TNA Wrestling rides into Hamilton at Copps Coliseum tonight and for one Knockout it will be a homecoming of sorts.

Shantelle Malawski, better known to sports entertainment fans as Taylor Wilde, grew up, and still lives, in the Toronto area. In fact when the young performer is not in the ring she is studying for a Psychology Honours Bachelor of Arts at nearby York University. If you think one post secondary program is enough for the ambitious Wilde, you would be wrong. “Once I’m done with psychology, I would like to take a broadcast journalism program at Seneca College,” she said.

Taylor Wilde. Photo courtesy TNA

Taylor was making the media rounds for Viewer’s Choice Canada and made time to sit down with SLAM! Wrestling. It has been a little over a year since Taylor busted into TNA and she could not be happier with her experience thus far. “It’s been completely surreal, a whirlwind, all my dreams and aspirations have been met,” she beamed.

Wilde continued, “there are so many personalities and different body shapes in our division so each girl is an individual and stands out in their own way … that’s what makes it so unique and exciting … I’m the girl next door look,” she laughed.

Wilde has done a lot since joining the land of the six-sided ring, but nothing more different then venturing into hardcore matches, in particular her two Monster’s Ball bouts. “Honestly it was just a new challenge. I’ve worked with the technical and high flying aspects as well as the lucha libre style in Mexico where you have to fly by the seat of your pants, and that’s what gets me going, the spontaneity,” she explained. “The hardcore match was the same way, I said a prayer and went for it! I came out with some new bruises and scratches, but I loved it.”

Speaking of different styles, the Toronto native detailed how her first feud in the company was not with your typical female opponent. “I faced Awesome Kong right off the bat … she is a totally different type of competitor with her size and is so agile. So Kong has probably been my favourite opponent so far.”

With the Knockouts division being so deep and diversified talent-wise, SLAM! Wrestling asked Taylor about the addition of Tara (formerly WWE’s Victoria) to the landscape. “She’s got a vast amount of experience working all over the world, and keeps the rest of the girls on their toes. Wrestling is not a sport where you can sit on your laurels because there’s always someone more experienced or younger nipping at your heels.”

That being said Wilde elaborated on how professional the ex-Diva is and how she hopes to work with her in the future.

Being a relative newcomer to the business Taylor has tried to be like a sponge and soak up all the knowledge and advice available to her. “I feel that anybody who has made a dollar in this industry has something that can help you. Rob Fuego (Rob Etcheverria) was my trainer, if it wasn’t for him and growing up with Edge and Christian, I would’ve never gotten to the next level,” she admitted. Wilde made another interesting point: “If you can’t learn something from someone you can learn what not to do from them.”

After a brief stint in the WWE developmental system, Wilde was at a crossroads and had to decide whether to continue with wrestling. She decided to send her demo package down to Terry Taylor in TNA and the wheels were set in motion pretty quickly. “It was a fairly fluid process, I’ve been really lucky. Sent the package in, had a tryout, had a tryout match, and a handshake later I was with TNA.” Her tryout contest was against Raisha Saeed (second-generation wrestler Melissa Anderson) and although it was nerve wracking in front of the live audience she felt empowered and enjoyed working with the new opponent.

Coming to the unique six-sided ring that TNA stars battle in was not as big an adjustment as Taylor initially thought. “It actually felt really natural, there were more sides of the ring to hit. So now I go to four-sided rings and feel confused because there’s only three ways to go, but you try and adapt to your surroundings instantly.”

Andy McNamara talks with Taylor Wilde. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

In a ‘what if’ scenario Wilde was asked how she thought she would have faired during the much more hectic territory days of the ’60s and ’70s where travelling by car from town to town every night was the norm. “I think I would’ve done it just fine. I actually like the long road trips, dig being on the bus and traveling with the same crew of people. I find there’s more freedom than living in airports.” She quipped, “Airports are like bad amusement parks, you’re constantly waiting in line, but not to go anywhere. I love wrestling so whatever was involved I would’ve hacked it.”

With this Friday’s house show in Hamilton does Taylor feel any added pressure being in front of her fellow countrymen? Actually, it is quite the opposite. “I’m euphoric any time I’m in Canada. When we were out in British Columbia and then close by in Oshawa it’s always good to be on Canadian soil since we are so seldom here,” she said. “Besides my $25,000 challenge with Kong, Oshawa was my happiest moment with all my friends and family there to watch me live.”

Considering all the success she has had already, what does the future hold for Taylor Wilde? “I don’t know what’s past next week!” she laughed. “So I’m going to keep working hard, setting small goals, and I’m really happy with the momentum I’ve built. Everyone stay tuned, cause you never know what to expect out of me.”

Make sure to check out Taylor Wilde and all the talent of TNA Wrestling not only this Friday at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum, but also on Viewer’s Choice Canada for every pay-per-view.