Trish Stratus (The VultureHound Interview)

This was originally published in our wrestling spin-off SteelChair Magazine.

It’s been 10 years since Trish Stratus officially retired from in-ring competition, part of a roster of female wrestlers that revolutionised the WWF/E Women’s division. One has to argue that without the exploits of Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria and others, the likes of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and current champ Charlotte would never have received the opportunities they enjoy today.                                                                       

We were lucky enough to be granted some time with Trish, who was more than happy to discuss everything from coming up through the ranks in the WWE and retiring as champion, to the current situation in the Stratusphere.

Before we get into meat and bones of the interview, did you watch Fastlane and the subsequent RAW? Do you manage to keep on top of the ‘product’? What do you think of Shane O’Mac coming back?

I actually missed Fastlane but I did hear about the hoopla on Monday night. I put [my son] Max to bed, and I went to get my phone. There was just a plethora of texts like “OMG” and “Holy shit, did you see that?” so it figures this happens the one time I don’t watch it. I haven’t even been able to catch up yet, we’ve been busy with so many things, but I will be watching it tonight. It’s funny because me and my husband looked at each other and were like, does Shane still have the pop factor? Because the kids are so young now. They’ll be like “Who’s this guy and why are we cheering for him? But everyone else is so we will.”

A lot of people on the internet have been like “he’s back, but he won’t wrestle. He’ll elect someone to compete of his behalf.” To them I say, “Go back and watch some of the old stuff because Shane O’Mac can take a bump like nobody else.”

Yeah, when he decides he’s in, he’s 100% in!

I will put money on him coming off the top of that Hell in a Cell.

I am with you on that, for sure.

WrestleMania is looking better!

There you go, mission accomplished. After the segment Monday night, they were hoping people would come away saying exactly what you just said. They’ve done it again!

That scenario would suggest that Vince might be ready to hand over creative control to Shane and this storyline creates an organic way for Vince to do that.

Oh yeah, and then will be it be HHH or Shane? They never fail to surprise even me! I never know what to expect in the lead-up to WrestleMania, every PPV is an opportunity to surprise fans and gets fans more invested in the product

Looking at your website, you’ve got your fingers in a lot of pies. Even though you’ve stopped wrestling, it doesn’t look like you’ve slowed down at all. What is the main focus because you’ve got the film Gridlocked which is due out soon, and then the yoga enterprise.

Well my yoga brand is Stratusphere. It started in 2008 and from there it sort of organically grew. I retired in 2006 and I dabbled in some television work, I produced my own travel show so I got my hands in those pies for the television side of things. I did my first film in 2012 called Bounty Hunters. I loved the experience because the go to question when you leave wrestling is always, “are you going to go into acting now?” I love it but I’m not actively pursuing it.

I’ve always dabbled in business. So thinking “what’s my future” I fell in love with yoga. During my wrestling career I had a herniated disk in my back which you might remember, I was supposed to have surgery, I decided not to, I went to physio therapy, it didn’t help and then yoga completely cured me. It changed my life, change my career as a performer. So when I retired in 2006 I dived right into it, I travelled around the world and worked with different teachers and just fell in love with it more. I was feeling the best I’d ever felt, my body was looking slamming, I was like “wow, I need to share this secret with the world”, so I decided to open up Stratusphere.

Stratusphere opened in 2008 and from there all the brands started growing. During my first film I had to be this bounty hunter, but I had a very skinny and lean body, so I realised I had to go and train and re-sculpt to suit the role. So I went back to the dojo and learned Krav Maga because that’s what my character learns. I developed this routine which was basically weight training and callisthenic movements and yoga poses that I put into a flow. So that turned into a thing at the yoga studio and I ended up producing a DVD for that. I also created this glove – which was a weighted yoga fitness glove – that had a grip so you don’t slide when you’re practicing, and it is also a weight so you get your resistance training at the same time. That was the start of Stratusphere Living, a line of yoga and fitness products, so we have everything form yoga blocks, yoga straps, we have a weight training set; there is a whole set of fitness and training accessories.

I have three DVD’s in the range so far, and have a fourth one in production. It was all really organic. The main message has always been to spread health and fitness. We’ve expanded to have personal training services and we have a roster of people to do corporate yoga and retreats, it all turned into a nice business. It kept me busy building the brand and increasing awareness. I’ve had great advantage, especially in Canada where the media always wanted to know what Trish was up to next, so everybody wanted to hear about my new enterprises.

There is no such thing as over working for me, I love it, I haven’t taken a vacation in years, I take breaks but I never really feel the need to get away from ‘this’, I love it. I’ve managed to build a great team, and in the meantime, yes I’ve dabbled in movies. That opportunity arose after chatting with Adam (Copeland aka Edge). We were in Halifax and he was filming a show out there. He was on Twitter like “are you here dude?” So we met and he was filming a show called Haven and he said “you should just go for it!” He gave me the name of his agent and we met and connected right away, two weeks later an amazing opportunity presented itself on my agent’s desk before we’d even signed a deal.

He was like “I have this role, it’s an action film called Gridlocked with Danny Glover and Dominic Purcell, and Stephen Lange, where you play the role for a tough ass action chick. Are you up for it?” and I was like “err, yeah!” I’d never even auditioned in my life before, and I was lucky enough to get the gig and a great opportunity. So I’ve managed to keep my brand going and expand a little bit into the acting world, and at the same time finding enough balance to do the best job that I have which is be a Mom. I had two years with little Max and then I finally sent him off to school in October so now I have a little bit more time to continue being busy.

Looking at the cast for Gridlocked, Vinnie Jones is in there?

He was such a nice guy, everyone was so awesome and I was kind of like the newbie on set which was scary, the only chick on set actor wise. But I thought “you know what I’m used to this” I’ve always been a part of the boys club, I just had to hold my own and show that I belonged.

It seems as though it was a very natural move into film, are you now in a position where if something comes up you’ll look at it, but you aren’t going searching?

You know yeah, I do love it. I love the experience, I love the challenge. What I loved doing in WWE is that you are producing moments, you go and have a ten or fifteen minute segment that you are responsible for in the two/three hour show. I loved producing moments, and I’d like my move making to the same thing. I love fighting first of all, and I get fired up talking about it. I loved learning Krava Maga for Bounty Hunters, it was exciting for me to learn a new discipline. The fight scenes are just so sick. When we did the scenes everyone was like “oh my god, are you okay” because they’ve never seen an actor go so hard and all out, usually there is a stunt person and it’s all smoke and mirrors right? I was like “No, this is what I do. I’m good” and they were like “that’s awesome, that looked so real.”

To roll back the years a little, looking at your website you post a lot of links to the WWE Network, making sure fans can find your matches still.

WWE is my family. We have had a great relationship through my career and post career we’ve had a great relationship as well. I’m considered alumni and I will always acknowledge my past. They are the ones that got me the Trish Stratus name. When I retired I was able to pursue business opportunities that were presented to me because of the notoriety I created in the WWE. I have my fitness fans who don’t care if we post a story about who’s going to be Team Bestie No. 3, but there are some fans that really, really dig that. The first time I had fans was in 1998 which was my first muscle mag cover. So my career began with Robert Kennedy of Muscle Magazine, and he slapped me on the cover and said “this is the newest hottest fitness model” and I was because he said so, I was given the ball and I ran with it. He taught me very early on “you have fans now, we need to capitalise on that” so I created a PO Box and from 1999 started my company Stratus Enterprises. To this day I still get fan mail that I read. I always said to people “I might not get back to you, or it might take a few months, but I will always read it.” Being down to earth and communicating with fans is key, and being able to relate to them because they are the ones who make me.

trish-stratus-hall-of-famePhoto: Matt Roberts

What did it mean to you to be Women’s champion, helping to put Women’s wrestling back on the map? Also, what did it mean retiring on that title?

Obviously it was an honour, I always thought “is this bubble going to pop?” because I couldn’t believe it, it was too good to be true. It’s funny because it has helped cement my legacy and how you remember me. You remember that final match, my name will be synonymous with the Women’s Championship, and I believe that because of those moments it will be for many years to come. It was really special, I spent my whole career making that title mean something, not that it didn’t before, don’t get me wrong. We knew that when Chyna had left the company there was no women’s division and we were charged with this task of rebuilding it. Of course, it was put on me for the first time and I was the newbie and the underdog. “Your the women’s champion, show us what you’ve got,” so I had a huge responsibility to live up to people expectations. Luckily I had Fit Finley to work with, and all the girls who at that point were all really excited to make this mean something. We knew what we were capable of as athletes, we just had to re-educate the fans what women were capable of in the ring. There was certainly a preconceived notion of what a female athlete could do. We might not even have been called female athletes! So we had to prove people what we got. It was a big turning point when finally Victoria and I turned the “we want puppies chants” into “holy shit” chants. We were really excited about that. Much like I said in my Hall of Fame speech, I was a part of it, it was something we all did. I didn’t make the division, we had the opportunity to build that and thankfully we had the commitment of the fans that followed us along that journey and stuck with us, and through some of the crappy matches I might have had in the beginning. But they got behind me and knew that I was trying my hardest

It’s interesting now when I look back, because I don’t know how the fans knew I was working so hard, there wasn’t social media or some reality show on the side, but people just knew. People could see I was busting my ass, but I don’t know how. Perhaps you could just see my change in the ring. I would like to think week-on-week there was some improvement that people could see, that’s why I had that connection with the fans because they got to grow with me in the ring. I don’t know how many people have had that opportunity to be shitty at first and be vulnerable, you could feel them saying “it’s okay, pick yourself up, dust yourself, you can do this girl,” that was the energy I felt. They watched me evolve and watched me get better, they watched me turn into this character that they knew and understood for the beginning, they knew my determination, they knew how I thought, so it was a pretty unique situation that lets me have this close connection with them.

After I retired there was this kind of lull in the Diva’s division. Every interview I did it was like “the Diva’s division is shit right now, what do you think?” There was just something that was not clicking at that point. However, if you sit down and look at the wrestlers, there is was a roster of talent that could work. Maybe there wasn’t the right story lines, but the talent was certainly there. You had Beth, Laycool – those two girls were amazing – you had Nattie teaming up with Beth doing their thing. Who else was there? Melina has always had a strong in-ring presence and I think Micky was there too, so I feel bad when I say it was a crappy time for the Diva’s division.

It’s a knock on the girls, they were trying to do their part, they just weren’t getting the time. Like when Gail Kim came back and wasn’t used well at all. She’s awesome and she did some amazing stuff at TNA, and I just thought “what a waste,” I couldn’t believe it. If you have Gail Kim there and she’s not your number one star dazzling the fans every week on your television show, there is a problem somewhere. My point is, there was a lull, and it was between creative not creating characters and storylines people could get behind.

Now Trish Stratus; she had an outfit, she was very established with her cowboy hat and her trench coat, there was a very established look that I had, and Amy had a very certain look. Ivory always wore purple; I wouldn’t dare wear purple that was her thing. Every character has a look and you need to replicate it in a Halloween costume. That’s kind of how I looked at it. Like I would name every move that I did just about. They just weren’t really defining themselves, and the cool thing is that now, that’s what I’m seeing!

There is definitely a sense of “this is what she wears, this is her character.” It is a technicolour show in there right now, which is definitely cool. I think that is helping, because you can identify with them, you can pick your favourite one, you know who this girl is, you know what their move set is and I think that is what was missing in that time.

I feel like in that period, the women were protected a little bit. In your era The Dudley Boys put you through a table!

Because first and foremost the PG era wouldn’t allow it, but I don’t know if they were protected. I think it was that they weren’t treating them as equal characters on the show. Back in the day we’d have a hardcore match, but then so would the guys. When we had that hardcore match we knew we were being treated as equals. I remember when I took that chair shot, we were like “we can do what the guys do, watch this.” But in the PG era they were just girls on the show. They weren’t characters or athletes. But now there is a different focus, maybe it is from someone inside. We know HHH cares about the women’s division right now, which is sometimes what it needs.

trish-startus-turnbucklePhoto: Matt Roberts

Talking of HHH and the work they are doing down at NXT, have you ever considered joining Matt down there and imparting wisdom?

I have not had the opportunity to. We’ve talked about it a couple of times; me going down to NXT but it didn’t work out. It is something I’d love to do. Matt and I have talked about me going down and chatting with the girls and just hanging out for a couple of days. Obviously I’m in Canada, but if I was in Orlando I’d be training with those girls for sure. It is something I’d love to do. During Tough Enough it was fun to be able to pass on the knowledge that I gained as a performer. It’s awesome what they’ve got going on there, to me that’s why the girls are so great.

The girls are so good because they’ve had numerous matches with each other, they are solid with each other, they have solid move-sets, no developing a new move everyday where they go out and try in that night. They have their stuff together, they know how to get a reaction, they’ve performed in front of crowds and it definitely shows. They are new girls, but they are seasoned, and it makes a huge difference, so I love what they are doing I think it is amazing, I know they do promo work down there, so the performance centre is just the best idea and the women’s division right now is an example of how well it is working.

Before we go, a couple of quick fire questions. Favourite memory or moment in your career?

Probably my retirement. Bitter sweet moment, but retiring as Women’s champion, in my home town of Toronto, with my bestie in the match. Didn’t like that I was leaving, but I was excited about my next chapter.

Favourite match of you career?

There are two. My last match is one of them because of the meaning behind it, but I’d also have to put mine and Mickey James’ match at Wrestlemania XXII. One of my favourite matches, the reaction of that match speaks volumes; just the storylines and characters we had developed and how the fans were behind us. I think the crowd involvement was as high as any of the other matches on the card and I think that is a testament to our hard work. Women didn’t usually have that four to six months of storyline development just to have it culminate at Wrestlemania, so it was pretty good. Just a quick third mention, mine and Amy [Dumas’] main event Raw match which was pretty awesome. How about you change the question to top three matches?

chick-kickPhoto: Steve Apostle

If there was one competitor past or present you wish you could have competed against, who would it have been?

I probably say this in every interview, but I really would love to work with Nattie. I think that she’s an amazing athlete and I think she is very underrated and under used and under valued. I’d love to have the chance to work a kick-ass programme that would get people engaged and people interested, and culminated to some amazing match with a Canadian reference in there, there would be some Sharpshooters and some pink and black, Bret would probably be involved. That would be a kick-ass thing to do, but yeah just wrestling with her would be pretty awesome. 

Huge thanks to Trish for taking an hour out of her busy schedule to talk to us, and Gridlocked will be distributed via Magnet Releasing in the very near future. Keep an eye on www.trishstratus.com