Tatevik the Gamer excels at everything she does. The name really says it all: she’s a gamer, she’s a fighter and she’s a wrestler. These aren’t just hobbies; this is her life.
“I didn’t want to be a ‘gimmick,’ as I don’t believe too much in that term or ‘character’ as an actor. There is no lying or pretending. Be truthful and find that side of yourself that you never knew about and ignore the one you’ve been with on a day-to-day basis. I don’t believe anything should be a lie,” she said. “That’s why I’m not just ‘The Gamer,’ but a competitive gamer in reality as well: Global Operations, Call of Duty (MW1/2/3 BO1/2), Bio-Shock 1/2, God Of War 1/2/3, (Ghost of Sparta and Chains of Olympus), American McGees Alice, Silent Hill 2, Doom 3, and what kind of gamer would I be if I left out Solid Snake in Metal Gear?”
Tatevik Hunanyan, originally from Yerevan, Armenia, grew up in a house in Glendale, California, with brothers, which isn’t always easy being a girl. But on the plus side, it might have toughened her up a bit and made her a little more competitive. To this day, she’s out to prove that anything the boys can do, she can do better. And naturally, that includes wrestling, where she is one of the featured performers on the relaunched WOW: Women Of Wrestling promotion.
“Wrestling was an unexpected dream, come true. I wish I can be one of those people who say I grew up watching wrestling my whole life because when I actually did start watching and studying wrestling, my first thought was, ‘I can’t believe I missed out on this,'” the 24-year-old Tatevik said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t have interest in wrestling as a child. My parents just wouldn’t allow me to watch anything past Charlie Chaplin to Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Of course, when I did have the chance, I would sneak in some Xena and my brothers’ action movie collection. But now I can name many favorites: Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, Leilani Kai, Wendi Richter; the list goes on!”
Some people might be surprised to discover that Tatevik is not only a skilled wrestler, fighter and gamer, but also an accomplished ballet dancer. She started her ballet training at the age of five, and by the time she was 15, she was dancing the Argentine Tango, under renowned dancer Sergei Tumas, who has actually choreographed for the reality show Dancing with the Stars. Fast forward to 2009, when Tatevik began her studies at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, which is where she first met legendary martial artist and Hollywood stunt coordinator Benny “The Jet” Urquidez. Under the tutelage of Urquidez, she learned the art of picture fighting, and started training in Ukidokan kickboxing. She also practices martial arts weaponry, with nunchucks being her speciality.
“I’ve been intrigued by martial arts my whole life, but I didn’t start REAL training until I met Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez at the theatre I studied, Lee Strasberg,” said Tatevik, a Ukidokan kick boxer. “He was my instructor there for stunts and picture fighting. I discovered my niche in that class. I had so much fun with the class that I wanted to take it to a higher level. I wanted to learn how to fight for real even if I was just doing it for film. When Sensei Benny invited me to his training centre, I was shocked, because I didn’t know he was an actual name in the industry and in martial arts. My life was never the same from the very first day I began training with Sensei Benny.”
To the untrained eye, wrestling and MMA aren’t all that dissimilar; after all, they’re both combat sports. The one major difference is that one’s a work and one’s a shoot. But if someone is truly passionate about what they do, and always gives it 100 per cent, like Tatevik clearly does, then it should make the sport-to-sport transition a rather smooth one.
“Both martial arts and wrestling require a strategy. Like fighting, there’s an offense, defense, and counters to be learned in wrestling,” Tatevik said. “You are dealing with energy all the time when you fight or wrestle an opponent and you need to know how to handle the threat standing in front of you. Personally, they both taste the same because I’ve bruised, bled, and sweat on both sides; just different colours and different packaging.”
Tatevik had her first match with WOW this past January, defeating Santana Garrett. And later, she had a match with the previously-undefeated Jungle Girl, which received rave reviews. In addition to her run in the WOW promotion, Tatevik main evented at the Malenko Academy in Florida, with a big win over Melissa Coates on iPPV. It was there that she trained with pro wrestling legends Leilani Kai, Tully Blanchard and Pat Tanaka.
The silver screen is another sideline as well. In the 2013 film Ambushed, Tatevik portrays a DEA Agent alongside UFC legend Randy Couture, Vinnie Jones and Dolph Lundgren.
Tatevik has had plenty of doors opened for her in her career thus far, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Actually, she’s proud of the fact that she’s had several teachers throughout her career, to mentor her on both professional and personal levels.
When it comes to wrestling specifically, perhaps the best teacher to have is someone who has been through what Tatevik is currently going through. And Tatevik probably couldn’t have asked for a better teacher than former WWE (then WWF) Women’s Champion Leilani Kai; a woman who has also competed at two WrestleManias.
“Very intense and technical. I thought, my God, is this woman for real? She is very daring, courageous and raw with complete confidence with herself and me,” Tatevik said. “She is a magnificent athlete, and amazing teacher. I’m honored to have her guide me through my journey.”
Just like Kai was able to learn from The Fabulous Moolah, she hopes to pass on that knowledge, as well as some of her own, down to Tatevik and other aspiring female wrestlers.
“I respect lady wrestlers from all eras. Times change; styles change. One thing that’s remained the same though is, to be in this sport, you always had to be tough,” Kai said. “Tatevik is a very unique girl, in and out of the ring, and far beyond her years. She’s very versatile and skilled as a Ukidokan kickboxer, trained by the legend, Benny ‘The Jet’ Urqidez and (she’s) a wonderful dancer as well. I have never seen anyone in the business that can do as much as she can. She’s just the type of person that makes anything and everything possible. Her passion, hard work and dedication speaks for itself. What I love most about this girl is she doesn’t need anyone to hold her hand. She is always prepared and has more than enough to offer. Personally, when I think of the full package, I think of Tatevik, and I can’t wait until everyone else gets a chance to meet her.”
Now that the UFC is finally accepting female fighters into its organization, women’s MMA is more popular than it’s ever been, which is why the wrestling business could really use a woman like Tatevik right now, to try and attract some of that MMA audience and capitalize on that popularity.
“Sensei Benny always tells me I have great timing. I was in the right place at the right time and it all started with a little casting call on Actor’s Access called WOW (Women of Wrestling). When I showed up to the auditions the following week, I can already sense the competition between the girls there; the energy of aspiring stars going wild,” Tatevik said. “I was one of the last girls to be called in that evening. At the time I didn’t know who Jeanie Buss was along with David Mclane and one of our own wrestlers, Jade, as casting directors. It would take a year until I would start training with WOW, but throughout that whole year, I kept questioning whether or not I should do this. What will I lose? What will I gain? Asking for signs almost every night.”
Of course, Tatevik has come a long way since then. She’s really been able to perfect her craft in the WOW promotion, which has almost become her second home; or at least the promotion, where she’s gotten the most exposure.
“Well, the night before the first day of WOW’s training, I got my sign through a traditional … reading from the mother of a friend. The very first thing she told me was, ‘You’ve been trying to make an important decision regarding an opportunity and if you don’t take this opportunity, it will be one of your biggest mistakes because this path was made for you,'” Tatevik said. “Fate was definitely my best friend, because that night, I made the decision to step into the squared circle the next day with nothing but confidence and love. At the end of the day I said, ‘Well I guess I’m a wrestler!’ I’ve had such a great run and can’t wait for some more performances. If all of this was to be over for me tomorrow, I would be so happy and fulfilled with all that I’ve achieved. Opportunities like WOW don’t just happen by chance and I’m truly grateful to be a part of it. There’s always negatives in any door but I’ve learned the best way to cope is to turn all negatives into positives to truly shine in the light.
“I think some people in the company didn’t expect me. The company is wonderful but there were moments where I felt like I was back in high school. I realized it was difficult for me to fit in as Tatevik, because I’m very different and focused. I have a lot at stake, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t party and there is nothing wrong with doing any of that; it’s just not who I am. WOW is a wonderful promotion and more than meets the eye. I think WOW is the most underrated all women’s wrestling promotion. I’m happy to say that times have changed and I hope it will be a bigger success this time around once people get a chance to see for themselves. If the fans liked WOW in 2001, wait until they see it now.”
Kai has been right behind Tatevik, providing moral support for the youngster, throughout Tatevik’s journey thus far. It’s almost as if Kai is a proud mother, watching her child succeed in the real world.
“She needs to continue what she loves doing best, and grow. There will be people that dislike her as much as they love her, and I hope she will ignore what people say and keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, keep your eye on the prize, Tatevik!” Kai said. “Experience is very important at this point of Tatevik’s career, because she already has the physical and mental qualities. She’s at a point, where she can work a match with anyone today, but she needs to start building. As incredible as she is as an athlete, it’s important for her to start working with different talent, so she can have a better feel of the wrestling world and vice versa.”
Tatevik is still in the learning stage, but she is getting better and better with practice, and could one day be the talk of the town.
“Every 10 years, a special performer comes along that really grabs the attention of our audience,” Kai said. “There was Moolah, there was Wendi Richter, there was Trish Stratus (and) this decade’s will be Tatevik.”
As her career continues to progress, Tatevik has no intention of putting on the brakes anytime soon. She’s accomplished a lot thus far, and sees even better things in her future.
“I want to incorporate my own style in the business and one day educate the next generation to do the same so that one day, they can pass it on to the next and keep the legacy alive. I’m very young but I’m also a very old soul. I have so much respect for the talent and teachers before my generation and all have aspired me to be a better athlete and person,” Tatevik said. “I hope I always learn something new no matter how far I go in the business because the day I stop learning is the day I will stop growing. I hope my experiences only get bigger and for all this to be done for a bigger cause, in and outside of the ring. And of course, being the only one today, I hope 10 years from now there will be ten more new Armenian wrestlers, both male and female. I hope people won’t aspire to be like me, I hope they will be better.”