It’s a Saturday afternoon not unlike most in Canada. Standard fare for most individuals is to take a rest from the week — sleep in, maybe walk the dog or tend to a minor project around the house.
That’s a typical Saturday for most, but not for Toronto’s Trish Stratus on Saturday, March 30.
You see, this particular Saturday starts the one-week countdown to Stratus’ induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Seven years removed from the official end to her pro wrestling career (though she has made occasional appearances in the ring since, including a WrestleMania match), Stratus is in the centre of a whirlwind of media interviews stretching across Canadian, British and American agencies. Radio, newspaper and websites have been splashing her name for weeks now as induction day draws closer.
Yet as much as the days leading up to one of the biggest moments of her professional career, it’s still very much business as usual for the woman born Patricia Strategias. Recent activity? A spokesperson agreement with New Balance for their Minimus shoe line, a guest appearance on Top Chef Canada (airing this coming Monday) and, of course, Stratusphere Yoga, soon to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Amidst this time though, Trish spares time for a return engagement with SLAM! Wrestling. As a media entity, SLAM! Wrestling has watched every step in Trish’s career, from her debut match, through seven Women’s Championship reigns, retirement, marriage, business, endorsements, and just about everything else related to WWE’s Diva of the Decade.
Once the Q&A from fans is determined and set, the core of the call begins — the induction. By this time, virtually every question imaginable has been asked of Stratus and this honour. Asking something unique is challenging, but at the same time some questions must be asked in the chance that a reader has not seen or heard it elsewhere.
And so it begins with the question that is likely penultimate for SLAM! Wrestling’s audience — why accept the induction in New York instead of holding out for the expected return of WrestleMania to Toronto?
“Sometimes timing is everything, maybe that would have been the right time, but I got the call in December that I was going in this year.” Stratus begins. “Now I didn’t say it out loud, but I thought to myself, ‘Huh, what about the one in Toronto?’ However, you don’t say that when you realize this year’s is going to be the most prestigious class they’ve ever had and the fact that it’s going to be in Madison Square Garden. Don’t forget the connection that I had with MSG. That was my last Raw match.”
So how about the point that she’s going in younger than anyone else has? Does this signal that her wrestling career is done?
“It does seem like there’s a bit of finality to your career but then again it is the wrestling world, I don’t think there’s ever finality in the wrestling world,” she responds. “I forget that I’ve been retired for seven years; it feels like last week I was out there. I asked myself if it’s soon, but then again it’s not. Age is just a number, it’s about what I’ve accomplished and I’ve felt very good about the career I’ve had — very fulfilling with every element that I wanted.”
Next to talk about — the “flick the switch” moment. For athletes in any sport, there is that “ah ha” instance where the realization sets in of the magnitude of what they are doing or what is happening around them. For Trish, the moment came right away with the call.
“The wheels just kick into motion — after the Royal Rumble, the WrestleMania buzz starts kicking in and you start thinking about your speech and the dress and the shoes and all those things,” she says with her famous laugh. “I think in the last couple weeks is when it has really kicked in and I actually had to sit down and start writing, I was like, ‘Wow, this is real.'”
Ah yes, the speech. In preparing for her moment, which will come after being introduced by Stephanie McMahon, Trish takes the time to carefully craft her speech. Still a week out, she’s just as organized in preparing her notes as she has been in the steps she has taken to further her career. In talking about her speech, she breaks it down as the opportunity to say thank you to those who shaped what she has become.
“The first thought that pops into your head is, ‘Okay, I’ve got a lot of people to thank,’ and, ‘What is my time limit?'” Stratus comments. “My career is like a chain — it’s built with a lot of support links that, along the way, helped me get to where I was. There are so many people along the way that I absolutely have to thank.”
The thank yous, of course, include not only those who have trained her or helped her progress behind the scenes, and her trainer Ron Hutchison is one of her guests at MSG, but also those who worked directly with her in the ring. Lita, Molly Holly, Jazz, Victoria, Mickie James and several others were part of an era of women’s wrestling that is without parallel in the modern world of sports entertainment, and Trish is quick to note that she would not be where she is if there wasn’t this group of women that all put in such effort to shape their game.
“The Hall of Fame basically is looking back at how you contributed to the industry, so I look at my body of work and to me that’s my contribution and what they’re basing it on,” she says, “but of course when I talk about my body of work, it’s thanks to the girls I worked with along the way as well. To get inducted is a testament to the hard work the Women’s Division did at the time — all the struggling and all the fighting we did at the time, every week, to change the way women’s wrestling is perceived. It felt like it all paid off, all the blood, sweat and tears.”
Indeed it has paid off, with the cash-in coming this Saturday.