Trish Stratus: From the wrestling ring to the movie screen (and everything in between)

Trish Stratus doing a yoga move. Courtesy trishstratus.com.

Former WWE wrestling “Diva” and seven time champion Trish Stratus looks different these days. That no nonsense muscled body she once had is now sleek and sinewy thanks to yoga; Stratus has reshaped herself inside and out as the next phase of her life gets underway. Gone is the gruelling razzmatazz of the wrestling ring (WWE Hardcore Champion, three-time “WWE Babe of the Year” and “Diva of the Decade”).  In its place, a kinder, gentler Trish who looks to pass along what she’s learned about fitness and wellness as she explores an acting career. Stratus does it all with a rare can-do optimism that’s winning and inspiring. Nothing has come without effort, like working in the gym every day for three months for a single photo shoot, it’s no wonder she has achieved so much so young. The woman has focus and incredible mental strength; real grit that has enabled her to take lessons learned in a huge showbiz career and apply them to a new life on her own terms. Now she’s a TV personality, a business woman, master yoga practitioner, running Stratusphere Yoga studios in Vaughan, Ontario and occasionally she comes out to wrestle. And in her spare time last year, she managed to produce and star in an action adventure movie called Bounty Hunters. We spoke with Trish Stratus in Toronto.

Anne Brodie: You have transformed the shape of your body from wrestling muscle to yoga sleek. Was that intentional?

Trish Stratus: Actually it was a happy accident. I discovered yoga. I was all about weight training and cardio to do what I do in the ring. There was so much wear and tear and I got a herniated disc, so I exited the scene, and had rehabilitative therapy. My back injury… physiotherapy wasn’t working and I went to hot yoga classes and instantly, my body was like “Yes!” It was the first time I could move without pain, the heat was warming muscles to where my muscles wouldn’t get before. The heat allowed me to do it and I knew it was working, so I abandoned physiotherapy altogether. I told my doctor I was trying yoga and she said “Let’s leave that alone, let’s focus on physio, because I don’t know how it will affect your injury.” But I Iistened to my body and abandoned physio and did hot yoga every day, not wrestling for two and a half months and it totally reversed the damage and I had a full recovery and went back to the ring and won another championship. And I had another two years in my career. I kept doing yoga using it as a preventative, and I was able to go on a wrestling tour, 300 days on the road per year, and it seemed more manageable. Before I’d walk around with noise going around inside my head. This yoga lifestyle was kind neat so I did my job and I wasn’t stressed and things rolled off my back and it allowed me to give a better performance and be physically and mentally at my best. I retired from wrestling in 2006 and I just delved into yoga and got certified, went on retreats, practised around the world and fell in love with it. I knew it would be part of my life. l opened a yoga studio called Trish Stratusphere and I give 100% Stratusfaction!

AB: You star in the movie Bounty Hunters and for a tough gal, you are absolutely adorable. Your humour shines! Do you feel you’d like to pursue comedy?

TS: I would love to tackle that; comedy is sort of my personality. It comes naturally and I’ve never actively pursued it. The role in Bounty Hunters I did just to act. I didn’t set out to be an actress, but it was the right project at the right time and I had to explore it. It came to me when I just launched Trish Stratusphere, so I let it simmer over there, and stepped away from the pot. And it was my first foray into film and it was an action flick, but it wasn’t a tough role. I’m playing Trish Stratus and I got to showcase my goods. I took on the producing role so the integrity of fight scenes would be preserved. And I had the opportunity to showcase a strong female lead and a competent powerful woman, the same role I played in the WWE male dominated arena. And it was the chance to mesh my wrestling world with the movie world and be a strong female. I was watching Iron Man and Scarlett Johansson did a tilt jump, which is a Mexican wrestling move. And people said “Isn’t that amazing!” I was going to the gym every day for six years to do that. When I had the chance to do fight scenes, the performance requires athleticism and only a handful of people in the world can do what we do in the ring.

AB: I hate to see those big galoots in the movie come after you – you’re so small. How do you even things up?

TS: The cool thing is with wrestlers is that it’s not about size; it’s about your repertoire of moves. The guy in the first scene in the movie is a wrestler. There is something different about the scene, we put the scene together, did all the rehearsals and we are both wrestlers. This is what we do, we get together and we compare repertoires and moves and map out our story to physically tell the story. We got it in the scene, the thing here that we create and put together. The movie people were watching and we did it in one take.

AB: You do stunts and that’s your living, but it’s incredible to see them. You hang backwards out of a moving ambulance, beat a guy while holding a tray of beer and jump off walls in fight sequences. Do you consider yourself fearless?

TS: Yeah, I am fearless. I love it. I am always going to approach something with fearlessness otherwise what’s the point? My destiny is out there. And when I saw the film it was so cool. My jaw dropped when I saw it – fighting with sound effects it is a whole new level of Stratusfaction! I immediately called Vince McMahon and told him sound effects would be awesome in the ring.

AB: What sparked your interest in physical culture?

TS: When I was growing up I wanted to be a doctor, I was a nerdy child. I asked for a microscope kit, and I was exploratory. So when I was at York University I studied biology, kinesiology and did my volunteer work. There was a professors’ strike in 1997 and I thought “Oh my God, what am I going to do?” I had always played sports, I was on the field hockey varsity team at York, played soccer till I was 21. Sports have always been in my life. I’m a boy deep down inside. So I took a job at a fitness centre and a man named Robert Kennedy approached me from Oxygen, MuscleMag and Fitness magazine and asked about me being a fitness model. It was amazing timing, and my motto is that if I am presented with great opportunities, I take advantage of them and maximize them. So he sent me to a professional shoot in Miami a few months later. In the meantime, I ate, slept and trained three months to get ready for the shoot. I studied poses, and fitness modeling, and I was lucky to be on the scene when it was just breaking. Female body builders weren’t well marketed before that time. I knew that muscular women could be feminine and beautiful. Right after my first shoot, he contracted me and it was wonderful. I had a career. Now the fitness model industry is oversaturated with pretty girls but it’s missing out on the athleticism. I was a super fitness model at that time with a group of girls and it was neat to be part of it and to have the notoriety of fitness magazines.

AB: How did the wrestling come in?

TS: My crossover moment to wrestling happened on TSN’s Off the Record. Michael Landsberg had me on as the go-to guest for sports and they knew I loved wrestling. I watched it at the Gardens since I was a kid. I played it as a child. So he always had me on when there was a wrestling guest. TSN would air Raw is War in prime time and they had me as a guest. Fans came up to me and asked me about wrestling and Vince McMahon signed me. They’d heard rumours and this was before the internet was so widespread. My husband (boyfriend then) found the rumours and honestly they just manifested. So I wanted to prepare the best possible package in case they called. I found a gym downtown and trained and I was the only girl in there which was fine by me. I learned the art of wrestling, how to take falls, and deliver and I knew one day they’d call. Sure enough at the end of 1999 they flew me to Connecticut and gave me the role of the female.

AB: How has life changed since wrestling?

TS: I integrated a yoga practice into my life. There are amazing positive benefits and the studio let me spread the message. The Bounty Hunter role came about when we launched the studio. I’d been doing yoga, so instead of looking like a tough fighter I looked like a yogi! I had to buff up my body so I went back to old school biceps and crunches. I combined yoga and strength training and multi-tasked. I strapped bean bags on top of my wrists to increase resistance, and it saved time so I got the best of both worlds and people noticed. My body was different, lean and more toned than buff, and after that I kept the rhythm combining strength and yoga. I invented this glove, the Fit Glove, with skid free palms and a one hour system. I produced my own DVD and the glove and natural mats and went full circle. Things have changed, fans don’t ask me to kick butt now, they ask for recipes or 30 day fitness challenges. But I’m still delivering the same message.

Bounty Hunters is out on DVD February 28. Watch the trailer for the film below.

Top image: Trish Stratus doing a yoga move. Courtesy trishstratus.com.

Anne Brodie

About Anne Brodie

Anne Brodie is a freelance film reporter and critic.