In an exclusive interview with PWMania.com’s Scott Mitchell (@ScottsScoop44), independent wrestling star Viva Van (@HellBentVixen) talks about her career up to this point, working with AEW, becoming the new belt collector, and more.
The Beginning of the “HellBent Vixen” Viva Van
Growing up, Viva Van recalls getting a big gift from her father. “I was around five or six years old and I remember he brought me the first PlayStation Console and a game with it,” Van tells PW Mania. “It was a wrestling arcade game.”
Van would play this game for a few years and was obsessed with The Undertaker. “I didn’t know the wrestlers in this game were real until my friends told me a few years later,” says Van. “They said I should watch Smackdown and I was shocked to hear these people were real.”
Ever since then, Van started watching professional wrestling from there. One of her favorites was Stone Cold Steve Austin. “I admired him because of his confidence,” states Van. “Growing up, I didn’t have that.”
“I was very insecure,” says Van. “I was bullied a lot. I was an Asian girl in an LA community where there weren’t many Asian people where I lived. Just seeing his confidence and how he presented himself, I was in awe and wanted to be like him. That’s how this passion for wrestling all started.”
Viva Van would go on to be a singer in a heavy metal band. “Being bullied led me to be a major metalhead later,” states Van. “I always felt like an outcast, when I discovered metal music and the whole metal scene in LA, I fit in.”
Van went to a performing arts school to explore singing. “I was doing R&B, Jazz, and just clean vocals, and that never really went anywhere,” says Van. “This had a lot to do with my confidence for me. When I found metal and death metal, that’s when I started gaining the confidence I always wanted and dreamt of.”
Being a woman in a death metal band meant a lot to Van and empowered her. “At the time, it was very rare to see a woman as the lead vocalist of a heavy metal band,” says Van. “Now, there are a lot more women in the death metal community, but it is still a little rare. That goes hand and hand with women’s wrestling, we’re still growing and trying to progress.”
Adjusting from being a heavy metal singer to a professional wrestler was interesting for Van. “It’s different, but the same,” states Van. “The same high you get when you perform on stage, you get when you perform in a ring being a professional wrestler.”
A big aspect of professional wrestling for Viva Van is her entrance. It is one of the most important things to her. “It’s letting the fans know who I am,” says Van. “The presentation of my entrance, and my music, truly means everything to me.” Van also says when she gets aggressive in the ring she lets out some of her death metal vocals in the ring, not on purpose, but just as a habit.
When the time came and Van wanted to explore being a professional wrestler, she started with Santino Bros. Wrestling. “They taught me a lot of techniques and in-ring moves/move sets overall.”
As she evolved, she began training with Rikishi at KNOKX PRO. “He helped me understand the whole psychology of the match. He’s done it all,” says Van. Overall, Van enjoys learning different things from different schools. She recalls advice she’s gotten early on, where she was told to learn from as many people as possible. “Wrestling is subjective, everyone teaches it differently.”
Viva Van works with AEW
“I felt very welcomed there,” says Van. “I knew a lot of people and just felt very comfortable. I didn’t feel like an outcast or anything. It’s a great platform and I’m very honored to have been brought back as many times as I have been.”
Throughout her time working with AEW, Viva Van has worked with Kris Statlander, Nyla Rose, Marina Shafir, Serena Deeb, and Madison Rayne. “Working with the women there has been great,” says Van. “It’s an honor working with women who have such big resumes. Everyone is different and unique in their ways.”
“It helped me grow because each time you face someone new, you learn something new,” says Van. “Everyone has been terrific.” Another big match that Viva Van got to partake in, was against Mercedes Martinez for the Ring of Honor Women’s Championship.
“I was excited, nervous, and everything in between,” says Van. “I felt ready, and confident to have this match with Mercedes.”
“The Belt Collector” Viva Van
Viva Van is no stranger at all to winning gold. She currently holds five different women’s championships for five different promotions. She’s the current Big Time Wrestling Women’s Champion, as she won by defeating Christina Von Eerie.
“I feel very honored to carry such a big title like that,” states Van. “A title with so much history. Mia Yim and Bayley once held this title. It’s a confirmation and validation to me that I’m on the right track. All the women before me have done something great and I hope to be on that level next.”
Viva Van is also the current PCW Ultra Women’s Champion, a title she won by defeating Danika Della Rouge. “I felt like it was justice because I got to win the PCW Ultra Women’s Champion from her after she stole it from me,” says Van. “This title means a lot to me.”
When Van was just starting, she was a merch girl for PCW Ultra. “It was way before the title was ever presented,” says Van. “I remember looking at how huge the PCW Ultra crowd was. One of the biggest shows on the West Coast, over 1,000 fans every time.”
Van recalled looking up and just seeing the ring and hoping to be in that ring one day. “I never knew I’d be the PCW Ultra Champion though. I got what I wanted, but I got more than what I asked for.” Van is also the current FSW Women’s Champion, defeating Alice Blair for that championship.
“Zoey Starks once held this title, it is another great title with a lot of tremendous history,” says Van. “Starks is now killing it on NXT. Taya Valkyrie, Sandra Moone, and all these great wrestlers held this before me. Every time I win a title, I like to see the history, and it’s always such an honor for me.”
Viva Van is also the New Tradition Lucha Libre Women’s Champion. She has gone on to defend this against the likes of Jazmin Allure, Alex Gracia, and Mylo. “NTLL has grown a ton,” says Van. “It started when I started my career. I worked my way to get that title too.”
“To see how much NTLL has grown as a promotion to be at, I’m very proud to be their women’s champion,” says Van. “I love Lucha Libre. To be able to be a champion at a Lucha Libre promotion feels great. I’m so proud of it.”
Last but certainly not least, Viva Van sits atop the mountain at AWF, when she defeated Bryn Thorne to become the AWF Women’s Champion. “This has a very special place in my heart,” says Van. “This was the first championship I’ve ever won. They trusted me with it, and they trusted me to be their champion.”
Being the top women’s champion at a lot of different promotions is a lot of pressure for Van, but she’s confident in herself to carry all five titles. “It’s not about the titles, it’s about me and how I present them and how I carry them,” says Van. “I want to bring attention to these promotions and do my best to make everyone look over to the west coast.”
I’ve said it before, and I will say it again,” says Van. “Line them up and I’ll knock them down. I welcome anyone to try their best to dethrone me.”
Viva Van Performs at AAA
This past weekend, Van got to perform at AAA in Mexico. In the first match, she got to team with La Hiedra, to take on Mr. Iguana, and Sexy Starr. In her second match, Van got to team with Mascarita Sagrada, to take on Mr. Iguana, and Nino Hamburguesa.
“Every time I go to Mexico, I always have a great,” says Van. “Their crowds are die-hards for professional wrestling. They always pack out their shows. There are always thousands of people, it’s just a part of their culture. To see that and to be a part of that is cool.”
Van compares families going to see Lucha Libre, to families here going to see a movie on a Friday night. “I’m very proud to join them and be able to tour there when I can,” states Van. “Whenever I get to go out there, I go all out. Every time I perform, I’m always so excited, it doesn’t matter where I’m at.”
“The crowd in Mexico is just different though,” says Van. “In Mexico, there’s yelling, cheering, and these loud air horns, it’s just so cool, and so different.” Van also loves working with the talent over in AAA, especially those she worked with this past weekend.
“They’re all tremendous talent,” says Van. “I have so much fun working with them. Like Mr. Iguana, I’ve never had to deal with an iguana before, but it’s a lot of fun, and it’s very different.” Van looks forward to going back out to Mexico hopefully sooner than later.
What’s Next for Viva Van?
On Sunday, Nov. 20, Van will be defending her FSW Women’s Championship against the first lady of FSW, Mazzerati. This is a long-awaited match for Van and she’s excited for it to take place at FSW. “She used to hold the title and it’s just a match that had to happen. The past champion vs. current champion. I’m super excited. I haven’t wrestled her in a while, and she can go in the ring.”
Also, on Saturday, Nov. 26, Viva Van will be appearing for Defy Wrestling when she defends her PCW Ultra Championship against Amira. “I’m very excited to be back at Defy,” says Van. “It’s been five months. Continuing to defend my PCW Ultra Championship there as well will be awesome. It’s an honor to defend that championship at Defy. That crowd is another one that’s so rowdy, loud and just die-hard fans. Washington Hall is a very historic place, and I like to call it HellBent Hall. I’m excited to be back, and I love working there.”
Van also created her own make-up line, HellBent Glam, which you can find here. “I graduated college with a major in business marketing,” says Van. “I graduated in May 2020, and nothing was going on. I had to cancel all my bookings and decided to put my degree to work. I love make-up and always wanted to create make-up. The best thing about it is that it’s all vegan. I’m against testing on animals, it’s vegan and cruelty-free.”
Viva Van’s ultimate goal is to just be signed by a major wrestling company. “All my other goals along the way are just to face as many people as possible, and win as many titles as I can.”