|Tammy Sytch in October 2007 at the WrestleFest convention in San Francisco. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
When speaking to Tammy Sytch, it becomes evident very quickly that she is in a very happy place in her life. Established in a great relationship and refreshed after a break from the business, the woman who was a WWF pin-up idol in the 1990s as Sunny is really excited to be back in business.
"I took a little bit of time off, doing one show a month because I was back in college. In the summer of 2007 I started taking bookings again here and there," Sytch told SLAM! Wrestling from her home in New Jersey. "My schedule filled up pretty quickly, and once I appeared on the RAW 15th anniversary show I got swamped! I am a very, very busy girl right now."
It is a great experience for Sytch and fans alike for her to be back. Having recently appeared on Ring of Honor's sixth anniversary show in Manhattan, she spoke of the fans' reaction to seeing her up close and personal.
"At Ring of Honor so many 20, 22 year olds came up and said that they grew up watching me. It is the funniest thing. How can you possibly make me feel older than by saying you grew up watching me?" she asked, laughing. Having turned 35 on December 7th, it makes sense that people in their twenties had her as their first crush. "I got my job when I was 21. So at the time, 14 years ago, they were young eight-year-old kids. It is funny and makes me feel like the old lady in the room. The first time my boyfriend came with me to an event was a convention in New Jersey. He said 'I can't believe you have these grown men shaking and sweating and practically in tears when they are meeting you and taking pictures with you. I don't get it!' I had to explain to him that if he knew me at the height of my career than he would understand. At first he thought it was really funny. I appreciate every single person that comes out to meet me, without wrestling fans where would I be?"
Her two-year relationship with a Jersey City police officer is a frequent topic of discussion during our conversation, and her voice fills with enthusiasm and excitement whenever she speaks of him.
"I am grateful to have a normal boyfriend with a normal job because it is so much easier," she said. "We trust each other 100%. A lot of people in the wrestling business aren't trustworthy and are backstabbers, especially in relationships. I wouldn't want to have a relationship with anybody that is in the business anymore. I was so happy to meet John, it was like 'Oh my God, a normal job.' I give advice to every girl in the business to get a cop as a boyfriend because they are great. I hated cops before I met him but he is very stable and cops are good people."
But it wasn't without its challenges. "I had to teach him about the business, and he is a quick learner, and he supports it. He would love to see me go back and do something full time, he would, of course, miss me like crazy but he supports me. We just bought a new house and life is really good. Having a normal guy keeps me really grounded. He doesn't put me over or kiss my ass or treat me like Sunny, to him I am just Tammy. He is very, very good for me."
Sytch would certainly know about relationships in the business. She and high school sweetheart Chris Candido were together off and on for 15 years before his sudden death in 2005.
"Chris and I met when we were still in high school and he was just starting, so it's not like he was an established wrestler and I hooked up with him, we were high school sweethearts. We had our hard times. We were together almost 16 years but there were a few times where we had split up and had our own places for a few months here and there, but people didn't even know it because we still lead on on the road that everything was fine and dandy because it was nobody's business if we were together or not. It is very hard to have two people in the business and actually make it work. I have seen so many people fail."
Candido died on April 28, 2005 from a blood clot after he broke his fibula and tibia and dislocated his ankle in a cage match teaming with Lance Hoyt against Apollo and Sonny Siaki at TNA's Lockdown pay per view on April 25th. Understandably after losing someone so important in her life, Sytch battled depression.
"How would anybody be after someone in their life passes away? It sucked. It was the worst time of my life because I lost my best friend. We spent half of our lives together, we were together at 17 and I was 32 when he passed away," she recalled. "Right after Chris died I was in such a daze. When people pass away a lot of weird things happen to you. For a couple of months after he died, it's like I blacked out, I don't remember a lot. I remember I did Hardcore Homecoming but I can't remember what I did there. I can't even tell you how many Chris Candido memorial shows I went to, there were so many I lost count. I was so depressed and upset I couldn't focus on anything. I can't tell you if I had a good time or not because I honestly don't remember."
Then along came John.
Sunny as the Ottawa Sun Sunshine Girl in 1997. Photo by Fred Sherwin, Ottawa Sun files
"At the time I thought I was never going to meet anybody again, I thought that was it, he was the one. Seven months later, I wasn't even looking for anybody and John came into my life and that was it. I knew that was where I was supposed to be and that I had met him for a reason and he has made my life so much better."
As a side effect of her depression, Sytch also battled with her weight, and the criticism that some fans heaped on her from her appearances.
"I gained a lot of weight when Chris passed away because they put me on anti-depressants and when you are on them sometimes they have no effect and sometimes they blow you up, and unfortunately they blew me up. I wanted my doctor to take me off of them and she wouldn't. So I weaned myself off of them. Once you've taken anti-depressants it messes up your whole system. You really have to get that homeostasis back into your body before you can function normally."
Sytch credits John for getting her back into "Sunny shape."
"He motivated me. He told me 'You aren't going to be depressed anymore, you are going to go back to the gym and back on your diet and get back to you.' He trained my butt in the gym like a drill sergeant and got me back on track and out of that slump. Once everything stabilized, I got back on everything and the weight just melted away. It took a little while but I got my life centered and my metabolism back on track and now I am back into Sunny shape. For everybody who made fun of me when I was gaining weight, stick it up your ass."
She also made it clear that she started back in the gym for herself.
"I didn't want to make appearances when I was heavier. I did a couple of appearances here and there to pay some bills but I was back in college so it really didn't matter to me. I was upset that I wasn't in the best shape, because my health wasn't great because I was carrying the extra weight. I got back into shape for my health not for the way I look. When you get to a certain point and you are in love with somebody it doesn't really matter, that person loves you for you and doesn't care what you look like. Once I started seeing results I kept going. I am probably healthier than I have been in ten years right now. The healthier you are the happier you are, and vice versa. The life I lead right now with a happy relationship and no stress makes me look better too. Everything works together to make you feel and look your best."
While she loves her "normal life" Sytch did admit to having some worries about her boyfriend's job.
Tammy Sytch at Ring of Honor's sixth anniversary show. Photo by Bob Kapur
"He works midnights in Jersey City, which is the second toughest city in New Jersey behind Camden. Working the midnight shift is when you get the crazy stuff -- the homicides, rapes, murders, robberies, street fights left and right. He will call me up at night and tell me he broke up a street fight. He is trained in martial arts so every time there is a gang fight they call on him because if need be he can physically control situations. I know he can handle himself with his martial arts and MMA training so I am not worried in that sense. As far as him getting shot, of course it is in the back of my mind. I know he can take care of himself; the choice he made is to be a police officer. God forbid something happens, but he knew when he took the job that something could happen one day. Of course, I worry but there is really not much I can do past that."
Sytch is back on the road now, making appearances at independent wrestling events and conventions around the world. This time she is doing something different, and making sure she captures her memories.
"I just came back from Germany and England and it has been about 10 years since I have been to either of those places. The one thing I am doing different this time is I am bringing a camera with me. I have been in the business 18 years and been all over the world and have pictures of nothing. So now I am documenting my trips so I can say I was in Germany or England or Edmonton."
Her independent appearances bring her to Edmonton this Sunday for the Prairie Wrestling Alliance's seventh anniversary show and to Winnipeg March 7th for WFX.
"I am psyched. I love going back to places I haven't been to in years. I love the mall in Edmonton so I am definitely going to be hitting there before the show. Uh oh, did I just give a clue to the stalkers in Edmonton about where I am going to be? Maybe I will wear a wig," she joked. "For some reason I was always over more in Canada than the States. Canadian fans can be a little bit nuts. It will be great to go back and see the Canadian fans again and I just hope as many people as possible come out and say hi."
Dec. 13, 2001: Sunny days, wintry nights -- The thrills and spills of Tammy Lynn Sytch
April 12, 2002: Sytch rips into WWF divas
Nov. 7, 1997: Sunny shines in role of 'golden-haired fox'
Nov. 7, 1997: Sunny has brains over brawn
PREVIOUS TAMMY SYTCH STORIES
Tammy Sytch's website
Tammy on Myspace
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Tammy Sytch Shoot Interview DVD
WWF Ringside Collection Wrestling Figure Series 1: Sunny
Jason Clevett is still kind of amazed that he got to spend an hour on the phone with a woman he had a poster of up on his wall as a teenager, and it didn't cost him $2.99 a minute. As a long time Sunny fan, he is right now telling anyone who will listen "I love my job."