Before she even reached her 11th birthday, Thea Trinidad had experienced more heartache and strife than many people do in their entire lives.
On Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida terrorists orchestrated a series of attacks in the United States, killing 2,977 innocent people, altering countless lives in the process, including that of 10-year-old Thea.
The morning of what is now simply known as 9/11 was not unlike countless others for Trinidad. But a phone call to her mother would quickly change that.
“It’s so weird that we’re talking about this here, because I’m over in Queens right now at my grandmother’s house, and this is the exact place I was when everything went down,” Trinidad said in a telephone interview, adding that her family was living at her grandmother’s at the time.
“The room that I’m in right now, this was my room,” she said, as her memories took her back. “I heard my mom … I heard her moving, pacing back and forth, and saying ‘what are you talking about, what are you talking about?’ She (said) ‘where are you going? Why are you saying goodbye?’ And then she started really getting upset.”
Young Thea, oblivious as a young girl to so much of what is wrong and cruel in this world, began to worry.
“I (said) ‘mom, who are you on the phone with?’ I kept hearing the name Michael come out of her mouth,” Trinidad recalled. “I was thinking my uncle Michael. And I said ‘what’s wrong with uncle Michael?’ ”
Her mother delivered the worst possible news.
“She said ‘no, this is your dad.’ ”
Michael Trinidad was a 33-year-old telecom analyst for the firm Cantor Fitzgerald, which was on the 103rd floor of the North Tower in New York’s famous World Trade Center. Michael and Thea’s mother were divorced at the time, but remained close.
Thea Trinidad and her late father, Michael.“As soon as she said that, my heart just dropped,” Trinidad recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew something bad was happening just by her reaction,” she said, even recalling that the sound coming through the phone her mother was holding was very loud that day.
Trinidad’s mother then turned on the television.
“I thought it was a movie,” Trinidad said, remembering the horrifying images of the burning towers. “It looked like a scene from a movie. At 10 years old, I had no idea.”
Young Thea listened to her mother’s conversation with her father, recalling that her dad “seemed like he was trying to figure this out. He (said) ‘OK, I can’t take this stairway, they’re not letting us go down here!’ ‘What if we break the windows?’ ‘We’re all going to try to break the windows, hold on!’ He was trying to figure out a way out. I guess he didn’t realize that oxygen fuelled fire because as soon as they broke that glass, he started coughing more and more.”
Things went from bad to worse.
“He was telling my mom ‘I’m calling to say goodbye, I know that I can’t make it out, there isn’t a way I can get out of here,’ and ‘tell the kids I love them,’ ” Trinidad said, adding that her mother refused to accept what her ex-husband was telling her. “She wasn’t hearing any of that,” Trinidad said. “She said ‘no, you’re going to tell (the kids) yourself, you’re going to find a way out of there.’ ”
Trinidad’s mother herself at one time worked inside the Twin Towers.
“She said ‘well can you take this stairwell?’ Can you take this stairwell?’ He said ‘no, it’s locked, everyone’s panicking, it’s really crazy.’ ”
Michael Trinidad knew at that point what his family didn’t. His fate, sadly, was sealed.
“He said ‘I’ve always loved you, I don’t care whatever happened between us, I apologize for everything that went down and I want you to know that I love you and I love the kids,’ Trinidad said, adding that her father even called his wife’s new husband “a great man,” before asking him to “please be a father to my kids.”
Looking back, Trinidad remembers every single detail of that fateful morning, yet admits she is at a loss to explain why she didn’t take the phone that day to speak with her father one last time.
“I felt like it was an out-of-body experience,” she said. “I felt like I was looking down at myself and I knew I could talk to my dad for the last time because he was on the phone. I could have grabbed it. I could have said something. But I was so numb, I didn’t move. I just sat there and I just observed everything that was happening and then, at 9:14, the line cut off.”
An hour later, the unimaginable happened.
“His building fell,” Trinidad said.
“We didn’t know what was going. It was intense. I look back and I can’t even imagine anybody else going through it. I would never want anybody I know to go through that. It’s so vivid in my mind. There are things from when I was 10 years old that I barely remember, but step by step, I remember everything (from that day).”
Michael Trinidad was the kind of father, Trinidad said, who put his family first.
“He had a wife, and kids and multiple jobs — I remember at one point, besides working at the World Trade Center, he had two other jobs — he was a constant hustler. And as long as his family was OK, he was OK,” Trinidad recalled with pride.
Michael Trinidad also introduced a very young Thea to what would ultimately become not only her livelihood and passion, but what would prove to be her eternal link to her father.
“My dad took us to wrestling events as soon as he could,” said Trinidad, who will be appearing at Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore 3 on Nov. 9 in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. “I remember as far back as four years old thinking ‘oh my god, I love this,’ she said of the action inside the squared circle. “I always loved being a fan and I loved watching it, but I also was kind of crazy when I was younger so I always tried to hop the guard rail … I was really crazy,” Trinidad recalled, her devilish grin apparent even over the phone.
Michael Trinidad’s love for professional wrestling was clearly contageous.
“He was always the person that would say ‘oh, you know, this is the good guy and this is the bad guy,’ Trinidad recalled, adding that her late father “was an amateur wrestler in high school so he showed us how to put on a proper headlock by the age of four or five.”
For young Thea, it was love at first sight.
“I just knew that that was what I wanted to do,” Trinidad said. “I didn’t want to be the person, as a fan, watching in the audience; I wanted to be the person in the ring, giving this emotional and great performance to the crowd.”
Coming to terms with her father’s death was not easy for Trinidad.
“As soon as the building (collapsed), I said ‘I know my dad, and he always gets out of situations.’ I didn’t even believe it. It took me a long time to believe anything that was going on. There were people I saw on the news coming out of the building that looked similar to my dad. My aunt, who was five months pregnant, she worked at the Citibank next door. She walked from there all the way to Queens village, on foot, five months pregnant. She was so happy to be home finally, and when I asked her ‘did you see my dad?’ — she broke down. She had no idea.”
Young Thea was in complete denial.
“My dad used to pick me up on the weekends, so (following 9/11), I would still pack my clothes and get ready. After a few weeks, I realized he wasn’t coming … that’s when I finally figured it out.”
Trinidad said her mother, the recipient of that fateful phone call, has never fully recovered.
“To be honest, my mom is still very emotional when it comes to that,” she said. “She never found a way to talk about it without getting emotional, and then crying, and not being able to finish. They had been together since she was 14 years old,” Trinidad said of her parents. “She felt like he was her soulmate and to have that taken away from you …,” she said, her voice trailing off.
While her mother struggles to discuss 9/11, Thea has come to grips with her tragic past.
“The reason why I’ve become, I don’t want to say OK with telling the story, (is) I’ve found comfort in telling it because I feel that people should know the great person that he was, the effect that he had on my brother and I, my career choice and what I went through and how I got through it. I’m still here. I went through something tragic and crazy for us, but I was able to come out of it inspired and driven by my dad’s spirit rather than destroyed and miserable with life.”
Coming to grips with that tragedy wasn’t without its struggles.
“I’m not going to lie, people went through a lot,” Trinidad said. “People found comfort in different ways. Some people got a whole lot of money from the government and spent it on crazy stuff and now they’ve lost everything and they’re miserable. Some people became alcoholics or drug users … there are so many different unfortunate things that came from (Sept. 11) that I’ve seen personally, and I didn’t want to end up that way.”
Thea Trinidad did not escape unscathed, however. Far from it.
“There were times when my brother said ‘I just want be with dad again,’ and, as a kid, him saying that he wants to die just to see him again was crazy for our family,” Trinidad said.
“For me, I went through a time where I had an eating disorder because I didn’t feel like I deserved anything. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be here as much as (my dad) deserved to be here. There were times when I thought about cutting (myself). There were so many things as a kid, as a teenager, really. I started to go through the depression stages when I was about 13, 14, where I (would say) ‘no, I miss dad, I hate living here alone’ …. I felt so alone.”
While fighting her internal demons, it was her father’s influence that would ultimately help Trinidad get her life back on track.
“I thought ‘well what was it that dad and I shared the most?’ It was wrestling,” she said. “Once I realized that and saw what his dreams were, what my dreams (were), I said ‘you know, I can do this for me and for him and this is what is going to pull me out of this.’ ”
Michael Trinidad’s death may have spurred Thea into a dark and forgettable time in her life, but it was his memory that would lift her out.
“I cleaned up my act, I got good grades in school, I beat bulimia, I went through a time where I finally felt like I was coming up out of the water,” Trinidad said. “I could finally breathe again.”
A passion she shared with her late father was all it took.
“Wrestling did that for me,” Trinidad said. “I couldn’t believe that throwing myself and beating myself up was the way to do that,” she said with a laugh.
Trinidad set out on her path to pro wrestling, learning the ropes, so to speak, under the tutelage of the likes of Javi-Air, Azrieal, T.J. Perkins, Hijo del Gladiador and Tony Salazar. But it wasn’t until a fateful encounter with legendary hardcore wrestler Tommy Dreamer that her pro wrestling dreams began to become a reality.
“I call him my wrestling dad,” Trinidad said of Dreamer. “He really takes care of me like I’m his own. Anybody who knows me will say ‘don’t mess with her, she’s Dreamer’s girl. You respect her and you keep her good.’ Honestly, he was the one from the beginning who saw something in me and that’s all I wanted … someone to see my passion and to see what I can do.”
That fateful encounter came when Trinidad travelled to Coney Island, N.Y., for an appearance.
“It’s a funny story,” Trinidad recalled with a laugh when asked about how she met Dreamer. “I brought my grandmother. My grandmother is four-foot-11, she’s a spitfire, a little Puerto Rican, she’s crazy. I brought her with me to this show in Coney Island. I knew that Tommy Dreamer was going to be there and I’ve always liked Tommy. My dad actually brought me to an ECW event a long time ago and it scared the hell out of me. It was pretty cool to me to meet Tommy.”
Her first encounter with the legendary Dreamer wasn’t exactly what she had envisioned.
“I was like ‘Oh, hi I’m Thea, very nice to meet you.’ And he was like ‘hey, Tommy,’ and he walked away,” Trinidad said. “I was like ‘man, that kinda sucks, I really wish he coulda talked,’ ” she added, admitting she knew he was busy.
Things were certainly different following her match that evening.
“As soon as my match was done, he said ‘alright kid, come here, we have to talk,’ Trinidad said. “He said ‘well, this is what you did right, this is what you should change, you have great potential, you have a beautiful moonsault, I’m telling you there’s something there.”
Dreamer gave the budding wrestler some tips and asked her to touch base with him in a month’s time, which she did.
From there, Dreamer arranged a tryout with Total Nonstop Action wrestling, a promotion for which he was working at the time.
“When I first met Tommy, I didn’t tell him ‘hey, this is my story and why I got into wrestling.’ He had no idea. He just knew what I looked like and what I could do. And when he told me that we were going to be doing a tryout, I said ‘OK, there’s only one problem, I’m filming this thing for NBC, it’s for children of 9/11.’ He said ‘wait, what are you doing?’ And I told him and that’s when he said ‘Oh my god, I had no idea.’ I felt like we got a lot closer after that and the mutual respect between us grew immensely.”
Dreamer’s instincts about Trinidad were spot on, as she would knock the socks off TNA brass and secure a spot with the company, a spot she would hold for two years performing under the name Rosita. Following her tryout, her dreams became reality.
“When I got back(stage), I was so excited,” Trinidad said. “(Lead agent) D’Lo (Brown) said we love you, that was awesome, you did great today, I think we’re going to offer you something.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Trinidad said. “It was amazing. It was the craziest feeling ever. I walked out of there, I went into the bathroom because I didn’t want to see me tear up, but I started tearing up.”
Dreamer’s integral role in helping Trinidad fulfil her dream is something, she said, she’ll never forget.
“I was on Cloud 9 and I have Tommy to thank for that. I owe Tommy so much and I don’t think he’ll ever really understand how much I truly, deeply appreciate and love him. There are no words.”
In life, they say all good things come to an end. In wrestling, that’s not so much a saying as a guarantee. Almost as quickly as Trinidad secured a spot with TNA, she disappeared from TV. A change in people behind the scenes was the main culprit, according to Trinidad.
“The people who hired me and the people who were there when I was there in the beginning weren’t there toward the end of my run there,” she said. “Tommy Dreamer was no longer there. (Director of Talent Relations) Terry Taylor, unfortunately, was no longer there and those are the people I felt were the two strongest forces behind me. Terry, I can’t thank him enough either because he was so sweet to me and he really just helped me in every way possible when I was there. I can’t say anything negative about him. He’s such a a good-hearted person and when I think about why I felt so comfortable there, and why things worked the way they did … Vince Russo, same thing, he wasn’t there anymore either. Vince always kept me on TV. As soon as all those people left, I felt alone in a way. I felt nervous. ‘What’s going to happen now?’ ‘Which way am I going to go?’ I honestly don’t know what happened. I don’t know what went wrong. Once my contract expired, I was so ready to say ‘OK, I need to get away from this place right
Come Nov. 9 in Poughkeepsie, wrestling fans can once again see Trinidad inside a wrestling ring, thanks to none other than Dreamer, who has booked his protege as part of his House of Hardcore show. There, Trinidad will team with Carlito Colon to take on Stevie Richards and Lisa Marie Varon.
Trinidad couldn’t be happier.
“Honestly, it’s a blessing to be a part of it,” she said of the House of Hardcore show. “I know Tommy has tons of people hitting him up constantly to get on that show because that’s the place to be. I just feel blessed that he continues to believe in me and give me the chance that he feels that I deserve.”
Her future bright, Trinidad now embraces her tragic past.
She even hopes people can draw inspiration from her.
“(Until this interview), I’ve never told people that I had an eating disorder at one point, (or that) I was a teenager contemplating cutting (myself),” she said. “I went through a lot in my life. Although some people might be ashamed of what they went through — I can say that I know there are tons of people out there who have went through similar situations or are still going through similar situations, whether that is eating disorders or cutting, or anything … I’m here to say that I’ve gotten through a lot.
“I’ve been through a lot and I’ve pulled through it. And if there’s anything that my life will tell you — and I’m an open book, I really am — it’s that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel really strongly about that. There were times where I never thought I was going to pull out of it. There were times when I got back into fitness and started training for my fitness competitions, that I thought ‘Oh, if I just threw this up again, I’d be fine.’ No.”
Trinidad hopes her perseverance can inspire others in need. She hopes they can look at her story and say ‘Oh, I’m going through that too and I can’t believe that she had the guts to actually tell people about
On 9/11, Thea Trinidad looked down at herself during what she describes as an out-of-body experience.
Today, and forever, she has someone else looking down on her. Someone who is undoubtedly one proud papa.
House of Hardcore 3
Where: Mid-Hudson Civic Center, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
When: Saturday, Nov. 9, belltime 7:30 p.m.
Meet & Greet: 5:00 p.m.
Main event: Tommy Dreamer and Terry Funk vs. Lance Storm and Sean Waltman (X-Pac).
• Carlito Colon and Thea Trinidad (Rosita) vs. Stevie Richards and Lisa Marie Varon (Victoria/Tara).
• Kevin Steen vs. Rhino.
• Tony Nese vs. Petey Williams vs. Alex Reynolds.
• A 15-man Hardcore Hell Rumble.
Plus: Ted Dibiase Jr, “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, Matt Hardy, MVP, Matt Striker, Maryse, Devon Dudley, The Big XLG, The Beautiful People- Angelina Love & Velvet Sky, Sonjay Dutt, Reby Sky, Hale Collins, Vik Dalishus, Lance Anoai and more.
Tickets and information: houseofhardcore.net