Since 2008, Madison Rayne has been a steady presence in the Knockouts Division. She left and came back a few times, was a commentator and a Creative too. But what Madison Rayne has valued more than anything is the right to run her career on her own terms. In less than a year, she competed on the independent scene and for SHIMMER, was a part of the tournament for the inaugural Women of Honor Championship and even had a tryout with WWE. But in the end, she has always come back to the only promotion she calls home, Impact Wrestling. Last week, during a media call, Madison Rayne reflected on her career, her comeback and her recent feud with Tessa Blanchard.
The Queen of Impact Wrestling
Five-time Knockouts Champion, Knockouts Tag Team Champion, first female wrestler to hold both titles at the same time, Madison Rayne has been a Legend of the Impact Zone. When she made her debut in 2009, at 21, the Knockouts Revolution was already on its way and she paved her into it. She competed against the greatest competitors of the division. And she was still there when the company was striving through ups and downs, despite leaving and coming back multiple times. “Everybody who’s part of the company is living his dream job. We wake up every day and get to go perform and do what we’ve loved since we were kids. I have moments where I want to bang my head against the wall at work, but in those moments I just remind myself that I’m literally living my dream job and there’s really no better situation to be in. About the ups and downs throughout the company, during those down times, I have been there and I have seen what the real story is. So I just put on blinders and kind of try to shut out the negativity and I think that maybe that’s probably helped me and all of my ins and outs and backs and forces through the company.”
Whatever was happening, Madison Rayne was focusing on her career and her in-ring performance. And it seems like she only has great remembers of the women she competed against. “I have had countless opportunities to be in the ring with people who have forced me to grow and step out of my comfort zone. The ones that come to mind right away are always Gail Kim, Mickie James, Angelina Love. I love being able to step into the ring with women who challenged me and pushed me out of my comfort zone and make me really have to work to get a victory. When Tara came to Impact Wrestling, she definitely was the first one to grab a hold of me and throw me out of my comfort zone so I’ll always thank her for that. But Gail, Mickie and Angelina, all of those women have really helped form me as a performer by forcing me to be my absolute best every time I was in the ring with them. Any match that I ever had with Gail Kim was challenging because Gail is tremendous, that’s why she’s arguably one of the best female wrestlers of all times.”
She has never forgotten her first match with Impact and her first opponent there. It was in December 2008 and a very strong opponent. “I don’t think that there will ever be anyone more physical than Awesome Kong, especially considering my first match ever at Impact Wrestling was with Kong. It was definitely like they threw me into the deep end and said ‘sink or swim kid’. I’m 5’3 and about 115 pounds, so there aren’t going to be many opponents that I face that are going to be my size or smaller. Disadvantage is a challenge that I faced my entire career, so I feel like I’ve learned how to manoeuvre around it, move around big opponents quickly enough not to give them the opportunity to throw me from the ring to about row ten.”
A Wrestling Trailblazer and a Revolutionary Woman
Madison Rayne is a Mum, a wrestler, a wife and an entrepreneur. She has had to make choices to be able to wear those multiple hats at the same time. And she has zero regrets about it. Because of that and the time she made her first steps in the Impact Zone, Madison Rayne can be considered as a huge part of the Women’s (R)Evolution. But when I asked her about, she made me understand the Revolution started way before her. “In current times I feel like so many people try to grab that title and say ‘well no I did at first’ or “no we’re doing it better”. The bottom line for me is I have loved professional wrestling my entire life and that’s a love that started when I was 6 years old. I was watching wrestling, I was watching women like Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano. The women’s revolution or that women’s wrestling is just now starting to evolve and I don’t think that’s giving proper credit to the women who paved the way and laid that foundation for us. They were doing something to captivate me beyond just being beautiful.”
“Over the years it evolves and changes, right now is a time in women’s wrestling where if you can’t hang in there with the best of the best, you’re not going to make your statement and I think that’s a good thing because it forces women to raise the bars. I think that the women of today are very similar to the women of yesterday. It’s just a bit more of a focal point now. I’m proud that in a small way I’ve been able to contribute too because Knockouts division in 2007 was something very special and something that started to really lay the groundwork for what women’s wrestling is today.”
In 2016/2017, Madison Rayne had also been a Creative and the female colour commentator during the Knockouts matches. Would she love to see a woman as a full-time colour commentator? “Absolutely and I would like to throw my name into the list of suggestions for that position. Commentary for me when I was starting out was harder to be good at than wrestling was. You have to be so emotionally mentally involved from the time you put that headset on until you take it off and you’ve got to be quick. You’ve got to think on your toes, you’ve got to be knowledgeable and educated. It’s given me a whole new level of respect for the position and I absolutely think especially in a time when women’s wrestling is so prominent that having a female voice not only could happen but should happen.”
Because of the way she has run her career since her debut, I couldn’t help to ask her what this freedom means to her and at the same time what makes her come back to Impact Wrestling everytime she can. “In 2018 people have the option of doing like what I’m doing, having that freedom and not being contractually obligated one way specifically. That freedom is great and exciting. I have my independence put in my hand and I get to creatively write this chapter of my career. But it also feels nice for a company to want to put their stamp on you and give you a contract so that you have that one home to go to. There are ups and downs to having that freedom, you have to make the right choice for yourself in your career every time, that just goes along with having a vision for yourself in your career and goals and things that you want to accomplish. Having that freedom to do the things that I want to at this stage in my career has been great and to have been welcomed in so many different places with opened arms has been tremendous for me. But at the end of the day Impact Wrestling has always been home for me and they treat me as such every time I come back. They sure make me feel that way every time I come back there.”
New roster, new feuds, new goals
Back with Impact, Madison Rayne has to face new challenges in a new Knockouts roster she praised the quality. “This group is by far the most diverse group of Knockouts that I’ve ever been part of, and they’re equally as hard working. Back in 2007 when this whole division was getting started, I wasn’t there at the onset of it, but shortly after that I came in, so I’ve been very fortunate to see many different faces. I’ve been in the ring with so many different Knockouts over the years, and I would say without a doubt, even in just being back for a short time I can tell of this group they’re young, they’re hungry and they feel like they have something to prove. They are ready to make their mark in women’s wrestling and in Knockouts history. I’m excited for them, and I’m excited to kind of be on this side of it.”
This Thursday, she will compete against Tessa Blanchard at Under Pressure. “I haven’t actually wrestled her before even if I’ve shared many locker rooms with her. She’s making such a massive buzz. She’s making her mark on women’s wrestling in such a big way. For me, she is the kind of opponents I need and I want. At this point in my career, I feel like for me personally, I want to prove to myself that I still deserve to be in wrestling and still deserve to be in the Knockouts Division, which I hold in very high regard.”
Tessa, Taya Valkyrie, Su Yung, Madison Rayne is decided to challenge them all. And why not, become a 6-time Knockouts Champion. She would then be tying Angelina Love’s record and be one step closer to Gail Kim’s absolute record of 7 titles. “My first goal is to make sure that this division, something that is near and dear to my heart, something that I helped to create, continues to be run on the fundamentals that were there in place in the beginning and that’s respect and hard work and not bullying. My short-term goal is to go into Under Pressure on May 31st and defeat Tessa Blanchard. I would argue that after I do that I would be in line for a Knockout title shot.”
The “Killer Queen” Madison Rayne is not ready to leave her throne as the challenges are here and exciting. The Queen of the Knockouts has been decided to take care of her Queendom for a little while again.
All pics courtesy of Impact Wrestling