RondaRousey.com’s Wrestler of the Week series profiles significant wrestlers from the past and present.
This week, RondaRousey.com takes a closer look at the career of Victoria, a wrestler who brought a mix of dominance and sexuality to the WWE Divas division in the Ruthless Aggression and Divas Eras, then the TNA Knockouts division, and currently the independent circuit.
Though Victoria’s three older brothers were all amateur wrestlers, her main athletic pursuit was cheerleading from sixth grade through high school. She was so good at it that she won an All-American award from the National Cheerleading Association and got to cheer during halftime of the 1989 Pro Bowl, demonstrating the high levels of showmanship and athleticism that would bring her success in her wrestling career.
Rather than initially pursuing a career in sports and/or entertainment, Victoria studied biology and medicine in college, with the intent of going into the medical field. She ended up working as a personal trainer on the side, which led her to start competing in bodybuilding and fitness competitions in the late 1990s. At Miss Galaxy 1998, she met Torrie Wilson, who invited her to go backstage at a WCW show for her first up-close view of the wrestling industry. Victoria didn’t succeed in gaining a contract with WCW, but she would soon find success in their rival company with the help of another female wrestler.
While working at a gym in Los Angeles, Victoria met Chyna, who encouraged her to apply to the WWF. She put together a biography package and was invited to an interview, then started training as a pro wrestler. Her first character was called “Head Bitch In Charge” (HBIC) and drew on her cheerleading past, with an attitude that would carry on to her work in WWF and beyond.
Like many women during this time period, Victoria made her WWF debut not as a wrestler, but in an eye candy supporting role. She played one of The Godfather’s hos and led the “Save the Hos” campaign during his storyline with the Right to Censor. After being removed from TV to train more in WWF’s developmental territories, she mostly performed as a manager. However, when she returned to the main roster, she would quickly be positioned as one of the women’s division’s most dominant competitors.
Going from “Head Ho” to “Victoria,” she returned to the renamed WWE and immediately dived into the most memorable feud of her career, an angle for the WWE Women’s Championship held by Trish Stratus. Victoria had an unhinged obsession with Stratus that stemmed from their legitimate shared past as fitness models. While a prominent feature of the storyline was Victoria’s need to believe she was prettier than Stratus, she was also convinced she was tougher than her, which played into the two women wrestling a title match with hardcore rules at Survivor Series 2002. Though Stratus put up a good fight, this battle ended with Victoria winning the WWE Women’s Championship for the first time.
After she won the title, Victoria gained a few power levels, in the ring with the debut of her “Widow’s Peak” finishing move in a match against Stacy Keibler, and in overall coolness when t.A.T.u.’s “All The Things She Said”—then current and edgy—became her theme song at Armageddon 2002. She paired up with Steven Richards and continued to feud with Stratus—now with mixed tag team matches included—until she lost the Women’s Championship to her rival in a triple threat that also included Jazz at WrestleMania XIX.
After this, Victoria temporarily had a lower profile, but she still managed to make history while out of the title picture in late 2003. She and Lita wrestled the first women’s cage match in WWE, which was pretty hardcore for the division at that time, though it didn’t go as far as Victoria wanted. On the Ring the Belle podcast in January 2019, Victoria said that she wanted to bleed during the cage match because:
“… at the time I thought we were so hardcore and we can do whatever the guys do. I went to Vince to ask him and he goes, ‘Thank you, Victoria, for wanting to do it, but no one wants to see a Diva bleed.’”
Though prohibited from blading by the powers that be, she said she still asked Lita to throw her at the cage as hard as possible so she could “get color naturally.” But since the women hadn’t been trained to do that type of spot correctly, this resulted in just getting “a big knot” rather than any blood.
Victoria’s first heroic turn of her career also exemplified the position of women in WWE at this time. Her feud with Molly Holly was started by Holly, the champ at the time, hitting her in the head with the Women’s Championship belt right after Victoria beat Ivory in a number one contender’s match—classic villain behavior regardless of gender. However, Holly’s villainy was also directly connected to her being a prudish stick-in-the-mud as well as a cheater, in contrast to Victoria suddenly being fun, accessible, and a sexy dancer. Their feud climaxed with one of the most memorable women’s matches in WrestleMania history at WrestleMania XX, mostly because it was a hair vs. title match and ended with Victoria winning and shaving Holly bald on “The Grandest Stage of Them All.”
Victoria’s next memorable angle was even more sexually-charged. In 2005, Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson called Diva Search winner Ashley Massaro out ostensibly to congratulate her for winning the competition, then taunted and attacked her instead. Victoria joined these newly villainous women as the enforcer of their trio, first called “Ladies in Pink,” then “Vince’s Devils.” Their feud with Massaro involved multiple “Bra and Panties” matches, as well as a “Fulfill Your Fantasy Battle Royal.” The split of Vince’s Devils began during the unveiling of Michelle’s Playboy cover and included a “Playboy Pillow Fight” at WrestleMania 22 and a “Wet and Wild” match involving water balloons and squirt guns. When the titillating dust had settled, only Victoria remained a non-fan favorite.
Victoria remained with WWE until 2009. Between Vince’s Devils and her departure, her major angles included a winning streak that led to a title match against Mickie James in January 2007—which she lost—an alliance with newbie Natalya, and becoming the first victim of “Twin Magic” when she faced the debuting Brie Bella. Her final TV match in the company was against Michelle McCool—against whom she had been a foil—and her last WWE match so far was the 25 Diva battle royal at WrestleMania XXV.
However, Victoria’s wrestling career was far from over. In May 2009, she showed up in TNA Wrestling as “Tara,” short for “Tarantula.” She had used spider imagery in WWE but took it to the next level here, using a pet tarantula named “Poison,” on her opponents Jake the Snake-style. She feuded with Angelina Love, ODB, and Awesome Kong and became a three-time Knockouts Champion within her first year in the company.
By the time she was released from the company in 2012, she was a five-time singles champ, a one-time Knockouts Tag Team Champion with Ms. Tessmacher (as “TnT”), and had worked steel cage matches, Falls Count Anywhere matches, and more. Still, she told VOC Nation in 2013 that returning to TNA was: “…out of the question. It wasn’t a good fit for me. I had a great run there, but it was very different from WWE. It made me appreciate WWE a lot.”
Victoria never became a full-time roster member for another promotion, but she continued to work on the independent circuit, wrestling for promotions including House of Hardcore, Chikara, and Ring of Honor.
On January 6, Victoria announced that 2019 will be her last year as an active professional wrestler. Considering her body of work in WWE, TNA, and beyond, it’s clear that she’ll be remembered far beyond her retirement.