RondaRousey.com’s Wrestler of the Week series profiles significant wrestlers from the past and present.
The latest RondaRousey.com Wrestler of the Week is Jazz, the former Women’s Champion who WWE called “one of the most physically imposing female performers of all time.” Of all the female wrestlers of the Ruthless Aggression Era, Jazz might have embodied that phrase the most. From her early performances in ECW to her WWF Women’s Championship runs to her work on the independent scene today, Jazz’s athleticism, toughness, and attitude have made her a memorable competitor.
Jazz began her athletic career as a college basketball player, but after a knee injury ended those dreams, she turned to pro wrestling. She was inspired to start wrestling after she saw Jacqueline.
In 1999, she debuted for ECW—a promotion she later described as “a family”—as part of the Impact Players. The way she stood out among ECW valets was summed up by her first spoken line on ECW TV: “My T&A stands for ‘talent’ and ‘ability.’” She wrestled women, as well as men like Simon Diamond, Rhino, and Steve Corino; she defeated Jason Knight in a one-on-one match at the Heat Wave 1999 pay-per-view.
When ECW closed down due to bankruptcy in 2001, Jazz was quickly scouted by the WWF. After a few months in their developmental system, she debuted at Survivor Series 1999 in a six-pack challenge for the vacant WWF Women’s Championship. It was won by Trish Stratus, but both Jazz’s performance and the commentary of Paul Heyman—very familiar with her ECW past both in and out of character—told fans that she was a wrestler to watch in the future.
Indeed, Jazz’s first rivalry in WWF was against Stratus over the Women’s Championship. On screen, there was a clear theme of a plucky blonde ingénue taking on a hulking, ominous threat. Jazz later described her role as one of the most experienced female performers in the company at this time:
“My job was to freaking go out there and make them look good. I’ve heard stories that Trish put me over about who actually gave her the credibility of being a legit f*cking wrestler… When I came, it totally went into a whole different gear.”
After winning a number one contender’s match against Jacqueline and her first title match against Stratus on the 2002 Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Jazz’s hard work paid off when she won the Women’s Championship on a February episode of RAW. She successfully defended it against both Stratus and Lita in a triple threat match at WrestleMania X-8 and held it through the period when the company changed its name to WWE in May 2002, making her the last WWF Women’s Champion and first WWE Women’s Champion.
During this period, Jazz feuded with Bubba Ray Dudley over the Hardcore Championship, in which she ended up helping Stevie Richards win the title instead. Their storylines converged when Jazz lost her title to Stratus in May 2002 in a hardcore match and was subsequently put through a table by Dudley, with Stratus’s help. After this feud, Jazz took time off to recover from a torn ACL.
When Jazz returned to WWE in January 2003, it was with a new attitude and a new catchphrase: “The bitch is back.” Now more of a braggadocious bruiser, she got involved in the championship feud between Stratus and Victoria. All three women wrestled for the title at WrestleMania XIX, but this time Stratus emerged victorious over both of her villainous rivals. But Jazz—now managed by Teddy Long—won the Women’s Championship from her at Backlash and held it until a battle royal at the end of June, when she again took time off to recover from an injury.
When she returned in 2004, Jazz was no longer as prominent a player in the women’s division, occasionally wrestling alongside and managing her real-life husband Rodney Mack until she was released from WWE that same year. She came back to be part of the new ECW brand in 2006, losing a match to WWE Women’s Champion Mickie James, but she wasn’t on TV much and was released again in January 2007. According to an interview Jazz gave on the Women’s Wrestling Weekly podcast in 2018, she knew her days at the company were numbered when:
“They called us to the back and said we were wrestling too much like men. I thought, ‘Well, that’s the end of my career.’”
Though Jazz’s career in WWE was over, it continues today on the independent wrestling circuit. She and Mack opened their own promotion in Louisiana in 2005 and currently run a wrestling school and gym. Over the years, Jazz has wrestled for Women’s Extreme Wrestling, ChickFight, Women Superstars Uncensored, Queens of Chaos in France, Shimmer, and Shine. She made her Chikara debut alongside Victoria and Mickie James as “Team Original Divas Revolution”—a reference to their WWE pasts—as part of the 2016 King of Trios tournament in September.
Later that month, Jazz won the NWA World Women’s Championship and has since defended it against women in various promotions all over the country, including at the NWA’s 70th Anniversary show. At the time this article was written, Jazz’s championship reign of over 900 days was still ongoing. Though she may not be performing on the biggest stage in the wrestling world, Jazz is still dominating over 20 years into her career.