This week’s media conference call featured three prominent women of Global Force Wrestling: GFW Executive Director Karen Jarrett, GFW Knockouts Champion Sienna, and Laurel Van Ness. Many topics were discussed and the full Q&A is below.
Do you feel that the Knockouts in Impact Wrestling started the "women’s revolution" we’ve seen across the whole wrestling industry?
Sienna: I do 100% believe that the Knockouts started the women’s revolution, if you want to label it. The Knockouts were the first women to do this stuff on TV back in 2008/2009. Right now, I think that a lot of other companies have jumped on board and it’s a trendy thing to have women in the main event; everyone wants to have women’s tournaments and whatever. The Knockouts set the bar ten years ago and I do believe that we’re well on our way to bringing it back to that, to where it originally started.
Laurel Van Ness: I agree with what Sienna said. As far as taking credit for what we’ve done, in Impact, I really don’t mind who wants to take credit. At the end of the day, if you look back in history at the matches that Gail and the girls were having, that’s proof right there that the women’s revolution started in Impact.
Karen Jarrett: Absolutely. I think that TNA gave the women a platform that they could show themselves on and show they could do more than have a pillow match or a lingerie match... or whatever type of gimmick you want to pull out. They showed their true talent and showed that they could compete just the same as the guys do.
The Knockouts Division is the weak point of Impact at the moment, what are you doing to spotlight the women more? Will we see any new talent?
KJ: Well, if I had names in mind I wouldn’t reveal them here but I do think that the Knockouts Division has taken a backseat. It should be put forward and there should be more females in the company. If you look at the ratings five or six years ago, or you look at the minute by minute breakdown, some of the segments with the Knockouts were the highest rated segments on the show. There are extremely talented women out there on the independent circuit. I’m there and I’m going to make sure that the women get the attention and the platform that they deserve.
LVN: Right now, I’m really proud of what we’re putting out there. I think at this point it’s quality over quantity; what we’re putting out is quality wrestling and quality entertainment segments. I don’t necessarily think we need to put out three women’s matches a show... we’ll have one women’s match per show that is a kickass match that everyone is entertained by. That being said, of course I want for the women to get more time and wrestle as much as we possibly can but, at this point, I’m so happy with the way that we’re going and the sisterhood that we have in the Knockouts division. We’re only getting better from here.
Sienna: I totally agree with that and I also think that a huge part of it is not just in the matches. I was going to say, just make me half the show and we’ll be good but I think we’re going in the right direction with one promo but the women need the mic more in general. I’m very grateful that the company has had faith in me with a lot of the backstage and in-ring segments. I think that is really where character development lies and so a lot more women need to get comfortable talking because some of them aren’t. That’s throughout women’s wrestling in general, everywhere. Women, in general, do not like to speak and they need to. Another thing I would like is a lot more stipulation matches because I think the women would rock them and we can tear the house down with that kind of stuff, just like the guys.
Ratings among young women are booming on Spike TV in the UK, why do you think that is?
Sienna: Probably because I’m leading the Knockouts Division right now.
KJ: I think that the show was very dark for a while and I think our other demographics, like kids, are growing as well as women. We’re touching on comedy and other things so it’s not so dark. We’re trying to attract all different audiences.
LVN: Like Karen said, it’s not just a wrestling show. We’ve got a bit of entertainment, a little bit of comedy, we’ve got some high-flyers. We do still have a little bit of that dark side with Rosemary so I think we can attract all sorts of audiences and that’s definitely what everybody wants to see. Within the Knockouts division, we have a little of everything – we have asskickers, we have the girly girls, we have the crazy hot messes, we have the dark characters – so I think we hit the nail on the head with that one.
Coming back from your tour of Impact in India, how does audience reaction vary in different places like India, USA and the UK, and when do you think we will get to see you in the UK again?
Sienna: The audience is different everywhere, for example it is pretty commonly known that when you go to Japan the audience can be very silent, they do a little golf clap but they don’t get too rowdy. Every audience differs. I found in India that they were really loud; I really think that they were almost more hyped than anyone because they rarely get to see us and they rarely get to see wrestling. It was a huge deal for them to see us. I mean, in the Impact Zone people get loud, but it’s almost like they are privileged because they do get to see us every time we come there and, sometimes, it’s the same fans. Sometimes I just see fans like staring... they get desensitised because they see us all the time. I’m so excited to go out travelling. No offence to the fans in the Impact Zone but you need to step it up a notch and be like the fans in the other cities we go to who appreciate us when we’re there.
LVN: I particularly like travelling for wrestling. I love to see a new crowd and new faces and new fans, and with that does come a new level of excitement that, like Sienna said, we don’t have in the Impact Zone. I am so excited to get back to the UK that would be amazing.
KJ: We do not have a confirmed date but Jeff is currently working on that, so hopefully we will announce that in the next few months. As for the Impact Zone and the fans in Orlando, we are incredibly thankful for them that they have continued to travel in for so many years. You look out to those crowds and see faces that I saw years and years ago and there’s also lot of new faces. But it is hard, because they are, I’m going to say it, spoiled. They get to see us every week and we’re incredibly grateful that we have Universal Studios and that we have our fans that show up at every taping, but there’s nothing like being out on the road at live events and being able to be in front of a different crowd every night and the energy that’s in that crowd, you feed off of it, you feed off of each other and there’s nothing in the world like it.
What are your thoughts on Netflix’s GLOW and what can professional wrestling learn from it when it comes to presenting women?
Sienna: Any positive light that we can shine on the wrestling industry and women’s wrestling, in particular, is going to draw attention to us and that’s exactly what we need. Whether it’s someone flipping through the channels and stopping on the Knockouts match because they’ve watched GLOW or any sort of wrestling movie, that always helps us and I completely support shows and movies like that.
KJ: I am a binge watcher so I have watched the entire first season. I love that it is drawing attention to women’s wrestling. I love that John (Hennigan) had a part in it and some other familiar faces were able to be a part of the making of that. I love it and it showed real life struggles. I just wish that it was more geared towards, or people came out with something more geared towards family, children, so that they can watch it. I would have loved for my daughter to watch it but due to some of the language and some things I’m not comfortable with them watching it.
As the lady behind the Knockouts Division, how all encompassing is your role, Karen?
KJ: There’s a lot of others that are also involved, like Bruce [Prichard] & Dutch [Mantell]. Obviously, I’ve never wrestled so I’m not involved in and have nothing to do with the in-ring or the character development, that’s up to the creative team and the agents. I am basically there to be a voice for the women and I want to make sure that we are showcasing our women to make sure they’re getting the time that they deserve. I work with them, talk with them and I’ve talked to a couple of girls this week just on attire, their music, different things like that but I am there to make sure the girls are getting the time on our show that they deserve.
Karen, could you clear the air about the Braun Strowman incident that took place a few weeks ago?
KJ: Haha, oh my goodness. I can clear the air. It was a silly incident where two people in the wrestling business, playing their characters and being silly, and it got blown way out of proportion. The fact that the two of us are still in the news and it’s still being talked about, I think it’s hysterical to be honest with you. That’s the wrestling business. We had fun with it and somebody took it and turned it into something more than what it was.
Who is working, nowadays, on the creative end of the Knockouts Division in GFW?KJ: Everyone in creative is contributing on that. Obviously, Dutch, Scott and Sonjay are more in tune with it. It’s open to the entire room and everybody is throwing what they can against the wall but those three are incredibly gifted in dealing with it. It’s a team effort across the board.
Your thoughts on Gail Kim’s retirement and transition to behind the scenes?
KJ: Obviously I’m sad to see her retire but I think she’s gonna do an amazing job in her new role and I feel that the girls are in for a rude awakening. Gail has been in this business for years and has a passion that you just cannot duplicate. I’m not saying other girls don’t have passion but Gail’s gonna make them work. She’s gonna make them train. It’s gonna be a whole new world for them. I’m excited to see where everyone goes from there. Game on.
With John Hennigan wrestling this weekend at your live events, is it a one-time thing?
KJ: No, sir! I’m hoping it’s not, let’s put it that way. We are in the process of talking to him and we’re trying to see what we can nail down.
Have you ever considered getting in the ring as a wrestler?
KJ: I have not. I did have a match with Jeff, my ex-husband and Chyna that I was in a little bit. I have incredible respect for what these women do, how hard they train, and the dedication that they put into our business. I feel like it would be incredibly disrespectful on my end to think I have a place there. I absolutely 100% don’t think that is ever on the cards for me. That’s their place, not mine.
Chatting with the champ
With Gail Kim retiring, would you like to be her last opponent
Sienna: I would love nothing more than to send Gail Kim into retirement. That would make me the happiest person in the world. Ironically, she was my first opponent in IMPACT in 2016 and I beat her then so I really don’t think things would be different because it’s her last match.
Are there any Knockouts from the past you’d like to wrestle?
Sienna: The first one that comes to mind is Taylor Wilde; I know that she doesn’t wrestle at all anymore but I remember watching her back in the day and she’s just a feisty little thing. I’ve never met her in real life but she’s small, so small that I know I could launch her across the ring. I want to say Awesome Kong as well. She’s bigger than I am so I know that there’d be a challenge there.
KJ: She’d absolutely destroy you...
Sienna: I don’t know about that... I’m younger, I’m faster but she obviously has more experience and she’s a little scary. I think I’m scary too though. I would love to test my abilities against someone like here. Oh, and Havok too. I would love for Havok to come in; whether she’d be friend or foe, I don’t know.
You use a lot of MMA moves, would you consider going into MMA?
Sienna: I have already had MMA fights right before I got signed to Impact Wrestling in December of 2015; I won in the second round. I was thinking of having my second match around April or May in 2016, but signed with Impact and so I obviously put MMA second to my career here. If I did get injured in an MMA fight that would obviously affect my career. I set MMA aside but I’m still doing the training. I still train to this day so that’s not ruled out for the future, but I have already had one MMA fight.
A Ness-y ending
Could you reflect on your time doing Tough Enough?Laurel: I get asked that question a lot. That was one of the toughest things I’ve done, mentally, physically - it was totally draining. I had such a great time meeting the other contestants. Those are still people I speak to on a weekly basis and I wish them nothing but success. With Tough Enough, the goal was to win and so when I was kicked off I kinda thought ‘I’m going to use this as a stepping stone and try to get my name out there as much as possible’ and that is actually how I got in touch with Impact so I am very happy for what I went through in Tough Enough. It has led me to where I am now.
You’ve done a great job with that character – how much was your input?LVN: That character has been the brainchild of everyone. Dutch and I worked on that originally and we cut a promo after I was left at the altar. Dutch kinda kept pushing me to get crazier and crazier and the finished product was a promo where I was drinking champagne and crying and singing like there was no tomorrow and it just blew up. I didn’t realise how insane I looked or how much people would love it. From then on, everyone has kinda given me their input and their take on what this character is or you know what crazy people had come into their lives and what they have done that maybe I can include in my character. I really appreciate that because every single person has a totally different take on what this hot mess, crazy jilted bride, should be like, and I’ve been able to include some of those things in my promos in backstage segments and in the ring and I love that. I can’t totally take credit for it because it really has been every single person in the locker room and backstage working on this with me.
What does Zack Ryder think of the character? How does working for another promotion affect the relationship?
LVN: We call it the inter-promotional relationship. He loves the character. He thinks it’s absolutely ridiculous and he absolutely loves screenshotting pictures of me being crazy and sending them to me to make fun of me. It’s kinda become a running joke that we have every Thursday, I get a new picture of myself and I didn’t know I could look that crazy. On the relationship side of things, it really doesn’t matter who we work for, or which company we work for, even if we were both wrestlers or not. At the end of the day, when we come home, we don’t take work home with us and we talk about normal things that like what flowers we are going to plant in the garden or what tile is going to go in the house; we’re not sitting there at the dining table talking about what spots we could do in our next match. I think surprisingly you would be very bored if you sat with us and listened to our conversation.
The wedding angle was one of the hottest angles in IMPACT in recent memory. What do you think made it work and how important was Maria Kanellis to the entire story?
LVN: In my opinion, I think what made it work was, like I said before, that there were so many opinions and ideas that were put into this big wedding scenario. Everyone gave their opinion on the way it should go and I think that we picked the absolute best scenario and it worked. The crowd reacted. Maria was a huge part of that segment, leading up to the wedding it really was 75% Maria planning all of this in the back and cutting these promos. Things like that and that’s kind of what the build up was all about - it was Maria.
Sienna: I just want to say that even though I was probably the least important person involved in the segment, that was like the rowdiest I have ever seen the Impact Zone in the entire time I have been there! It felt like the fans were surrounding the ring, because they were so loud the entire time. They were so loud that I could not hear what Laurel was saying on the microphone; I know that in post production they make sure you can hear her but I was sitting next to her and I could not hear her talking because the fans were screaming the entire time.
LVN: And I couldn’t even hear myself. I remember that, I will never forget it, I couldn’t even hear the words coming out of my mouth.
KJ: And just to chime in to finish, I think that Maria obviously did a great job but to have someone get over as a heel, you’ve got to have amazing people as babyfaces. I think it’s was everyone who was involved at the time, it took all of you to get it to be where it was and I think that everybody did an absolutely amazing job on all ends. For the people to hate Maria, that’s how much they had to love Allie. She had to do her part in that, and I think that her, Braxton and all of you did an amazing job in that storyline.