When it comes to women’s wrestling, Lisa “Victoria” Marie Varon is one of the most recognized names in the industry. Throughout her career, she has won two World Wrestling Entertainment Championships with her first victory against WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus in a Women’s Hardcore Match at 2002 (Survivor Series at Madison Square Garden). Victoria’s second victory would come in a fatal four-way elimination match, also involving Jazz and Lita. On February 23, 2004, during WWE’s flagship show “RAW,” Victoria would end the match by pinning WWE Hall of Famer Lita. After winning her final women’s championship, she would perform as an active member of the WWE roster up until January 16, 2009. On this date, she announced that she would be leaving the WWE, thanking the fans and the staff for all of their support over the years.
In May of 2009, she would sign with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as the character Tara. She would make her debut at TNA on May 28, 2009, making an immediate impact by attacking The Beautiful People (Angelina Love, Velvet Sky, and Madison Rayne). Upon the conclusion of Love’s match with Sojournor Bolt, Tara would go on and win her first of five TNA Women’s Knockout Championships on July 9, 2009, in Orlando, Florida. She would hold the title for twenty-four days before being defeated by Angelina Love at Victory Road 2009.
Tara would go on and win the Knockout Women’s Title on four other occasions including a four corners match, with featured Mickie James making an appearance as the special guest referee, also involving Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky. The match concluded with Tara pinning Sky to win the championship. Tara also has the TNA Knockouts Tag Team Championship with Brooke Tessmacher as her tag team partner.
In a recent interview with RESPECT., Lisa discusses how she made the transition from the medical field into professional wrestling. In addition, she shares with us how she met former professional wrestler and current web-based fitness instructor Torrie Wilson. Finally, Lisa talks about training with Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, and Dave “Fit” Finlay and being asked to train Ric Flair‘s daughter Charlotte Flair along with Mickie James.
You were working in the medical field. Can you explain how you ended up in the wrestling industry?
I was working as a human tissue coordinator at the Inland Eye and Tissue Bank in Redlands, California, where I removed bones, hearts, and corneas for transplantations. The company hired me on the spot. During my time working as a human tissue coordinator, I witness numerous deaths caused by people being unhealthy. I saw the medical field as my future, and a bodybuilding coach approached me, and he asked me if I was interested in participating in a bodybuilding contest in a month. I informed him that I did not know how to correctly diet for competitions. He would later offer to be my dieting coach, and I ended up winning the tournament as a middleweight. I would follow that event up by competing on television in fitness competitions with networks like ESPN2. I earned my pro status card in IFBB fitness in 1999.
While competing in fitness competitions, I met Torrie Wilson. She and I were roommates at the time sponsored by the same supplement company. Torrie and I became close friends, and she went on to work for World Championship Wrestling. Torrie invited me to observe things backstage and informed me that she worked as a valet accompanying the male wrestlers to the ring.
World Championship Wrestling talent asked did I have any ring attire and I ended up borrowing an outfit from one of the Nitro Girls. My first segment featured me sitting on Scott Hall’s lap. I would later end up meeting Chyna at a health club in Los Angeles. I asked her was she familiar with Trish Stratus and Torrie Wilson? She responded by asking was I in the business, and I said no, but I thought I could do it. Chyna thought I had a look to pursue a career in the industry and gave me a contact to send my reel tape package into The World Wrestling Federation at the time. I spent $600 on the special effects and the transitions with scenes from the Show VIP with Pamela Anderson, gymnastics, and fitness modeling. I received a phone call a month later, and it was Jim Ross and Kevin Kelly. Kevin informed me that Jim liked my reel package and it was the first time someone took the time to put in so much detail.
Can you take us through the entry music selection process?
It is funny fans are always coming up to and asking about our storylines and the music selection. The thing is we as a performer do not have much input on our names.When I first was featured in the World Wrestling Entertainment I play a character named Victoria, she is mentally unstable, and the theme song was by Tatu. They allowed me to listen to the song and we decided to add some more sound effects to it like “Yes, I lost my mind” for the character entrance. When they decided to change the music, they asked me what type of music I was into, and I said Hip Hop and R&B. Now, I had no idea who Nicki Minaj was at the time, but the song was called “I Ain’t The Lady to Mess With.” When I transitioned to TNA and took the persona of Tara, TNA created it from scratch.
Throughout your luxurious career who did you consider your toughest opponent and why?
Awesome Kong was my toughest opponent because she was bigger than me. I have always been the bigger wrestler in my matches, but in this case, this was a role reversal, and it was a challenge. During my career, I was assigned the task of working with all the incoming female wrestlers for their first match. I also worked well with the rookie girls and had a lot of patience with leading a “match.” Making the girls feel more comfortable in their “matches.” I would always ask Ricky Steamboat, Dave“Fit” Finlay, and Arn Anderson to work with me and the talent. I would arrive four hours before everyone else to help train and to make sure things went as smoothly as possible.
What would you say are some of your favorite matches in TNA and WWE?
In the WWE I would say the Chicago Streetfight because I lived in Chicago for many years. I am also a big Chicago Cubs fan. The second match happens in 2002 at Madison Square Garden vs. Trish Stratus the Hardcore match this was the first time I won the women’s title. The “match” was supposed to end by me breaking a mirror over Trish’s head, but she accidentally stepped on it, and it shatters. So, I had to improvise and decided to get one of the two fire extinguishers. I ended up grabbing the one with the pin in it instead of the other and had to maneuver the pin to finish the match. In TNA my two favorite events were the two-cage matches against Kong and Mickie James.
For the individuals that have not had the opportunity to experience WrestleMania?
It is hard to imagine how many fans are in the stadium unless you are there live. When I was performing at WrestleMania, I would tell the other performers to a take a moment and admire the fans before walking down the ramp. They are here to watch us perform and it hard to hear sometimes because some of the venues do not have any roofs. I recently went back to take it all in as a fan and to see the crowd reaction. It’s something you should experience at least one in your life. I have watched from the backstage area, but it was on a small monitor, and most of the talent focus on their matches. So, for me, I would prefer to watch events live from the crowd.
WWE is giving more opportunities to the women division more than ever before. What are your thoughts on some of the matches like Money in the Bank and TLC that weren’t around when you were with the company?
I think it is incredible that the women’s division continues to evolve and receive such high recognition. The generation I was in had some great unique matches as well helping to pave the way for The Money in the Bank and TLC matches. Some of the events now seem a lot longer than when we were there, and I applaud them for being able to expand the timeframe for events.Lita and Trish held the first woman’s match in the “Main Event” time slot. Now when The women’s division is in the “Main Event” spot, it is not as much of a shock.
In your own words, what did Joanie “Chyna” Laurer mean to the wrestling industry?
Joanie recommended that I send in some of my material into the World Wrestling Federation at the time. She has paved the way for female characters that were not your stereotypical bikini models. Chyna was a dominant personality in the industry and a healthy beautiful woman. For not being a typical bikini model she made people like myself feel confident in our skin in a male-dominated industry. She deserves a place in the hall of fame based on her contributions inside the ring. One day it will happen, but I do not know for sure when it will happen. She should be inducted based on her contributions to the wrestling industry.
Ric Flair, has a the upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 entitled “Natureboy” Can tell us what you have learned from the Natureboy over the years?
Ric Flair is one of my best friends and in my opinion one of the greatest storytellers. I remember I was involved with a house show event and Ric was observing my match. After the contest, Ric called me over to work on some techniques, and he told me that I was an incredible athlete. For me, as a fan, it was a great moment because he is someone I looked up to and studied. Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair were two of the individuals I studied in regards, to how they worked for the crowd and their in-ring abilities. For someone like him to come over and acknowledge that he watches some of my matches was a great honor.
Did you help train Charlotte Flair at the beginning of her career?
When she decided that she wanted to get into the business, Ric asked if I could help train his daughter Charlotte along with Mickie James. I think I was the scheduled for an appearance that did not come through and to have Ric Flair call you and say train my daughter. How cool is that?
Being that you are a business owner can you tell us some of the challenges you face at the beginning?
We shut down the Squared Circle after me, and my ex-husband went through our divorce, and I relocated back to California to move closer to my family. We owned restaurants in other locations like and Louisville Kentucky which we sold and two in Chicago. During my time in Louisville, the WWE transferred me there from Memphis Tennesse, where I attended another wrestling school. While in wrestling school I was able to train with individuals such as John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton. While we lived there we open up a restaurant by name ‘Fat Tony’s, ” and it was a pizzeria. We ended up selling that and opened up a place in Chicago called The Squared Circle. It was a restaurant fan of wrestling could come in a watch and mingle while grabbing a bite to eat. We served burgers, pizza and things of that nature. My ex-husband is a chef and had the mindset that he did not want to work for anyone else. So, we have always owned some business whether it was a gym, restaurant, car shop.
What is some advice you would share with entrepreneurs looking to start their businesses?
Make sure you have the right individuals around you, and as an owner, there are no days off. You are consistently trying to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Also, make sure that you have the time to focus on the task at hand. It is better to focus on your goals fulltime to work towards accomplishing the result.
You were on television in TNA and WWE have you thought about partnering with Netflix or one of the streaming platforms and creating your content?
That would be awesome! I would not know how to go about it, but this something that I would be interested in partnering with Netflix. I know I will write a book someday, but just not right now since I am still actively participating in events.
If the call comes who would you want to induct you into the WWE Hall of Fame?
I have been fortunate enough throughout my career to build a lot of friendships and I do not feel comfortable just narrowing it down to one individual at this time.