brandon, and knows that she has been properly instructed to execute moves in the ring the right way.
“I’ve heard stories that people have gone out to hurt each other. Their careers were cut short and they didn’t need to be,” Knight exclaimed! “I think wrestlers need to know that we do things a certain way so we keep our opponents safe as well. I want to do this as long as I can and I don’t want to end up in a wheelchair.”