One month ago, at Hard To Kill PPV, Tessa Blanchard defied all odds when she defeated Sami Callihan to become the first woman ever to become Impact World Champion. When the company opened the gates of intergender wrestling to the Impact Zone, this was meant to happen. You can be pro or con, but the fact is Tessa Blanchard is the new face of Impact Wrestling.

At only 24, Tessa Blanchard has already put her fingerprints on Impact Wrestling, as a former Knockouts Champion, as an intergender wrestler, and now as a World Champion. We’ve heard of Women’s Evolution or Revolution for years now, and this new step in history Impact Wrestling has decided to be a pioneer of completely fits this idea of revolution wrestlers like Jacqueline, Molly Holly or Chyna were the trailblazers of.

SteelChair Mag took part in a media call with the new Impact World Champion. Tessa Blanchard talked to media about her win and all the emotions she had to go through that weekend, the Champion she wants to be, how proud she is to be an intergender wrestler, mostly on Impact Wrestling.

Becoming World Champion

Tessa Blanchard still seems to be over the moon. Becoming World Champion is the result of a long and winding road. “It was an emotional week, my family was there and got to share that moment with me. It had been the last eight months that Sami and I had been going through all of this. oVe and Sami were a thorn in my side for the better part of 8-9 months. For it to culminate at Hard to Kill, and for me to walk out the first-ever woman to hold the Impact World Championship, it meant so much. It meant that the past six years of my career meant something. The past 24 years of my life, everything has led to that moment. So, it was very rewarding.”

Despite all the controversies that were flowing on social media, she decided to keep her head up. “It was a very emotional weekend, full of highs and lows. I chose to step away from social media for a bit because of all the things that were going on. With everything that went on over the weekend, not everyone’s going to like me. Not everyone is going to agree with what I choose to do in my life. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve faced challenges. We’ve all got our own stories. I know who I am. That’s the world we live in. I’ve faced challenges and obstacles that allowed me to persevere, to become the woman and athlete that I am today. This is just another stone in that step.”

Despite everything that was happening around her, she remained focused on the match and the opportunity of making history, not only for herself. “I’m the kind of person that has extreme mental strength. With my family, with my little sister being there that weekend to watch everything culminate at that event, it was special for me. I knew that everything I’ve been through, I would have to use it as fuel to perform to the best of my abilities and be the best version of Tessa Blanchard that I can be for that night and win the world championship. That was my little sister, who is 12, other little girls, any younger talent might look at me and can take something that I love, and I made myself great at it, and they can take what they love, and they can become great at it too. That’s what motivated me. I can handle almost anything. Not everyone is going to like you. I am going to build my legacy based on my work ethic, not by trying to win some popularity contest.”

Like Charlotte Flair, Tessa Blanchard is the daughter of one of the legendary Horsemen, for her, “being a Champion is a state of mind. It’s a lifestyle. Holding up the ‘Four’ is a symbol of excellence. A true symbol of excellence. And for Charlotte Flair, and myself, it is a birthright!” When I asked her how her legendary father Tully Blanchard, and her stepfather Magnum T.A. reacted to her win, she stated: “My family has always been supportive of me. Everyone. I have their guidance, their mentorship. After the match, they came to talk to me personally and let me know how proud they are of me and how far I’ve come and how I’ve evolved as a woman and as a wrestler through my journey. It was very rewarding not because I want the world champion, not only because I won the world championship but because of that as well.”

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Being an intergender wrestler

Impact Wrestling chose this Tessa Blanchard/Sami Callihan feud to bring intergender to their rings. Not everybody is made for it, as a wrestler or as a fan. Watching a man wrestling a woman is not the norm. For Tessa Blanchard, it is. “Wrestling the guys is just something that came very naturally to me because that’s the way that I was trained. Six or seven days a week, I’d be in the ring with Cedric Alexander, Caleb Konley, George South, and we would train. I was forced to hold myself to higher standards because of that and because of my family to do them proud but also to find out who Tessa Blanchard is in the ring on her own. I am a huge fan of Chyna. I think that she’s a pioneer for everything that we’re doing right now. Intergender wrestling is something that happens quite often on the independent circuit, and it’s so great. It is something that makes some people uncomfortable I said it before, it’s not traditional, it’s not what people are used to, it’s not what people sit down with their families and watch on Monday night, but that’s what I love about it is, that it is so different. When I first started wrestling, I said that I wanted to make history in my own way in a way that was unique to me and unique to the wrestling business and I didn’t really know what exactly that looked like six years ago when I started but it’s all starting to make sense to me and it’s looking a lot like right now, and to be the change, to be the face of that change is very special to me and to be given the platform and that opportunity by Impact Wrestling has made it even more worthwhile.”

Most importantly, Impact Wrestling has helped her evolve.”When I first started in Impact Wrestling, we were supplied with tools such as Gail Kim, Tommy Dreamer, D’Lo Brown, Scott D’Amore, Don Callis, Jimmy Jacobs. Jimmy Jacobs, him alone, is one of the most creative minds. When you look at our locker room, we have such diverse and versatile talent, and all of our minds are working in different ways, and the creative process is just honestly very magnificent to me. I think I’ve learned a lot of them about myself, through promos, through learning to work with other people and listen to their ideas, but also take them and collaborate with my ideas to create something that’s different, that maybe we haven’t done before. You go with people with size differences or style differences, you clash with them, and it creates something cool. You’re telling a different story each and every night, I think that’s what I’ve learned. Impact Wrestling is the first TV company that I’ve really worked that I’ve learned the TV-style and how to evolve.”

Some people have been pretty vocal about the choice Impact made, something she decided not to listen to. “I am honoured to be put in the championship picture. I am under contract, and I have done everything that’s been asked of me to do within my ability. For the wrestling fans, I am under contract and have done absolutely everything I can do to the best of my ability. That’s what I always want to do. I want to compete and perform to the best of my ability for the fans. The whys and the wherefores are coming from a meeting that I’m not a part of, and I do the best I can to accomplish what I’m asked to do.”

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She added, “I’m not ignorant to the fact that a lot of people don’t like it. My viewpoint on it is a little bit different because I believe that there’s Strong Style wrestling, there’s Lucha Libre wrestling, there’s deathmatch wrestling. Intergender wrestling is a style of wrestling. Not every style of wrestling is going to be for everyone, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Wrestling is an art, wrestling is whatever we want it to be, and it might make it uncomfortable. Intergender wrestling is different, evolution does not happen without change, and right now we’re in the midst of a change. If I have a gut feeling about something, I’m learning to trust it, and if I feel passionate about something, then I have to trust it. I’m not going to tell anyone else that they’re wrong, and I’m not going to let them tell me that I’m wrong about it. It’s something that I love. I don’t look at it as intergender wrestling, I look at it as just pro wrestling. I think that there’s a way to tell the story. I think that there’s a way to go out there and do it. Wrestling is whatever we want it to be, there are so many different styles, and we have the freedom to go out there and to create one thing. I find it very empowering. I want other women to feel empowered if they watch me, to feel motivated, inspired to know that whether it’s pro wrestling or not, whatever the hell it is in life, go and become great at it if you’re passionate about it.”

Trailblazing Impact Wrestling

Now with the belt around her waist, what kind of Champion does Tessa Blanchard want to be? What kind of message does she want to deliver? Once again, her replies showed how strong she is, mentally. When I asked her about her next goals, she made it clear. “A lot of people ask me what’s next, what are you going to do next said. Honestly, I’m living in the moment. I’m so proud of everything I’ve overcome to be where I am right now. I’m so blessed to be where I am right now to be the first-ever woman to hold the impact World Championship is something that I never envisioned for myself because I just never thought it was possible. Now that it has [happened], it’s very clear what my next challenge is. I’m going to have to defend the title against all comers. I’m going to work harder. My intensity is going to have to be equal to, if not greater, each and every time I step into a ring. That’s what I’m focused on right now — facing the best in the world and defending the world championship against some of the best in the world against, some people that want what I now have.”

Would she defend overseas? “Definitely. I’ve been blessed enough to go to Australia, China, the UK, and Japan. The UK is one of my favourites. The fans are absolutely incredible. One person I think that I would love to wrestle is Will Ospreay, we’ve wrestled each other before in a tag match at WCPW years ago, but to have a singles match against Will Ospreay would be really cool for me.”

Does her being World Champion mean merging the titles? “Never say never. Anything is possible. I’m in this to break stereotypes. I want to grow as an athlete and wrestle the best in the world. And some of the best in the world happen to be female. That’s just the time we’re in right now. I take Taya very seriously as a competitor. I take Ace Austin very seriously as a competitor. I take a lot of our locker room very seriously because they are so talented. We’re filled with such versatile, diverse talent. There is no telling. I’m all for it if that were something that was to happen down the line because Impact has proven we don’t look at it as intergender wrestling. We’re just looking at it as pro wrestling. And it might make some people uncomfortable. It’s not traditional. It’s not what people are used to, but it is our outlook.”

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In the end, her message to young girls, young women, or young wrestlers is that one. “This isn’t a business for the timid, the meek, the too thin-skinned. I’ve been tested in this life, this journey, in this sport. One thing my dad always tells me is that I’ve graduated from the school of hard knocks. I’ve given some and taken some, but one thing I’ve never done is quit. Through this whole journey of the past six years of my career, I’ve grown a lot as a person. You grow and experience life, and take those experiences, your fumbles, your wins, your losses, you use them as fuel to become the best version of yourself possible. I want to become the best Tessa Blanchard possible, that way, if someone else watches me, if someone else can look at me in the ring, they can go and become great at whatever they do. Nobody can kill your dream. You’ve got to have the mental strength to know in your heart who you are. And if you don’t know that, then the world is going to come to you and tell you who you are. The world can’t take away your dreams or tell you who you are because they didn’t give it to you. That’s the one thing I focused on over the past few years, grown as a woman, grown as an athlete, grown as a sister, grown as a daughter. And hopefully grown as a leader.”

Tessa Blanchard describes herself as an “overachiever.” She doesn’t want to be good. She wants to be great. You can like or hate the wrestler she is, the style of wrestling she defends or the fact she is a World Champion, Tessa Blanchard is not ready to change her mind and take another road than the one she has chosen for herself, be passionate, be proud of yourself in order to be one of the best.

 

IMPACT Wrestling is airing on Tuesday at 8/7c on AXS TV in the USA. The show is available to view in the UK from 2 am Wednesdays on the IMPACT Plus app and airs at 9 pm Wednesdays on Fight Network UK (Sky 192/Freesat 161), (circa) 11 pm Fridays on 5Star and repeated on Fight Network UK at 9 pm on Sundays.

All pics, screencaps and videos courtesy of Impact Wrestling, AXS TV and Basil Mahmud

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