It is often said that a mother’s work is never done. For Cathie Cougar, this familiar saying is more like her mantra, albeit with a slight twist. Cougar balances the rigors of being a single mother of five with the ropes of the squared circle.
Hailing from Regina, Saskatchewan, Cougar, born Cathie McKay, didn’t initially plan on becoming a female wrestler. Although involved in athletics and body building throughout her life, music was her idea of a main event. The singer, songwriter and classically-trained pianist used to tell people she was going to be Julie Andrews when she grew up. But like most Canadian wrestling fans, she made time to watch Stampede Wrestling on TV every Saturday morning.
As the years progressed, Cougar admits that her interest in the sport waned. It didn’t help that every minute of her time was also stretched to the absolute limit. She was raising her children. She was working on a Bachelors of Administration at the University of Regina. She was working at whatever job she could to supplement her student loan income. Wrestling definitely took a back seat… until one of the most unique wrestling “divas” caught her eye.
“At the time I was watching Chyna and I was really impressed by her because back in the day when I was a kid watching wrestling, they really didn’t have women of that caliber,” revealed Cougar. “They were all T and A acts even back then. Chyna just opened up this whole world of a tough chick that could beat up men and everything else. It intrigued me so I thought, ‘I have to do this.'”
Cougar thought she had found her opportunity while working out at a local gym. She noticed an advertisement for a wrestling school that was being put on by a man who had allegedly been trained by wrestler, Al Snow. Excited, Cougar registered and paid, but it turned out the man, whose name she does not remember, had never even completed his own training with Snow. And he didn’t seem to like the idea of training women.
“The first night he tried to break me,” she recalled. “He had me bumping for like four and a half hours straight. I basically crawled out of the ring, went home and came back the next day. I figured, ‘No, you are not getting rid of me, buddy!'”
Cougar says she went to a few more “training” sessions, but the man brushed her off by saying he’d call her to come back when he had more students to train. She never heard from him again. She would have better luck after running into an old work colleague. It just so happened that this friend was married to wrestler, Kory Davis, who worked with the local independent wrestling faction, High Impact Wrestling (HIW).
She began training with the HIW crew, often as the only female there. This scenario led to the creation of her wrestling name, as the guys would refer to her jokingly as “Cougar.” She admits that she didn’t know that the modern definition of a “cougar” was an older woman seeking younger men, and she had to ask for an explanation.
“It didn’t bother me,” she said with a laugh. “I decided to run with it. I did a whole kitty cat kind of outfit. Sometimes I wore cat face makeup, sometimes I just wore a cat head on my shirt. It would change, but it always had a cat like theme to it.” Today, Cougar uses the name professionally, even in her musical pursuits.
Cougar insisted that she wanted no special treatment. She wanted to be trained properly and like one of the guys. Davis, who wrestled as Crusher Carlsen and helped train Cougar along with Rex Roberts and Massive Damage, admits she wasn’t a natural athlete, but she made up for it with her feisty attitude and determination.
“She was really aggressive and took it with stride every time she got bumped up a little bit,” he remembered. “She definitely dove in there. I wrestled her in training and I was a pretty big dude back then, I was 6’4″, 525 pounds at the time. I’d bump around with her and let her throw me around and things. It was good for her confidence to let her know that people were willing to work with her.”
In order to still spend time with her children, Cougar would bring them along to her training sessions. She says her children grew up among the wrestlers and have fond memories of watching their mom train. Her youngest son recently boasted to his classmates that when it came time to learn how to tie his shoes, he had the privilege of having four wrestlers teach him the task.
“It was hard, but it was my way of having them with me,” Cougar revealed. “I went to school during the day when they were at school, so I really didn’t sleep a lot for a lot of years. I was going to school full time as a university student and I was working nights as a karaoke host and sometimes I’d work until two or three in the morning, come home, go to sleep for three or four hours and then get up and get the kids ready for school.”
About three months into her training, Cougar injured herself doing a sunset flip when a male wrestler landed on her head, popping the disc out of her neck between the first and second vertebrate. Despite having to take half a year off of training, Cougar came back and within one month had her first match.
That debut was a mixed tag team bout. Cougar says it wasn’t a great match as the other female involved was pretty green and the end result was a double count out, but the excitement and the rush of achieving her dream made up for it.
“I was so excited,” she recalled. “I had my kids in the audience. I knew they were filming it so I was kind of excited to see how I looked wrestling and what I did in the ring. I was so pumped for it. I found some pictures the other day and I just looked so cocky going in for my first match. I had my eyebrow raised up like The Rock or something.”
Although she started as a babyface, Cougar found her stride as a heel. She would come down to the ring to the song “Living Dead Girl” by Rob Zombie and enjoyed being loud and obnoxious with the crowd. HIW fans would often bring signs that said “Bad Kitty” to her matches. Cougar credits Davis with bringing out her mean side effectively.
“He knew I didn’t like a lot of the WWE females that I was watching, that I always referred to as T and A,” she explained. “So if he didn’t think I was putting enough into something in the ring he would say something like, ‘You are a cougar, we’re not building any Miss Kittys (former WWE diva, Stacy Carter) in this ring.’ He would just make me angry so I’d train twice as hard.”
For the last 11 years, Cougar has clawed her way through opponents with HIW, the Canadian Wrestling Federation (CWF) and other independent Canadian tours. Looking back, she says that her absolute favorite match was when she faced Mike Hammer, a midget wrestler from Winnipeg. Hammer grabbed the mike and egotistically bragged that he was irresistible to all women, including Cougar. Not keen on his intentions, Cougar stormed to the ring intending to teach Hammer a lesson. The comedy escalated with gags such as Hammer running away from her and pinching her bottom.
Davis recalls that Cougar used a combination of a strong work ethic, a classic snarl and her great sense of fun to always get a reaction out of fans.
“I think she did a lot more than people give her credit for,” he stated. “A lot of those guys that she trained with looked at her like, ‘Oh, here is a single mom with kids and she’s not going to do a heck of a lot.’ And here she is still wrestling and I bet you some of them haven’t seen the ring in years.”
But along with cracked smiles, there have also been cracked ribs, a broken tail bone, the neck injury from her training days and even a broken face. Cougar has racked up her own list of injuries including the latter where she cracked her occipital, cheek and jaw bone after taking a spinning heel kick gone awry. Being a mother makes this side of the sport even more difficult.
“I think (my kids) like the fact that they can say to their friends, ‘My mom is a pro wrestler,'” she admitted. “That just seems to open up all sorts of weird conversations that they like. But they do worry about me. They see me at night at odd times when my neck is really bad and I’m sitting there with the magic bag on, wishing someone would just chop my head off. Sometimes I think my family wishes I’d hang it all up for good. But they know I just can’t do it. It’s something I love to do. It’s the rush of being in that ring and the crowd. It’s a hard thing to walk away from. As long as I still can physically get in the ring, I probably will.”
Cougar is grateful that her children don’t seem to want to follow in mom’s footsteps.
“I don’t want my kids wrestling,” she said succinctly. “I really don’t. I know all the injuries I’ve taken and I think there’s no way I’d want them to be in wrestling ever. I want my kids to have safe, happy lives. I have always tried to keep them from being involved in the business in any way.”
Today, Cougar says she still has offers to wrestle on a regular basis. Though never having wrestled outside of Canada, she says she would relish the opportunity to work in the United States or Japan, but not necessarily the WWE.
“A lot of wrestlers have this great, big dream of going to the WWE,” she explained. “I never ever had that dream. I never needed to go beyond what I was doing. I was always happy being Cathie Cougar, the female indy star.”
But that doesn’t mean she is without her own big, aspirations.
“I’ve said it and I’ll say it again,” she blurted out. “I’m not retiring until I get my Japanese tack match! I’ve always wanted to do more hardcore matches. A lot of promoters cringe when a woman wants to do a hardcore match. That’s my real passion.”
Outside of the ring, Cougar currently resides in the northern remote area of Buffalo Narrows, Saskatchewan. Always the multitasker, she recently became the radio and cable station manager for a community radio station and also fronts a hard rock band. She hopes to release her first music album some time this year.
“I can’t sleep for more than four or five hours in a night and then I’m wide awake,” she admitted as the result of years of raising children, working and wrestling. “I’m always the first one up here. I go for my morning run and then I come back in and it’s seven o’clock in the morning when I should be sleeping. It was so totally worth it. I never really stopped to think about how it was going to affect me in my life. Now here I am at 44, I’ve only got one kid left at home and I can’t sleep!”