Trish comes to grips!
By SCOTT ZERR --
When Trish Stratus made her first entrance at a World Wrestling Entertainment event in 2000, it was as a sultry valet.
Stratus was gorgeous and buff and had a playful sense of evil exuding from that devilish grin. The long leather coat, tight outfits and knee-high boots sure helped establish the image in the minds of wrestling fans.
Fast-forward two years and Stratus is just as dazzling to look at, but long gone are the days when she only stood by the ring and strutted her stuff.
Fans are now getting "100% Stratusfaction" inside the squared-circle as Stratus has become a fully fledged competitor and is now the reigning World Wrestling Entertainment's female champion.
The WWE, formerly the WWF, is back in town tomorrow night with a performance of its RAW show at Skyreach Centre. (Wrestling impresario Vince McMahon's organization changed its name to WWE after a court case upheld the World Wildlife Fund's right to use the WWF acronym.)
"She's using some different tactics. Sexuality is still one of them," giggled Stratus of her alter ego in a recent chat.
The turning point came a year ago when the Stratus character turned on owner McMahon at Wrestlemania and stepped out of her role as the provocative sidekick to becomes a down-and-dirty wrestler.
It was a move the real Stratus readily welcomed.
"I was given the opportunity to get a lot more physical in the ring," she said. "I had surgery to repair bone chips in my ankle and had to rehab for three months, but I didn't want to lose any momentum.
"I put it in my mind that I wanted to do better and I was ready to step up my game. I was just lucky they gave me this opportunity."
Stratus had to learn the more demanding side of the business, but putting her muscles to use was hardly a big stretch. The five-foot-four blond had captured the attention of WWE staff with her captivating form and photogenic features as she went from cover to cover on various bodybuilding magazines.
She's far from a delicate flower and was eager to test her might.
"I'm a naturally physical person and I have a natural competitive edge," Stratus explained. "I'd watched wrestling for so long and I'd been an admirerer of the game for so long. I pick up things fast and what the fans are reacting to now is naturally me.
"Each time out, I'm still learning and trying to make myself better and I love it a lot. I'm learning more about the character, facial expressions and all that camera stuff. I'm so focused on nailing the part.
"I've taken this step up but there's still so much to learn. It's all about the moves and learning to tell a story. You want to feel the people getting behind you and that takes a while."
Being focused has always been a priority for Stratus, whether it was excelling as a soccer player, a student or model. Her biggest concern now is continuing that trend and getting further into her role - an intoxicating mix of beauty and brawn - that has quickly been accepted by WWE spectators.
"To be successful I have to be focused entirely," she added. "I think the fans have really supported me. They've seen my growth and how I want to tell a story. They've seen the progress and they've recognized the work I've done and that's making it easier for them to root for me.
"I'm thrilled they've given me this platform and I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity. I'm certainly enjoying both sides of it."
The other side for Stratus is capitalizing solely on her looks. And why not? If you've got it, flaunt it.
As one of the WWE divas, Stratus has visited various tropical locales and risen at sunrise for day-long photo and video shoots that have become hot commodities with her fans.
"We kick a little a-- then show a little ... do the bikini thing," laughed Stratus. "I've always said that I'm lucky because I have a job where I get to be athletic and entertaining. I love working out and it's become such a big part of my life and it's fun to be glamorous in those photo shoots and tell a story with a picture."
Something that hasn't changed with Stratus over time is her ability to shroud the details of her personal life. There are some well-known facts about the other WWE women - including details concerning the love lives of Terri Runnells, Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson - while Stratus keeps the private issues secret.
"This industry is an open book and I've worked to keep my personal life and my professional life two separate things. If I didn't, nothing would be personal."
So nothing's brewing?
"You'll be the first to know," she chuckled.
There's no doubt that Stratus improved her shelf life in the business by becoming a serious grappler and not just another pretty face that viewers might tire of after some time. As for the future, anything can, and usually does, happen in WWE storylines.
For the lone Canadian diva, she'll be front and centre as long as there's a gripping angle for her to explore.
"I plan to be in it as long as I'm fully challenged, the action is fresh and the fans are still behind me," said Stratus, who doesn't seem keen on pursuing any acting roles.
"I've got a lot of goals in mind. Gosh, in this industry there are so many different opportunities and they're constantly changing."
And just think, the Stratus story all got started when Ontario university professors went on strike. Trish put her pre-med studies on hold to start modelling and the rest is history.
"I'd be finished medical school right about now," Stratus reflected. "My ultimate goal was to become a doctor and I'd have been more than happy with that.
"As long as I'm successful and happy. I'd like to go back and finish some credits because I love science. It might be something I pursue - that and a family and babies."
Title: Current WWE Women's Champion.
Home town: Born and raised in Toronto.
Favourite food: Burger and fries. "As long as I maintain my conditioning, I enjoy McDonald's once in a while."
Favourite music: "I love working out to hip hop. And I like listening to Shania Twain in the car. She kind of talks her songs so I can kind of sing along. I'm not a very good singer."
On the road: "I like my alone time so I often travel by myself. When it's TV shows, sometimes I travel with (ring announcer) Lillian Garcia, but when it's house shows I either go alone or one of the other girls and I will hook up."
She's so fine: "You got to admit she's in great shape. I'd love to be her Thighmaster."
-- WWE announcer Jerry (The King) Lawler.