A former Kingstonian recently fulfilled her longtime dream when she was invited to try-out for and participate in a World Wrestling Entertainment event; World Wrestling Entertainment being the largest professional wrestling company in the world. Julia Nulis, who wrestles as the Queen of Mean Persephone Vice, was one of a small group of Canadian wrestlers to get a look from WWE during its recent Canadian tour, which also included a stop at the Rogers K-Rock Centre on July 6, 2014.
Nulis, an Ottawa-based lab technician and phlebotomist when she’s not suplexing on the side, first found an interest in pro wrestling as a youngster in Kingston. “We had the bunny ears on the TV, so WCW was the only wrestling program that would come through,” the 28-year-old Bayridge Secondary School graduate said during an interview. Nulis would eventually fall fully in love with sports entertainment around 1999, when she saw the now legendary Hardy Boyz and Canadians Adam (Edge) Copeland and Christian engaged in one of their many ladder matches. It was then, Nulis says, that she felt wrestling might be her calling.
“It just seemed fun,” she said, just weeks removed from her first tryout with WWE. “Everybody who was different had a place. With me being six-foot-two and just kind of eccentric and out there and obnoxious, it felt like there was a place for someone like me. And that’s what kind of brought me into wrestling.”
Nulis would eventually begin to explore her options for getting into the business, which weren’t many in Canada at the time. “I was still in high school … and I really didn’t know of any schools or how to go looking for it. Everything I was looking at online (said) I had to be 18, it was in the States … obviously I wasn’t 18 at the time and I lived in Canada.” After connecting with some independent performers in Ontario, Nulis found a trainer.
“My very first training was at the Living Legends Wrestling Academy, in Hamilton — it’s no longer running. It was under Ernie (The Executioner) Moore, and my subtrainer was Reggie Marley.” She cut a deal with her mother — “I wasn’t allowed to take sick days at work to go and train for wrestling” — and set out on her journey. She spent her days off driving between Kingston and Hamilton and learning the business under the tutelage of Marley and Moore.
Nulis first worked as a valet, which in turn helped her get her name out there. She even remembers the first show on which she was featured.
“My very first show was July 22, 2006,” she said.
A few months later, she said, she had her first match. “It was terrible,” she said with a laugh when asked about her debut. “My ring positioning was off, I was bumping for moves I really shouldn’t have bumped (for). I was just kind of going with it.” Following her debut, Nulis took some time away from the ring to work further with her trainers. “I really wanted to be more ring prepared,” she said, adding that she was eventually given her trainers’ blessings to start her career in the ring.
Like nearly every independent wrestler ever, Nulis cut her teeth in bingo halls and tiny venues, often working for little to nothing monetarily. It was all about experience. She had two goals in mind at the time, she said: to finish school and make it to the top in pro wrestling. “There was always that ‘don’t forget about school because if the WWE doesn’t work out, you need to have something to fall back,’ ” Nulis said. “No matter how much determination and hard work, there’s always that chance that you’re never going to get in. We all want it, we all work toward that,” she said, of WWE.
Nulis began to carve out a name for herself on the indy circuit, regularly working for Big Time Pro Wrestling in Ottawa and Mecca Pro Wrestling in Cornwall, even briefly for Ontario Championship Wrestling in Kingston. Eventually, Nulis would end up with Bodyslammers Canada, under the tutelage of Wayne Cryderman, who himself was formerly the head trainer at longtime WWE star Al Snow’s school in Ohio.
When WWE came through Ontario earlier this month, Cryderman got the call from WWE brass to send some of his best to participate in the shows and to get a look from WWE talent searchers. Cryderman put forward Nulis’s name.
“He’s put my name in before for a tryout, but they weren’t interested in seeing women at the time. This time, it was so many guys and we want to see this girl,” she said, referring to herself. Cryderman’s call, Nulis said, was one she’ll not soon forget.
“It was a Friday afternoon, and I’m having lunch with a friend … all of a sudden my phone’s ringing and it’s Wayne and he says ‘I need you to sit down, can you talk?’ “So I sit down and he’s like ‘congratulations, you’ve got a tryout.’ And I started shaking immediately. I’m like ‘I have a tryout?’ ‘You’ve got a tryout, congratulations.’ ”
Nulis and the others selected would spend Monday night in Montreal for Monday Night Raw, then shift to Ottawa for a tryout and the SmackDown taping. If that weren’t enough, she was also selected to be part of one of the tapings on the Monday.
“A group of us were Rosebuds for the WWE Superstars show, (which is available to be viewed) on the (WWE) Network,” she said. “It was so fun. We got to meet a lot of people, there was more time to sit down with people. I really got to talk to a lot of the guys and get their input, especially with me being a bigger girl. ‘What should I be doing in the ring, give me some advice because a lot of the people I’m working are much shorter than me?’ ‘How can we have a level playing field?’ They were so open about everything and that was totally cool because the fact that they were even giving you the time of day really meant something to me. I clung to every word.”
The next day, she had her tryout, collecting valuable feedback from those she auditioned for, including the WWE women’s division champion AJ Lee.
“They really liked how I look,” Nulis said when asked about the feedback she was given. “Obviously my height is a positive. My overall personality is great. They gave me one tip to work on in the ring. They were saying ‘we look forward for you to come back and we look forward to seeing your improvements. Always be strong and always be solid in the ring.’ I guess I danced a little bit. I was super stoked again that they gave me the time of day to let me know what I can improve on and to have them say that they hope to have me back is pretty awesome, too.”
While Nulis can’t predict the future, the experience has given her new motivation going forward with her career.
“They’ve seen me, I’ve done the best that I could and I look forward to another tryout and blowing their mind.”
Looking back, Nulis said it was an experience she’ll never forget.
“I went through literally two realities; my wishful reality and then what I went to school for, my hard-work reality. It really put everything into perspective for me, how different those work lives are. I have to be honest, I didn’t want to go back to my real life.”