Melissa Anderson back on the independent scene
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|Melissa Anderson poses with Mil Mascaras at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas. Photo by Mike Lano, WReaLano@aol.com
Melissa Anderson is not confused about who she is any longer. There was a time she was three different characters -- Raisha Saeed, Alissa Flash and Cheerleader Melissa. But now, free of TNA Wrestling, she is what she wants to be: independent.
That's not to say that her decision to leave TNA came easily or was a case of sour grapes. She still has lots of friends there and is open to a return one day.
The changes on the creative side that went down over the past few months, including the departures of Dutch Mantell and Scott D'Amore, contributed significantly to the move.
"It was the changes behind the scenes, and nothing more," Anderson told SLAM! Wrestling at the Cauliflower Alley Club reunion. "It was a very mutual split and it was time to move on. TNA is going forward with their direction as a whole, as a company, and I saw all the other opportunities."
One of the opportunities Anderson would like to pursue is south of the border.
"I'm in light talks with Mexico, and that's something that I would really love just to add to my career," she said. "I spent a lot of time in Japan, the United States, Canada, a lot of time in Europe. I never really gave Mexico a shot, so that's a personal goal for myself right now."
Another project is a working agreement between the various promotions worldwide that showcase women's wrestling.
"The new project I've been working on is the Female Fight League, which the announcement was just made during the Cauliflower Alley convention, the Baloney Blowout," she said. "Basically, it's going to be a female version of the NWA. The details are still being worked out. We really want to do something to boost female wrestling as a whole throughout the world, and, mainly, the United States."
Is the Female Fight League perhaps a reaction to the state of women's wrestling at the moment?
"There's a lot of people that have been coming up to me that are a little bit frustrated with the state right now," Anderson explained. "Is it going up? Is it going down? I can't really speak on that. But there's a lot of frustration, and there are a lot of wrestling fans that are big fans of female wrestling.
There are a number of promotions that feature women's wrestling, such as Femmes Fatales in Montreal, ChickFight in California, SHIMMER out of Chicago, WSU in New England, and Pro Wrestling EVE in England.
Not all of the companies are on board yet with the Female Fight League.
"It's very, very good that we have those companies out there, and we hope for, with the Female Fight League, that these companies are able to work together to make it bigger in the United States," Anderson said. "Our companies, they're so spread out, we're not really in competition with each other, so we need to find a way to work together to put a lot more focus on it."
Dropping two of her characters allows Anderson to focus a little more on her original creation, Cheerleader Melissa. But that doesn't mean she won't miss Raisha Saeed -- manager to Awesome Kong -- and Alissa Flash.
Raisha Saeed in a TNA promotional photo.
"When I did Raisha Saeed, that was a character that was dear to my heart, because I put so much work and effort into it. For example, most of my life as a professional wrestler, I am uncovered, my face, and now my face was covered, so it made me work harder and I learned a lot, being a professional wrestler under a mask. Raisha put me to work. She was a very, very tough character to pull off, and I'm glad I did," she said, continuing.
"Being able to do dual characters at once was even more challenging. Honestly, I think that's what I miss the most, is being able to do both characters, one under a mask, one without a mask, having everything go very well for the day, and then going home. For me, that was probably the biggest thrill, pulling off both characters in a day."
And some days were more challenging than others.
"There was a day we had to do photos for every character, and I had something to do as both characters that day," she laughed. "So there was one massive costume change where I was Raisha, did photos, changed into Alissa Flash, did photos, came out first as Raisha, then came out later as Alissa Flash. That was a busy day."
The Raisha Saeed outfit, covered in a burka from head to toe, was an ordeal. "The whole outfit was very challenging. The veil, oh Gosh, that veil was nightmares. There was actually a ribbon on the back of the veil that attaches to my outfit so the veil wouldn't get in my face. Raisha was a lot of work, but a character I hold very personal. A have a lot of Arabic friends and family as well, so that character meant a lot more to me than just a character me trying to fit into."
Alissa Flash in a TNA promotional photo.
The heavy makeup she wore as Alissa Flash was in part a tribute to the late Sherri Martel, who Anderson loved to watch, and got a chance to talk to, but never met.
"I loved her growing up, I just loved her," she raved. "I loved the makeup, and the costumes, in case you couldn't tell with the Raisha and Alissa Flash, and even a little bit of Cheerleader Melissa. I mean, I loved that stuff. I loved the showmanship that she had, the smile when she was a face or an evil heel. I loved everything about her."
In a men's business, Anderson is still very much a girlie-girl when it comes to makeup.
"And I loved Raisha because I got to do all kinds of crazy things with makeup. I loved it. I love that stuff. If I had the money for the costume and makeup, I would be the Lady Gaga of pro wrestling, without a doubt, I would do it."
With more than 10 years in the wrestling business, the 28-year-old second-generation wrestler (her dad was journeyman Doug Anderson) is a veteran in the locker room, even if she doesn't see it that way -- and admits she forgets sometimes how long she has been at it.
"I had a little wake-up call at the last SHIMMER event too. There's a group of Australian girls that come up, and we were all hanging out afterward. They expressed that they were very intimidated to talk to me. I was like, 'Are you out of your mind? We're here to work together. I won't bite,'" she said with a laugh, turning to the imaginary camera with a laugh. "I'm very friendly. Ladies, I'm friendly, come talk to me."
Cheerleader Melissa roars with Kalamity on her shoulders at the NCW Femmes Fatales show on Saturday, February 6, 2010 at the Centre St-Barthelemy in Montreal. Photo by Mathieu Sage
Anderson offered some advice to those who wants to make it to the next level, moving from being a woman on male-dominated card to a women-centric promotion.
"Everyone knows who gets into the business, you have to kind of be your own P.R. You need to keep working the indies and make your connections, and if you want to be a part of those companies," she said. "Find someone who has worked there if you have the opportunity. It's happened before where, actually I just worked a girl recently who really wants to work for SHIMMER. We had a really good match and I was able to pass on some contact information, so I hope it all works for the best. We were all in that spot once."
There are girls out there that deserve more exposure, said Anderson.
"There are so many good workers. I wish more people would know more about MsChif or Sara Del Ray. I mean, fantastic workers that deserve a lot more exposure," she said, adding one more name. "Mercedes Martinez has been on the scene forever. For me, when I was breaking into the business, and then wrestling throughout the years, I heard a lot of good stuff about her. But she was on the East Coast, and then when we finally met for the first time, we were talking about, 'You know how long I've read about you on the Internet?' Then when we finally got to work after that first meeting, that was just fantastic. ... It really felt like we knew each other for a while."
Cheerleader Melissa Anderson * Alissa Flash * Raisha Saeed Photo Gallery
More on Melissa Anderson
Female Fight League website
Greg Oliver has been writing about pro wrestling since 1985. His fifth book, SLAM! Wrestling: Shocking Stories from the Squared Circle has just been released. The four previous books are Benoit: Wrestling with the Horror That Destroyed a Family and Crippled a Sport (with Steven Johnson, Heath McCoy and Irv Muchnick); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels (with Steven Johnson); The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams (also with Johnson) and The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Order them all from the SLAM! Wrestling Store. He can be emailed at email@example.com.