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Natalya discusses daunting demands of a Diva
By DAVID NESSETH - Cornwall Standard-Freeholder


Natalya at an appearance in Toronto in December 2008. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

Life pulls Divas in many directions.

Recently it pulled WWE superstar Diva Natalya Neidhart away from the huge Smackdown event Friday at the Cornwall Civic Complex. But Neidhart, of the legendary Calgary wrestling family, shrugged it off.

"I go wherever I'm needed," she said over the phone during Jiu-Jitsu training in Los Angeles with the infamous Gracie family, who had a hand in the creation of the UFC circuit.

Neidhart was set to come to Cornwall for Smackdown, but recently got the call for the job of introducing reinvigorated wrestler T.J. Wilson (aka Tyson Kidd) for ECW, one of several shows run by World Wrestling Entertainment.

Nowadays, the two are a romantic item. But when Kidd actually was a kid, he trained in the Hart family dungeon alongside Neidhart in Calgary.

In those days it wasn't strange for Neidhart to see classic wrestling figures like Miss Elizabeth and Rick Rude walking around in her family's living room. At the time, her father Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart was part of the WWF's Tag Team Championship Hart Foundation with Bret "Hit Man" Hart.

"I remember being a little girl and trying on the belt. Obviously, it didn't fit," Neidhart laughed.

Neidhart, now 26, remembers watching her father fight classic bouts against opponents like the British Bulldogs (The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith) and the Killer Bees (Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair ). But she wasn't ringside, she was couchside. Jim didn't want his little girl on the road.

"My dad sheltered us from wrestling because he thought it wasn't a place for women," Neidhart recalled.

Times have changed. Now Neidhart is a Diva in demand. But she knows it's not easy being a woman in wrestling, balancing moves while trying to look attractive. Especially when stilettos are involved.

"It's a balance of being strong, sexy, powerful and beautiful," says Neidhart, who uses a hybrid wrestling style that blends Japanese instruction with her family's distinct Hart-style training. "We're not built like men," she added. "We hit the ropes and we feel it."

She credits fellow Canadian and former WWE women's champion Trish Stratus with changing the face of women's wrestling, but says it was her match against Diva Kelly Kelly in Ontario last spring that stands out as the moment of her career. So far.

"It was my first time wrestling on Smackdown in Canada," says Neidhart, who has wrestled all over the world. "I felt like I'd finally made it - to wrestle in my home country."


Back in May 2008, Natalya sports a different look during a Smackdown bout in London, Ontario. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Getting kicked so hard that her lip split open may have also left a lasting impression with the third-generation female wrestler.

Accuse Neidhart of rising to stardom on her family name and she may well lock you in a Sharpshooter, one of her signature moves in the ring that isn't too kind on the knees.

"I've had to work for it. We earn the right to be called a Diva," says Neidhart, who debuted as a ring announcer in 2000.

At first, Neidhart says she was very judgmental of the Divas.

She was fooled by the dolled-up hair, skimpy clothes and makeup. But that skepticism turned into respect the moment she first locked horns with some of the darling Divas who turned out to be warriors in disguise.

The Diva concept began around 1996, but the women often appeared in more a managerial role. It wasn't until a 1999 segment of the popular Raw wrestling program that a female wrestler named Sable coined the term Diva.

While critics have called the use of the WWE Divas an exercise in poor taste, especially for a sexually-driven product marketed at young men, Neidhart says when she wrestles it's like going to the Olympics and a rock show at the same time.

RELATED LINKS

  • Natalya story archive