A few weeks ago, when Gail Kim was asked what would her make come out of retirement, she said, “I guess I would say it depends on the circumstances and how far I’m pushed. If I did feel good and the circumstances did arise, I wouldn’t object to it”. The fact is someone pushed the button enough to make her come back in the Impact Zone. Tonight at Rebellion, Gail Kim, 42, will face Tessa Blanchard, 23, who seems to epitomize everything Kim doesn’t want to see on Impact.
Since Homecoming, when Kim was acting as the special guest referee in the Knockouts title match where Blanchard lost the title to Taya Valkyrie, a bitter and nasty Tessa has made of Gail Kim’s life a living hell. When I was saying “the wrestler she was, the producer she has become, and the fighter she will always be”, I never thought I would be so close to the truth. And that one day, the fighter Gail Kim has always been would make the wrestler come back, despite being retired, being 42, and now being Impact Knockouts backstage agent. Tonight is that night…
Yesterday night, SteelChair Mag had the chance to have a one-on-one conversation with the only female TNA/Impact Wrestling Hall of Famer and former and the former 7-time Knockouts Champion about her upcoming match, her opponent, competing in her hometown of Toronto, and if this match is meant to be her last, or not.
Tomorrow, you’ll be back in the ring, after a year and a half away from it. How do you feel?
I’m a mix of excitement, nerves, and maybe a little paranoid because I just want to do my best and I want the fans to remember me as I was at my best. I’ve worked very hard to make sure that it happens tomorrow night at Rebellion.
It’s also going to be special because it’s in my hometown of Toronto and I get to have my family and my friends and my husband there. He’s flying in tomorrow afternoon, he’s going to watch the match and then fly out the next morning, so he’s making a special trip to be there. So I think it’s going to be a very special night.
In the press pass we did earlier this year, you were saying you really need someone that would be going to push you and make you want to get out of retirement, I have honestly never thought it would happen.
Honestly, me too (laughs).
Was it really because of Tessa Blanchard or because you really wanted to come back to the ring?
It was completely because of Tessa. In that regard, even though I don’t like her attitude most of the time, you can’t deny her talent and that she is one of the most dominant wrestlers right now, currently. I keep telling everyone when I look at Tessa, she reminds me a lot of me from my past, her desire and her passion for women’s wrestling and to be the best. I see a lot of myself in her and, until I started working with her, I actually never really realized how good she was. So when someone is going to challenge you to a match of her calibre, I couldn’t say no, as long as my doctor said it was okay, that was enough for me to come out of retirement for this one match, to show that just my generation could hang with her generation.
Just for one match?
Yes, one match only, which makes it even more special.
There was a kind of “mother-daughter” situation behind the build-up of this match. Do you feel like you come back to the ring to teach and explain Tessa the way she should behave in a ring?
You described the situation perfectly. When I started working with the girls backstage as an agent, I completely feel like either a big sister or a mother-figure to them, someone that I hope that they can turn to and someone that they can look to for help to get better. So, yes, that’s how I feel, exactly that way. I hope that she can appreciate because I think at that age, you think you know it all. And then now, looking back, I’m 42 now, I mean 23 is when I started wrestling. I can’t even imagine I didn’t even feel like I was mentally or emotionally ready to enter the business. Tessa grew up in this business, which is a little bit of an advantage for her but still, she’s very young.
Madison Rayne tweeted: “As someone who has been in the ring with both of these women, I can 1000% guarantee that this match will be fire!!”
There’s a lot of pressure, I’m not going to lie (laughs). I think it’s very encouraging to hear from a lot of fans that they don’t care who wins or loses, to be honest. I think people just want to see the match. Normally you don’t really hear that. Normally you’ll hear I want this person to win or this person to win. I’ve heard quite a few people say I just want to see the match, I don’t care who wins.
Even if it’s not the first time, isn’t it a problem for you to see your husband, Chef Robert Irvine, involved in your storylines and in wrestling? Last week, Tessa was ruining his restaurant. Do you feel comfortable with this collusion between storylines and private life?
As long as he’s okay with it, I’m okay with it. As long as he can handle it and know that we can handle these situations together, we’ve always been so supportive of each other, in terms of our own career. I think a lot of the wrestling fans have seen him around at my matches and I think him being there will give me also a sense of peace, maybe in a sense of calm and confidence because I feel like every time he’s there, I feel better almost.
I’m so glad I met him a little bit later in my life because, when I was in WWE in my 20s, you have to be so selfish and I don’t know how that would have gone. So I’m glad I met him in my 30s and that I got the selfish part of my life out of the way. Now we just get to enjoy each other in our relationship.
I stated to many male wrestlers, like Austin Aries or Johnny Impact, it seems like 40 is the new 20 in wrestling, and they agreed. Do you feel like for female wrestlers it can be the same?
I will say I feel good right now at this moment but I’ll say I felt better in my 20s. I felt invincible up until my 30s. Doing our job is so demanding physically, I retired because my back started deteriorating and I started to feel it. I trained properly in terms of getting my body ready for this. Some people just know how to take care of their bodies or haven’t put their bodies through too much damage, so some people I know in their 40s feel better than they did in their 20s.
What would the 42-year-old Gail Kim say to the 23-year-old Gail Kim if you were meeting her now? What would you say to your younger self?
I went through a little bit of a period at the beginning of my career where you doubt yourself and of course, you’re less experienced and you gained confidence through experiences. I didn’t know if I was supposed to change myself and be who other people thought I was supposed to be. So I would have told my young self, it’s okay, you can be yourself right from the beginning and don’t change, because that’s what has brought me success in this business, when I realized I’m just going to be me, and if they don’t like, that’s too bad. I found success with being able to just be a real version of myself.
If I can talk to the producer for a few seconds, what are your thoughts on ‘Rebellion’ card?
I think it’s amazing. I’m really, really looking forward to the other Knockouts match, the Knockouts title match. To be honest, I think Jordynne Grace and Taya are such a great match-up, they’ve only had one match before this and I loved it.
When it comes to the pay-per-view and the title match, they’re just going to up what they bring to the ring. Of course, I think it’s been anticipated since Johnny Impact took a swerve with his attitude. I think a lot of people are really rooting for Brian Cage to finally win the Championship. I’m interested to see what happens there because they have such different styles, in a way, like one’s really big and one’s more of an acrobat-type style, but we’ll see what happens. Of course, everybody loves watching the Lucha brothers and LAX. Every time they go out there, they leave nothing to the imagination, I mean they really literally put their bodies on the line, no matter what the cost is. I think it’s going to be a solid card up and down. I’m really looking forward to it, especially to the women though (laughs). I have a little bit of favouritism there.
I dream of a Knockouts-only PPV because you now have the roster to make it.
Oh yes! We should do one! We used to do little special events in the past.
As Impact Wrestling backstage agent and producer, are you involved in the build-up of the knockouts match?
Tomorrow, I’m just wrestling, I’m not doing anything else. They told me, you’re just in the match and that’s it! I had to say, okay (laughs). I think they just wanted me to focus on my match.
What about Lance Storm joining the producers’ table?
I love it. He has a wrestling school in Calgary and whenever I meet people who want to become wrestlers, I always tell them if you’re willing to move temporarily, go to Lance Storm’s wrestling school in Canada because he has the highest success rate of students coming out there and having some type of contract with a professional company. He just trains everyone very right, he does it properly, and he’s a smart, intelligent man. When I worked with him in WWE, he was so supportive of the women. He was always willing to help us. I think that’s important when you have a coach who’s going to believe in both genders and know that, and truly genuinely he does and wants to help the younger generation.
IMPACT Wrestling Rebellion, live from the Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto, Canada, will be streaming globally tonight at 8 PM ET (Monday 1 AM BST) exclusively on the FITE.tv app. For more information on how to order Rebellion, visit www.impactwrestling.com/impact-rebellion. For more information about Rebellion on FITE.tv, including pricing details, visit www.FITE.tv.
Find all the details about the PPV here.
Follow Gail Kim on Twitter @gailkimITSME. All pics and videos courtesy of Impact Wrestling.