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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.


Canuck's luck
Richmond Hill's Trish Stratus mat star

By MICHELE MANDEL -- Toronto Sun
WWF diva, Trish Stratus. (Toronto Sun Photo: Greg Henkenhaf)

Okay, I'm a wrestling snob. Don't know a slam from a bump. Don't know a powerbomb from a piledriver. Last time I checked in with the World Wrestling Federation, Hulk Hogan was a good guy vying for the attentions of a demure Miss Elizabeth.

 Times, I've been told, have changed. Some of WWF story lines have become so sexually explicit, profane and violent that children -- once the mainstays of the Hulk Hogan phenomena -- are warned that the content is for mature viewers only.

 We now have WWF divas bursting with surgically enhanced mammaries wrestling in panty and bra contests.

 So what's a smart Richmond Hill girl doing in a place like this?

 Becoming a world wrestling superstar, if you must know, and making no apologies about it.

 Backstage at WrestleMania's Fan Axxess, Trish Stratus, 26, is wearing skin-tight, faded jeans and a beige top threatening to burst its buttons. Just outside are photos of her in skimpy bikinis with a come-hither stare and parted lips.

 "People think: Blonde, bimbo, unintelligent," says Stratus, 26, in her friendly, mile-a-minute enthusiasm.

 Okay, how obviously does my face blush "Guilty?"

 "I was a pre-med student at York University," she continues with a patient smile. "I love telling people that. I was studying biology and kinesiology in 1997 and, as many will remember, York went on strike that year and I had the 'Oh, my God, what do I do now?' feeling."

 She was filling time working reception at a local gym when the publisher of Muscle Mag International asked whether she'd be interested in doing a photo shoot for them. Though she had never modelled before, she's always loved a challenge.

 Stratus spent the next six months transforming her body. "I got to use the theory I'd been learning about at university and apply it to myself. I took my body and moulded it."

 For the next two years, her new curves in all the right places made the cover of numerous fitness magazines. Her plans for a career in medicine were put on hold.

 But that was just the beginning. After making an appearance on TSN's Off the Record with several wrestler guests, the buzz on the Internet began promoting her as a prospective beauty for the WWF. Which wasn't so farfetched, she says, considering she's always been a wrestling fan.

 BE PREPARED

 Her name eventually made its way up to the WWF powers-that-be and she was asked to send in her portfolio. Stratus didn't hear back from them for a while, but she decided she'd better be ready if they did call.

 "My motto in life is 'Preparedness meets opportunity.' I began training at Sully's Gym in Toronto and I got a really good foundation. When they did call, their main question was 'Are you willing to get physical?' When I said yes, I went home with a contract that evening."

 That was November 1999. Stratus made her WWF TV debut in March 2000 and since then millions of people around the world have watched the Richmond Hill girl rumble to the top.

 Three million Canadians tune in every week to watch WWF programming. More than 20 million are watching in the U.S.

 This weekend, a stadium record 68,000 fans are expected to fill the SkyDome for WrestleMania X8.

 Look down your nose at that.

 "I believe in destiny and that everything happens for a reason. If my school hadn't gone on strike, I wouldn't have gone on to a fitness modelling career and now this. I've always had a goal and I do what I can to achieve my goals.

 "I'm just really ambitious and driven -- one of those go-getters, whether I was playing on the soccer team or getting the highest grades in the class."

 EXCELLED AT SPORTS

 Stratus grew up as a tomboy who excelled at sports at Bayview Secondary School, so the physicality of being tossed around the ring is something she enjoys. But while those athletic theatrics may be choreographed, the bruises are real. At one point, she chipped a bone in her ankle that required surgery and three months out of the ring. Stratus came back determined to be even more physical.

 That the voluptuous vixen plays a character packaged in sexy tops and high-heeled boots always gives people the wrong idea, she says. "They think I'm a girlie girl, which I'm not. I don't care for makeup and fancy clothes."

 When she's back here at home, she's often without makeup and in her sweats. But she still gets recognized. "I always tell people that no matter where I go in this country, I'm their hometown girl. Even when I was a bad girl, they were still nice to me."

 It seems her WWF character used to be a bad girl, known for sneaking up on people and smacking them on the back of the head with the heel of her boot.

 And these days?

 "I'm a good girl," she smiles, "unless you piss me off."

More on: WrestleMania 18
More on: Trish Stratus




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