Interviews

Interview With . . . Angelina Love

Interview With Angelina Love

Ahead of her upcoming Ring of Honor Women’s Tournament clash against Max the Impaler, Inside the Ropes’ Writer Liam Alexander-Stewart sat down with ROH & TNA Icon Angelina Love to discuss her thoughts on the evolution of women’s wrestling, the legendary TNA Knockout’s Division, Eric Bishoff & Bruce Prichard and how Dixie Carter cost TNA their Spike TV renewal contract.

I mentioned it in the intro briefly but you recently achieved the incredible feat of over 20 years in the industry following the anniversary of your first match in BCW back in 2000, how does it feel to achieve such an incredible feat and what to you has been the happiest period of your career in that time?

“I was so excited. Um, I was only 18. So obviously I was like terrified. Like, I brought one of my girlfriends because I didn’t want to be alone. I think my dad drove us because it was like a couple hours away. But um, I was just really excited. And the cool thing was it was like an indie show, but then like Rhyno was on it, there was Rhyno and there was a couple, maybe Honky Tonk Man or Iron Sheikh or something like that, because they always did Ontario Indies. And I just remember, I just remember seeing Rhyno from behind and being like, you could watch a movie on his back. It’s so wide, it was like a movie screen. But I just remember, like, I feel like a lot of people were kind of just trying to like, see why I was there and why I wanted to be there because at the time, there were not really many girls on the Ontario indie scene who were like, “I want to wrestle”. It was like, I was constantly seeing either strippers or just the wrestler’s girlfriends in the locker room, there wasn’t actually girls who were like, “Hi, I’m actually like, here to be on the show. And like, I want to work and like I want to be a wrestler one day”, so everybody was kind of like, and you know, I’ve had so many guys that I started with, you know, contact me throughout the years and just tell them that they’re proud of me. And because they knew that I was just different, because I wasn’t there trying to be like a rat, or like hook up with the guys or anything like that. I was just like, “I want to be a wrestler”. And the guys were like, “We just don’t see that very often. Like this is very interesting”. So yeah, I just thought it was really cool. And you know, everybody was quite nice to me to start, which was good. Um, yeah. And then obviously, you know, from your first show, you just make contacts and connections and somebody needs a girl for their show two months from now and then you go there and then “Oh, she did a great job, come work here” you know, and it’s kind of snowballs from there.”

What would you say over the sort of the last 21 years has been the happiest period of your career, the moment you look back on what are the fondest memories of? Oh, I really did that. That’s cool.

“Um, well quite a few like, Well, obviously getting hired by WWE was like, everything, I’m sure like, anybody who ever dreamed of like growing up and working for WWE would say, like, getting hired. But you know, plus, I was Tommy Dreamer’s first hire, I adore Tommy. So like, that was a big deal. And I just remember thinking that I was like, set for life. And that’s such a joke, like nobody, like a small percentage is actually set for life when they’re in WWE, but, um, so that was awesome, because that was something that I always wanted to accomplish. Like, I got hired by WWE, I had a contract. And then you know, like TNA was obviously, like beautiful people was obviously like, our best time our favourite time because it was just, it was like the second coming of the Attitude Era, like what we were doing in TNA, you know what I mean? So, like, we weren’t being PG at all, obviously. But it was just like, we were open, and we were having fun. And you know, there was a tonne of us that were in TNA that weren’t able to succeed the way we wanted to in WWE or not even given the chance. And we were just rocking and rolling in TNA. And it was the perfect time, that’s why so many things were so successful, and a lot of us were able to become like household names without having that WWE machine behind us, which is a huge accomplishment, you know, like kind of being outside of that, but then still making yourself known, like AJ before he got to WWE or regulation styles. So you know, and then just, you know, me starting with are kind of coming back to Ring of Honor in 2019. Because that was the first like major promotion I worked for. I did a few shows for them in 2004 right before I got asked to go in and do my WWE tryouts, which I got hired out of so it’s like 15 years later, you know, and a lot of stuff accomplished in between and like I’m back at Ring of Honor, and it’s super fun. It feels very homey. I love the roster, we have an easy schedule. Yeah, it’s awesome.”

You are currently part of the incredible Ring of Honor Women’s Division evolving what women’s wrestling is and is presented as in ROH, how impressed are you by the work being done in ROH to present women’s wrestling in this new light and what does it mean to be involved?

“Um, well, it’s, it’s awesome, because like Ring of Honor is different from like your TNA. WWE know, to me, like the fan base is different, they’ve always just had a different style, which I think is great, because you can’t have the same everything in wrestling. So it’s good, you know, we were doing good stuff with the girls, but then like 2020 happened, right? So that kind of screwed everybody, you know, but we didn’t have like a huge roster. So I feel like the way that we’ve been going about it by you know, just the way that we’ve kind of had to block off our taping so far with restrictions and all that kind of stuff. The only way to build the division, because so many people are already signed to the only way to build a division is just bring in people for tryouts, you know, and just see how they go. Um, and that’s essentially what we did and how we got like this women’s tournament going, which is what you know, is airing right now. So I was asked, like, you know, “do you feel like we’re going about this the right way?” And I said, “Absolutely, I feel like this is the only way to be honest. We can’t just like hire people without seeing them first or you know, seeing them in the ring or seeing how they are just professionally and etiquette and stuff like that”. So I feel like we’ve gone about that the right way. And so far, so good, I’d say”

What was that process of sort of like talent identification and the trials were you involved in that process at all in terms of watching/coaching the peoples try out matches and can you feed in your opinion and thoughts to Maria etc. Were you involved in that process?

“Yes, I was. And I, you know, I suggested a couple of girls that were brought in too, so that was really good. And they performed very well, like the company was very happy for them. So, um, yeah, I know. Plus, you know what I mean, like, I’ve been doing this for over two decades. So I appreciate that they respect my opinion, and I can speak up because, you know, I do want the best for the product because I really do love Ring of Honor, I really wanted to see it just do just explode again, you know, to me, because it’s like Wrestling’s like ebb and flow. It’s like a roller coaster ride, just depending on society, and you know, whatever. So yeah, I do appreciate that they appreciate, you know, my input.”

You will step in the ring with Max the Impaler in the next round of the bracket, how much of a threat does Max present to you and what do you think they present as weaknesses that you are looking to capitalise on?

“Well just being involved in wrestling for as long as I have, it does. My mental and physical preparation is not as long or deep or as extensive as it was when I was much younger still learning everything. Um, but you know, like, a lot of people have asked me about Max or they’re like, you know, “might want to hide a baseball bat somewhere. No tables under the ring or something”. And it’s like, people, I’ve had to remind people, and I did it on my Twitter the most like, I’m pretty sure I wrestled Awesome Kong in TNA more than anybody, possibly even more than Gail [Kim], you know what I mean? Like, we were like, always doing co shows, and I wrestled her on a plethora of pay-per-views and like, all the time, so it’s like, I know what that’s like, I know what it’s like when it’s David and Goliath. And I am David and, you know, I have to fight up. And it’s a very small person. So it’s a challenge. So, you know, Max is another, they are another kind of terrifying, you know, um, I don’t even really know how to explain it any better than that. They are it’s just, they are actually really scary to look at. But like, I’m smart. I mean, like, God, if I haven’t learned anything in 20 years, then what am I even doing in wrestling, you know, so it’s like, I feel like, I know what to expect. I know what I need to do. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to hurt when I’m in the ring with them. So those are things that you know, I have to like mentally prepare for too. But once again, wouldn’t be something I haven’t gone through before.”

We mentioned there that, you know, you’ve had these sort of historic and very similar style matches against Awesome Kong in TNA and we’ve mentioned that, you know, there’s a very important part of your career between leaving the WWE and returning to Ring of Honor. When you look back ag that period of your career and the matches against the likes of Gail Kim, and Awesome Kong and things like that, what’s kind of your craziest achievement from or the moment you look back on sort of the fondest memory from that period of time between the 2007 and 2012 period within TNA?

“When the knockouts division was really kicking it? Yeah. Well, my proudest moment is just it in general, you know, because we, once again, everything is like the right place, right time, right people when it comes to wrestling, so you know, they were so I had got released from WWE in May 2007. Come September, I’ve been hired by TNA so it was just like a five-month period or so in between. And it was like, yeah, it was 2007. And we really got crazy with it in 208. And it was just the perfect time like WWE was doing PG stuff. And I think everybody wanted to still have that edgy, sexy, you know, kind of saying that wrestling had been, you know, in years previous and that’s what it was, you know, doing the best at that time as well. So, I’m just proud that I was an OG of that, you know, like nobody can take away from us ever that we started the knockouts division and it blew up and we’re so thankful to like Jeff Jarrett and everybody who they, it was literally like, well, let’s try it. It’s either gonna sink or swim, right. So that’s kind of like can’t let them down, can’t let ourselves down. Like we all like really, really wanted it to succeed. And we were just so thankful to be given that opportunity. And I think it’s swimming and swam very well.

Is there any talent from the booming period of the Knockout Division that you would love to see come over to the ROH Women’s Division in 2021, maybe someone you still has a lot to offer the industry?

“Well, there’s that there’s a lot of girls that were on the knockouts roster that I think would have some kind of place, you know, like Jackie, Miss Jackie, you know, she was such an entity in herself, you know, and then Kong, like, I’m always gonna say Kong, cuz I just, you know, love her. Even though she gave me like, the hardest matches of my life, I just really do. Um, it would be really, really cool. If in Ring of Honor, we could kind of have like that, when the knockouts division first started type of vibe, where it’s like, everybody has a different look, everybody has a different style, you know, someone’s doing the really edgy sexy stuff, we got the Lucha we got, you know, the this and that, like, whatever, you know, we got a gothy vampire girl, like, who knows, but that gives everybody who likes something, something to like, right? It’s not just like, 14 blondes, and it’s like, pick your favourite one. You know, like, that doesn’t work anymore. So, um, that would be cool. And I think that that’s what we’re getting towards, you know, but still in kind of like, a little bit of a shaky world situation we literally kind of just have to go taping to taping and just see what’s going to happen in between and what you know, hurdles and hoops are we going to have to jump through to try to get like the next set of tapings. Figure out like where we’re going to be and how it’s going to get done. So, I mean, Ring of Honor does a really great job with that. I think that the way that they’ve managed, how we do our tapings, and just making sure that we have really good content, and then the roster too like I just love the roster, but like, you know, everybody’s really good with like, coming up with their own stuff. And like getting stuff out on social media and really like promoting the product and stuff because we love it. Like it’s not just a thing where it’s like, oh, you know, I gotta do this, like we want to, we want it to be great. We want it to be seen and known and be as big as possible. And we’re treated so well too you know, like, it’s such a great environment. Like I think I tweeted, this was it was sometime this year, is a few months ago, I being there and just seeing like how supportive everybody is of each other, like how supportive The guys are of the girls and helping out and just you know, clapping for each other backstage and just having each other’s back. Because I was there it gave me that like TNA circa 08 09 vibe. And that’s when we were rocking and rolling the best. You know, everybody was happy. Everybody was making money. Everybody was supportive, morale was good. And that is when everything is good. You know, like, that’s when everybody performs their best. That’s when everybody’s the happiest. That’s when a company succeeds the most. I feel like the fans can feel that too. You know?”

“I felt it because I know what it felt like in 2008 when we were just like, on top of the world, you know, and just that that love and support, especially from the male roster to the females is so important to me, you know, because that shows they care. It shows they’re invested. You know, they’re not egomaniacs where it’s just like, Well, whatever I do, like I don’t care about the women, like these guys care, they want to see us do good. And that means everything to me for sure.”

Dixie Carter recently made a shocking appearance on ROH Women’s Division Wednesday, you obviously have a lot of experience working with Dixie what are your thoughts on your time together in TNA & her role as the companies President during that time?

“Oh like a disaster. Like and you know, coming from, you know, WWE and being devastated at you know, being released and stuff like that, and then coming into TNA and then seeing like, oh, like a female president or whatever she was, you know what I mean? But just not ready. Didn’t have the knowledge. And she’s the reason that we lost the Spike TV deal, which we wereSpike TV, like the Ultimate Fighter, the Ultimate Fighter was on after us. You like Velvet and I were like going sitting like, third row ringside at UFC fights. Because, you know, we had that, you know, kind of this, like, being on Spike TV is really, I think, what helped made a lot of us TNA people a household name, because we had that exposure. Um, but yeah, like, she just, I think a lot of people thought she was just very impressionable, maybe kind of dumb, and they could take advantage of her and tell her like, hey, this should be done this way. And this should be done that way. And she was like, okay, okay. Okay. And she changed too, at some point, because she used to be, you know, like, wanting to know about people’s families, and how are your kids and like, I had broken up with a boyfriend at the time and her and I talked in the bathroom for like, 10 minutes, and it was really nice. And, you know, that was like back in 08, and then come like 2010 2011 it was just like, she’d walked by people like they didn’t even exist. And, you know, like the money that was being spent in the dumbest ways. And then her honestly, in my personal opinion, what I saw on Dixie is that she was so desperate to be just like Stephanie McMahon because she wanted like to have her own reality TV show. And it’s like, who would f*cking watch that? Excuse my language Who would watch that? Who would watch a Dixie Carter reality show? You know what I mean? Like that, and nobody wanted to. Nobody wanted to do that because they knew it would flop and like that was like a big contingency for her and you know this and that, then, you know, Spike TV was going to renew a contract with TNA and she wanted like double what they were offering and Spike TV was like, Are you crazy? But the god bless them and I don’t blame them. They held their ground until they were like, Alright, well, no, we’re done. And then she was like, Oh, no, no, we’re gonna when we when we yell sign that it sounds great. And then and then we’re just like [shrugs]. And then all of a sudden, you know, at TV we’re filming and all of us are like, are we gonna have a job next month? Like what? Like, it was crazy. It was crazy vibes backstage when that happened, but that was all her.”

During your time in TNA who would you identify as the individuals backstage that you felt made the company incredible and on the flip side who do you feel caused some of TNA’s lowest moments during the companies history?

“Yeah, so um, I don’t know what anybody’s problem with Vince Russo is, you know, like, you’ll never hear a bad word about him come out of my mouth Velvet would never either. You know what I mean? Like, he’s the reason that we were able to go as far as we were with The Beautiful People, because he always gave us the ball and let us run with it. We could talk to him about anything. He was so personable, he was so easy to work with always open to ideas, you know, if we had like promos, because you know, we were kind of known for like our backstage segments, too. And like our talking on our promos, and stuff, you know, and if stuff was written down, and we thought were like, I just don’t see myself like being able to say this and make you believe because we were so obsessed with being believable. He would just be like, Oh, yeah, like, make it your own. Just make sure you hit this bullet point, this bullet point, this bullet point, like, I trust you, you know. And like giving us you know, like the talent, that kind of creative freedom, that’s when you get the best out of your talent, you know? So like, when it was like Dutch Mantell, and Jeff Jarrett and Vince Russo like that2007 to 2009, was our favourite time, and I wish that anybody who’s ever been in TNA, especially people who were there like 2014 2017 to now, I just wish everybody could have experienced 2007 and 2009 because they have no idea if they think they have good now. That’s great, but like, you’ve no idea how awesome it was. And to me like I quit in 2012 because of the BS. Prichard, Bishoff and Dixie. Hogan I love Hogan was super cool to me. He was very helpful, very nice, you know, Kurt Angle, a lot of people, but definitely the Pritchard, Bischoff thing was what did it for me.”

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, we saw many performers make the decision to step away from wrestling, was this something that you ever considered during the time or did you know that you wanted to fight through this trying time and come out the other side still on top of the industry?

“Oh, no. So Ring of Honor, like I said, like, very cohesive unit. We had like, what would it be was it weekly or monthly, we started having roster Zoom calls. So like, we started doing that in like, April, so it was only like, we were supposed to have our anniversary shows in Vegas, mid March 2020. And those literally got cancelled, like, as people were flying in. So I feel like maybe a month or so later, Ring of Honor just decided, like, Hey, you know, like, we got to keep everything flowing. So like, we still have to have content like what are so we wouldn’t just always have these roster Zoom calls, like 58 of us or 60 of us on the thing. And we would all just be like talking. I’m coming up with ideas of how to keep storylines going strictly through social media because it’s all we could do or starting something new. You know, like a lot of people started their own shows, we would just interview each other like all kinds of stuff, you know, we would film our own segments at home. And we would always just be like rapping about like ideas and you know, what can we do to keep the product hot and not have everything go like this just because everything in the world is going like this. So and we still do like before our tapings we always have a roster Zoom call. We just talk about like whatever rules and regulations there are. So anybody have any questions, suggestions, comments, and we’re always we’re always bouncing ideas off of each other and talking about stuff. We were always able to see each other and we I feel like we’re the most fortunate people like more fortunate than WWE people because not one of us lost our job or did not get paid during that whole time. So nothing but props to Ring of Honor for and Sinclair Broadcasting for making sure that we were all completely taken care of during that time and we’re all beyond blessed for that.”

I want to end by asking you about a TNA storyline of yours that never truly came to a conclusion and one that fans still talk about to this day. I want to ask about your thoughts on the Winter storyline in TNA, whose idea it was, what you thought about it as an experienced lockerroom figure at the time and why it never truly came to a conclusion.

“I am totally on both sides of the spectrum as far as like how I felt about that storyline. There was a couple of new girls that were coming into the company at the time, and they were kind of being paired off with girls that had already been there. So I think this was around like one of the like that maybe even the first time that like they were kind of testing like breaking up The Beautiful People. And I remember just being confused as to why she was put with me as far as like the new girls that were coming in, like that’s just not in my head how like, I would have paired it up. And the storyline like I, and it’s nothing against Winter because she is a sweetheart and she was always very easy to deal with. But I didn’t like the storyline. I didn’t feel like it was the right time. And that was just me personally, as a performer. I just didn’t feel like it was the right time to be doing that with The Beautiful People any kind of separation thing. And once again, I just thought it was such an odd pairing. I didn’t like it and plus there was no finish to it. Because once like Prichard and Bischoff came in, it was just like one big it was just like washed off the face of the earth. like it never happened. And there was no conclusion to it at all. Yeah, so I hated that, obviously. But what I did like about it is it got a kind of like, forced me out of the box a little bit. So like in wrestling, and you can see what the way that I wrestle like you’re taught to be like super animated. So it’s just like, body parts everywhere, hair and your facials and stuff like that. And this character that I was playing, it was like nothing, nothing like I was literally like, training myself to not blink. So there was a very natural thing like we don’t even know we do it you just do it. So I liked that it made me because once again I’m super animated. I had to train myself to not be at all, like try to like be Undertaker zombie like, and that was very challenging, but I liked that. That was cool. The challenge, you know, and everybody around me just knowing how I normally am and how I normally perform and how I normally look too. I also thought it was really cool that I was able to just basically take what was given to me and just like make what I could out of it. And a lot of people like did like that storyline, like I still get tweets about the storyline all the time. And honestly, that was Winter’s entire thing she did in TNA. Like from the minute she started it was with me, and then whenever they released her she literally did nothing else that was her entire run. And TNA was that storyline.

Because management changes, so that was like the downfall of TNA wasn’t like a roster thing, or it wasn’t the ebb and flow society thing. The downfall of TNA was f ups with management. Like that we could have easily navigated that ebb and flow, you know what I mean? Like that roller coaster ride that wrestling goes through, that was mismanagement, bad decisions, and bringing in people who they thought were going to save the company, who really had no clue what they were doing. They were just like, ‘I’m gonna get paid what? Yeah, I can save the company all do it.’ And then it just never you know what I mean, then it was like, every year, at the 59th minute of the 11th hour, or the 23rd, or whatever, it was just like, Are we going to have a job? Like, what station who’s going to jump in and save TNA this time? Just just bad management decisions. That was the downfall. Um, you know, I didn’t like I said, I didn’t love the storyline, that was a Vince thing. He was just, I think, and I’ve kind of had this for like, a lot of my career. I’m the one I’ve had this in Ring of Honor to, I’m the one that is trusted. And I am like that, that means a lot. That means that I’ve proved throughout my career, that not only can I can make myself but I can help make other people too. So like, they needed a strong person to help this new girl become something in the company. That’s why it was me, just like when we did Knockouts Knock Down and I had to wrestle Scarlet. And she wasn’t even really wrestling at that time. And I was like, why would she be put with me? Like, why couldn’t I have got somebody else you know. But they knew I could lead her through and get a match out of her for what we needed to do. So that I’m fine with but you know, like while I’m so I’m fine with being the one that they know that they can go to because they trust that means a lot. Um, but while I’m still performing, you know, it’s still about me too.

Thank you to Angelina for her time and Ring of Honor for facilitating our conversation. You can watch Ring of Honor online via Honor Club or HonorClub VIP.

You can support Ring of Honor via their Honor Club membership programme for as little as $9.99 per month.

If you use any quotes from this interview please provide a link back and h/t to Liam Alexander-Stewart of Inside the Ropes.