In part one of our exclusive interview with Impact Wrestling’s Madison Rayne, she discussed her triumphant return, the ways Impact has changed, and her preparations for Su Yung at Slammiversary. In part two, she spoke to us about her legacy, working on the independent scene, her WWE tryout, and more!
A past and future legacy
RealSport: You first joined Impact Wrestling in 2009, and since then have earned the third most reigns as Knockouts Champion at five (behind Gail Kim’s seven and Angelina Love’s six). You’re also second in most combined days as Knockouts Champion. How are you hoping to add to that legacy now that you’re back?
Madison Rayne: Yes, but I have learned that my biggest successes come when I focus on my short-term goals. And I keep my long-term goals. I write them down, and I keep them locked away. But I don’t think about, in this moment preparing for someone like Su at a show as big as Slammiversary, I can’t think about what I hope my legacy is gonna be when I’m finished writing that last chapter. I am confident that I will someday retire at least a six-time Knockouts Champion, because that sixth reign is just weeks away, I strongly believe.
At the end of the day, I’m not a numbers person, but for those people who are numbers people, if I’m up there even close to where Gail Kim was when she closed that final chapter of her career, then I’ve done something right. Because Gail is someone I looked up to before I ever had my first match on television. She’s someone that I looked up to the entire time that I was able to work with her and travel with her. She’s someone who is a dear friend of mine, and if I am anywhere in the realm of being compared to Gail Kim at the end of my career, then I know that I’ve done something right.
RS: You were in Angelina Love's corner at Slammiversary 7 in 2009, and now you're going for the Knockouts Championship at Slammiversary 16. What does that mean to your career up to this moment?
MR: I mean, it means a lot to me because there’s nobody currently in the Knockouts Division that was there when I started. You know, Gail Kim is still there in a behind the scenes backstage capacity, and it’s important to me that I’m representing every era of Knockouts that I have been a part of. And you know the good thing for me, the blessing for me, is that I started my career at Impact Wrestling at 23 years old. So I’ve been there nearly a decade, but by no means am I old or near the end of my career. But it means a lot to me that I am able—that I’ve been such a student of the game for so long that I’ve been able to be as successful as I have been.
And that in these most recent years, I don’t wanna say in these later years of my career, but in these most recent years that my wrestling hasn’t been compromised. That my talent hasn’t been compromised. That I’m not holding onto something that maybe I’m not quite as good at as I used to be a few years ago. And for anybody who doubts that, I invite them to watch Slammiversary. Because you know I have—I’m human and sometimes I do my research and I see what the social media world is saying about me after my matches, and I have read a few people that say she’s past her prime and she’s not as good as a Tessa Blanchard. Well, I invite all of those people to watch Slammiversary on July 22nd, because I’m going to beat Su. And then in the weeks after that if Tessa Blanchard or Taya Valkyrie or any new Knockouts want to show up and challenge that, I invite them to do so.
ROH, Japan, and All In
RS: During your time away from Impact Wrestling, you branched out on the independent scene and returned last year to Ring of Honor. What was that experience like?
MR: I loved returning to Ring of Honor. It felt really good for me to go back there, because I worked there very very briefly. I believe [I was there] in 2007 and 2008, before I started working full-time with Impact Wrestling. And I was so young, and I was given an opportunity there that I probably wasn’t ready for, but to have been able to get inside the ring with Sara Del Rey, and Daizee Haze, and Serena Deeb. Like, I couldn’t turn down that opportunity, but I think that when I returned last year that I was a different person inside the ring, and I was able to work the way that the Ring of Honor fans expect to see talent perform at those shows. And the same thing is true of them that I say about Impact. The culture in that locker room is so good, and it’s so inviting, and everyone works so hard to put out the best product that they possibly can that I feel really, really fortunate to have been able to work with both companies over the past 12 months.
RS: Impact Wrestling has partnered with several promotions as of late, including Rise Wrestling, and you'll be taking on Kikyo at their show on July 7th. In the past, you've mentioned the inspiration you drew from legends like Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano. Considering they have both been in Rise, would you want the opportunity to work with them?
MR: I think if the opportunity presented itself to work with either of those women, or both of them in the same event, I would revert back to my 10-year-old self and I would be such a fangirl in that moment. And as silly as that sounds, I’ve had this wildly successful career. I’ve had this amazing journey that’s taken me literally all over the world, and when I break it down and I go back to what it was that first captivated me about women’s wrestling, it was those two women. So to be able to share a space with them and learn from them, that would absolutely without a doubt be a highlight of my career, and I hope that in the near future that’s something that can come to fruition.
RS: Back in 2014, you got to wrestle Gail Kim during an Impact tour in Japan. Would you want the opportunity to return to Japan and compete there?
MR: Oh my gosh. Throughout my entire career, I have always said that I would never go to Japan until I knew that I deserved to go there, because women’s wrestling is special across the globe right now, and it’s in the best place that it’s ever been, but there’s something special about having the opportunity to go and perform in Japan. And I would hope that if that opportunity presented itself, I would take it in a heartbeat yes, short answer to the question yes, I just hope that I could go over there and I could perform to the expectation level that those fans, that they have and that they deserve.
I know that Stardom partners often with Ring of Honor, and I think that a handful of their talent will be coming over this summer to work at Ring of Honor, so hopefully I have continued to build a relationship with Ring of Honor that may allow me to do that here, and I could test myself and see if I’m at that level, because I have all the respect in the world for the Japanese culture and Japanese wrestling. So you know I’ve never said that I’m the most technical wrestler, I’ve never said that I’m the hardest hitting or that I have the biggest moveset, but I am confident in what I do, and I would love the opportunity to take it over there and test myself against some of the best.
RS: Speaking of independent wrestling, it was recently announced that you are indeed All In. What do you think will make that event special, and how do you feel about representing Impact at All In?
MR: I think that, I mean, the event itself has already spoken for why it’s so special, I mean it sold out in under 30 minutes. I mean, and this is the brainchild of Cody and The Young Bucks, and it’s something that these two, it just shows what passion within professional wrestling can do, and I’m humbled to be a part of it. It’s gonna be one of the biggest crowds that I have ever performed in front of. And to be able to say that this many years in my career, that I am getting that opportunity with a roster full of my friends, it’s exciting for me as Madison Rayne, regardless of if I’m there as an Impact Wrestling representative or if I’m there as having been with Ring of Honor. Regardless of the title that I’m bringing, for me, for Madison Rayne the performer, I think this is gonna be a big moment for me. Again I’ve spoken a lot lately about moments and how you have to capitalize on them, and I’m just so unfortunate because I think that All In is gonna be a huge event that wrestling fans are gonna remember for a long time.
On her WWE tryout and the state of women's wrestling
RS: Now, I do feel obligated to ask about your WWE tryout in October of 2017. What was that experience like? Is that still a career goal for you?
MR: It was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done. It was an intense week at the Performance Center. It was also, and I hate to keep using this word and recycling this word, but it was very humbling for me, because that was the first time that I had ever worked with WWE in my entire career. I was never cast as an extra there. I never had any tryout matches there prior to signing with Impact because my career was very new and I hadn’t been wrestling very long when Impact offered me a contract. So I had no experience with WWE.
So for me to have been given that opportunity, I was humbled by it. I loved every second of it as hard as it was, and every day at the end of the day I would go back to my hotel room and wonder if I was gonna be able to get out of bed the next day or if I was gonna be too sore. And I got great feedback. I got nothing but wonderful feedback. That company is so professionally run. Everyone there was so professional and so encouraging and so kind. And they had several of the NXT talent there, either helping run the tryout or just there encouraging, and for such a big company to have their talent there encouraging people who are not part of the company, who are just there for a tryout, I thought that was very special.
You know, I don’t have an exclusive contract with Impact Wrestling. I don’t have an exclusive contract with anyone at this point in my career, so any and all doors are open. Anything’s a possibility. Obviously right now my focus, my primary focus is Slammiversary and the Knockouts Championship, but as much of a whirlwind as these last couple months have been for me, that’s just proof that you never know exactly where your career’s gonna go. And again I like to think that I have been very professional and cordial and left all doors open that I have ever walked through, so I would like to think that yeah anything is a possibility.
RS: Intergender wrestling has hit the mainstream since Ronda Rousey's debut at WrestleMania. Is that something you would like to do in Impact?
MR: You know I’m gonna be in the minority here with my opinion. It’s not something that I’m interested in for me personally. I don’t think that I need it as a bullet point on my resume. Now I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate it, that I don’t enjoy watching it when it’s done correctly. And I love wrestling, all forms of wrestling, any type of wrestling.
It’s been my entire life, my adult life, so I don’t discredit anyone. It’s just not something that for nearly a decade has been a part of my career, and I don’t see myself being involved in it in any capacity really, but again I appreciate it, I do like to see it when it’s done correctly, it’s just not for me. There’s different things for everyone and that’s just not something that I’m overly interested in.
RS: Season Two of GLOW hit Netflix last Friday, have you gotten to see it? What have you thought about the show?
MR: Unfortunately, I have not been able to binge-watch GLOW. I have seen the first season, but the thing is, I have an almost 5 year old in my house who dictates what we watch, and often that is more so something that’s on the Disney Channel or some new Disney/Pixar movie that has come out. So I haven’t been able to really watch a lot of TV in the last couple of years, but also I’m so busy. I’m mom, and I’m wife, and I’m also taking classes in college, and I’m also a fitness instructor, so there aren’t very many opportunities for me to sit down and watch TV.
But I love Kia [Stevens], I love [Awesome] Kong. I support anything that she does, and I have every intention of, when the opportunity presents itself, binge-watching [the series], because I loved the episodes that I did watch. Everybody loves it. It’s been wildly successful, and I’m so thankful for that because it’s helped put that spotlight that’s so bright on women’s wrestling. So I’m thankful for that show and for everyone that’s been a part of it, but yeah I haven’t been able to watch it, but it is definitely on my list of things to do once the remote is handed back to me at some point in life.
RS: How do you feel about the evolution of women's wrestling in recent years and how Impact Wrestling led the way with the Knockouts Division in taking women's wrestling seriously?
MR: This is the hardest question that I answer, because I know that the term “women’s evolution” is directed in the here and now. And then there are those discussions about, well we did it first, no we did first, and I think that at the end of the day, regardless of who did what when, women’s wrestling is in the best place that it’s ever been. And I think that both as a fan and as somebody who’s on the inside, we all need to be thankful for it and stop trying to take credit for it. What the Knockouts did in 2007 and in the years since then is incredible. They were successful in doing something before it was as big as it is now, and they deserve credit for what they did.
What WWE has done in recent years with things like the Mae Young Classic, and now they’ve got each brand has its own women’s championship, like I think that those are huge steps in the right direction and huge strides. But I also make sure that everytime I answer this question I remind everybody that if it wasn’t for people like and matches like Alundra Blayze vs Bull Nakano and the women who came before us who actually laid the foundation, there wouldn’t be a Mae Young Classic without Mae Young.
So I think it’s important in talking about this evolution that you actually go back to the beginning and you give credit where it’s due and you give credit to those women who came before us who really paved the way to give us all this platform to be able to have made the huge strides that we have. And my hope is that in the last ten years, everything that I’ve been able to be a part of, everything that WWE is doing, everything that Ring of Honor is doing now with Women of Honor, that we’re paving the way for what will be an even more successful version of women’s wrestling than we’ve got right now. I try not to get too tied up in who did what, because at the end of the day women’s wrestling is where it is because we’ve all worked our asses off to get it there and I think that we all should just at the end of the day pat ourselves on the back for the work that we’ve done.
If you missed part one, check out Madison's perspective on how Impact Wrestling has changed, her big return, and more!
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