Legend’s Stratusfying career continues

(courtesy Stratus Enterprises, Inc.)

(courtesy Stratus Enterprises, Inc.)

Retirement is often synonymous with slowing down. Someone forgot to tell that to World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer Trish Stratus.

Stratus, a wrestling legend and one of Canada’s most famous grapplers of all time, could actually be busier today than she was during her illustrious career spanning the globe for WWE.

Since retiring from full-time active wrestling in 2006, Stratus has launched a popular yoga series, starred in the reality TV series Armed & Famous, hosted The Second City’s Next Comedy Legend, starred in a handful of other television series and movies, launched a successful business career, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, became a mother and next year stars alongside Danny Glover in Gridlocked. That’s not to mention all the appearances she’s been making of late at comic conventions alongside her fellow hall of famer and close friend Amy (Lita) Dumas. The next appearance for Stratus comes this weekend at the Hamilton Comic Con.

Some retirement eh? But Stratus wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Motherhood is wonderful,” Stratus said when asked how life as a mom has been treating her. “It’s great, it’s interesting, it’s just part of my life now. It’s like saying ‘how’s breathing going?’ It’s wonderful and Max is growing up, he’s going to be one on the 30th, can’t believe how fast that first year went. He’s started to walk and he’s hitting all his milestones, which makes me a happy and proud mama.”

Since walking away from arguably the most successful run by a woman in the history of professional wrestling, Stratus has made her focus on the next chapter of her life and career.

“When I initially retired, the idea was to focus on my business and my brand and to start to build that,” she said in a telephone interview. “Everything was kind of internal and done here (in Toronto) … no one really knew that I was out there filming fitness DVDs and designing a fitness line. So, it’s nice to have it all come to fruition.”

In just seven years in WWE, the Toronto native became one of the most decorated and celebrated women in wrestling history. She won seven women’s championships, was one of only four women to hold the Hardcore championship and was declared Diva of the Decade. Heady stuff, indeed. No one would have blamed Stratus for wanting a break following her impressive wrestling run.

“In the beginning I needed a break,” she said, when asked about post-retirement. “Mind you, I say I needed a break for everything but I jumped right into Armed & Famous. It might have seemed like I disappeared … maybe from the wrestling world. There was Armed & Famous and then there was the Second City show and then I did my travel show. That all happened the first two years after I retired,” Stratus said.

After some brand-building work, she filmed Bounty Hunters in 2011. “I think that’s when the WWE action started happening again,” Stratus recalled. I know that when I did that tag match with John Cena, (that) was the first time that I got back into the wrestling game. I think I was two years retired at that point. And then there was an anniversary special here and there. I can say that the first couple of years, I was busy doing other shows, and dabbling and producing my own TV show, and then WWE came a knocking again and then it was kind of like back in the family again. Then … the hall of fame came along, which was really nice …”

Stratus is fondly remembered as a modern-day pioneer of women’s wrestling, someone who perfectly blended beauty with brawn and a will to succeed like few before her or since. She is often, and justifiably, mentioned in the same breath as legendary late greats like The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young.

Stratus is very appreciative of that comparison.

“It’s humbling,” she said. “You set out to start your career and obviously you want, I did, to be the best women’s champion that there ever was and be remembered for my work in the ring. When you have these people who’ve laid the foundation for you, you have to be really aware that these women went out there and they were pioneers at the time. There were really no women doing what they were doing. They were trailblazers.

“To then do my work and then to sit back and look at it in retrospect and say ‘OK, I did some trailblazing of my own,’ but obviously if the opportunity wasn’t there, if the road wasn’t paved for me, then I would have never had the opportunity to do that. It’s amazing and it just feels good, it feels fulfilling to know that you’ve done your best and you’ve put everything into your career, the sacrifices that you made — there were a lot of sacrifices and a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into building a career — and now to look back and go ‘OK, good to know that every single minute was worth it.’ And to be put in the same sentence is truly an honour for sure.”

Stratus is also happy to pay it forward, so to speak, when she is asked for advice by aspiring wrestlers nowadays.

“(Someone) just reached out to me from another federation, who is high-profile herself,” Trish said, saying she wouldn’t reveal who it was. “It was kind of surprising to have her reach out to me. She’s a current star and she asked ‘how did you maintain what you did for so long and how were you able to change it?’ I guess what I had to say to her was you have to really know your character and be true to yourself and your character because I feel like the more true to yourself your character is, then the more it will resonate with people because it’s genuine,” she said.

“I think people can read that and whether you’re a good guy or bad guy, you’re always going to amp it up, but I think your character overall needs to stay intact because I think people read that and it’s something that really resonates with people and that will help with the longevity of your career. Just stay true to believing what you’re doing out there. Don’t get discouraged out there, there’s going to be bumps in the road, there are going to be people who don’t give you the opportunity that you think you should have, and that’s going to happen. Be aware that that happens in any industry. Just keep sticking to your guns and believing in what you do and the more positive thinking that happens, you’ll get your chance to shine. And when you do, people will stand up and notice and you never know at what point someone watching you could take you to the next level. It could be anyone from people internally, through the fans, something like a Daniel Bryan thing can happen, where fans will dictate that you’re the one.”

While WWE certainly doesn’t currently boast a talent pool of women like the one it had when Stratus and Lita and others were reinventing women’s wrestling, there is some great talent at its disposal, Stratus said.

For her money, Stratus says no one is better than another Canadian, Natalya, the daughter of the legendary Hart Foundation member Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart.

“I feel like Nattie is still needing to hit her stride because, to me, she’s got such history in wrestling first of all, which can translate to so much in the ring and can resonate so much with the fans because I think they know that and can respect that. She’s got the built-in respect and credibility, she’s an amazing worker. I’ve had the luxury of getting to know her over the years, but people haven’t gotten a chance to know her because WWE TV doesn’t really create those moments for the girls anymore. Thankfully now, with the E! program (Total Divas), she’s getting a chance to show her personality. She’s such a great gal and she’s so giving and she’s so passionate about the business and you can really read that on the show. I think they just need to give her a chance to just run with it because I think she could be the one that people would get behind and she has the skills to back it up.”

Leadership, Stratus said, is crucial in a locker room. “You need that leader in the ring,” Stratus said. “I think what she needs to do, and I hope she’s listening, Nattie needs to step up and be the leader because she IS the leader in that locker room. I don’t think she recognizes that she is. I really think if she would take ownership of that role, I think that could really translate to a lot of great things for her.”

While the women’s division is nowhere near as popular as it was when Stratus was its marquee name, thanks to a recent push and a new wave of talent, the division seems like it’s on its way to prominence once again.

“I sat up and noticed again when Brie (Bella) and Steph (McMahon) were in the ring recently,” Stratus said. “My interest was piqued so I tuned in and I saw the promo that they did and I thought ‘oh, this is good.’ I even texted Stephanie and said ‘hey girl, I like what’s going on there.’ The fact that Steph is getting in there and she’s giving Brie the rub — that’s a big deal and it was a good thing to see.”

Trish Stratus and Dominic Purcell star in Gridlocked. (courtesy Hackybox Pictures)

Trish Stratus and Dominic Purcell star in Gridlocked. (courtesy Hackybox Pictures)

After Hamilton this weekend, the next place fans may see Stratus is on the silver screen, starring alongside Hollywood legend Glover and a cast of others in Gridlocked.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Stratus said. “A couple of months ago, I was like ‘OK, my baby is more independent now, my businesses are all good,’ everything felt really good and settled in my life and upon a friend’s recommendation, I met with an agent and said ‘yeah, OK, let’s see if acting is supposed to be a part of my life.’ I’ve never had an agent my whole career. I’ve basically been with WWE and following that I had some really great luck and opportunities. Literally, two weeks later, this movie landed on his desk and he was like ‘it’s filming in Toronto, it’s an action movie and it’s with Danny Glover and Dominic Purcell.’ I was like ‘wow.’ Such high-profile actors — Stephen Lang’s in it, and Vinnie Jones, I was super excited to be a part of this cast.”

The experience was amazing, Stratus said. “It’s a bit of an homage to the old-school action flicks is what this movie was, it really had some hardcore action with fights and with gunfights. It’s really Lethal Weapon-y, or Die Hard, that kind of action. The fight co-ordinator did a fantastic job of making the director’s vision come together. It was cool because he had his bag of tricks, and I bring my bag of tricks and he knows, ‘she can go’. We put some amazing fight scenes together, I’m really excited about it.” For someone who carved out her niche in the ad-lib, spontaneous, fast-paced world of wrestling, acting in a major motion picture is certainly a different experience, Stratus said.

“It does,” Stratus said with a chuckle when asked if shooting a scene of a movie feels slow compared to coming to the ring in wrestling. “And there’s no instant gratification,” she added with a laugh. “However, I can say the acting part of it, yes, definitely feels really slow paced to the point where it’s a lot of hurry up and wait. Good thing (is) I’m a good multi-tasker; I found ways to keep busy.”

Of course, film and wrestling are similar when it comes to literally kicking butt.

“When I got the chance to actually do my action scenes, I think I might have approached it differently than a traditional actor would’ve,” Stratus said. “I did my action scene and when they called cut and they all came up to me like ‘are you OK, did you hit your face?’ And I was like ‘I’m fine – you were supposed to think I hit my face.’ And they were like ‘Oh my God.’ They said they’ve never seen an actress go full on like that.”

While that film awaits a 2015 release date, Stratus is content to carry on with appearances at events like the looming Hamilton Comic Con, where she again gets to go back to her grassroots, interacting with her legions of fans.

“I’m just excited to be back talking to them again and meeting and greeting everybody. That was one thing that WWE was good at, was creating these opportunities for meet and greets. Over the years I got the chance to meet with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of my fans personally. I think that’s why the WWE wrestling fan is so passionate about the product because they probably have met some of them or they’ve had these interactions with them and they’ve got the chance to really get to know a superstar like that. That’s why that person is someone who’s special to them. And I did get away from it for a little bit. I didn’t do a lot of appearances initially after retiring. There just wasn’t the opportunity. So now to go back it’s just great. I love meeting with the fans. And I love, as a wrestling fan myself, it’s great to talk shop with people. The cool thing is that in all these different cities, someone comes to you and they can share a personal experience they’ve had say with my performance in that city and we get to chat about it.”

Lest any fans think they’ve seen the last of Trish Stratus in the proverbial squared circle, such is not the case, Stratus said, confirming she believes she has another match left in her, given the right situation.

“Like I’ve said (before), it’s got to be for the right moment, it’s got to be something that’s challenging or exciting, something that I haven’t seen yet and the fans haven’t seen yet,” Stratus said. “There are times where people ask me ‘Hey, do you see yourself going back into the ring?’ and I look at the landscape and I go ‘Meh, I see it, but I don’t know if it’s right now.’ There has to be something that (makes me go) ‘yep, this is it, right now.’ You know, seeing Stephanie in there, it maybe made me think ‘hm, it could be now,’ she said with a mischievous laugh.

“I definitely think there’s another match in me for sure. I think most wrestlers probably have that answer on standby because clearly we’ve seen there is a match in everyone after they retire,” she said, adding that she could never turn down the opportunity to wrestle in her hometown of Toronto.

While Stratus speaks confidently about her desire to wrestle again one day, discussing her legacy is much more difficult for the humble Canadian. She knows how wishes to be remembered.

“I want to be remembered as a strong, powerful woman who made her mark in a male-dominated world,” she said. “I always strove to be the most dominant champion that there ever was. That’s a subjective statement. That’s what I went out with every time I went out to the ring because I wanted to be the best in the ring and be remembered as the best. I gave it my all and I gave it my heart.”

But as for her place in history, that is not up to her, she said.

“Hopefully … who knows,” she said, pausing, “I guess you’ll have to tell me what my legacy is.”

One thing she does know, fans and Hamilton this weekend will not be disappointed.

“I’m looking forward to delivering Stratusfaction at Hamilton Comic Con.”

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