To see SoCal Val on your TV screen or on your computer monitor is one thing; after all, she has carved out quite a career for herself in wrestling, despite rarely being involved in storylines.

But to speak with TNA’s red-haired siren, reveals a completely different side.

You see, Valerie Wyndham has been part of TNA virtually since the time the company began. She considers it to be a true honour to be considered a “TNA Original,” and it’s hard to argue when you consider how much the roster has changed, especially in the last couple years where faces are changing at a rapid rate.

The ever-so photogenic So Cal Val. Courtesy

“There’s new people in and new people out. That happens all the time. There’s more of an influx now because things are getting bigger, and that’s just kind of the way it goes,” Val told SLAM! Wrestling in an interview.

As discussed in previous articles, Val has helped solidify a long term spot in TNA by working so much in so many different areas. She has been on-screen in storylines, worked backstage as an interviewer and as host of online shows, done commercials for TNA and just about everything else possible.

Her longevity is that much more remarkable when you consider how many names have come and gone in women’s wrestling in that time. There may be no better indicator of this than a fact that Val discovered.

“From the first Knockouts DVD, no one’s here any more; it’s just me,” she says.

With this knowledge of the high turnover rate, the question of being able to make close friends in the business becomes very real. Despite this part of the business’s nature, Val has maintained close friendship with some of the women of pro wrestling, including Traci Brooks, Shelly Martinez (known as Salinas during her TNA days) and Lisa Marie Varon (Tara).

“I’ve had to deal with that,” Val remarks. “I count so many of my closest friends as the ones that aren’t really there anymore. Traci Brooks and I have been friends for years. We went to Iraq together and if that’s not a bonding experience, I don’t know what is.” (Editor’s note: this interview was conducted before Traci’s return to TNA in February.)

Still, Val has been forced to adapt to the ever-changing face of TNA.

“It is very weird because you never know who’s going to be gone, but I’ve gotten really used to it, and unless they’re really, really good friends and I speak to them on a regular basis, and there are very few of those, you don’t really notice,” she says. “After one or two shows you don’t really notice, then by the third show you’re like, ‘Wait a minute, where’s so-and-so?’ It’s a weird wall you put up.”

Outside TNA

Of course, TNA is just one part of Val’s wrestling history. She, like many other stars in wrestling’s top promotions, worked the indy circuits en route to coming to the big time. It is in the all-female independents, however, where you get a very interesting dichotomy. Some promotions, like SHIMMER, focus heavily on the athleticism of its talent, where as others, such as Women’s Extreme Wrestling (where Val honed her skills before joining TNA), are more focused on skin and sex appeal.

The wrestling fan in Val, as well as the worker, feels that there is definitely a spot for both in sports entertainment, as long as the focus is on advancing the women’s side of the sport and not trying to be the same as men.

“If your whole agenda is to push women’s wrestling and say it’s okay to be for a girl to be wrestling, then be a girl. If that’s your gimmick or your personality, being more of a Jean Grey or a tomboy, then that’s great, and I really think there’s a spot for girls like that. That’s why I loved O.D.B. because she was a girl like that — she was real. That’s why she was so well-liked,” Val says.

So Cal Val from a bikini photo shoot at WrestleReunion in Los Angeles in January. Photo by Christine Coons

“But then there are some girls who are trying to be less feminine or more slutty to try to appeal to the guys and be accepted by guys, and to me that’s a shame because if you’re a girl who’s in wrestling, you should want to play up that you’re a woman — that you can’t hit as hard as a guy. But you know what, God made you that way. There are so many things that guys don’t have that you have. You should do some of the things we can get away with. I feel like a lot of girls try to prove themselves. I don’t want to watch female wrestlers trying to be men.”

Outside the ring, Val has kept herself extremely busy with gigs that have included spokesmodelling and acting. In stark contrast, when this conversation took place there had been a lot of buzz around the ‘Net that Mickie James’ and Maria Kanellis’ departures from WWE had been due in part to their side pursuits of music and other gigs.

Val notes that TNA has been very supportive of her outside ventures and has been very pleased with how determined she is to succeed, a feeling that comes from her being extremely driven in holding her own fate in the palm of her hands and landing her own deals.

“You have to be good at self promoting,” she says. “People have helped me out along the way here and there and I’m so blessed for that, but the fact is, at the end of my day, I have to look back at what I’ve done and know I got to be exactly what I wanted to be.

It was me that was getting that modelling job by sending out all those emails, it was me that had to keep up with it, it was me who sent out all those resumes that got me where I wanted to be.”

“TNA has been very impressed because I’ve gotten all these things primarily on my own.”

In return for TNA’s support, Val has helped promote TNA by titling herself as a member of the company in any venture she pursues.

“I promote myself as a TNA Knockout because that’s what I’m most proud of. Whatever I do, any time I can be promoted as a TNA Knockout, that’s what I feel is my contribution to TNA and they’ve been really supportive.”

TNA Victory Road is this Sunday, March 13th, and is available on pay-per-view.