AICN ON THE MAT: The Writing Rambler grapples (verbally) with Women’s Wrestling Champion Trish Stratus!
@’s by Trish Stratus!!!
WRITING RAMBLER (WR): Hey, Trish--how are you?
TRISH STRATUS (TS): Good, How are you?
WR: Great, Thanks so much for talking with us today.
TS: My pleasure.
WR: Okay, So first off, the2013 Hall of Fame induction. Everyone has been talking about how great this year’s class of Inductees are. Many people have been saying it is the best class that has been put out so far. What was it like to first get that information in January and when the announcement was made?
TS: I think my first reaction was just “Oh my gosh, seriously?” (laughter). It was just an honor, an absolute honor. I keep saying this but it feels like I was just wrestling yesterday so I kind of forget that I have been retired for about seven years now, and I’ve been away from the business for so long. I mean, thankfully I’ve had an active role since then, and maybe that’s why I don’t notice it, but yeah, it’s just been an honor. Then to hear the class I’d be inducted with, there were really two thoughts. One was that it’s super special. I can’t believe the caliber of people going in, and then thinking as a fan who grew up watching and being around wrestling, and then of course wrestling in the industry, I’m still just starstruck. I think it’s going to be an amazing evening. I mean, you just look at that list and you say, “That’s going to be a hell of an evening”. That night is going to be filled with all kinds of stories and magical moments so I’m just thrilled to be a part of it.
WR: Now for me being from New Jersey, this whole NY/NJ area is really on fire right now with WrestleMania being right around the corner. Just thinking about the Hall Of Fame Ceremony taking place in Madison Square Garden this year, there’s this sense of magic to it that makes it an even more special moment. Has that really hit you? That not only are you one of the youngest inductees ever, but that it’s taking place at such a revered place as the Garden?
TS: Yeah, it’s just all this awesome stuff like you mentioned. This class, I’m only the sixth female to go in, and then on top of that, it’s taking place at the Garden. For me, I actually had my last Raw match at the Garden, so to come back there now, for this, it’s like coming full circle. It’s really such an awesome moment, and it’s kind of cool because I think just about everyone has this sort of special connection with New York. You know (Donald) Trump obviously does, you have Mick Foley, a New York boy, and of course Bob Backlund and Bruno (Sanmartino), that’s where they became legends right there in Madison Square Garden. Then Booker T, obviously he has delivered many times in the Garden as well, so it’s kind of cool to see how everyone has the special connection to the Garden.
WR: Being one of the youngest to go in, having started at 24 and having so many accolades and achievements in a relatively short time, do you ever feel like you did leave it all too early? That maybe you could have achieved more?
TS: You know, I feel like I had a robust seven years, if that makes any sense. To be honest, I wouldn’t have retired if I felt like I hadn’t done everything I wanted to do. At that point in my career, I had worked with all of the females I had wanted to work with or that were workers within the company. I got to work with everyone from Ivory to Christy Hemme. Just every girl that came in I got a chance to dabble with or dance with, so I’m really blessed to have had those opportunities. My bucket list, so to speak, was being crossed off by becoming champion and changing the way women’s wrestling was perceived. That was something we set out to do, and I think we accomplished that with the group of women at the time, so I left feeling quite satisfied. I knew I was ready to move on. My mom had been diagnosed with cancer at the time, and sometimes there were moments where I was like “Am I making the right decision?” But when my mom got diagnosed, knowing the types of schedules that we had and that I wouldn’t be able to be by her side for her therapy, I knew this was the universe telling me that it was time to move on at that moment. I mean, the door is always open if I had the opportunity to go back. It was the right time when I left and I felt satisfied with having worked with all of the girls I had worked with at the time. Of course, when I left and then watching, it got me excited again for sure watching Beth (Phoenix) and Natty (Neidhart) do their thing. They came up and were doing some really awesome work. Michelle McCool as well, and this new crop of divas that were doing this awesome stuff in the ring, that’s when I got the itch again for sure and I was not quiet about it. I thought that would be cool to go back there, and thankfully I had the opportunity to go back and work with Beth twice and I had a chance to work with Michelle McCool and Layla as well. So thankfully I got to “scratch my itches“, so to speak. Even at this point I’ll never say I’d close the door because you never know what can happen.
WR: I think a lot of us as fans look forward to that. That whole idea of “when is Trish coming back?” Especially around this time of year for WrestleMania. It’s that time when after a year of buildup you really just celebrate the industry as a whole. So there are definitely a lot of people out there who would love to see you come back and do it again.
Now when you first started, it was kind of a different time. I think you and some of the other divas, but especially you, really raised the bar for women’s wrestling. Wrestling has always been a boys club and there was always yelling and “catcalling” from the crowd, but as you progressed you could see the level of respect grow with the fans. What did that feel like, knowing that you were reaching people in a way that they hadn’t been reached before?
TS: It was definitely something that I was really aware of. I knew that it was something that I wanted to take on. I worked with Fit Finley. He was my mentor, and it was literally something that we set out to do. I remember looking at him and I said “I don’t want go out there and fight like a girl”. You know, the hair pulls and the catfights, I just felt we can do more than that, and I knew physically I could do more than that because I had been training for months doing other stuff. I just knew we could do that but hadn’t had the chance to yet. It was a lot of work; we had to almost reeducate the fans on what to expect from women. Yeah, there was a transition period where you still had the “Puppy” chants and whatnot, but I think the hard work started to pay off, and people started to stand up and take notice and know that we were starting to deliver something that was as good as the men’s action, especially when it was then fueled by storyline and we brought a certain depth of character that made a huge difference. It really changed the dynamic from what the women were doing, and then I think it was just a matter of keeping up the pace. No doubt, it was hard work because you knew that every week you went out there you had to remind them what we were going to do and keep raising the bar. My personal goal was to go out there and do better than I had done the last week. To do something, show a different side of women and present a different side of women’s wrestling, so it was hard work every single week that we went out there, but I’m happy to say I think we accomplished that. I know there was a rise in the female demographic at that point. There were women coming up to us saying “you’re my role model”, and it wasn’t because we were doing this cool thing on TV, it was because we were women making it in a male-dominated world, and to show such a strong role model was really powerful and empowering to women. So it was just great times and I had such a great support system with the other girls at that time. That’s what we wanted to do. We wanted to show a different side, and every week that’s what we fought for.
WR: As a father of two daughters I remember during that time being happy if they wanted to watch your matches or cheer for you because there was something really positive and inspiring about it. As someone who has experienced it all, what advice would you have for a young woman looking to start in this business that despite everything is still a very male-dominated industry? Any advice you could give that you think would really help them out?
TS: I would remind them right off the bat that you’re definitely going into a boy’s world. It’s always going to be a boy’s world, so definitely expect that. Know that going in. Going in with a solid training and an understanding of the industry, and when I say the industry, I mean understand the mechanics of a match not only physically but also understand the psychology. It’s super important to go in with that knowledge. For me, people say “how did you learn to wrestle so quickly?”, but I went in as a fan, I studied it, I knew how to do a body slam properly and I understood the psychology of what happens in the ring, why good guys and bad guys do what they do in the ring, and I think that’s what helped with my lessons in the ring. So I say to women, get a really good solid training background, and also, get a backup plan. There’s definitely a shelf life for wrestlers, and especially women’s wrestlers. Physically you just can’t do it forever, you really just can’t. If you have a backup plan then at the end of the day you know you’re okay. Then you can just go in there and be passionate about it. There’s just no way you can do 300 days a year on the road schedule unless you’re passionate about it and you’re willing to sacrifice leaving your family and all that. I’d love to have that little pep talk with each girl that wants to go in there. These are the stories and pep talks that I had, and I was very blessed to have a few people in my life that really gave me those eye-opening words that let me go in and make a difference.
WR: Growing up as a fan, was there one particular woman or match in general that really made you want to do this?
TS: I guess I can’t say that there was really any women, because there really was no role for women for us to watch growing up that made me say “that’s who I want to be when I grow up”. I feel like that’s the kind of work that we did in 2001-2006, I guess. For me it was Macho Man (Randy Savage); I was a huge fan of his as a kid--he was my idol. I was a big tomboy as a kid; I grew up with my cousins and we played wrestling, we went to Maple Leaf Gardens and it was just something that I did, it was part of my upbringing. I was always just amazed by what they did--they were like real life superheroes, that’s what it was. To me, I realized as I got into the industry that there are only a handful of people in this world that can do what we do and to be able to be athletic and to be an entertainer at the same time and combine that, I mean, that’s some real life super hero stuff right there, and that’s something I never thought I’d get into at the time because there was no “that’s what I want to be when I grow up” for wrestlers at that time. I wanted to be a doctor growing up, which is very different, but that dream to be a doctor went away and I became a wrestler instead. It was just real life superheroes that you saw, and to me Macho Man was the man, he was the one that I played as. I cut his promos as a kid. He had the perfect combination of an athlete and a sports entertainer. He made it being a sports entertainer absolutely. He was the one who clearly defined that.
WR: Finally, with everything happening now, as you prepare for the Hall of Fame, is there any one thing that you could point to as your “Moment”? What would it be?
TS: It was a moment that I shared with Mickie James. It was our WrestleMania 22 match in Chicago. It was my last WrestleMania before I retired, and to me it was that match that epitomized what women’s wrestling was finally brought to. That level that we finally brought it to. Everything about that match, the storylines, the character development, the crowd involvement, everything about that match was all of the hard work we had put in over the years. Knowing we had that match, it was like “okay, we did it, kid” and to share that moment with a great friend of mine like Mickie was just really special.
WR: Trish, thanks so much for speaking with us today. I’m sure your fans are really going to enjoy hearing what you had to say. We appreciate it and best of luck with the Hall of Fame; we’ll be cheering for you.
TS: Thanks, I appreciate it.
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