Kris Statlander started out strong in AEW, debuting in November 2019 and signing full time for the promotion in December, as AEW started its first TV show, Dynamite, a few weeks before. She soon became one of the top wrestlers in the Women’s division. After a terrible knee injury that had kept her sidelined from the rings for 10 long months, Statlander began teaming with the Best Friends.
Her loss to Leyla Hirsch at AEW Revolution earlier this year pushed Statlander to move on and change her character. From the alien-inspired gimmick, she became “more than a woman.” Tonight, she will face Red Velvet in order to move to the semifinals of the Women’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament. It was not a spot she was expected to take but Shida’s injury offered her an unmissable opportunity to shine again and come closer to Women’s Championship gold.
SteelChair Mag had the absolute pleasure to talk to Kris Statlander yesterday. She told us about her upcoming AEW Rampage match, her run in AEW so far, the Women’s Division, her goals and the Championship she targets, and what the future may hold for her.
This interview comes at a special moment for you because, tonight, you’re facing Red Velvet in the first round of the “Women’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament.” What is your state of mind coming to that match, knowing Red Velvet is an old friend and you were not supposed to be in that tournament, as you are replacing Hikaru Shida pretty much last-minute?
“It is a weird situation for me because I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know this was happening until basically it was announced. I adore Shida, I hope to make her proud by taking her spot because I do appreciate and respect her very much. Going into a match with a former friend in Red Velvet, you know, times have changed for both of us over the past few months, she’s got a different direction, I’ve got a different direction. I think it’s only fair that we just have to have a match as what is expected of us and there’s nothing we can do about it, so there’s no point letting any personal feelings get in the way, especially with such a big opportunity such as the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament.”
More than the tournament itself, what does Owen Hart represent to you as a wrestler? Is he an inspiration for you?
“I actually did not watch wrestling at all growing up, so I didn’t learn anything about anybody until I started training actually in 2016, so it was well past everything. I wish I could say that he was an inspiration for me but I wasn’t around I didn’t know of his work until more recently. To be picked sort of as an alternate, I guess, to honour his legacy, makes me want to do the wrestling community proud. I’m given an opportunity to really honour someone’s legacy who truly was one of the greatest. Even though I may not know much about it, I still know a huge opportunity when I am presented with one and I will be going up with my 100 percent all-business, just going full-forward, trying to do the best that I can and really wrestle for the Hart family.”
If you win the match tonight, you will be facing Ruby Soho in the semi-finals. Are you looking forward to competing against her again?
“Ruby Soho and I went in the TBS tournament and she got the better of me that time but it’s been a few months since then. We’ve gotten to team together in that time, we’ve gotten to see each other’s work, and if I do win this match against Red and I go on to face Ruby Soho, then I think we have a little bit of a better understanding of each other this time. She got the better me that time but, who knows, I’m a different person now and I will be thrilled to do it again and thrilled to get this win over her, so we’ll be one on one at this point if that happens.”
— All Elite Wrestling (@AEW) March 17, 2022
Very recently, we saw you leave that “alien” gimmick to become “more than a woman.” Was it something coming from you, something that AEW Creative wanted you to do, or something deep down in you that you wanted to change for your character?
“Presenting myself differently was something that I wanted to do, it was 100 percent my decision. I felt like as many opportunities as I may have been getting, I was never really being fully taken seriously. I wasn’t sure what was holding me back, maybe it was because I was too fun, too lovable, I guess, too goofy and easygoing. As I said, I know my potential and I know how much more I have to offer. If I wasn’t given the opportunity to show everything that I can, presenting myself in that other way, then maybe a new look, a new perspective will grab the attention of the people that really need to see it and we’ll finally kind of flip the switch in their mind and be like, “oh she’s actually someone not to be messed.” I got tired of people looking down on me and making fun of me and being like, “oh she’s too nice,” and stuff like, “oh you can take advantage of her,” which has happened with my former friendships multiple times. I’m just here to show that you can’t walk all over me, I’m not just some fun little quirky alien. Being “more than a woman” alludes to being different and that’s really what I’m all about, just being okay with being different but in a more serious way.”
You’ve been in AEW for more than 2 years now, you were signed a few weeks after Dynamite debuted on TV. What do you think about everything that you have been able to do so far with the company?
“I think no matter how much I’ve done, how many big moments I’ve created for myself or have been presented with, there’s always more that can be accomplished. I think it’s never a bad thing to never be fully satisfied with your work and there’s always more room to grow, more room for improvement. I’m just excited to see where I can keep going and how much more I can bring to AEW. Hopefully, these fans will support me in that as well and follow me up until I can’t wrestle anymore, I guess. I just know I have so much more to offer and I can’t wait to show it to the world.”
In the recent AEW Dark Elevation episodes you took part in, more than a woman, I saw a strong woman. As a woman myself, that’s definitely the image I have when I think of a woman, mostly a female wrestler. Is it really the kind of thing that you have in mind too when you think about how a woman should be defined? And is it a part of your personality that you wanted to put into this character?
“Yes, exactly. The whole idea of “more than a woman” is that, so many times, people see a female and they’ll have these preconceived notions and whatnot. Every time I go and step into the ring, I always do something no one expects me to do, I always show something new. It’s just always different with me and you never know what you’re going to get with me. I’m not saying I’m a wild card but it’s more than what meets the eye, it’s more than what you’ll ever expect, and it’s a constant exceeding of expectations. That’s kind of what “more than a woman” is, it’s not even about being better than other women, it’s more like me trying to show that the term woman is just so like one standard type thing and it’s not fair to us that work harder to better ourselves. In fact, it’s me trying to explain to the world that there’s more to everybody, in a way. You can have your preconceived notions but those need to be changed most of the time.”
You said you never watched wrestling until you became a wrestler, which means it was not your goal in life at first. How did wrestling come into your life and become your goal?
“I always like to say that I fell into wrestling by accident because, as I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t something I watched growing up, it wasn’t really something I knew about. I just somehow fell into it and I started training and it’s something that I wanted to work really hard to get good at because it was one of those things people didn’t think that I could do it. When I started getting good at it, that’s when people actually started to like pay more attention to me and realize that it was something that I could do. With the whole “more than a woman” thing, I’m like changing their preconceived notions of me, not thinking that I would be able to be successful at this or actually even be able to have a match, eventually not being able to make it through the early stages of training, and just changing people’s opinions of me every day because I just showed up, I worked hard, I got better at it and I surpassed a whole bunch of other people because I was more into proving people wrong than anything. I think it was that sort of spiteful petty little fire in me that made me want to just keep going with it. I never really had a goal to get signed, I didn’t really have a goal to win any championships, I was just going to see how far this can take me. That’s still my goal, I still will continue to just work hard every single day, keep trying to better myself and just see where it takes me because wrestling is my life now, it’s my job and why not be the best at what you do. That’s my goal.”
You were working with the Best Friends by the end of last year and the beginning of this year. With Orange Cassidy injured, things are like put on hold. Do you like this faction idea, working with people that are so different but walking the same road?
“I love my Best Friends boys, except for Wheeler Yuta because he betrayed us. Orange and Trent and Chuck, my boys, I love them so much. I’m not sure what our situation is right now. I think a lot of us are just kind of going through a phase, Orange is injured, and Rocky Romero’s been around a lot more with Trent. I’m trying to do my own and find myself a little bit more. I don’t know if we’re split up but I think we need a little bit of time apart to figure things out between ourselves as we’re all on such very different paths right now. So, instead of letting our personal feelings and fears of each other getting hurt or anything else get in the way, I think we’re trying to just let each other do our own thing but I do hope that we can have a big reunion any day at some point because I love my boys.”
When you signed, there were a few female talents. Ever since your debut, the roster has never stopped expanding. What are your thoughts on the current AEW Women’s Division?
“I think that we’re doing good, right now. With more people coming in, it just presents more opportunities, more matches, more different setups, and whatnot. Possibly enough people start looking at tag teams and whatnot, they’re looking at alliances to be formed, so it’s exciting. It’s always good to have people that we can continuously use, people to learn from at the same time. I’m sure everyone feels that there needs to be a cap at some point where, with the limited time that we get, there’s only so much that we can feature each time. That’s the same across the board with everybody anywhere, really, there’s a certain amount of time on television that people can see and there’s not enough time for everybody. It happens, that’s just how this business works, I guess. While it is always great to have more people to learn from and whatnot, I think we still have to continue fighting for ourselves, making sure that we’re doing our best to get our time and get our opportunities. We are always welcome to more but, at the same time, it’s like we all have to fight for ourselves, we have to find our own footing as well.”
Many fans are looking forward to the Trios Championship, but also the Women’s Tag Team Championship. Who would be your tag-team partner if you could choose?
“I’ve had a lot of options going around because I tagged with many people. I do feel like one person that I tagged with a lot early on was Hikaru Shida, actually. I think she would be amazing. We haven’t really crossed paths ever since I got back from my knee injury and if we got the chance to team again, I think it would be insane. We would be unstoppable because we were teaming very often, we’re good friends and I love working with her. She’s my number one pick to be my tag partner.”
AEW have 2 Women’s titles, the AEW Women’s World Championship and the TBS Championship. You competed for both of them. The current Champions, Jade Cargill and Thunder Rosa, are very strong. But, are you making a difference between both of them and do you have one that you really want to compete for more than the other?
“I’ve gone for the AEW Women’s World Championship multiple times, it’s the one that gets away from me every time. So, if I eventually get that one, that would be wonderful but there’s also the TBS title now and there’s not one that’s better than the other, in my opinion. If you have any title, you’re at the top, no one can touch you. As much as I want to finally get that win and get that world championship, I do think maybe since it’s a bit of a new me, maybe a new path, maybe going for the TBS Championship would be a good start, maybe switch it up and try and go for the TBS but, again, the World Championship is the one that gets away, it’s the one that’s got away so often, so I’m going to have to get that one eventually. I’m going to make it happen one day.”
As we said, this roster is constantly expanding and you already wrestled a lot of the women. But who would you choose from the ones, wrestlers and Champions, that you have never wrestled before and why?
“One that I have been wanting to work with is Serena Deeb, for sure. I do want to work with her. I want to wrestle Toni Storm also. And I want to wrestle Jade (Cargill). I want to wrestle everyone that I haven’t wrestled. I did wrestle Thunder Rosa on the indies before AEW but I would love to also bring that to AEW, what we’ve done as well. So, hopefully, I can get the chance to wrestle every single woman that I have not wrestled yet because that would be great for me, I would love to do that.
Do you feel like AEW will be your home for the years to come?
“It is my home. AEW really helps take me to the next level of my career and I want to give back to it everything that it gave to me. That’s just as simple as that.”
Follow Kris Statlander on Twitter at @callmekrisstat.
All pics and videos courtesy of AEW, Scott Lesh and KimberLassKick