Victoria talks ankle, divas and weddings
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
© 2006 World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
From her home in Kentucky, Victoria wants to send a shout out to her fans concerned over her recent ankle injury. She's okay. In fact, the injury came at a decent time, and she landed a week's vacation while the Raw crew is in Australia. But, ever the professional, she still took time to talk to SLAM! Wrestling about everything from the injury to Trish Stratus' upcoming wedding.
Much more easy-going in conversation than one might expect from her intense, in-ring persona, Victoria (the 35-year-old Lisa Marie Varon) still can't believe her good luck.
"I have the week off, which is unheard of," she said with a hearty laugh.
The injury she suffered two weeks ago during a taping of Heat in a match against Torrie Wilson isn't as bad as many feared.
"I tore my ACL three years ago. Not this past Monday, but the Monday before, Torrie and I had a match on Heat. She tried to do the atomic drop on me, and the timing was off. I don't know what happened. I rolled my ankle, which is the same side as my knee brace," Victoria explained. "So all over the Internet, I'm getting emails from everybody, 'Are you okay?', 'Do you need to have surgery on your knee?' I just sprained my ankle."
The Heat program just airs on WWE.com. "It made me feel good that people are actually watching the Heat matches," she said. "It made me feel missed. They were all really concerned."
Injuries to the women's ranks in the WWE have derailed many a career recently.
"This year is crazy with Trish Stratus' shoulder, my knee/ankle, Beth Phoenix, I slapped her in her debut match, gave her a slap and broke her jaw in three places; she had to get her jaw replaced with a metal plate," she said. "We're all trying to push the level. Every match, we want to try to make it a little more dangerous, more risqué. We want to do the same things the boys are doing. It's tough. It's a tough sport, it's not for everybody. It's dangerous."
Phoenix is waiting in the wings for her revenge against Victoria. "She's a strong competitor, and she's going to be coming back angry after her jaw being broken. We don't know what to expect when she comes back. She's due back any day," said Victoria, joking that she is banned from doing any more slapping in matches.
With the emphasis on T&A, and the constant influx of new divas, Victoria admits there is a lot of pressure both on the newcomers and on her.
"In the business, they consider me a veteran, and I've only been in the business six years. I don't consider myself a veteran. I still look at myself as pretty green. I'm still learning. It's impossible to know everything," she said. "The new divas, there's a lot of pressure on them. They're expected to learn fairly quickly. It's pretty dangerous to try to learn quickly. When we're put in the ring with someone that is not as experienced, it's dangerous on both parts. You have to be careful. It's nerve wracking. I do go to the ring a little more nervous than normal, than going in the ring with Mickie James or Trish or Beth Phoenix. The new girls, I'm a little wary. Even Torrie Wilson is getting good."
She admits there is nothing she can really do about the T&A aspect of the current product. "It comes around, it's like a roller coaster, there's a time and a moment," she comments. "I think you still have a little handful of the hardcore wrestling girls. We still would not like to do the bra and panties matches, but we try to even make those tough. We're trying to bring it back."
Her character is decidedly heel, teaming with WWE Women's champ Mickie James for many matches. She also did an evil stint with Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson as a trio that would turn heads. That required a significant shift for Victoria's wardrobe. At the beginning, Victoria would wear pants in the ring, but at one point, she bought a short outfit and the powers that be kept at her.
"They're like, 'Why don't you wear shorts? You look good. You're strong. You have strong legs. You should show that off.' I was like, 'Okaaayyy.' I ended up having to go buy a new wardrobe," she said. "The bra and panties is basically what I wear out there, you know what I mean? It's just there. I wear stockings, fishnet stockings, that kind of make me thing I'm wearing pants. But in my mother and father's eyes, I'm still scantily clad. They don't like the way I dress at all."
It's an uphill battle to be taken seriously, she admits. "There's not very much to leave to your imagination. We're practically naked out there. We still try to get the respect. We understand the girls need to be sexy in there. We're sexy in there, and we're also tomboys. We like to kick some butt, and just get hardcore."
Victoria's road to the WWE was a little unorthodox. She studied bio-med at the University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University, and planned on becoming a doctor. She worked at an organ and tissue donation bank in California and was heavily into bodybuilding. A chance meeting at her gym led to fitness competitions, and she was ESPN's Fitness America Series champion in 1997.
Already familiar with Torrie Wilson and Trish Stratus from the fitness world, Varon met Joanie Lauer, aka Chyna, at a gym in 2000 and Lauer encouraged her to give wrestling a try. (She had already been in a WCW skit with Scott Hall thanks to Wilson.) It wasn't long before Varon was hired by WWE and assigned to UPW in California. From there, she moved to other developmental territories in Memphis and Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville, Kentucky, where she was for almost three years learning the ropes. She also was one of the Godfather's "ho's" at one point.
"I went through three years of developmental training camp before I got brought up. In the developmental camp, I was trained by Eugene, Rob Conway, [Randy] Orton; I was in a great class at that time, so I learned from the best. It's different now. A lot of kids are getting involved. I don't know who they're looking up to training," she said.
Victoria made the big-league roster in 2002 and hasn't looked back, winning the WWE women's title on two occasions. She's feuded with just about every woman who has been on the roster, and worked (somewhat awkwardly) as a babyface for a short stint as well.
She has battled Trish Stratus perhaps more than anyone, and that has been a challenge - but a good one. "I also think that part of the business is the closer you are outside the ring, the more dangerous the matches are, I guess you could say," Victoria said. "I think the trust issue is in each other's hands. We're more willing to do more risky stuff. Trish and I ended up having a lot more hardcore, street fights. We wanted more ladders, we wanted to do a little bit more dangerous stuff. We were both willing to put our bodies on the line. I hope to have that in the future."
At good spirit outside the ring, she shared details of the women's locker room. "It's a family. You're going to get little tiffs, like a sister. But we don't hold grudges very long. If there's a problem in the locker room, our locker rooms are very, very small, usually 10'x10'. You basically have to get along. But once we go in the ring, there's no friendship there. It's all business, and we all want to win," she said. "We like to throw down."
But while on the subject of friendship, Victoria acknowledged that she is going to Trish Stratus' wedding at the end of September. "Her Chick Kick has kicked me many times in the ears. I'm shocked I don't have cauliflower ear," recalled Victoria, musing about a black eye for Stratus to impress the photographers at the wedding. "Wouldn't that be hilarious, though?" she laughed. "Maybe I might give her a gift a little bit early."
PROGRAMMING NOTE: A reminder that WWE Monday Night Raw switches to The Score from TSN, starting tonight, with an 10 p.m. ET start time.
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Greg Oliver, Producer for SLAM! Wrestling, is about as far as you can get from a Diva. In fact, when you read this, he'll be at Scout camp for a week, letting the (ever-greying) beard grow out and changing clothes only when the shirt gets up and walks away.