Women’s wrestling: The next big thing? (Part 9)

Women's wrestling legend Leilani Kai is active in the business, whether it's wrestling or as a special guest referee.
Women's wrestling legend Leilani Kai is active in the business, whether it's wrestling or as a special guest referee.
Photo By Jim Varsallone

Miami Herald Writer

Former WWF women’s champ Leilani Kai, who takes care of fellow veteran grappler Vivian St. John in Fort Lauderdale, still maintains her passion for training up-and-comer female talent.

Kai competed against Chelsea Diamond at the Malenko Cup earlier in the summer in Riverview, Fla. Also, she was a special guest referee at a Battling Bombshells show in (South Florida) Hollywood. Battling Bombshells is a new women’s pro wrestling group, based in South Florida.

“I know pretty much every kind of technical style there is, from Japan to Mexico,” she said. “I don’t really watch it that much, but I have seen that all they want really is divas. They don’t want to educate them on any level of wrestling. So I really have no interest in that. It seemed more calendar-type women’s wrestlers. I guess maybe years ago when Trish Stratus, Victoria and Beth Phoenix, I did watch it some. They did pretty good and did the sort of style we used to do.

“It’s like a cycle. It goes in cycles. They would be part of the mid-card and do what the guys do and then change it to the divas and what they think would sell for, I guess the gentlemen. It goes in cycles. Sometimes they want the old school women wrestlers back. I’ve seen it about two or three times so far. I’m hoping it comes back to that. I really wanted to do some training over at the new WWE Performance Center, but at the moment they don’t have any room for me. That’s a shame because I have so much to offer. I’m getting older now, so this is a great time for me to give back. I really wanted to do that, but I guess it’s not the proper time. I’d like to someday…I want to be a teacher until my dying day. I know how to treat the girls and train them.”

WWE Hall of Famer Gerald Brisco has accomplished quite a bit in amateur and pro wrestling -- in front of the camera and behind the scenes. He now scouts talent for WWE.

“The passion Leilani Kai has for this business has not changed. She was around when I first started in the business, so I have a ton of respect for her. I even have more respect for her now, if that’s possible, watching her get in the ring and display some of her talents to these kids and pass on knowledge. It’s not knowledge from the 1960s or 1970s but knowledge in 2013. She is able to keep herself updated on everything.

“It’s like building a house in 1920 or building a house in 2013. What do you start with? You start with the foundation. You lay that foundation, and everything else will fall into place…I’m going to give props to where it’s due. The divas, the ladies are better athletes now than they have been ever before, not taking away from anyone before. Props go out to David Fit Finlay also because he has handled the divas and turned them into tough workers. It’s outstanding to see, and I can see his fingerprints all over it. He has done a tremendous job. He has taken that charge because some people would have been, ‘Oh no, not the divas.’ He said, ‘Give it to me.’ Now they come to him to see how to make it a little bit tougher and rougher. He takes that time to sit down to explain it to them and breaks it down into details to where they are able to understand it. He is a tremendous asset to the division and WWE.”

Susan Tex Green still wrestles after 44 years in the business. She has a school called “Gym of Pain & Glory,” training men and women in her backyard on her property in Colombia, S.C.

She said: “It’s not something you can just quit when it’s in your blood and you love doing it.”

Green doesn’t follow the product today.

“They don’t consider themselves wrestlers, but Knockouts or divas. The sad part of that is the girls there have been trained well and know how to wrestle. The ones that come from a wrestling family know how to wrestle. Then they get up there, and they aren’t able to show what their real ability and what they are able to do. I’ve actually had people come to my school saying it’s harder than what they saw on TV, and they didn’t want to do that. They wanted to be like what they saw on TV. I don’t teach that.

“In the beginning they do want to see if you have skills, so you better know how to wrestle. That gets you looked at and get in the door.”

Legendary promoter Jerry Jarrett said: “The athletes who are in it today are a lot better than we were. What’s missing is the character development and storytelling, man or woman. That is what is really sad.”

WWE Hall of Famer Tammy Sunny Sytch hasn’t been a fan of women’s wrestling in general. She is working on an autobiography.

“I have nothing against women in the ring because now it has become so commonplace. It’s not my first choice of things to do. Let’s say if I were to ever go back, I wouldn’t want to get in the ring. I’m not a wrestler. Never any good at it. Never said I was any good at it. Give me a microphone, and that’s where my talents are. I think I’m always going to be stuck in that groove to leave it to the guys. There is a place for girls in wrestling, but for me, it’s not in a wrestling ring.”

Sytch watched “Total Divas” on E!

“I’m very happy for those girls. A lot of the stuff, after watching the first episode, it has to be scripted. I don’t see everyone as catty as that when I’m there. Everybody pretty much gets along every time I’m in that locker room. You have to have that for television, though. I’m happy for them. Nattie [Neidhart] is one of the main people on the show, and I’ve known her since she was a kid. So I’m really proud of her.

WWE Raw is a different story.

“I don’t even watch the show anymore, to be honest. If they call me to do an appearance, usually I will watch a month or so ahead of time. Think about it. If you are a dentist for 23 years, don’t you get sick of looking at teeth? Same as me. Where I’ve been in this business for 23 years and am tired of watching it.”

Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs said: “Back in the day, we didn’t have the gorgeous ladies like they do today. We had only two gorgeous ladies [wrestlers], Sherry Martell and Madusa. Beside them, we had the Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young. Fabulous Moolah was a great women’s wrestler and a Hall of Famer, but she was no Marilyn Monroe. Sherry Martell, what a beautiful lady, and she could wrestle and so could Madusa.

“Women’s wrestling, it wasn’t as big as it is now, and there’s a long list of beautiful women’s wrestlers in both leagues, TNA and WWE.”

WWE Hall of Famer Ted DiBiase, The Million Dollar Man, discussed the current WWE divas’ division:

“Personally, I don’t think my mom would be too crazy about it.”

DiBiase’s mom, Helen Gladys Hild, was a women’s pro wrestler in the 1940s and 50s.

“I guess simply because being the era she came from -- ladies wrestling back then -- the girls did the same stuff as the guys. The girls were pretty tough. It’s not marketed that way anymore. The girls are divas and more of a special attraction. Not to take anything away from them, but like it’s almost like the girls’ match in the show is the special attraction. It’s almost like here’s a little candy for your eyes before we go onto the next set of matches. There are a couple of gals out there who can go. Nattie Neidhart, you talk about a girl who can go and get in the ring and wrestle with the guys, if they gave her the opportunity. She would be one of those girls who fit the mold of the era of wrestling that my mother was in.”

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