Lisa "Tara" Varon talks mentoring Tessmacher, Bound for Glory, Tammy Sytch, women in wrestling

Q. We'll start with Bound for Glory since it's this weekend, we know the basics of the story are teacher vs. pupil. Exactly how did you and Brooke first become training partners and give a background on it?

A. We were never given a story. We were just put together. I have some theories. Brooke is kind of loud and goofy. So maybe they put her with me because I understand lockerroom etiquette. But then I can be loud and goofy too. So maybe I was supposed to see how it can be annoying being around that. Or maybe they thought that she could learn in-ring skills from the veteran. Or maybe, as is often the case in any company with the women’s programs, they just shoved us together with no thought.

Did you know her well in WWE?

A. I knew her in WWE. I wouldn’t say well. But I do think that I would consider every Diva I worked with at WWE a friend.

How would you compare her background pre-wrestling with yours as far as training and conditioning?

A. I think she has a good knowledge on how to achieve ‘the look’. She has an amazing physique, and she works hard for it. I don’t think she had quite the athletic background that I had. But she probably trains the way I trained when I was her age.

Did you go to management and ask to team with her or did they come up with it? You have mentioned in the past that you see her as the future of women's wrestling. Is there any things specific that made you think that?

A. She’s young, she looks amazing, she has an athletic background, she is very competitive and continues to try to better her in-ring skills. If she can stay healthy and continue to improve, I think she’ll be in the mix for some time to come.

In TNA right now, several of the women like Angelina Love, Velvet Sky and Winter have departed, and others like Mickie James and Sarita seem to be nowhere to be found. What are your thoughts on the division?

A. I think TNA has a direction that they want to go. It may be a bit of a rebuilding time with all the changes, but we are seeing a focus on the Knockouts that we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes I agree with changes, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’m asked for my input. Sometimes I’m not. I think it’s too early to tell if they achieved what they were hoping for. My hope is that the Knockouts division has strong athletes, strong characters, and we’re given the opportunity to show that with great rivalries and outstanding matches.

What is your current contract situation with TNA?

A. I just signed on for another year. I worked for four months without a contract while we were negotiating. It was brutal. There were a couple times during that period where I had come to terms with walking away. I was supposed to be at a show in Orlando on a Thursday, and it’s Tuesday and we’re going back and forth on the contract. And I hung up the phone with TNA, and got online, and started making vacation plans. I was done. The money wasn’t the issue. And I’m sure I can’t discuss the issue. That’s always been my relationship with wrestling. I love the work, but I hate the business. But I’m happy we resolved everything, and I’m glad that we can move forward.

How do you physically feel?

A. I feel as good as I have felt in years. My knee feels 100%. My elbow feels 100%. I have been training harder than I have ever trained. I look back at photos of myself from WWE days. With the rigorous schedule I had, I didn’t eat, sleep or train the way I should have. I was a little bloated. I feel like I’m in better condition and a better wrestler than I have ever been.

Obviously you have lasted a lot longer in a profession that usually isn't kind to women past the age of maybe 32 or 33. Mentally, how much longer do you want to continue or think you can continue, and how much of a shock to your system will it be if wrestling is left behind? Or would you like to continue as a trainer and be around wrestling?

 A. I don’t know how long I want to continue. It’s important to me to be in a positive environment. I do sign one year contracts because I want to be able to walk away when I’m done. I don’t want to be locked in long term. But I love to wrestle. It is so much fun for me. I’m 41 years old. I don’t look it. I don’t feel it. I’m having a blast. I put on great matches for the fans. I bring out the best in my opponents. I’ll retire when circumstances change. And no, coaching has no appeal to me. I put up with the travel and the airports and the hotels and being away from my family because I love that few minutes in the ring. When I’m done wrestling, I’m done with wrestling. There’s a lot of things I want to do, and there’s no appeal to me in coaching. Speaking of other things, I have begun construction on my restaurant in Chicago. I’m very excited. We’re on pace for a January or February opening. I’ll give more details soon.

How much do you attribute your longevity in wrestling to what you learned before wrestling competing in fitness competitions?

 A. A lot. A LOT! It’s important in this business to not only have the look, but to have the physical foundation to support your joints and bones and prevent injury. There are several ways to develop that, but I developed that training for fitness.

What are your thoughts about WWE right now? Do you watch it? Would you like to go back for one last run?

 A. I don’t watch only because I don’t have time. I heard their ratings are low. It’s definitely related to their lack of Victoria…hahaha. But seriously, wrestling has always been up and down. They have low ratings one month. They’ll have high ratings next month. Would I go back? Never say never in this business. I’ll wait for that Brock Lesnar contract to show up at my doorstep…hahaha. It’s too early to talk about my last run.

Any thoughts on the women there and any insight why a lot of them of late (Kelly Kelly, Bella Twins, Beth Phoenix) have left the promotion. How well did you know those women when you were there?

 A. I would like to think that they are all friends. But I could only guess why they left, and that wouldn’t be fair. I don’t want this to sound like I’m bashing WWE, but I think we can all agree that they are not letting the Divas work to their full potential. When I left, I needed time away from not being able to be my best. That may or may not apply here.

Q. Tammy Sytch, is there any kind of insight you think you can provide on her? Is there a part of her that you can see why she went down the path she did? How hard is it to be in the business a long time and avoid that path. Again, you have been the exception to the rule, but the business is very tough for women past a certain age because of how difficult it is to maintain "the look" and even harder when you're really not an in-ring performer. In that sense, it's no different than a lot of professions like modeling, or is there a lure or something that wrestling has that would differ from, whether it would be sports or modeling activities that unless you are in it would be harder to understand?

 A. I don’t know what got her on this path. I met her at Wrestlemania 25, and then I ran into her at several conventions. I like her. I consider her a friend. She is a very nice person. She is definitely eccentric, but that’s almost a requirement for being in this industry. I’m not qualified to tell you what put her on this path, or if it’s harder in this industry. I do know that many of my friends from this industry have died. And that’s the path she’s on. It’s misery and then death. I think that we as performers have an obligation after seeing what we’ve seen to try and prevent that from happening to each other. I know WWE has been very generous to pay for rehab costs. I don’t know how that works, because I don’t know anyone who has gone through that. But I texted Sunny recently to tell her she could come to Chicago and stay with me if she needs to in order to decompress. I’m 800 miles away from her. I hope that those in her area can be her support system. Tammy Sytch is not a punch line for a joke, or fodder for the dirt sheets. She’s a real person with a real struggle and I hope that those around her realize the urgency of the situation.

I do want to end on a happier note and go back to your question about the industry being tougher on older women. I don’t agree. I feel great and don’t look my age. I’m wrestling for the championship belt on Sunday at our biggest PPV of the year. Trish looks better than ever and is having great business success. Torrie looks better than ever and is having the time of her life. Lita looks amazing and is having a blast. Jackie Moore has not changed. I’m pretty sure she’s a vampire because she’s 48 and does not age. Jackie Gayda (Haas) has a litter of kids and looks better than ever. And I’m confident that those who have recently left the industry like Kelly, Michelle McCool, The Bellas, Beth, Winter, Melina and many others will all go on to have positive adventures.

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