June 27, 2009
REAL NAME: LISA MARIE VARON
Beauty, brains and brawn. No one can doubt Lisa Marie Varon has the whole package.
Born in San Bernardino, California to a Puerto Rican father and a Turkish mother, Varon would go on to become homecoming queen in high school and earn an All-American award for cheerleading. She went on to study bio-med at the University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University, with plans on becoming a doctor. While working at an organ and tissue donation bank in California, this whirlwind became heavily involved in bodybuilding, winning her first competition in 1995 as a middleweight, and was chosen ESPN's Fitness America Series champion in 1997.
It was as if fate would intervene to take Varon on another totally different path from that she initially intended, as she would meet three women who would play varying roles in her getting into the pro wrestling game. (Oddly enough, it had not occurred to her prior to that, in spite of having three older brothers who became amateur wrestlers, with the oldest having won a gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games.)
While competing for 1998's Miss Galaxy, Varon met and befriended Torrie Wilson. Wilson went on to sign with WCW, and invited Varon to visit backstage. There, Varon would be chosen to appear in a skit with Scott Hall. She wasn't, however, able to secure a contract with the company.
Soon after, she moved to Los Angeles and started competing in fitness competitions. It was during that period when she met Trish Stratus, another future wrestling star she befriended. Her job as a gym trainer proved instrumental to her future as well, for one day she would run into WWE's Chyna. Chyna, impressed with Varon's physique, encouraged her to give pro wrestling a try. With nothing to lose, Varon sent in a promotional package of herself to WWE. Two days later, she got a call back for a meeting.
She began training at Ultimate Pro Wrestling in the summer of 2000, and on her first day, got beat up to the point of being unable to turn her neck. But she kept coming back and would go on to one day headline the WWE's women's division.
But nothing was ever handed to her -- down in the WWE's development territories, there were few other women and Varon ended up getting battered by the other men in training. Three years passed before she was called up to the main roster, a far cry compared to today's standards, where former fitness models are often given a quick training tour amounting to mere months before getting the call to WWE TV.
She'd had a brief turn as one of The Godfather's "hos" when she first started, but when Varon was permanently brought to the WWE roster in July 2002, she was rechristened "Victoria," a sadistic heel who was immediately put in a program with WWE Women's Champion Stratus. Victoria's debut match resulted in a win over Stratus, and the two would go on to feud against each other, off and on, for the next few years.
At 2002's Survivor Series, Victoria would beat Stratus in a Hardcore match and win her first Women's title. She then aligned herself with Stevie Richards, who helped her defend her title in the months ahead. But four months later, Victoria would surrender the title back to Stratus at WrestleMania 19, after losing to her in a three-way match that included Jazz.
In the months ahead, Richards would fade from the picture as Victoria slowly made a face turn. That turn was completed when champion Molly Holly cracked her in the head with the belt. On an episode of Raw, Victoria regained the Women's Championship after winning a four-way that included Holly, Jazz, and Lita. Victoria and Holly would then engage in a Title-Versus-Hair match at WrestleMania 20. Holly lost, resulting in Victoria retaining her title and shaving Holly's head bald.
The belt would remain around Victoria's waist for another three months, until Badd Blood, when Stratus, working heel since WrestleMania, won a four-way against Victoria, Lita and Gail Kim to win her fifth championship. This would mark the end of Victoria's last WWE title reign. Stratus then aligned with Tyson Tomko, and together they would go after Victoria, that is, until a returning Richards (dressed in drag) saved his former partner in crime.
Victoria returned to her role as a heel after going ballistic when Jerry Lawler chose Christy Hemme the winner of a Bikini Contest on Raw. After attacking her, Victoria said she was sick of all the attention paid to the 2004 Diva Search winner. After defeating Hemme at 2005's Vengeance, Victoria joined her old friend Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle to form "Vince's Devils." Together, they picked on Ashley Massaro, the 2005 Diva Search winner.
A returning Stratus helped back up Massaro, as would Mickie James a couple months later. The group and individual feuds that arose lasted months. But by March 2006, Vince's Devils broke up when Victoria and Michelle turned on Wilson during Michelle's Playboy cover unveiling.
Victoria later teamed up with James, and took on Stratus and a debuting Beth Phoenix. In Phoenix's first singles match, she beat Victoria on Raw, but at a cost -- Victoria slapped her hard enough to give her a legitimately broken jaw. Eventually, James went out on her own and won the title, and Victoria subsequently tore through the women's roster to get her chance at the belt. She won a Battle Royal to earn a title shot, and then beat down victims on her checklist as she defeated Maria Kanellis, Wilson, and James in a non-title match. But at 2007's New Year's Revolution, James retained her title with a win over Victoria.
Victoria would go on to team with Melina against James and Michelle. Thereafter, she would join Kenny Dykstra to take on another Diva Search product, Michelle McCool, and her partner Chuck Palumbo. Although McCool picked up her share of wins, they didn't come easily, as Victoria broke her nose on one occasion.
The feud would evolve to where McCool had to defend herself against Victoria, Natalya Neidhart, and Maryse Ouellet, with some help from Cherry and Kelly Kelly. McCool persevered, however, and would be crowned the WWE's first Divas' Champion after beating Neidhart at 2008's Great American Bash.
A month later, and Victoria was mired in a feud with newcomer Brie Bella, who inexplicably kept beating her after coming out from under the ring surprisingly refreshed and revived. It would turn out that Brie had a twin sister named Nikki, and together the Bella Twins would become thorns in the sides of Victoria and Neidhart over the next few months.
January 2009 would, for all intents and purposes, mark the end of the road for Victoria's WWE run, as McCool beat her in Victoria's retirement match. Victoria made a brief return at WrestleMania 25 to participate in a 25-Diva Battle Royal, but after that, she was gone for good.
But it wouldn't be the end of her wrestling career. In late May, TNA announced Varon signed a contract with the company and she debuted on Impact as "Tara," (short for "Tarantula"), attacking The Beautiful People after Knockouts Champion Angelina Love taunted the locker room with demands for "serious competition." A couple weeks later, Tara won her debut match against Madison Rayne. The numbers game, however, would prove too great for Tara at Slammiversary, as The Beautiful People interfered heavily in getting Love the duke.
---compiled by Richard Kamchen
TARA / VICTORIA STORIES AND PHOTO GALLERIES