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In the column, Gail talks in detail about her two runs with the WWE, losing and regaining her love for wrestling, the hope #GiveDivasAChance gives her and more.
Read the full column below:
Since this has been such a hot trending topic lately, I thought I would address it. The topic of women and the way they are portrayed in a male dominated industry. The role of women in professional wrestling has varied through the years going from the likes of a pioneer like Fabulous Moolah to Miss Elizabeth who played a fragile, beautiful babyface manager, to the likes of Lita, the extreme Diva and Trish Stratus who started as a bombshell valet and became one of the greatest Divas of all time. When I was a kid and first fell in love with wrestling, there wasn’t many females around and if there was, they weren’t wrestling much. I stopped watching wrestling through my teenage years and fell in love with it again in college. I got hooked almost obsessively and instantly loved the women’s division. That was the beginning of the “Golden Era” where the women were athletic, beautiful and unique. Fans had their favourite and could relate to them for their own reason. However, my favourite was Molly Holly. I loved the way she moved in the ring, gracefully. I always felt she was as athletic as her male counterparts. When I watched this women’s division, it inspired me to become a female wrestler and with it, I hoped to make it to WWE one day. Well, two years later, that dream came true and I got my wish to wrestle with these ladies that I watched on TV. Molly gave me my big break, being the good human being she is and saw that I had something different to offer and I received a tryout and landed a contract.
The way that the women were being utilized at this time was why I got into this business. Being so inexperienced and overwhelmed, I still had the drive to learn, get better and produce the best of my capabilities. Fit Finlay was our agent at the time and he brought all of our games to another level, especially when it came to aggression. I broke my collarbone in 2003 and watched wrestling tapes religiously while injured, itching to get back in the ring. I came back I believe five months later and fell into a really good groove technically and started to feel really great in the ring.
I actually felt at my best when I got released. This was shortly after the very first Diva Search. This was when I felt things had changed for women. Before the Diva search, we had a great mix of valets and wrestlers who were used to their strengths. I’m not bashing those who came out of the Diva search because there have been some amazing women who have come from that competition. Many who have contributed to this business in a very positive way even to this day. That was just the point that I felt we saw the first change. Shortly thereafter, Nidia, Jazz and myself got released and a whole new crop of Divas emerged. I was even told when I got released that they wanted to shift the division in a different way.
At that time I had lost my passion and thought that women’s wrestling was dead. A year later I was asked to join TNA wrestling with the promise of a future women’s division. My passion was reignited and I started as a valet to America’s Most Wanted and Jeff Jarrett. Although I participated a lot as a valet, I yearned to be in the ring. I hated watching the men I walked down to the ring with doing what I loved. I was relentless in voicing my desire until their ears bled and one day it happened. I was asked if I thought I could work with Jackie Moore. Yes! Of course I would work with one of the toughest women to ever step foot in the ring. I don’t know if it was a test, but little by little I think they were pleased. Then the day came that our very first women’s division was built. Basically overnight. To everyone’s surprise, it was a success. Just like the Golden Era, we had a vast array of female characters from ODB, Awesome Kong and the Beautiful People. Our segments were continuously one of or the highest rated and the females even had the chance to main event the show. This was the first chance in my career where I felt that I was fortunate to be part of something magical. That magic happened in the form of a David and Goliath feud that put our women’s division on the pro wrestling map. Awesome Kong and I were given that opportunity and boy, did we try and take full advantage. At the same time, TNA felt so confident in the females that they still utilized the others in wrestling roles and valet roles and continued to do so even when I left the company in 2008. They even added a women’s tag division with championship title belts.
As I’m sure everyone knows, when I left I felt optimistic for women’s wrestling to be on the uprise again. At the time, WWE had two women’s titles with RAW having the Divas Championship and SmackDown having the Women’s Title. Soon they were unified and as a group, we felt like it was disappointing. This left one title and two rosters of girls to fight for it. Which meant less opportunity in some ways, with one storyline for the title and then the rest of us hoping to be included in a different angle. Soon as years passed and my frustration grew, I knew I couldn’t let my career pass by without contributing in the ring. So I decided to leave an unhappy situation and return to what made me happy. I was very fortunate to have TNA welcome me back with open arms and continue the path that I had left three years previously. I am grateful everyday that I’m in the ring no matter how much my body may be hurting that day.
Then the magic happened again … With Taryn Terrell, which nobody expected. The fearless referee turned wrestler blew everyone’s expectations away and she is currently now the TNA Knockouts champion. I always used to hear before this women’s division was created that no one wanted to watch women’s wrestling. I know that those skeptics were wrong and women continue to show why we are just as important in this male dominated business. Impact Wrestling has always been a strong outlet for female pro wrestling and it seems lately, other promotions are getting in on that. NXT has proven that with opportunity and time, the women can put on a show, with great athletes and characters emerging from there. Total Divas, reality show has given the women a platform to be seen but not necessarily as the strong empowered women they really are. With WWE Raw on for three hours, I feel as though they could be given a much more prominent and positive role. Why not follow the successful formula that NXT has? It was at such a low point recently that the fans spoke out with #GiveDivasAChance trending and the fans voices were heard loud and clear. I hope this path continues for all of us women.
With TNA president Dixie Carter and Stephanie McMahon in prominent positions of the top two wrestling promotions in America at the moment, the future can be very bright for women in pro wrestling. Perhaps equality some day? We can only hope.