TNA Impact Wrestling’s Gail Kim is among the most respected and decorated women’s wrestlers in history.
She joins other female wrestlers competing for the “Queen of the Knockouts” title during “Knockouts Knockdown,” a TNA event available starting Friday, Sept. 6 on pay-per-view.
Taryn Terrell is also in that field of talented women.
Kim will never forget her recent wars with the blonde bombshell, which includes their Last Knockout Standing battle at TNA Wrestling’s Slammiversary pay-per-view.
“Before those matches even happened, I think a lot of people were very skeptical about Taryn Terrell,” Kim said during a conference call to promote “Knockouts Knockdown.”
“I worked a little with her in WWE previously, and she was kind of just starting to get on a roll. Then she got released shortly thereafter, and I left the company as well. She had taken a couple years break at that point, so when she came back they eased her into a role as referee. We really didn’t know if she could go in the ring.
“The only thing that I knew prior to having these stipulated matches was that she does a little bit of stunt work on the side as people found out lately. The thing is when you have stipulation matches. It’s all out there, and you can do whatever you wanted to do. I’ve always been in favor of those types of matches. I’m a little bit nuts if you ask people who have worked with me. I’m always willing to push the envelope.”
Kim believes in her 14 years she has been wrestling she never met a girl like Terrell who wanted to step it up and take it to another level with her.
“I’ve been in the ring with many, many talented girls. Whether they were just skilled technically or strong or experienced, I have never met a girl who wanted to get to that level of craziness I guess you could call it. With Taryn, I just knew, and she really stepped it up when it came to that Last Knockout Standing match.
“We both really wanted to bring it that day. I don’t think anyone had any expectations for that match. It was just kind of a match that the feud was actually built up, but the stipulation hadn’t been built up…I think we surprised everyone. I wasn’t that surprised at how she would go. I think everyone was surprised about it. I have to say out of all the years in my career that was one of my highlights.
“This past year has been just those two matches, the Last Knockout Standing and ladder matches I had with her were definitely highlights. For the girls to get that type of reaction, it’s very rare. To be a professional wrestler and get that type of crowd reaction is one of those moments you never want to see go by quickly, and you want to relish in that moment.”
Kim compared the magical moments she had with Terrell to those she experienced with Awesome Kong. The matches between those two put the TNA Knockouts division on the map and showed unbelievable physicality not seen in women’s wrestling stateside.
“That was a different kind of feud,” Kim said. “It was kind of a David versus Goliath type of thing. With Taryn, it was this girl who was a model looking girl that nobody expected this from. I’m just happy nobody had those expectations because we just knocked it out of the ball park that day…”
Kim is grateful for her longevity in the business through the ups and downs. Success came to the Canadian quickly during her first stint in WWE when she won the women’s championship in her debut.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of I would say three really strong eras of women’s wrestling,” Kim said. “That was the WWE era when I first got into the professional level, and that was Trish [Stratus], Victoria, Jazz and Molly Holly. That was a great experience because it was what I always dreamed of, but looking back now, I was very green and inexperienced.
“So for me it was a great learning experience. It was just an honor to just be a part of that era. With the current TNA knockouts, the biggest complaint I’ve heard is that we’re losing girls, and we have very few girls. The one thing I want to tell everyone out there is good things come to those who wait. I always tell people to be patient, and things don’t happen overnight. You never want to sacrifice the quality of the show, and we want quality girls in our division. That is going to happen…”
Kim takes pride in being the first ever TNA Knockouts champion, which she noted as her career highlight. She won a gauntlet match to win the gold at TNA Wrestling’s Bound for Glory PPV in 2007. It was a culmination of hard work and determination.
“I think the other great era I was part of was when the knockouts division was born,” Kim said. “That came a year-and-a-half after I came to TNA, and we had no women’s division when I came the first time. I’ve begged and begged after a year of managing. I couldn’t stand to watch the guys doing what I loved. I loved managing, but my talents lay in the ring. So when TNA decided to have a women’s division and bring in 10 girls all at once, it was crazy.
“We didn’t realize it was going to be a huge success virtually overnight. That was probably my favorite time in my career. It was very magical to bring in 10 girls and make it work virtually overnight. It was some great wrestling…”
Kim feels the knockouts bring quality wrestling to the table, and Christy Hemme has been active in helping spotlight the female talent on the roster. This includes the launch of the knockouts website www.wrestlingknockouts.com this year. Hemme also brought up the idea of having a reality show around the women similar to WWE “Total Divas”. Kim would be open to it, but believes there are decisive differences between being a knockout and a diva.
“They are two very different companies,” Kim said. “I’ve worked for both companies twice now. My first time with WWE was more the golden era during that time before with Trish, Victoria, Jazz, Ivory and Molly. They did give us the storylines and the time and cared about the work in the ring. Then it kind of faded away once the first Diva Search happened.
“That’s when I came to TNA and had a small role managing, and then we went on to creating this great knockout’s division. Since that point we have a president in Dixie Carter, who is female and always was supportive of the girls and cared about us having the respect in the ring. We could be sexy, but also athletic and show our talents in the ring. I think that’s pretty much the biggest difference if you watch the two products.”
She feels the knockouts put on great matches regularly and are more about athletics in the ring. For Kim, this is what separates the knockouts from the competition.
“One of the biggest differences is this year with Taryn I had a ladder match, last knockouts standing match,” Kim said. “From what I’ve seen and what it has been like the last couple of years, I don’t think you will see that in WWE where TNA Impact Wrestling is willing to bring it to the next level with the girls and have faith that we can have a match that can entertain the fans just as the guys can. I would say that is the big difference between the two divisions.”
Kim looks forward to the future, the evolution of the knockouts and the potential incoming female talent coming through the doors of TNA. Many new faces and some familiar ones are a part of “Knockouts Knockdown.”
“Most of them I knew,” Kim said. “I think the only person I’ve never heard of was Santana Garrett. I wasn’t up-to-date with all the independent workers that were out there. Most of the people I’ve worked like Ivelisse was one who came through developmental at WWE that I’ve never got to work with, but heard about on the independents. There is also Serena [Deeb] who came from there. Some ex-TNA talent that has worked with the company before that I ever worked against like Trinity and Sojourner Bolt and up-and-coming talent like Taeler Hendrix and Mia Yim and Ivelisse.
“I think it was a good crop of girls that were coming through. It was kind of a crazy day because it was just match after match after match and the gauntlet. So I wasn’t able to watch all the matches because it was such an insane day, but I just know it was a good group of talent.
“For example, Mia Yim, who I had worked on the independents and worked as a referee for one of her matches, I got to see her work. It’s unbelievable the quality of talent that is out there. I’m glad they got their chance to be seen on this one pay-per-view. Hopefully, they will get another opportunity to be seen again on this level and professional level on TV.”
One who has Kim’s attention is Lei’D Tapa, who was successful in TNA’s Gut Check.
“She is in our developmental system at Ohio Valley Wrestling, and I think the moment I laid eyes on her I knew she had a great presence,” Kim said. “She obviously needs a little more experience, and that is what she is getting at OVW, but she is the one person to look out for in the future. She reminded me of Kong is some ways by just the presence that she had. She is the one person I’m looking forward to working with in the future. Serena Deeb has always been one of my favorites. She has always been a great worker in the ring and a great personality outside the ring and a great human being.
“She is currently working in Japan, so hopefully she will get a shot in our company one day. Santana Garrett, who I mentioned I’ve never heard of, but this girl has a great look. I wonder what she has to bring in the ring. Brooke Tessmacher told me that she was great to work with, and I just think some of the girls just need a little more experience, so hopefully one day we will be able to see them in Impact Wrestling at the TV level.”
• See Gail Kim during TNA Wrestling’s “Knockouts Knockdown” on pay-per-view starting Friday, Sept. 6. The all-female show also features Mickie James, Velvet Sky, Ms. Tessmacher, ODB, Taryn Terrell, Tara, Taeler Hendrix, Santana Garrett, Alissa Flash, Ivelisse, Lei’D Tapa, Jackie Moore, Hannah Blossom, Sojo Bolt, Trinity, Jillian Hall, Mia Yim and Serena Deeb.
• Follow Gail Kim on Twitter @GailKimITSME.
• Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN, http://twitter.com/#!/smFISHMAN, where I post links and information. Opinions expressed reflect no other entity. I can also be found tweeting incessantly during wrestling shows weekly.