Ivory is more than a little frustrated about the current state of women’s wrestling in the WWF, yet in talking about it, she’s careful not to step on anyone’s toes.
“It always seems like they don’t quite know what to do with the women, from a wrestling point of view,” she told Slam Wrestling before a recent WWF Smackdown! taping in San Jose.
Since arriving in the WWF in March 1999, Ivory has done everything the company has asked of her, from accompanying D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry to the ring, to being the women’s champion, to wrestling in slop matches, fighting septuagenarians, to commentating.
“I always have had a willingness to do and pull off anything the WWF wants me to do. Because I really have a lot of faith in their smarts about entertainment,” said the Los Angeles-born-and-raised Lisa Moretti, aka Ivory.
It’s pretty easy to look back at her reigns as WWF women’s champion fondly now, especially with another non-wrestler in Stephanie McMahon holding the belt at the moment. “When the Women’s Championship came my way, I felt very dedicated to the idea of, ‘Wow, let’s turn this thing around! Let’s find some new talent. Let’s get some girls in here who could wrestle, who love wrestling, who can make it work. We can make a three-minute match happen for television,'” Ivory explained.
There’s no doubt of Ivory’s wrestling abilities, despite her ‘cheesecake’ beginnings in the G.L.O.W. — Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling — promotion. She has a true passion for the sport, and gives all the credit for that passion to one man: Mondo Guerrero.
“He’s the man that really got me into wrestling,” she said of the older brother of WWF star Eddie Guerrero. “He’s the one that in a stupid audition for a pilot for a TV show, that no one there knew what they were doing, Mondo was the guy that made me feel passionate towards the sport because he had such a passion for it himself.”
Moretti, who was going to the University of Southern California for public relations, was dragged to the audition by a friend, and quickly found out that looks weren’t the biggest issue in the casting. She remembered that after the first training session, girls were hanging on the ropes, not paying attention, and laughing about how funny it looked when they were ‘selling’ the pain. Guerrero had warned them specifically to pay attention, not lean on the ropes and take it serious, or they would get hurt.
Finally, Moretti recalled, Guerrero had enough. “He just hopped right up in lickety-split time, and grabbed this big, voluptuous blonde by the hair, threw her down to the mat, tied her up into a pretzel. She was crying. I thought to myself, ‘Man, I like this guy.’ He meant what he was saying. Pay attention. So from that night forward, I kept coming back, night after night. We did about six weeks of training, which got 12 of us ready to go shoot a pilot, and put together about eight wrestling matches with girls. What do you know? The show sold, and we were shipped off to Vegas and before you knew it, I was wrestling instead of being a businesswoman. I was wrestling for four years.”
In G.L.O.W., Moretti was known as Tina Ferrari, and was one of the promotion’s top stars and champ for a time. Other women’s titles would follow, like the POWW belt; so did other names, including Tina Moretti and Nina.
To this day she’s still a little bit stunned at the way her life turned out. As a kid, she said she was never a huge fan of wrestling, and just goofed around at home. “We grew up with a tad bit of wrestling. Of course, we invented our own. We’d clear out the furniture in the living room. I had three other siblings (two brothers, one sister). We’d have tag team matches in the living room.”
Mixed tag matches seem to be one of the few ways that the women wrestlers of the WWF get involved the show these days. Getting assigned a great angle, being paired up with a male star, or being willing to expose their bodies are other ways for the women to get airtime. Yet Ivory doesn’t think it’s the end of the world.
“There’s something inside of me that says that the women’s division isn’t over yet,” Ivory said. “It’s been gone for a long time. I think that the women, as an element in the show, are doing a fabulous job as it is right now. Miss Kitty brings a lot of excitement to the little teenager boys out there, I know. Terri Runnells is really doing a great job in taking a few bumps here or there now. She’s got kind of this evil, she-devil character going now. Of course, Mae and Moolah still add a lot of fun stuff to the show. I think the women, sometimes we feel that we’re not important enough or something. But I think we’re a real important element to the show.”
For Ivory, the addition of long-time veterans Mae Young and the Fabulous Moolah has been great both for her in-ring career (angles over the title back in October 1999) and outside the ring (advice and friendship).
“If you need their help, they are more than willing to give it to you. I think that anyone that’s not asking for their help, they’re making a big mistake,” Ivory said. “I had a great time working with them when they first came on board. I’ve been beat up by them, wrestled with them.”
Timing is the biggest thing that she has taken away from working with the vets. “The thing I learned from Mae and Moolah is that no matter what they tell you — three minutes, four minutes, two minutes, work fast — they go out there and make it right. You watch Mae Young. When she’s ready to put the X-Factor on somebody, she looks around, she waits until the audience is really ready to see it. So that’s what I’ve learned from them, to listen to the crowd and give it up for them.”
One of the more recent arrivals to the WWF shows are the ‘slop’ matches — so far we’ve seen pudding, gravy, mud, and even an Evening Gown match in a swimming pool. Hardly athletic contests. Yet Ivory does see value in them.
“Every time that I’ve watched one of these slop matches that I’ve been in, like the big gravy bowl match with Jacqueline, being tossed into the mud with Miss Kitty by Jeff Jarrett. Everytime I watch one of those, I get a big giggle out of it. I laugh and I’m thoroughly entertained,” she said. “I’m okay with being involved in that stuff because it’s fun.”
Ivory did admit that it can be a downer seeing one’s name on the booking sheet in a slop match. “Every night that they would be building that big trough, putting some kind of slop in it, you’re figuring that you’re probably going to be in there too. You kind of go back to the locker room and go, ‘God, what a drag! Why can’t we be like the wrestlers? Why can’t we show our stuff?’ But then you watch the bit on television, and as long as you put the same intensity into making that bit work, then I think that it shifts the gear in our show to something that is funny, and I think that our fans need that.”
She is realistic about her chances fighting the men, like Chyna does. “It would be great to work with the guys, but I don’t have any desire to be some little girl that goes in there to show up the guys. I think it takes away from who they are. I’m not Superwoman, I don’t look like Superwoman. I might be crazy enough to say, ‘C’mon, Val Venis. Let’s me and you go!’ but when he comes out, I’m going to powder out.” For her, it’s partly the fact that to get better, one has to work with the best, and to her, that’s the male talent in the WWF.
Down the road, there’s some new talent that will likely be gunning for Ivory, whether or not she ever regains the women’s belt and restores some credibility to the division.
Up next is contact fighter Caryn Mower. “She’s in training in the ring,” said Ivory. “We’ll just have to teach her how to not take our heads off for real, because that’s what she’s used to doing.” Mower debuts on tonight’s Smackdown! as Stephanie McMahon’s personal trainer.
Trish Stratus has been training twice a week in Toronto for her in-ring debut. “Trish is doing a super job. She really deserves to be here. She loves wrestling. She’s been a big groupie for wrestling, a big mark for many years,” Ivory said. “I’m really happy to see her dream come true. I think that she’s going to be a big plus for many, many years.”
Facing the former Miss Congeniality from ECW also intrigues Ivory. “[Lita]’s been doing a great job as a partner, a so-called valet [to Essa Rios]. Boy, she sure gets in there and takes care of business! I’d love to have a match with her. Her and Jacqueline were fighting at some house shows and they had a nice time working together. So she’s an exciting talent.”
Ivory recognizes that a key to a future push may be in aligning herself with a couple of male stars, like Stratus and Lita. But it isn’t that easy. “I don’t know who to hook up with though!”