When did you decide you wanted to wrestle? What inspired your decision?
Last summer (July 2014), I attended a convention called Ama-Con in Amarillo, TX (about an hour drive from Borger). I’m a huge comic book fan, and I’ve loved that the Amarillo community has been holding more conventions lately.
While I was at Ama-Con, my boyfriend at the time (now roommate, good friend and co-parenter), Nathan Blankenship, noticed some wrestlers walking around, some wearing wrestling belts.
Nathan was a wrestling fan all throughout his childhood, so we decided to go check them out at their booth. There we met several wrestlers from the NWA Top of Texas promotion. They told us about the show they would be putting on that evening at the Top of Texas Wrestleplex there in town, and we decided to go.
That night they were holding a huge tag-team tournament. It was exciting and fun to watch. I’d never really watched wrestling before, so the things they could do, the outfits, the production, it all really amazed me! The most experience I previously had with wrestling was the knowledge that when my grandpa was still with us, he would go into his bedroom every Monday night to watch it, and the kids weren’t allowed to join.
As it got later into that Saturday evening I started to get tired from already attending Ama-Con all day. There had been a lot of matches because of this huge tournament going on. Then it was announced that it was time for the women’s match.
All of the tag teams were made up of men, and I was pumped to see the girls go at it.
I had met Paula at the convention earlier in the day, but when she came out, it was a completely different experience! The fans hated her, but she didn’t care; she was there to show off her wrestling abilities, prove what she was capable of, and look good doing it.
Then, Starr came out, and everyone adored her! She was energetic, gorgeous, and appealing.
The girls went at it, and I thought they were the most badass women I had ever seen. They were doing all these awesome moves just like the guys, and it was so inspiring to me. I immediately thought “I want to do that!”
All of the fans were so into it too, it just made it that much more exciting, and instantly perked up the crowd for the remainder of the tournament.
Nathan and I decided that night after the show we would ask to speak with the trainer to see if they would allow us to give it a shot. We talked to a man named Nathan Briggs (for the remainder of the interview, I’ll refer to him as “Briggs” to avoid confusion) and he explained to us that it would be tough, it would require sacrifices, we would have to pay for training, and start getting in shape, but if we really wanted this, we were more than welcome to come train with him.
Nathan began his training the next week, but I was still unsure. When he came home to tell me about it, I was more confident that I wanted to do this. He told me about the things he learned, and about how nice everyone was and how he really enjoyed it. We began watching wrestling a lot at home. We got the WWE Network which was a new service offered at a monthly price that featured all of the old (and new) shows the WWE had in their vault. The WWE network allows me to see the iconic past of the sport, and to do film study for my own in-ring actions.
Nathan helped me and continues to in learning wrestling history because he had watched a lot of these shows when they aired on TV. He also can tell me what the moves are called as we watch the matches, any time I ask he always knows.
A few weeks later, I decided to start my journey. On August 29, 2014, I had my first day as a trainee. That day, Top of Texas was hosting a seminar by former WWE wrestler Rob Conway, so all I could really do was watch, listen, and absorb that day. Not everything made sense to me because I was so new to wrestling, but I learned so much. Rob Conway was incredibly nice, patient, and informative. Everyone else that attended the seminar was really great too, and I was elated to get started with some in-ring training.
What league/company do you wrestle for? How did you get involved with them?
I am currently mostly associated with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) affiliated Top of Texas promotion in Amarillo, TX.
I got involved with Top of Texas from meeting them at the convention, and they’re the closest wrestling academy to my home, but I’ve stayed there because of the quality of training I receive, the friends I’ve made, and the immense support that is given to me.
Nathan Briggs (https://www.facebook.com/maineventnathanbriggs), my main trainer that I’ve been working with since the beginning has taught me everything from moves to psychology to character building, and has helped me to conquer many fears I’ve had in the ring, never giving up on me. He’s also allowed me to be his valet/bodyguard during his matches at Top of Texas, and even some places out of town.
Even though I am not normally wrestling when I accompany him, the time spent practicing being in front of the crowd helps me to be more at ease since I am really a very shy person. Independent wrestlers often travel to other venues to work with other promoters. This helps them to provide their talent to a wider audience, and sometimes a name alone will draw a larger crowd for the show. Briggs has allowed me to travel with him to North Texas Wrestling Alliance (NTWA) in Eustace, TX as well as NWA Texoma in Sherman, TX.
What particular challenges, if any, do you feel pertain to you as a female wrestler?
One setback would have to be that there are significantly less female wrestlers than male ones.
Wrestling is definitely a male dominated sport, but there are some seriously talented female wrestlers out there.
At Top of Texas, there is one other female on the current roster who regularly appears there besides me.
Paula Fate is the current holder of the Top of Texas Women’s Heritage Championship Title, and has been a mentor to me in this business. I have learned a lot from her, and she has guided me with advice that I will always cherish. We train together and I admire her talent, but when we are in the ring it is the competition it is supposed to be.
Because of the lack of women in the wrestling business, venues do not often have separate locker rooms for females and males. Girls have to use the restroom or other vacant rooms to change into their gear usually.
I really like that weight/looks isn’t an issue when it comes to wrestling. I’m a bigger woman, and therefore I am able to wrestle like the bigger person when my opponent is smaller. Obviously you’ve got to have a strong backbone to criticism; wrestling fans can be brutal, and the more in shape you are the more athletic you can be in the ring, so it definitely gives you advantages. But it’s not a necessity that you be the most beautiful person in the room.
You want to stand out and be different than the average person, but you don’t have to be afraid to be who you are. I don’t feel like I’m being judged as much as I am in every day society when I’m performing, even when I’m blatantly being called horrible things! It’s a strange thing that just seems to work for me.
How do female wrestling matches differ from male wrestling matches, insofar as what goes on in the ring and what the audience expects?
The majority of the wrestling fan base is male, so just having a women’s match in a show is of interest to them, but still enjoyed by all. Females are able to get away with doing a lot less of the “big” and high-flying moves that males use to set themselves apart from other wrestlers.
That being said, females can do the complicated/scary moves, but they can also get away with doing less if they choose to because the expectations are lower. I don’t find this to be anything sexist, it is just the way it has been.
In WWE, the divas division has lacked in talent at times, and some women are clearly only there to look good, but there are females who prove that the standard does not always apply. I more often see women in the independent circuit destroy this misconception with their epic athletic and psychological in-ring abilities (such as Paula Fate and Starr) than women in the larger promotions such as WWE in present time, although their NXT show that features up-and-coming wrestlers has made a huge impact on WWE women’s wrestling with the talents they have brought in.
What is the backstage relationship between female and male wrestlers like?
The backstage relationship is a fairly respectful environment. Of course we all joke around and have a good time, but in the end we are like a big family.
The wrestling business is built on a solid foundation of respect, and equality once you’ve earned that respect.
When I started training, I started with four other guys. Two of the guys quit, but the rest of us continue to grow strong in our abilities.
Our trainer, Briggs, has been very adamant from the beginning that Paula and I are not to be treated “like girls.” We pull our own weight, and we do everything the guys do. We are to be hit just as hard, and not given the easy way out on anything. Everyone starts as a trainee just as all those before did which means that you are earning your place to receive the respect that everyone else gets. You clean, train every week, keep your mouth closed, and listen to the veterans before you.
The guys that work with me at Top of Texas have all been supportive, kind, and willing to share knowledge with me and train with me. Just to name a few that have done a lot for me:
Jack Logan (the owner of Top of Texas; https://www.facebook.com/nwaamarillo1),
Jake Logan (https://www.facebook.com/jake.logan.58),
Nolen Phillips (https://www.facebook.com/nolen.phillips),
Evi Kavea (https://www.facebook.com/epi.medina.5),
Chad Thomas (https://www.facebook.com/chad.thomas.1447).
What do you ultimately hope to accomplish in this profession?
Ultimately, I would like to keep gaining as much experience as possible so that I can have the opportunity to keep wrestling for more promotions and take things as far as I am able. Now that I have started, I can’t see myself ever stopping this journey, and one goal I have is to get the chance to travel overseas one day to wrestle for larger companies. Whether I stay in the independent circuit or make it to WWE, I want to keep doing this for as long as my body will allow me to, and there are always others to learn from. I will be grateful for any involvement I am able to have with wrestling.
What do your friends and relatives make of your decision to wrestle?
My friends and relatives have varying reactions to my decision to wrestle. My friends think it’s really cool and are always very impressed with the things I can do. They are super supportive even if they are not exactly wrestling fans. My mom thinks it’s scary to watch me, but she is supportive. My dad worries I’ll get hurt, but has a lot of enthusiasm for me. Everyone in my life honestly just wants the best for me and wants me to be happy, which is awesome.
Wrestling gives me confidence, it challenges me, it gives me motivation, helps me to improve my interactions with others, and has given me something athletic that I truly love for the first time in my life.
What advice do you have for any female wrestlers who are just starting out?
I’m still pretty new, so obviously I don’t know everything, but anytime we’ve had a new female come to training, I’ve told them the same thing:
This is not going to be easy, you are going to hurt, you are going to be sore, and you will not be able to walk for weeks at first. You will get frustrated, you will cry, you will wonder if this really is meant for you, you will make mistakes, and you will not be able to do everything right away.
Wrestling is more than learning physically difficult actions; it is mentally challenging as well where your brain and natural instincts can be your worst enemy, but if you stick with it, push through the tough times, and truly want this, you can be successful. You can overcome those physical challenges and you can change your way of thinking to make these things second nature to you. It is something special to be a part of, and hard work is the only way to get there.
Anything else you want to share?
Yes! To anyone in the area: We have a show just about every Saturday (except major holidays). The doors open at 7:00 PM and the show starts at 7:30 PM.
It is located at the Wrestleplex in Amarillo, TX at 2650 Dumas Drive (across the street from Wonderland Park, a local amusement park).
We are starting BYOB this Saturday (the 25th); the details are on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TOTFans).
We’re also holding a seminar with Bobby Eaton (a former WWE wrestler) on the 25th, and he will also be performing at our show that evening.
What an awesome interview. Thank you, Emily!
Bio: My name is Emily Schalchlin, and I am from Borger, TX. I currently live here with my three year old daughter, Audrey, and her father, Nathan, but we will be relocating to Austin, TX in about a month. I am 24 years old and have two older brothers. I will be receiving my special education teaching degree in December from West Texas A & M University. I love wrestling, adore movies more than anyone should, and enjoy comic books as well! I have been training to be a professional wrestler for almost a year. In the ring, I am Victoria Stone, an Amazonian, Xena-esque beast! I made my in-ring debut on May 2, 2015 with a mixed tag-team match that included me and my partner “The Main Event” Nathan Briggs versus Paula Fate and “The Punisher” Shane Garrett (which can be seen at around minute 19 of our latest “SlamCast” episode at the following link: https://www.patreon.com/posts/2665017. The SlamCasts feature recordings of matches along with commentary done by our tech guy/ring announcer Rocky (https://www.facebook.com/TheRockyJimenez).