Q&A with Gail Kim
This is the second of five interviews I conducted with TNA talent backstage at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., before the Impact taping on March 28:
Why do you think the TNA women’s division has caught on with fans the way it has?
I think when we started this division, expectations were really low. Not to knock anything, but women’s wrestling at that time was pretty much at a lull. There was not much going on except for a lot of T&A – pardon the pun (laughs). I think that the fans wanted to see something different. True wrestling fans love a great wrestling match. And when the expectations are kind of low, it’s not hard to please, but I think we’ve really worked hard and we’ve shown the fans that we’re passionate about the business, that we want to entertain them, and they really truly appreciate us and it’s not all about just looks.
Was it frustrating for you before there was a women’s division in TNA to basically be a valet? You got some spots in, but you weren’t actually wrestling much.
Yeah, it was so frustrating for me, because I appreciated the position in the company, but they knew from before I signed the contract that I wanted wrestle, and that’s what I perceived myself as – a wrestler not a manager. Normally, with girls that I know in the business, they start off managing and then they become a wrestler, or they just stay as a manager who can wrestle, but I was always a wrestler. It was hard to go from being all of the action to being just part of the action. It’s hard to be out there with the guys and watch them do what you love and you can’t be in that position.
There have been rumors that TNA is considering having a separate TV show devoted exclusively to the women’s division. Is there any truth to that?
I’ve heard rumors that they want that to happen, and I think that’s a great thing. If it can succeed, I think it’s great for women’s wrestling, because I think we’ve changed the minds of a lot of people, including people in the company. A lot of fans have already e-mailed me and said they would definitely watch it. I just know that all-girls shows don’t have a really good track record of succeeding, but I think we could do it.
I’ve never understood what WWE was thinking when it released you. How surprised were you when it happened? Did that come out of left field?
Yeah, it really did. I remember us talking about a brand new story line at that time that was with me, Trish [Stratus] and Lita, and I actually went in the pre-tape room the day before. And then at Raw that night I did a run-in to start that whole angle, and then the very next day I got the phone call. So, yeah, I was shocked. Johnny Ace [John Laurinaitis, WWE senior vice president of talent relations] called me and basically said that I was released. And then he just tried to hang up (laughs). I wasn’t even upset; I was just in shock, I think. I said, “Hold on, hold on. Can I get a reason for this?” He just said that they wanted to change the direction of the women’s division. And they did; he didn’t lie about that. But everything happens for a reason, and I would never have accomplished everything that I have to this day if that never happened.
Every great babyface needs a great heel to work with, and for you, that’s Awesome Kong. What has it been like working with her?
Very physical. Like I’ve gotten hit by a truck after a match (laughs). This is the one angle or feud that I’ve been involved in that I’m very, very proud of, and I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to my work. It’s the perfect David and Goliath feud, I guess you could say. She’s an amazing heel; she is a monster. I love the physicality. She came from working in Japan all those years, and I love it.
Who were the women wrestlers that influenced you or that you looked up to?
I watched wrestling as a kid when I was younger, and then I kind of fell out of it, and then I started watching it again around my early 20s. At that time, WWE’s women’s division was just starting to form, and it was Trish, Jazz, Victoria, and I really just loved watching Molly Holly and really admired her, the way she moved in the ring and her work ethic. And then I got to meet her and she’s actually the one who gave me my break in the business, so that was cool. She’s a really good person.
If you could sum it up, what distinguishes TNA knockouts from WWE divas?
I think those girls are very hot and they look great and everything, but I think to succeed in this business you need to have the passion. A lot of girls that are in our company took it upon themselves to go get trained and learn about the business and pay their dues. If the fans watch our show, they can say, “Oh, that’s Awesome Kong, she’s this character. And ODB’s that nutty, crazy character, and Roxxi Laveaux is the gypsy character.” We have characters and we all have our own distinctive look. I think a lot of the time when you just see a lot of beautiful girls it kind of just all blends in together. You want something about yourself to stand out.
The next TNA Q&A will be with Robert Roode.