The second episode of WWE Icons highlights the legacy of Beth Phoenix, from being the first female competitor on her high school wrestling team to redefining the role of women in sports-entertainment. If many things have been told about The Glamazon, thanks to the interviews of her family and people who helped her become a Hall of Famer, you realize you didn’t know everything you thought you should know about her. And you definitely understand why Beth Phoenix is definitely an Icon for not only generations of wrestlers but fans.
“I just hope they love something as much as I love this,” that’s what Beth Phoenix wishes for her daughters. Because she loved wrestling so much, she defied all odds, took all the risks, tried, failed, but in the end, was successful to show a woman can wrestle like a man. Phoenix understood very soon wrestling was a great way to break all the language barriers and bring together people from everywhere in the world because of her grandmother. Despite her parents’ reserve, she made clear she wanted to be a woman who wrestles, not a valet.
Very early, she had to struggle with her body. She was not like the other girls and wasn’t fitting the mould, something she has fought against all her life and career. So she took advantage of her muscles and found an example in Chyna, an athletic woman in wrestling. The lightbulb, Phoenix says, that it was okay to be big and strong and being a woman. “I want to be like that,” thought the young Beth. In high school, she trained and competed with the men because that was what she wanted and she was checking all the boxes. She was supported by her team and already ready to make some changes in people’s minds.
She trained while working in the indies. She was chosen to take part in the WWE’s Tough Enough program. And something went wrong. She worked hard and went through it. Her fairy queen would be Molly Holly. She gave her a chance to show the wood she was made of. Without Molly Holly, there would probably have never been a Beth Phoenix. In her first televised matches, she was already stronger than men and women, a difference WWE’s then-head of talent development, Tommy Dreamer, immediately saw in her. But Phoenix didn’t have a contract and wasn’t able to have one. She even tried to be an eye-candy like the other girls in WWE but that quite simply wasn’t her.
As she was about to let down her dream, Dreamer hired her. Her WWE debut depicted her as a strong woman, a brawler. During her first match against Victoria in 2006, once again, something went wrong. Her jaw was broken, her dream was shattered. She came back to developmental and, that time, she let the Glamazon in her explode. Wrestling men was not enough, she would get involved in handicap matches, the first-ever OVW women’s ladder match. While embracing that power in her, she opened herself the doors of WWE again. And she never let anyone else than her close them.
“The ultimate combination of strength, confidence, class and beauty, the Uber Diva, the Glamazon.” She was not wrestling like the other girls and she made sure it was noticed. We all know what happened after, one-time Divas Champion 3-time Women’s Champion, the Glamarella duo, the second woman to enter the Royal Rumble match, her long-time friendship and team with Natalya, first women’s tables match. Charlotte Flair saw in them what she was decided to become, a wrestler, not an eye-candy. They were fighting like the guys and set a new standard.
While she was respected in the locker room, men or women, and was upping the level of female competition, a young Ember Moon suddenly wanted to be like her, “she inspired me to do things differently because that was so successful for her.” Rhea Ripley saw a woman who was wrestling like a man and she loved that. But, in 2012, Beth Phoenix chose to close the doors of WWE, she went home because things were not changing for women in wrestling the way she wanted them to. But five years later, WWE were inducting Beth Phoenix into the Hall of Fame because of who she is and the example she was providing for the new generation of women wrestlers in WWE.
She made her in-ring comeback at the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble in 2018 surrounded by all the women she inspired years ago. She did it again in 2020 and it led her to NXT where she can now tell the world what women wrestling has become. She is one of the NXT announcers and, as Ember Moon and Rhea Ripley say, they can pick up their brain and take from her example to evolve as wrestlers. Everything she had done is paying off right now for those ladies who can be women and wrestlers.
“We respect her for what she’s done for the women’s evolution, but as a woman, knowing that she’s a mother, that’s a strong message that people all around the world that a woman can have a career and a family life,” says Charlotte Flair. The private life side of the documentary is another chapter of her life that is definitely a part of who she is. The model she can be for her daughters is a part of the story, the model she has been for women is THE story that makes her an Icon forever. “Don’t let no be the end of your story,” Beth concludes. That’s the story you have to watch and listen to.
WWE Icons: Beth Phoenix is available on the WWE Network now. All pics and videos courtesy of WWE