|Shantelle Taylor - Photo courtesy of www.allmyendings.net/shantelle/
If time management skills are the keys to achieving goals in life, then Toronto-based independent wrestler Shantelle Taylor may very well be on her way to success, both in and out of the ring.
"I have been busy my whole life and I learned at a young age time management when balancing sports and school," said Taylor in an interview with SLAM! Wrestling.
An active professional wrestler for over two years, Taylor (real name Shantelle Malawski) not only must endure the rigors of the ring, but the academic hurdles as a second-year psychology student at the University of Toronto.
"Most of my life right now is spent in the wrestling and fitness gym and I'm on the road a lot," she said. "It just seems natural to me to have that bit of added stress. I think it makes me a better student because I start all my work early and therefore, more time to proof read, or get any extra needed help."
Despite the maelstrom that is Taylor's schedule, this 20-year-old still managed to achieve some significant goals wrestling wise this past year. Perhaps most noteworthy was performing on a three-show tour of South Africa in December.
"It was thanks to Scott D'Amore. He emailed me one day and said there's this tour in South Africa," explained Taylor in how she came to participate on the overseas excursion. "They were looking for an enthusiastic, perky, blond babyface and that's how they got me."
Taylor would match up against American independent grappler Jessica "One Dirty Bitch" Parker. "We had great matches; we have really good ring chemistry. We can really go at it and those were the three best matches I've had this year," noted Taylor.
Both would find themselves rubbing shoulders with a variety of former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) names, including Rikishi, Kevin Nash, Andrew "Test" Martin, Sean O'Haire, Rick and Scott Steiner, Barbarian and The Warlord.
"The tour was such an eye opener for me. It really enforced that this is really what I want to do for the rest of my life," said Taylor. "They (fans) were fabulous. They're definitely not as quiet as they are here in Canada. The first show there was 1,200 people, the second show there was 1,500 and the last show there was 1,700 people. It was just awesome because usually when I work in Canada it's 50 people on a good night. It was great just hearing those pops from that many people."
Like most of her wrestling peers, Taylor caught the pro wrestling bug in her younger years. But as she explained, it was not from watching wrestling on the television set in her home.
"For me, my mom wasn't actually a big advocate of allowing me to watch wrestling," Taylor said. "However, my uncle, he was a huge wrestling fan and he got pay per views every month so he always had me over at his house to watch. I was just completely infatuated with the athleticism."
The attraction would be a natural one, baring in mind Taylor's own achievements in a variety of sports, specifically excelling in the sport of ringette. "My athletic career started in ringette. It's just for girls; it's played on ice -- just like hockey, minus the blade on the end of the stick (a ring is used instead of a puck). I played that until I was 17."
It was at that age that Taylor made the choice to focus on her scholastic studies at Silverthorn Collegiate Institute, while working part-time as a fitness instructor at a local gym. While working there, she would become aware of a local wrestling school.
"A wrestler, who also worked there part-time, he had told me about it," said Taylor, who was only 17 at that time. "I went to their gym and I watched training sessions. As soon as I was down there I had this electric urge. I was like 'I really want to do this.' I eventually did six months at that training facility."
The reason for the short tenure at the undisclosed wrestling school was the fact that it was shut down, taking a sizeable amount of Taylor's money along with it.
"They screwed me out of about two grand," stated Taylor. "It didn't matter because I already had caught the bug. It became the most abusive, passionate relationship and I've been addicted every since."
Fortunately for Taylor, a fellow trainee pointed her to a new location to train in the Toronto area in the spring of 2002. It would turn out to be The Squared Circle training facility.
"He had actually found the school on the internet," recalled Taylor. "He had told me about it and I was really desperate to continue in this field. I looked it up on the internet and talked to my parents because it was my parents funding me in this situation at first."
One phone call later and Taylor was on her way to take in what the facility had to offer. So what was the verdict?
"The first day I got there it was a completely different experience," said Taylor. "No one shot off any names to me that had been training at that school. The facility itself was much cleaner; it actually looked like a wrestling gym, opposed to someone just put up a backyard ring in a dirty, filthy basement."
It was there that the 5-foot-3 Taylor would meet head trainer Rob "El Fuego" Etcheverria.
"Rob is probably the most pro women's wrestling trainer that I know of," praised Taylor.
"He really has a knack for working with women. He's just more than excited to bring in new girls to his facility."
Plunging head-on into her new home, Taylor would dedicate a full year of learning the rope under Fuego's direction. Among some observers, Squared Circle is noted for its focus on lucha libre style of wrestling. While confirming this, Taylor also made it clear that other styles of wrestling are also taught.
"Rob has a lot of background when it comes to lucha, that's what he watched growing up," explained Taylor. "Obviously anything that has his style influences all of his students to some degree. He teaches us all styles; I don't' think it's fair to say that we're a lucha school. Rob just teaches us all how to be well rounded wrestlers."
Making her debut in June of 2003, Taylor would hit the indy circuit where fans would get a chance to see her in ring, more often than not, facing off against her provincial rival and fellow Square Circle trainee, Tiana Ringer (real name).
"Tiana is great," said Taylor. "Even though she's consistently my opponent, she's also my best friend. She works really hard; she's great in the ring. We've trained together ever since from the beginning, she actually has six months ahead of me before I got to Rob's school. We've basically grown up together in this business. It's hard enough being a woman in the business, but it's twice as hard being a really young woman in this business. Thank goodness for her because we've always had each other's back. "
The hardship of being a female in pro wrestling has taken on new meaning in this day and era, with WWE, and other promotions, making an unapologetic, full-court press in promoting women as objects of sexual desire, versus serious athletes.
Rest assured, as attractive as Taylor is, she is all too aware of the challenges of winning the crowd over with her abilities.
"It's hard to be taken seriously as a woman because there are a lot of things out there that have shunned women's wrestling; it's turned into catfights and bra and panty matches. I think the fans sometimes would be just happy if we just pulled our hair and rolled around," remarked Taylor. "I understand that there's that physical appearance you have to have and I work really hard at it. I work out every day and keep a healthy diet."
If catering to fans expectations on looks is not enough of a challenge for women wrestlers, it's the perceived notion that females are simply not good in the ring performance wise.
"There are a lot of girls that aren't trained that call themselves wrestlers that go out and embarrass the rest of us girls who have worked so real hard to have some sort of status," observed Taylor. "Every time I go to a new place I see the look on the boys' faces when a new girl shows up. They just expect the worse out of us. Then when they find out I'm young, I sorta feel like I'm not being taken seriously at first."
Fortunately for Taylor, she had the chance to travel to a country where women's wrestling is taken seriously: Mexico. As it turned out, a certain famous Canadian luchadora played a big role in making this happen.
"Sarah Stock had actually come to the school and trained with me," Taylor said. "She was interested in helping out other girls from Canada to come down. She just asked me 'Are you interested in coming down?' and I was like 'Absolutely.'"
"She is probably the most level-headed, strong, independent woman I ever met," praised Taylor in reference to Stock and her accomplishments in Mexico. "Every time she is in the ring, she's just very focused, she's just out there to always have a good match. She helped me out a lot down there, and I completely admire her."
Along with Jessica Parker, Taylor would find herself residing in Monterrey in June of 2005, training and wrestling in the fast-paced, lucha libre style. It was the perfect scenario to put her training to the test with her Mexican counterparts.
"I was training everyday while I was down there, which really enhanced my lucha libre style," she said. "It just made me that much crisper and quicker and more sure on my feet. I felt much more confident after I left."
South Africa, Mexico -- a productive year to say the least for someone with only a few years in the business. However, Taylor would get one more special experience to top off her year -- a try-out session with WWE in Buffalo, NY in December of 2005.
"I had the pleasure of being put through a rigorous training session at WWE with Steve Kern and Fit Finlay," told Taylor. "It was extremely intense. At the end of the day, I'd do it all over again because it was truly a positive experience and really fueled me to work extra hard. I learned that hard work is never over looked. You always have to give your all because half-heartedly doing anything is truly frowned upon."
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Corey David Lacroix can be emailed at email@example.com.