Lisa "Tara" Varon talks TNA vs. WWE, conditioning program, how much longer she wants to go, Doane
Q. Compare and contrast working with TNA and WWE, your thoughts on leaving WWE and at the time you talked about leaving pro wrestling. How seriouswere you about that and what changed your mind?
A. The only comparison between TNA and WWE are that they are both based on pro wrestling. They are different in every possible way. I could spend a day contrasting the two. All I will say is that they each have their pros and their cons.
I left WWE for two reasons. First, I was fried. I really needed time off. I had pretty much been on the road for seven years straight. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible. But for those seven years, I was either on the road or getting ready to be on the road. It gets exhausting. The fact that I was able to do it that long is a testament to how much I loved it.
Second, once you are in the spotlight, it’s hard to play a supporting role. I was tired of waiting for an opportunity to be the focus again. So if you combine being worn out, and not being happy with my role, I just felt like it was time to go. After my final match, I bawled little girl tears. I thought that was it.
But you can’t go from being busy non-stop to having nothing to do. After a couple weeks, I was stir crazy. I started MMA training on a more regular basis. But after a few months, I was contacted by TNA. They sold me on the idea of wrestling part time, 3-5 days a month. Plus they had some girls I really wanted to work with. Especially Kong. And by that point, I really missed wrestling.
TNA did not have to work hard to sell me.
Q. Do you have any kind of secrets when it comes to conditioning/nutrition? What is the state of your knee and are you limited in things you can't do because of it when it comes to training and things you have to avoid in wrestling? How did doing the fitness circuit help you and teach you tricks to maintain your body?
A. I don’t know that I have secrets. I train hard. Nobody trains harder than I do. I’m not saying I’m the strongest, or the leanest, or I have the best physique. But I am strong, and I am lean, and I have a good physique because nobody trains harder than I do. And I eat in moderation. I don’t super size. I may eat a little pizza, or a hamburger, or a donut. But I also eat lean meats and fruits and vegetables. The one secret, if you can call it that, is that I eat hormone free meats. They feed hormones to animals to make them bigger. Those hormones are still in the meat when you eat it. What do you think it does to you? Makes you bigger. Hormone free meats.
I have no limitations with my knee. The brace is to prevent any further injury. My elbow was injured in a cage match with Mickie James. It will not be 100% without surgery, but I train and wrestle around it. I will say this. That cage match was the Main Event. I thought I broke my arm. Earl Hebner was the ref. He asked if I was okay. I told him I broke my arm. He told me he was going to call the match. I told him I wanted to finish. I finished that match, although I lost. One of my proudest wrestling moments.
Fitness TOTALLY prepared me for wrestling. The discipline. Being able to push myself to physical extremes. Being able to maintain the look. And carrying that extra muscle has kept me healthy, relatively speaking.
Q. What are your thoughts on different women in the company, who are your favorites to work with?
A. Wow. I’ve been in wrestling going on my 13th year. I’ve worked with A LOT of girls. So I want to apologize to anyone I leave out. I learned a lot from Molly Holly and Ivory. I had great matches with Trish and Lita. Nattie Neidhart reminds me of myself in her attention to detail of the craft. I wish I would have had more of a chance to work with Beth Pheonix. To this day I feel bad about breaking her jaw. Jazz was super intense in the ring. I was afraid she would freak out and kill me, even when she was on my team. I saw Eve and Michelle McCool as bikini models coming in, but they both have incredible work ethic and both became great wrestlers. I had so much fun working with Torrie and Candice. Gail Kim is a great athlete. Mickie is very ambitious. ODB and Kong were the two that I most looked forward to facing in TNA. Christy Hemme has great stage presence. Brooke Tessmacher is the future of women’s wrestling. Angelina Love is a good mean blond. But I don’t know if she knows that she is a great all around wrestler and I think she has the ability to be amazing as more than just a mean blond. Rosita has a great future.
Sarita is a warrior. If I started my own promotion, I’d build it around Sarita. If I needed someone to get my back in a street fight. I’d get Sarita. If I were the CEO of a company, Sarita would be on my board of directors. She knows how to succeed, and she has unparalleled work ethic. She is the most under utilized talent in wrestling. Pound for pound the most hardcore female I have ever met. And a super nice person.
Q. Any ideas on how much longer you want to continue? Is there a time frame
or do you just want to go as long as possible? How is the overall injurysituation?
A. I don’t know how much longer I want to continue. And I don’t have a time frame. As long as I can keep fit, love what I do, and am proud of my work, I will continue. My knee and elbow are both very minor, and are manageable. I know that at my age, I am one injury away from retirement.
Q. Do you keep in touch with a lot of the women from years back who leftwrestling? Did you know any of them before from the fitness circuit?
A. I keep in touch with the majority of women. I’ve gone to a couple weddings recently. Whether it’s a wedding or a baby shower or a just a visit, I’m lucky to be able to travel for those events. I’m a Twitter fiend, so I tweet with everyone. I now live in Chicago, so a few of the girls have stayed at my place when they came through for a show or a convention or on business.
I was very close with Torrie. I met her at a fitness contest. I was also an acquaintance of Trish. We knew each other from fitness, but at the time I was doing more contests and she was doing more modeling.
Q. What were the high and low points of your career, both how you were being used or just overall mood at the time?
A. Well how I was being used correlates to my overall mood. I live this crazy life so that I can perform to the best of my ability. When that’s not happening, I’m not as happy. When I had the championship, I used to wear that belt backstage. I bring it to every appearance. My favorite was going through security at the airport. There’s only one belt, and if you win it, you keep it with you. So it’s in my carry on suitcase, because if you put it in your checked baggage, and they lose your suitcase…let’s just say that I don’t want to be known as the girl who lost the belt. Anyway, it’s this funny shaped metal thing, so when it goes through the x-ray machine, security always pulls it aside to see what it is. It’s kept in this velvet bag. So they unzip the bag, and I’m just like,”Yep. World Champion”.
And it was amazing to wrestle at Wrestlemania XIX. In front of 60,000. I just remember it was like a 100 yard walk just to get to the ring. And Wrestlemania XX. At Madison Square Garden. 20,000 fans. And I was shaving Molly’s head. I guess the shaver was tearing her hair out. And she was screaming in pain. But the fans were going crazy, and they were so loud, that I was in her face, and I could see her scream, but all I could hear were the fans.
My mother was born in Japan. I was able to wrestle there a couple times with WWE. Once I even took my mother on the tour. The travel got to be old, the actual travel. But wrestling all over the world was worth it. Many, many once in a lifetime experiences.
Q. Your thoughts on MMA, do you still train in Jiu Jitsu, how did you start, you
talked about doing it a few years back, do you wish it was around whenyou were 20 or 25 and would you have tried it?
A. I love MMA. I train a little bit now, but not so much to improve my skills. I train in various aspects of MMA in rotation as part of my conditioning. I’m 41, so when I was 20, MMA was unheard of. But if I were 20-25 in today’s climate, I would do it. And if I were healthy, I feel like I could do well. At my peak, I felt like I was so strong, and I have a good athletic foundation. I think I could have done very well. Until my elbow injury, I still toyed with the idea. But I am very competitive, and just to give it a try was not enough. I would have had to have been successful. I still watch it when I can. I have a great understanding when I’m watching. I can tell what a fighter needs to do next to submit someone, or to escape. The sport has come so far. There’s so much talent out there.
Q. When did you first want to get into pro wrestling? Was it a childhood thing, or something you discovered when they recruited you for those Godfather skits?
A. Honestly, it was not a childhood thing. Although all three of my older brother were very good amateur wrestlers. My oldest brother won a gold medal at the Pan American Games.
I went backstage to visit Torrie at a WCW show. They put me on the air with Scott Hall. It was so fun. And I was like, you get paid to do this? I wanted to get into WCW with Torrie, but WCW was falling apart.
I ran into Chyna at a gym in LA. She was very nice, and she told me who to contact at WWE. So I contacted them. They first asked for photos. Then a video. Then they called me to meet with them when they were in L.A. next, where I was living at the time.
I had a month before they came out, so I signed myself up at wrestling school, so I wouldn’t seem ignorant to the industry when they came out. I met with them a month later. I had previously worked on an episode of Pam Anderson’s TV show, VIP. They wanted to bring my character back. A week before I was supposed to film VIP again, WWE called and they wanted me for a show in Northern California. I backed out of VIP, and the rest is history.
Q. What is your response to what Kenn Doane said, what was the real situation at the time. Did you know anything about it at the time?
A. KD said a Diva married to someone not in the business who moved from RAW to Smackdown in 2007 was sleeping with John Cena. Considering I had nothing to do with why he was whining on the internet, he sure gave enough details about someone he claims he wasn’t trying to involve. I was the only Diva married to someone not in the business who moved from RAW to Smackdown in 2007.
I want to address this both professionally and personally. Professionally, you hear people talk about ‘backstage politics’ in wrestling. I’ll tell you what that means to me. Backstage politics is not some kind of psychological maneuvering. You work and travel with your wrestling co-workers more than you want to work and travel with anyone. The people who complain about backstage politics generally don’t have the ability to respectfully interact with others.
I treat everyone with respect. Everyone. Ask the caterers, building security, wrestlers, executives, crew, fans, anyone, who I don’t treat with respect and they would be at a loss for words. And because you spend so much time with these people, you know a lot about the people who you travel with and work closely with. I found that the best way to not make waves is to keep my eyes and ears open, and my mouth shut when it comes to other people’s business.
The people who complain that they were the victim of backstage politics often either don’t show people respect, or bud into other people’s business.
On a personal level, what KD said was mostly false, although there was a little truth.
I have been with my husband for 20 years. He’s the best guy in the world. But like any 20 year relationship, we have some good times and we have had some bad times. And anyone who I traveled with knows that. Because you learn intimate details about each other whether you want to or not.
We have separated a few times. One of those times that we were separated, I dated John for about a month. It was not in 2006 or 2007. It was in 2002. It was when we were both in Louisville. I was married but separated. John was single. I was never his 'road girlfriend'. I know that when we were separated, my husband also dated a couple girls. That’s what happens when you are separated.
In 2002, it was common knowledge that John and I dated. It fed the rumor mills for people who have nothing better to do than gossip like old ladies. So for KD to use bits of information that he was only able to pick up because he was allowed in the inner circle of WWE, and smear me, when I only treated KD with respect, over an incident that he is upset about from 5 years ago, tells me that he didn’t learn anything about ‘backstage politics’ and how it relates to being a decent human being.
Moving forward, I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of girl. Only my glass isn’t half full. My glass is 99% full. I am blessed. And I’m done discussing the 1%.
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