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COMMENT





KC Houston: One tough mother
By GREG OLIVER - Co-Producer, SLAM! Wrestling


Rhonda Sing has a chain around KC Houston's neck. - courtesy KC Houston

REAL NAME: Kathy Stockton
BORN: Edmonton, Alberta
5'9", 140-145 pounds
AKA: KC Houston

Strap matches, cage matches and street fights aren't bouts normally associated with women's wrestling, yet Edmonton's K.C. Houston did those and many other crazy matches during her 13-year career.

Houston has taken on many different opponents over the years, but she is most defined by the two women she fought the most (violently), Desiree Peterson and Rhonda Sing. She took on Desiree Peterson in the first ever women's strap match in Canada, and Sing in the first ever women's cage match in Canada. She later worked with Sing for the first ever mixed tag team match in South Africa.

Now out of the business, and raising a two-year-old son in Edmonton, K.C. Houston took the time to recount her career with SLAM! Wrestling.

Growing up in Alberta's capital, Kathy Stockton was a wrestling fan, watching the stars of Stampede Wrestling and often attending the matches. When she was at a Stampede show at age 17, she was approached about joining the business. "Somebody who set up for the Harts asked me if I wanted to train. He'd worked with some other guys, sort of gotten Benoit into it," she recalled. Having played many sports in school, including track, soccer and gymnastics, Stockton jumped at the chance.

"They would set up the rings early ... so they would set them up, and I'd go down in the afternoon and train with some of the guys," she explained. Most of the time, she was the only woman training, which went on for well over a year, every Saturday afternoon. Later a warehouse was set up with a ring on a more permanent basis, and Stockton worked with lots of different wrestlers.

For a while, there was another woman training with her. "I liked training with the guys. I almost preferred that to working with the girl because she didn't want to do as much. I was more into the power moves and stuff like that."

Wrestling was tougher than she thought it would be. "The toll it takes on your body. ... you don't think there's as much as there is to learn. Every little thing makes a big difference - you twist one way and land the wrong way, and that could be it."

KC was a childhood nickname, so that became her in-ring name, but Stockton doesn't remember exactly who came up with the last name Houston. She debuted with a win on Oct. 12, 1986 in the ICWA indy promotion, defeating Jessie Powers.

A short time later, Stampede Wrestling came calling. "The Harts approached me and said they had some girls from Japan coming in, and would I be interested in working. Um, yeah! Stampede was the biggest thing going. I started in to get my exposure managing some of the guys in Stampede, the Karachi Vice, Great Gama, Makhan Singh, Gerry Morrow, Viet Cong Express. Then I ended up tagging with Rhonda and we worked against Devil Masami and Mika Komatsu ... that was a rude awakening, I'll tell you."

The Japanese imports put a real buzz in the Stampede promotion, following the legions of Japanese male workers that had been through the territory over the years.

KC Houston celebrates a victory over Rhonda Sing. - Courtesy KC Houston

It was a wonderful learning experience. "I had seen a clip of Devil before and wondered what I was getting into because she could fight guys, kick most guys' butts. She's a tough, tough woman. I was a little leery on that one. By the end of the tour, I earned their respect and learned a lot more about wrestling."

With her experience with the Japanese strong-style of wrestling, Rhonda Sing was an invaluable ally and friend to KC. "She gave me good advice on working with them and also about the business itself."

Biff Wellington was around Stampede Wrestling as KC Houston was starting. "She just took to it real quick," he said. "You never had to show her anything twice. She took to it real, real fast."

Stampede's Ross Hart recalled Houston as a "nice girl who was very reliable and a decent worker."

Houston lived in Calgary while working for Stampede. "They always had an opportunity. They would be bringing in different girls. That was the big thing back then. If you could stick in with something like that, you're fortunate. It's better than working in mud wrestling."

"All KC was able to do was work with Rhonda Sing. That was all we had here," recalled John Kobal, who helped Stampede promote Lethbridge and refereed as well. "She was a good worker, but working with Rhonda was a handicap for her because she's not that big compared to Rhonda. She would work her buns off to give you an honest job. I was always impressed with her work ethic. She was very, very professional and very, very good at what she did."

After Stampede Wrestling folded, Houston, like the rest of the workers in the territory, had to find work where she could. "You book some promotion, the promoter pulls you in, 'Oh yeah, we've got this girl for you to work with.' It's an ex-peeler who just wants to be around the guys, and some guy trained her and she can only do a couple of moves."

The women on the Western Canadian scene were few and far between. Besides Peterson and Sing, Houston mentions B.C.'s Iron Maiden and Winnipeg's Miss Kitty Karson as being favourite foes.

"I remember hearing about this tough chick from Calgary," Miss Kitty Karson said. "I was very interested and intrigued to see who this was, and see what I can do with her."

Miss Kitty still can picture her opponent across the ring that night. "Her evil eyes glared right through you, and I was like, 'Oh shit, what am I up for now?' But then again, I said, 'Okay, I can handle this chick, no problem.' I wanted to show her what a Winnipeg woman had as opposed to a Calgary woman. We stepped into the ring and had an awesome match. She is very good to work with. She's a tough competitor, and shows no mercy on her opponents."

No mercy was definitely a trait that KC learned and improved upon following bouts with Rhonda Sing. "Not a lot of girls would work with Rhonda. Desiree won't," Houston said. "She's very stiff ... I got used to it, then that's how I ended up working."

Desiree Peterson was another thing. "Her and Rhonda, totally different. She's kind of headstrong. She's got her own way of seeing things and focuses in that way. ... It's not that she was difficult to work with. She had more experience than me too, and somebody with more experience, you've got to show respect and take for granted that the way they're seeing things is the best for both of you."

According to Wellington, Houston's ability to fit in helped her over the years. "She's a great person, you could just call her one of the boys, for sure," he said.

"I was almost like everybody's little sister, everybody took me under their wing and they would watch out for me, give me advice. It was nice having a little bit of protection around you, because you get some people in the business that aren't nice," Houston said. "I didn't get treated badly, but there were some that were obviously, they didn't care much for women wrestlers."

KC briefly considered trying to join The Fabulous Moolah's stable of women wrestlers to get more work across North America, but was talked out of it. Looking back at the career, she finds it apparent that some of the women were in the business for the action, and some were in it for the hunky wrestlers. "You get back to the girls who want to be in the business just to be around the boys. ... They wanted something different than what I wanted. I wanted the actual professionalism, be a real wrestler, not just a glamour girl."

The timing of Houston's career was all wrong, said Kobal. "She was one of the people that was at the right spot at the wrong time. When she was getting into the business, nobody was really interested in female wrestlers. She was a good worker. She applied her trade very well, but she couldn't get any notoriety anywhere because nobody was doing it."

Friends helped friends get booked. The Stampede grads were always quick to point to other Stampede grads when a promoter was looking for talent to fill out their cards. "I was lucky that way because I didn't really have to force myself down anyone's throat," she said with a chuckle.

Houston stopped wrestling in 2000, tired of the poor crowds and bad promotions. Does she miss it? "Yeah, I do. I do, but I don't. Once you're into it, it's hard to get it out of your system."

Would she go back? "I think I would with the right opportunity, working with the right people."

After wrestling, she worked in an office for a while, and later helped out in a daycare centre. Now, she's a full-time mom at home. She isn't ashamed of what she did over the years at all, and looks forward to sharing her wrestling experiences with her son. "I didn't do anything that would embarrass me, that I'm not proud of. Every time I went out there, I went out there totally and tried to give it my best."

Greg Oliver founded SLAM! Wrestling with John Powell way back in 1996, and has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. He is the author of the recently published book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians from ECW Press. Order it from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at goliver845@gmail.com.