TNA Impact Wrestling’s Gail Kim took some time to participate in an exclusive interview with PWMania.com. The former WWE Women’s Champion and TNA Knockout champion revealed her thoughts on her early training, her rekindled passion for the sport and what the future holds for her. Check out part one of the interview below:
Discuss your initial training under Ron Hutchison, Rob Etcherverria and Dave Finley. What you walked away with and what you gained from each experience?
Ron was the first person that I went to and trained with and obviously a lot of people associate him training Edge and Christian, Trish Stratus, many great Canadian wrestlers so I knew that was the place to be. He really taught me psychology and taught me the basics and taught me right. A lot of wrestling schools would grab the student and say hey you can learn this cool move and do a moonsault your first month in and he really just pump trained us on the basics in terms of psychology and train wrestling and after we moved onto the more advanced stuff and he was a great trainer.
When I trained with Rob and I was a student of his (Ron) and Rob decided later on to open up his own school and he favored the Mexican style of wrestling, the Lucha style also I took a liking to that as well. Once I had enough experience where I could have matches, pretty much a year after that I could be fearless with Rob and he was very supportive towards the women.
Then when I joined the WWE, Dave “Fit” Finley was our first agent that we worked with all the time and he brought in another form of aggression in me. I was very green when I started but he always said to me, “you need to be more aggressive”. I thought I was being aggressive but he was would say “no, more aggressive” and then more aggressive. I think each one of them gave me a little piece of who I am today and I think if you were to ask any of the women that I work with I think that is one of the things that they’ll acknowledge about me is that I like to be physical and I’ve become more aggressive. I think from each one of them (Ron, Rob and Dave) you’ll see a part of me when I wrestle.
Discuss your initial run in the WWE and how that differed from the latter one? How did one departure differ from the other?
Fans generally know about how I feel about the whole experience. I’ll put it down to this, it wasn’t the place for me. I think it’s a different work environment there. My first run, I was just green. I learned really quickly, I will say that. When you are thrown into that kind of environment, you have nowhere to go. I started at the top and won the title on my first night and there’s nowhere for me to go but down, really. Not necessarily, but pretty much, especially when you are at that level of experience. It was a lot emotionally for me to handle.
I definitely believed that first experience with them made me a stronger person and I didn’t realize how that experience could form who I was later on. I got released and then I lost my passion for wrestling almost completely and I wanted to leave the business and I did, on and off I may have done a few independent shows maybe 2 or 3 during that year off and then I started getting into stunt work and then TNA came in to the picture and people I knew there were people and being around the people that you start with and being passionate and one’s you’ve started on the indies with and why you’re so hungry for the business you get affected. I walked into that situation and oh my gosh, that passion just came flooding back and knowing that they were going to support women’s wrestling in the future it was very hard to pass by and it happened years later. This all happened for a reason and like I said I don’t regret anything being in both companies twice definitely gave me longevity in this business and it kept me fresh.
How did you find traveling the independent circuit after you initial WWE run and what you gained from that experience?
I would honestly say, I remember the day when I did a show while I was off and gotten released the first time and in the next year in Australia and most of the TNA roster prior to going onto Spike TV. I felt average. I enjoyed the experience and still unsure and then Scott D’Amore called me and said Jeff (Jarrett) loves you and has gone in the indies many times and Terry Taylor was there and I had worked with him too and they said to come on down and said I know you don’t really want to wrestle anymore but see if you like it. And then I came down there and I there were all these faces like Traci Brooks and Petey Williams and people that I had worked on the Indies with previously and it was like this instant moment of passion just flooding back, I can’t really explain it other than that. So I just knew that I have to do this and paid off in the end after a couple of years it still paid off.
How did your initial run with TNA come about and the decision to align you with James Storm and Chris Harris? What stood out during your initial singles run with the promotion?
He (Scott) said we want to build the women’s division and but the only thing is we only have an hour of programming and realistically it won’t happen for a little while and he said we want to bring you in and we want you to manage and they wanted to give me a prominent role, this was Jeff Jarrett and America’s Most Wanted and I said oh, I’d love to do that and I did that for over a year and that was really fun. All the guys in that company were always so supportive of the women including women. Sometimes you may remember back in the day women come down there and really did nothing and would just hope to be a part of it and get camera time. They always included me and then eventually I just have a passion for the sport of wrestling was very hard for me to just stand on the outside and watch the guys do what I’ve loved.
Eventually I said, you know guys you said that you wanted to have a women’s division and I’ve been waiting and you know I just can’t wait anymore so luckily Jeff (Jarrett) said can you work with Jackie Moore and I said yeah, absolutely. I can work with whoever you want me to work with she’s absolutely amazing and the toughest women I’ve been in the ring with so we just had some amazing catfights as you would call them, physicality and people loved it and people were like oh, holy crap these girls are beating the crap out of each other and so just went slowly with Jackie and brought in Jamie D from the Independents and they would bring in girls slowly one at a time and then all of a sudden they said they wanted to bring in a title and bring in 10 girls and it was just a success overnight virtually and it just happened so perfectly I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
How have you found your character progression during your second run with TNA?
I would say that I’ve always been either a heel for a long time or a babyface for a long time. I’ve never really gone one year on and one year off. So it’s been a lengthy amount of time and I love the fact that I came in as a heel and I hadn’t been a heel for a really long time and I think before that (previous run in the company) a babyface for at least 4 years through TNA and WWE and it’s just easier to have a character honestly as a heel so, I loved the fact that I could work with the two best heels in the company when I first came in and find my stride and get in the zone with Karen Angle and Madison Rayne. It was so easy to play off of them and they made it so easy and it was fun and wrestling wise I like wrestling as a heel or a babyface so for me it didn’t really matter. It’s just about finding my comfort zone and after you’ve been a babyface for so long until I found that stride. I think my main thing is fans they identify with someone who they like or dislike or whatever they may be through getting the character and may identify with the character.
Mickie James, she’s the girl next door, seems so approachable and that’s what they love about her and she’s a great wrestler as well. For me, the wrestling fans could really identify with the passion for the wrestling industry and see my passion for wrestling and so I think that’s where my progression has come in terms of my character which is actually, really me. With TNA, they have always allowed me to vocalize that and show that through storylines and it was harder to do that in WWE with 3 minute matches and 6 girls going out there at once and there were no storylines virtually. I did a lot of gimmick matches which is not really my cup of tea. When you’re uncomfortable on that kind of stage it shows. I just think it was a better fit here where they kind of let the girls come and do what their strengths were and for me it was wrestling.
How have you found that TNA has capitalize on #GiveDivasAChance?
I don’t think it’s ever really changed. The true wrestling fans that watch TNA Impact, I think they’ve always known. I don’t want to say they take it for granted in anyway but they always just know that TNA and Impact Wrestling are going to give them women’s wrestling. It’s almost like they want to see it in the WWE and this is why they are so vocal as well. I don’t know if anything really changed.
I think we’ve always been strong with women’s wrestling and I think the fans have always known that. I think that’s a lot of the reason why they would tune in from the feedback I get from it through social media or meeting fans or that’s one of the things that I think that they love is that they would always say Impact Wrestling treats the women really well and one of the reasons they love watching it is because the women’s actually wrestle. I’m just glad when I was fighting for us to wrestle I would always have people tell me Gail, women’s wrestling is for the bathroom breaks, you know they really don’t want to see it. I would get discouraged a little bit but I was very adamant so I’m glad that we girls proved them wrong.
What changes do you think need to be made by the industry as a whole to ensure that #GiveDivasAChance isn’t simply a momentary movement but deserves to be recognized as an equal to the male wrestlers?
I honestly believe that just to have a movement in place women empowerment right now and just in general in our world right now especially in entertainment and being vocal and people like Rhonda Rousey who are dominating the sport and are showing that they can headline stuff.
However, I am also realistic in the sense that pro wrestling has always been a very male dominated sport and it would take a long time for equality to happen. I truly believe, but that’s okay we can take baby steps. I just think it’s the pool of talent also and giving them the proper creative storylines to and letting them have the ball and trying to run with it. If they don’t deliver but you can see that they have the potential to keep on giving them the chance.
For me, I didn’t become who I became in terms of being comfortable and feeling very confident in this business until, half way through my career up to this point. The Rock didn’t become The Rock overnight. Steve Austin didn’t become Stone Cold overnight. It takes time to develop people. That’s why I think everything happens so quickly now. I think we really need to take time as a business and just get the fans emotionally involved and that’s all in the storyline and the characters and taking your time. My two most successful feuds in my career were Awesome Kong and Taryn Terrell. Both of those happened over the minimum of a six month storyline. People don’t realize that but they got emotionally invested in it and we delivered as the same time. But there is a lot more psychology behind that. The people don’t realize.
Who would you say male or female doesn’t get the recognition they deserve in the promotion?
There are so many I can’t think. Just the X Division as a whole, I can’t really specify. I feel as though they are going out there and doing amazing things for once but if they could just combine that character and storyline with that ability I think it could just be brought to another level. I feel that Impact is pretty good about pushing those people as superstars. I think if anything it’s just a lack of storylines.
EC3, I’m not going to say he’s not because he treated really well and has been brought to the forefront but I just have to mention him because I think he’s so talented and I was just shocked when he got released from the WWE because I saw that potential in his talent and how he speaking and character and he can work it and he’s pretty amazing. I think he’s the future definitely.
People like Chris Melendez, this guy was veteran and now he’s a pro wrestler. That’s a true life hero and that’s happening right now TV. We need to capitalize a little bit on that as well. I really have to think about that.
I feel like there is just a lot of people like Rockstar Spud who won our first British Bootcamp. He’s an amazing talent and he might be overlooked from maybe the fans a little bit but the company does realize how big of a star he is but maybe because he is small guy but that guy really knows the business. He’s truly talented and I can see a great future for him as well.
What does the rest of 2015 and beyond have in store for Gail Kim?
I think, I definitely still want to continue making magic in that ring and I’ve wrestled a lot of the girls. I will say I am looking forward to wrestling some fresh new talent and someone like Mia Yim who is Jade on TNA. I want to make magic and I know people are saying, Gail, isn’t it around retirement time? I’m saying not yet because my body is still pretty good. At the same time, I know it’s not the beginning of my career right now. I want to definitely work with some young talent and give the greatest matches that I can and unforgettable matches like I have in the past. I feel as though I want the fans to remember me for my wrestling and I want to just continue to do that in this upcoming year.
What do you think of Impact Wrestling’s move to Wednesday nights will mean for the company?
I think it’s a better evening for us personally. It’s a night when there is no other wrestling on television and with the addition of ROH on The same network, all wrestling fans win in the end. Throughout all the years of wrestling on Impact with Spike and DA, we have changed nights numerous times so it never has felt different to me. It’s a matter of wrestling fans finding us and tuning in.
Throughout your career, you’ve had matches with a number of people. Was there a match that didn’t go as planned and what you think you would have liked to do differently given the opportunity?
I guess there’s always something in every match that I would have “fixed” or changed because I’m a neurotic perfectionist when it comes to the in ring product but you can never be completely perfect. You learn from every single experience you have out there whether it was good or bad. Nothing goes completely as planned most of the time so that’s the part where your skills come in to play and keep you sharp.
Was there anything you’d like to share, encourage or promote for wrestling fans?
Tune in every Wednesday night to Destination America at 9 pm or check your local listings. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram: gailkimITSME