(Interview Conducted 09/23/2019)
In 2006, you won the championship match by using fellow Canadian Bret Hart’s signature move in Toronto. With that, you became the winningest Women’s Champion as well. This seems to be the perfect storybook ending for your character. What pushed you to return to the ring over the years?
Well, in this particular instance of my SummerSlam return, it was sort of the perfect chance to do it. It was in Toronto and I actually had to face Charlotte [Flair], one of the best of this generation.
I feel like it was sort of a personal challenge, kind of like, “Could I do it?” Over seven years at the time and two children later was the Royal Rumble. That went well and I enjoyed it. As a performer you will never, never lose it. You just do what you do, go out there and perform, deliver and you evoke that emotion from the crowd.
When I return for Evolution, I got a chance to have a little bit of a longer match because it was a tag match. The thought that it was possibly my last match occurred to me. I think I was possibly okay with it at the time, but then when the opportunity presents itself that would be in Toronto it was just a perfect opportunity to propose that this could happen.
So yeah, we spoke and decided this would be a really great marquee attraction. They pinned me and Charlotte Flair together and I think the fans were really into it. It was great opportunity for me to come back and work with someone of the generation that I feel like we had some hand in developing. A lot of them look back to some of the work that myself and Lita did, and they say that we were their role models or that they were influenced by us. It is kind of cool to go back and dip my toes into the current waters.
Like you said, it has been 13 years since you originally retired. You’ve got two young children, you’re 43, and you look just as capable now of handling the physical demands as you did in your prime. How have you managed to maintain that?
Gosh, I was surprised myself! There was a point where I was like, “What did I just sign myself up for?” Certainly, that thought did come in and out. It occurred to me at one point I could literally ruin my entire legacy with one poor performance tonight. I’ve always been about delivering 110% and I would never bring anything less. There was a lot of pressure on me for that match and you never know [what could happen]. You can have all the practice you want and ring time you want, but you really don’t know until you’re actually in that scenario. Everything is different and an elevated level on so many fronts.
There is incorporating the crowd and the adrenaline and all that stuff. Knowing that it’s a live performance, you really can’t predict what is going to happen. I think that maybe I thrive on that type of challenge and it was something I was excited to tackle. I was very pleased. To be honest, at the end of the day I just pat myself on the back. I was pretty proud of my body.
You mentioned the unpredictability in an environment where there is so much energy and action taking place in front of a live audience. Things won’t always go as planned. Mick Foley had his unexpected fall in the Hell in a Cell match and Vince McMahon blew out both quads while entering the ring in 2005. Of course, there are tons of other similar stories. What was the most memorable match of yours that didn’t go as planned?
I’d have to say it was Backlash back around 2005. It was the Backlash match against Mickie James and I dislocated my shoulder during that. We were having a great match. We had actually worked the weekend show for a couple weeks and we had this great spot we kept coming to.
We’d end up on the turnbuckle, throw some punches, and we’d get thrown off. At that time, as I was failing, I saw the ring stairs there. I thought, “Whoa, that’s not going to be good!”
I put my arm down to throw my body the other way, but then my body went over my arm the wrong way and popped my shoulder out. We went on to continue the match for a while because it took a little bit for me to get the message to everybody that things weren’t good. One moment my arm was working and the next it was dangling out of its socket.
That was going to be a hell of a match; we were so excited about that. We had reached a real good point in our story line. People were excited about coming on the drive with us for so long. Mickie and I have been told that it was one of the longest female driven storylines, so that was really cool. We were getting really involved until that thing happened. That was one of those unpredictable things can happen. I was in a lot of pain, but I kept trying. I kept up my trash talking until the lights went out.
Then I was like, “Oh, my god. My arm!” I could literally see myself on the tron trash talking with my arm dangling around. After it went dark it popped in and felt a little bit better, but I had fractured something in there too. It was a small bone fracture where a bit of a bone spur had come off. That was the only real “big injury” that I had in the ring.
So how did you come up with some of your biggest finishers, like the “Stratusfaction”?
We were working together one day and Michael Hayes gave me the running bulldog, then we evolved it. I think the first time I used was actually when I won the championship. We just took the running bulldog to another level, did the springboard bulldog, and called it Stratusfaction. And that was the end of that, or maybe I should say the beginning of that.
The Stratusphere in the corner was actually something that I saw on Mortal Combat. I remember thinking, “That is neat. I need to try that!” It was really cool. I would work in the ring a lot of times like during the day and all of the guys were really good about being there for me if I needed help or if I would want to try out a new move.
Is it still strange going from a displaced college student, as you never intentionally got into the career, to having a Funko Pop modeled after you earlier this month?
One hundred percent. Oh my gosh, sometimes I just look back and wonder how all this happened. It seems like such a blur. It has been 20 years at this point. It’s great when newer fans or even a babysitter I had come over and are shocked that I am a wrestler. They want to know how I got into wrestling and if I always wanted to be a wrestler. That seems to be the number one question I get. The answer is no. When I was growing up there really wasn’t an option for a female. At that time, there was nobody I could look to and say, “I want to be like that when I grow up.” It was certainly not like it is today. I loved wrestling and was into it as a tomboy growing up, but I never thought that it was something that I wanted to do (outside of wrestling with my cousins on the weekends). It was a lot of just the right place at the right time circumstances.
I had my plans to go to med school and I did not veer off my track at all. I was proposed a number of things that didn’t make sense in my path. I got proposed to do the Miss Teen Canada pageant, which was a great opportunity, but it was not anything in line with what I wanted to do. Since my university was on strike I had the opportunity to do some things.
I got to do the fitness modeling, which led to being on a TV show. Like I said, it was just being in the right place at right time. I did my training, got that under my belt, and ended up having my first fight in 2000. I still look back and wonder how I got here. Even when the Pop came out I was like, “What? I am this retired wrestler from around thirteen years ago now and I am getting a Pop? That is so cool!” It is a testament to my work and it is really cool to look back on.
Aside from having a Funko Pop, you are also in the WWE Hall of Fame. Obviously, this is a huge accomplishment. What legacy do you want people to remember you by?
I think just showing people that hard work always gets them to where they want to get to; it never fails you. I definitely would say that I never had a day of ease. It was hard work all the way. I came from a place where I was very green and inexperienced, but I learned on the road. I knew that I wanted to do this and I knew that if I put the work in that I would see the results. I would say that if you put the work in that you’ll see and reap the benefits.
I believed that I could do this and it was always a challenge for me. It was a new industry, not just the industry itself but also for me since it was something I hadn’t done. I conquered that, but at the time when I entered there wasn’t really a role for the females. I knew that I wanted to change the perception of what females can do in the ring, and I knew that I was capable of more. I just wanted to show them what I could do. I wanted to knock down the preconceived notion of what females could do in the ring.
I made it a mission to do that and I think we accomplished it nicely. We look back now and hear a lot of the girls saying that we were their inspiration in the beginning. It’s really humbling and gratifying. It makes you feel great about the work you put into it.
Final question. You originally retired to spend more time with your husband and live a normal life. Now, you’ve got business ventures across the board. You have a hand in everything from your own yoga studio to clothing lines to your onscreen presence. What’s the secret of balancing all of that and still being able to be so involved with your growing family?
I just sort of found this out this past year. I start by recognizing the importance and prioritizing things. I used to give everything my top priority, but you have to look at the big picture and figure out what comes first.
I cut off my work at three o’clock. I used to take my work home. I know that as an entrepreneur you really have no choice because you have to in the beginning. I’m really blessed to have a great team. They have been with me for over the past decade or so. You have to have a great support system. I’ve always said that what got me through the crazy WWE schedule was my support chain. I would come home and have my husband to talk to. I had my mom to talk to on the road. I had a large number around that supported me and let me do what I did out there.
I am at the point now where I have a little bit more flexibility. I don’t have to go in every day. They are basically running the ship and I just pop in when I need to. I remember the line that says “you know true success when you learn to delegate”. I resented that for the longest time because I thought that it was so great that I was so hands on. I thought that I didn’t need to delegate and that I could do everything myself. I realized that I was getting completely burnt out, that I was overworked, and that I was being stripped of my family time.
I would put my kids to bed, work until three in the morning, go to sleep, wake up, and nap with them because I was so tired. Now I realize that I probably had people the entire time that were like, “Could you let me do my job?” I might have been micromanaging a tad.
Now we’ve got a real good start and we have established our ground language. They do everything in the name of me. They’re really great about just putting up the representation that I need, which makes me feel comfortable and able to step away.
I really saw it happen when I decided to take a bit of leave after having my second child. When I came to work I thought, “Wow, you guys have got this. You don’t even need me.” Apparently, I did a great job building my team. I have an amazing team and that makes all the difference, they allow me to balance everything.