Gail Kim is a talented artist. Unlike Picasso’s, her canvas is 18x18 with steel, wood, foam and mat.
Kim is a pro wrestler, one of today’s best, and her base is TNA Impact Wrestling, contracted as a TNA Knockout.
The artistry she creates is in the squared circle against many shapes and styles -- big, small, fast, strong, technical.
It’s because of women wrestlers like Kim that women as wrestlers can be believable, comparable to their male counterparts.
Physicality plays a major role in the believability, and Kim enjoys getting physical.
A punch, a kick, a forearm, a toss into the ropes, a throw into the turnbuckle are important elements of making the match look good. How a wrestler receives the offense is just as important as bringing it. Fans can see if the punch, kick or forearm looks strong or weak or how professional a wrestler runs the ropes, takes the onslaught and hits the turnbuckle.
The 5-5, 130-pound beauty has been hitting the turnbuckle for a while. She’s wrestled two stints in WWE (2002-04 and 2008-11) and TNA (2005-08 and 2011-present).
“I’ve been very fortunate to be in this business for as long as I have been, and I’ve been very fortunate to be part of three very strong eras of women’s wrestling. The WWE era with Trish [Stratus], Victoria, Jazz, Molly Holly was a great experience. 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, and it was an honor to be a part of that.
“With the current TNA Knockouts the biggest complaint I’ve heard is we’re losing girls, and we have very few girls, but good things come to those who wait. I always tell everyone to be patient. Things don’t happen overnight. You never want to sacrifice the quality of the show, and we want quality girls in our division, and that is going to happen.
“The other great era I was a part of was when the Knockouts division was actually born. That came about a year and a half after I came to TNA. We had no women’s division when I initially came there the first time. I begged and begged, after a year of managing. I couldn’t stand to watch the guys doing what I loved. I liked managing, but my talents were in the ring.
“So when TNA decided to create a women’s division and bring in 10 girls all at once, it was crazy. We didn’t realize there would be huge success virtually overnight. That was actually my favorite time in my career. It was very magical that they could bring in 10 girls and make it work virtually overnight. It was some great wrestling, and we had such different personalities and characters. Everyone just brought something different to the table, different looks, different styles. It was great.
“Wrestling goes through its ups and downs through the years, and right now I feel like we don’t have a lot of women on our [TNA] roster, but I think we’re still bringing quality wrestling to the table, and we’re going to get better, if everyone is just patient.”
Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked her No.1 of the best 50 female singles wrestlers in the PWI Female 50 in 2012. She’s worn the TNA Knockouts title twice, WWE women’s title once and TNA Knockouts tag titles once (with Madison Rayne). She was TNA Knockout of the Year in 2007 and Queen of TNA in 2013.
Any aspiring female wrestler can learn from Kim wrestling Awesome Kong from TNA’s Turning Point PPV on Dec. 2, 2007 and more recently Kim battling Taryn Terrell in a Last Knockout Standing match during TNA’s Slammiversary XI PPV on June 2 and in a ladder match on the July 11 episode of TNA Impact Wrestling.
“Before these matches [with Taryn Terrell], a lot of people were very skeptical about Taryn Terrell,” Kim said. “I worked a little bit with her in WWE. She was just starting to get on a roll, and then she got released shortly there after, and I left the company as well. She took a couple years break, and when she came back, TNA eased her into a role as a referee.
“We really didn’t know if she could go in the ring, and the only thing I knew prior to having the stipulation matches against her [in TNA] , she does a little bit of stunt work on the side. When you have stipulation matches, it’s all out there, and you can do whatever you want to do. I’ve always been in favor of those types of matches. I’m a little bit nuts, and I’m always willing to push the envelope.
“In my 14 years of wrestling, I never met a girl who wanted to step it up to that level with me. I’ve been in the ring with many, many talented girls whether they were skilled technically, strong, experienced, and I still never met a girl that wanted to get to that level of craziness. 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. The feud was really built up, but the stipulation hadn’t been built up. So I think people were like, ‘OK, it’s a match between Gail and Taryn,’ but we surprised everyone.
“I wasn’t that surprised at how far she would go. I think everyone else was surprised about it. Out of all the years in my career, that match was definitely one of my highlights. This past year, those two matches I had with her, the Last Knockout Standing and the ladder match, were definitely highlights for girls to get that kind of reaction. It’s very rare to be a professional wrestler and to get that type of crowd reaction. It’s one of those moments you don’t want to go by too quickly. You want to relish that moment. I only had those magical moments in the past with Kong, and that was a very different kind of feud. It was a David and Goliath thing. With Taryn, a model looking girl that no one expected this from, I’m just happy that nobody had those expectations, because we just knocked it out of the ballpark that day.
“With the ladder match, we didn’t know what to expect with that either. We just knew we had this pressure to almost top the other match. We didn’t know if we could, and it ended up being just as magical.”
It almost didn’t happen.
“I heard rumors it was going to be another Last Knockout Standing match,” she said. “When you have a magical match your first time like that, you don’t want to repeat it with the same kind of match. So I was really happy we got to do the ladder match because it was something different, and it turned out to be amazing.
“If you have too many stipulation matches, people won’t appreciate those matches as much. I’m always willing to take on a stipulation match as long as it’s the right time and the right place.”
Creating magic like that in WWE is a little harder.
“They are two very different companies,” said Kim, 36, “I’ve worked for both companies twice now, and for everyone it’s a different experience.
“My first run with WWE with Trish, Victoria and Jazz and Ivory and Molly, they did give us a lot of time and had the storylines and cared about the work in the ring, and then it kind of faded away once the first diva search happened. That’s when I came to TNA. I had a small role. I was managing, and then we went on to create this great Knockouts division. We have a president, Dixie Carter, who is a female who’s always supported the girls and she’s always cared about us having the respect in the ring to be sexy but also athletic and show our talents in the ring.
“I think that’s the biggest difference, if you watch the two products. The Knockouts will have great matches consistently, and we’re more about athleticism in the ring, having that whole total package of being sexy and athletic and being able to put on these great matches.
“One of the biggest differences is this past year with Taryn I had a ladder match and a Last Knockout Standing match. You never say never, but what I’ve seen and what it’s been like the last couple of years, I don’t think you’ll see that in WWE. TNA Impact Wrestling is willing to bring it to the next level with the girls and have faith that we can put on a match that can entertain the fans just as much as the guys can.”
So Kim’s worked for Dixie Carter and Vince McMahon.
“With Dixie, I found it easier to approach her, to talk to her about anything that concerns me in the company. It could be in terms of my character or with the wrestling. Normally, we don’t have to go that far with Dixie because everyone is approachable such as our writers to talk about where we want our characters to be going, where the storyline is going.
“With Vince, it was a little bit more difficult to reach him. You’d have to set up a meeting or wait for him to talk to him, but the biggest difference, and you’ll see it our product [TNA] is the way that the women are represented. With our women [TNA] we’re more athletic and wrestling based. Right now the big thing is WWE is their reality television show [Total Divas], putting their divas in that certain light, where we’re giving that light to that podium to perform at our level in the ring.”
Kim met her husband, chef Robert Irvine, during WWE’s involvement on an episode of his Food Network show “Dinner: Impossible.” On Aug. 18, 2012, their wedding ceremony was documented on an episode of Irvine’s “Restaurant: Impossible.”
“Both of us are very supportive of each other in our careers. We both look to each other for advice,” Kim said. “I needed a strong man like Robert to match my strong personality. When I met him, I respected everything about him. He motivated me. His ambition level. He is incredible at what he does. I admire that. So of course I respect his opinion. For him, it goes the same way. He respects what I think.
“He has a protein bar that’s going to be launching soon. So packaging, being sponsored by a certain company or with a show, I’ll give my input. We’re both in television. We both travel a lot, but he does food, and I’m in pro wrestling. It couldn’t be two more different worlds, but we definitely respect each other’s opinion and look to each other for that.”
• Kim’s favorite wrestling time of year is when TNA ventures to the United Kingdom, which is the homeland of Irvine, 48.
• Kim grew up in Toronto, watching WWF Saturday Night Main Event. Her favorite Tito Santana.
Trained by Ron Hutchinson, Rob Etcheverria and Fit Finlay, Kim’s influences were Molly Holly and Trish Stratus.
Kim’s first big break came courtesy of Jason Sensation and Molly Holly.
Kim studied kinesiology and nutrition in college.
• TNA Knockout Gail Kim is featured during TNA’s Knockouts Knockdown women’s wrestling pay-per-view available beginning Friday, Sept. 6.
TNA Wrestling is spotlighting the most athletic and beautiful women in professional wrestling. Mickie James, Gail Kim, Velvet Sky, Miss 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.
“I think it was a really good crop of girls,” Kim said. “It was a crazy day because it was match after match after match, and then we had the gauntlet. So I really didn’t get to watch all the matches, but it was a good group of talent. For example, Mia Yim I had worked with on the independents, and I worked one of her matches as the referee. It’s unbelievable the quality of talent out there, and I’m glad that they all got their chance to be seen on this one pay-per-view. Hopefully they’ll get a chance to be seen again on this professional level on TV.
“For example, Lei’D Tapa, she is one girl who was in Gut Check. From the moment that I laid eyes on her,. I knew she had some kind of great presence. She obviously needs a little more experience which she’s getting [at TNA’s developmental] OVW [in Louisville]. She is the one person to look out for in the future. She reminds me of [Awesome] Kong in some ways. She’s someone I’m looking forward to working with in the future.
“Serena Deeb has always been one of my favorites. She’s always been a great worker in the ring, a great personality outside the ring, a great human being. She’s currently working in Japan. Hopefully, she’ll get a shot working in TNA one day.
“Santana Garrett, I had never heard of her, and I thought, ‘Wow, 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. Some of the girls just need a little bit more experience.”
The winner of each individual match will advance on to one final match of the evening, a gauntlet match where the last two women standing will battle to see who is truly “The Queen of the Knockouts.”
• TNA Entertainment, LLC is a privately held sports entertainment company based in Nashville that specializes in events, products, numerous TV properties, merchandise and music, as well as, the management and promotion of professional wrestlers.
The roster features wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Sting, James Storm, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, AJ Styles, the lovely and lethal Knockouts and many more through its highly successful TNA Impact Wrestling weekly broadcasts (9 p.m. EST Thursdays) on Spike TV. In addition, TNA produces PPV events and more than 100 live shows a year.
The product is broadcast in more than 120 countries. For information, visit www.impactwrestling.com.