This week on the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, Hank and Jason are out to create a little bonus content. Their journey begins with a look back at some of the larger developments on the music scene which occurred over the summer. They offer up hot takes on everything ranging from Prophets of Rage to Metallica to a collaboration between some of rock’s most unique voices with Trinity. As they change gears, Hank waxes poetic about Madden 17 and the recent Colin Kaepernick news that has weaved itself into the franchise.
No episode is complete without a rundown on some cinematic gems recently minded from the theaters, VOD and the legendary force that is Danielle-O-Vision. The flicks discussed range from ‘Star Trek: Beyond” to “Fantastic Four.” Talk soon turns to CM Punk’s upcoming debut in the UFC and the documentary series tracking his journey — “The Evolution of Punk.” The show is capped off with a quick discussion of the oncoming Fall onslaught of pumpkin flavors and spiced craft brews.
This week on the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, the boys take on some of the most pressing issues in pop culture this week. From the impact of the Paris terror attacks to the downfall of the always impressive UFC Champ Ronda Rousey to Charlie Sheen’s HIV positive status, Jason and Jeremy show no fear and pull no punches. They offer up their takes on those pressing issues and march on to take a look at the potential for a ’Top Gun’ sequel, as well as the very real sequel to the JCVD classic, ‘Hard Target.’ If there is a more mixed bag than this week’s episode, we haven’t seen it! Download, listen and spread the word!
Fans have been eagerly anticipating the return of Sirius XM host JASON ELLIS’ annual Ellismania boxing event to see what the radio host has planned next. This year, Ellis and his team have put together their most bizarre and hilarious bill of fights yet, as this year’s event will includes Michael Catherwood (co-host Loveline), Forrest Griffin (UFC Hall of Famer), Keith Jardine (UFC), Sal Masekela (host of ESPN’s X-Games), and more. In the main event, Jason Ellis will take to the ring with Dr. Drew Pinsky as his corner man, to face ten different opponents.
The year’s Ellismania is set to take place on Saturday, February 21st, 2015 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV. The event will be presented by Red Dragon Apparel, and be sponsored by Torque Athletic Gear and Electric California.
“Ellismania 10 will be the biggest, most insane one of all time! The event will have ordinary citizens punching each other in the face, highly-paid Vegas escorts, comedy, blood, electric dog collars, piñatas, virgins, bingo, and Dr. Drew,” commented Jason Ellis. “In the main event, I will be accepting a challenge that no radio host is idiotic enough to face. I’ll be fighting ten men, back to back, including former professional UFC fighters!”
Fans will be entertained throughout the night by Jason Ellis trademark brand of comedy, as they watch a full night of strange and comical boxing matches between radio personalities, celebrities, MMA fighters, and listeners. Ellismania is a self-branded evening of “fighting at its dumbest,” peppered with hilarious twists of comedy for the amusement of friends and the fans lucky enough to witness the absurdity.
The full line-up for this year’s EllisMania 10 includes:
Musical Chair Fight (When the music stops, two men without chairs fight each other)
Blindfold Remote Control Fight (Two blindfolded listeners will have to rely on instructions from their coach regarding what punches to throw and when)
Biggest Loser: Male (Two male listeners of the show face off to see who has lost the most weight leading up to the event)
Biggest Loser: Female
The Piñata Fight (Three listeners try to fight past two professional MMA fighters to break a piñata)
The Strip Fight (Two Female listeners will box and the loser of each round will have to remove an article of clothing)
The Virgin Fight (Two virgins fight to win a date with a professional escort)
The Five-Man Blindfolded Electric Dog Collar Fight
Cumtard vs. Will Pendarvis (The two radio personalities square off against one another in a high stakes match where the loser will suffer a humiliating punishment)
In the main event Jason Ellis is set to take on ten mystery opponents for a total of ten one-minute rounds (Dr. Drew Pinsky will serve as Jason Ellis corner man and opponents include former UFC fighters)
Jason Ellis’s career has spread from action sports to radio personality, MMA Fighter, bestselling author and beyond. The Australian native emerged as one of the world’s top professional skateboarders before making the shift into radio as well as acting, mixed martial arts, and music.
Ellis is the host and star of The Jason Ellis Show on Sirius XM Radio. The show, which airs Monday through Friday from 3PM to 7PM Eastern Time CH41, is one of the most popular shows broadcast on satellite radio. His radio show is a high-energy, uncensored talk-meets-hard-rock radio format that is centered around Ellis’ unique, offbeat take on life.
The Topps Company, Inc. and the Ultimate Fighting Championships today launched the 2014 Topps ® UFC Knockout card set, the most comprehensive and engaging collectable card product ever launched in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The launch of the 2014 set will feature special giveaways and promotional opportunities, including a “Golden Ticket” insertion in select sets where fans can win a chance to train with UFC star and new Topps ambassadorChael Sonnen. “We are very excited to bring the UFC back to the market with this enhanced and expansive program,” saidJeremy Fullerton, Topps UFC Brand Manager. “There are no fans in any sport around the globe as engaged as those of the UFC, so we wanted to create a program that addresses that passion, from customized autograph and relic cards to new images of rising stars, current and past champions to this special promotion with Chael. We think there will be something here for the die-hard follower and the casual fan.” “There are few brands that sports fans identify with in the U.S. more than Topps, and the product line they have come up with for the UFC is outstanding,” Sonnen added. “I am looking forward to working with the company to help give our fans these really special added extra programs in the coming year.” A big part of the new launch will be the 2014 UFC Knockout Golden Ticket Promotion. There will be ten Golden Tickets randomly inserted into boxes of 2014 KO cards available at retail nationally. Those ten will have a chance to be selected for a meet-and-greet session with UFC Ambassador, Chael Sonnen, and a chance to train with him, while the nine runner-ups will receive a piece of training equipment signed by Sonnen. In addition to the promotion, the set is full of special autograph and relic cards containing fighter-worn shorts, shirts and mats from some of the greatest fights and champions of the UFC past and present, includingRonda Rousey, Chris Weidman, Sonnen, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez and many others. 2014 Topps® UFC Knockout is available at hobby stores and internet retailers now.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the mixed martial arts icon and action-movie star has agreed to a monumental, multi-year partnership with Spike TV, Bellator MMA, and TNA Wrestling, it was jointly announced today by Kevin Kay, Spike TV President, Bjorn Rebney, Bellator CEO, and Dixie Carter, TNA Wrestling President.
The landmark partnership includes Jackson competing in Bellator MMA, along with joining the superstars of TNA’s “IMPACT WRESTLING,” which includes fellow Bellator fighter “King Mo” Lawal.
Spike TV will also create a special reality series featuring Rampage that will lead into his debut with Bellator, along with other entertainment initiatives.
“Rampage is a true superstar both inside and outside the MMA cage” Bellator CEO & Chairman Bjorn Rebney said. “The partnership that we’ve created with Quinton is unlike anything that’s ever been done in the sports & entertainment arena and Rampage is the perfect athlete/entertainer to carry it off.”
“Rampage is one of the best known MMA fighters competing today,” said Carter. “He is a true cross-over star and his talent, big personality and popularity among a wide range of fans make him an extraordinary fit for our company,”
“We are thrilled to create this opportunity for one of the greatest athletes and personalities in MMA,” said Kevin Kay, Spike TV President. “Rampage is a proven ratings driver who brings incredible star power to both Bellator and TNA.”
Jackson (32-11) joins Bellator as a former Pride and UFC champion, having last fought on Spike TV in September 2007, in a fight vs. Dan Henderson that drew nearly 6 million viewers, making it one of the most watched fights in the sport’s history. In 2009, Jackson served as a coach on Spike’s “The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights,” the highest-rated season by far in franchise history, delivering over 3 million viewers per week. Rampage joins a Bellator Light Heavyweight division that features “King Mo,” Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Emanuel Newton, Attila Vegh and Vladimir Matyushenko.
The charismatic fighter from Memphis, TN began his professional MMA career in 1999 and established his legacy across the globe through epic battles with MMA titans including Wanderlei Silva, Chuck Liddell, Jon Jones and Dan Henderson among others.
Jackson starred in the 2010 blockbuster film, “The A-Team,” as “B.A. Baracus,” the character made famous by Mr. T in the television series. Jackson’s other film credits include “Confessions of a Pit Fighter,” “Fire With Fire,” “Never Surrender,” and “Miss March.”
Over the last decade, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has grown from a controversial no-holds-barred gladiatorial sideshow into a billion dollar phenomenon. MMA has eclipsed boxing as the dominant combat sport in the world, and is so popular that MMA fights regularly appear on U.S. network television – even as a longstanding ban remains in force in New York State. But far from Las Vegas, in sweat-soaked gyms and low-rent arenas across America, the big lights are but a dream. Here, men fight to test their mettle, fortified with the mythic promise that an ordinary man can transform into a champion. Directed by the accomplished filmmaking duo of Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, FIGHTVILLE takes us to Southern Louisiana, where a group of young athletes, including future MMA powerhouse Dustin Poirier, strive towards personal and professional greatness. The reward? A triumph that could ultimately yield an opportunity to compete professionally in the sport’s upper echelons.
FIGHTVILLE is a microcosm of life, a physical manifestation of the American Dream and the relentless dedication required of all who hope to attain it. Here, men are not born, but are instead built through self-determination, hard work and faith. In FIGHTVILLE, that’s what champions are made of. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with director Michael Tucker to discuss the origins of the film, the challenges and surprises that presented themselves along the way and much more!
I wanted to give our readers a little background on you. What originally intrigued you about the world of filmmaking and made you pursue it as a career?
In the beginning, I always wanted to be a photographer. Specifically, I always wanted to be a combat photographer. I never went to school and ended up having a hard knocks education. I ended up working in Asia. I went to Vietnam and Thailand for a while and that is where I first started filming. I had drifted from photographer to short documentary stuff. In 2003, the war started. I was living in Germany at the time with my wife and filmmaking partner [Petra Epperlein]. We started filming in Iraq and what we thought was going to be the end of the war ended up being the beginning of the war. One thing led to another and over the next eight or nine years, we made four war films.
That is a pretty interesting background. Who would you cite as your biggest professional influences?
It is hard to say. You know, I really grew up respecting this whole generation of photographers who came out of the Vietnam War. Tim Page is the most iconic of them. He is the Dennis Hopper character in “Apocalypse Now,” the wild and crazy photographer. When I was younger, I liked the idea of someone going into a war zone to film and finding out it isn’t as romantic as it appears.
Your latest film is “Fightville.” What was the catalyst that inspired you to make this documentary?
Again it kinda goes back to the war. A lot of the soldiers we were with in Baghdad were interested in mixed martial arts (MMA). That was when I was first exposed to it and the first time I had heard of UFC or MMA. Coming back from the war, one of those soldiers ended up training in mixed martial arts and ended up fighting as an amateur. He was responsible for introducing us to the world we filmed in “Fightville,” which is specifically Lafayette, Louisiana. Again, we had no real interest in the sport but once we saw it, it was incredibly compelling. It was so beautiful and so physical and it was a great world with a great set of characters. We just jumped into it!
For those who haven’t seen the film yet, what can you tell us about those characters and how you cast the film?
'Fightville' is a must see!
It is kind of interesting. The star of the film is Dustin Poirier. Dustin has come a long way in the past three years from when we first saw him. The first time I saw him, he knocked someone out and I was immediately captivated. It was like, “Wow!” He had this incredibly physical energy and presence. At the same time, he was incredibly humble and very hardworking. Dustin is now probably one of the top five featherweights in the world. He has a fight on May 15th, 2012, and if he wins that fight, he will probably get a shot at the world title. That was either an incredible stroke of casting there or an incredible amount of luck! It is just kind of amazing that we found this kid who was literally fighting on dirt floored rodeo arenas and now he is fighting on the biggest stage in the world. As far as the other characters in the film, Dustin’s trainer is “Crazy” Tim Credeur, who is also a veteran UFC fighter. He is just kind of an old school character, a cross between Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid” and Yoda from “Star Wars” but he also has a dark side like the bad guy in “The Karate Kid,” Sensei John Kreese (played by Martin Kove) who runs the karate school. Tim is equal parts of all that — a great and classic character. The person most responsible for getting us into the world of MMA was Gil “The Thrill” Guillory. He is the promoter featured in the film. Again, going back to movies, he is kind of the classic promoter, the P.T. Barnum. He is the guy who is always out there saying, “Let’s put on a show,” and who really believes in his American Dream — that he can fill up a 5,000-seat arena. The last character is Albert Stainback, who was completely different from all the other fighters in that he could quote Bruce Lee and at the same time, put Stanley Kubrick references into his walk-out to the arena. We found him incredibly amusing and captivating. He was a great counterpart to Dustin because they were like night and day as people.
It goes without saying you can’t predict the future. How differently did this film turn out from what you perceived it would while going into the process?
I think when we went into it, we didn’t really know what to expect. We kind of figured, “Oh, this is a portrait of the sport.” What we didn’t count on was that Dustin would wind up having a pretty serious degree of success in the sport. As we were filming, he just kept on winning and the stakes got higher and higher. It got to the point where everytime we filmed him, it was a white knuckle event, you know, “Is he going to make it through this?” It also became very personal as he has become a part of our family. I have a huge amount of respect for him and I really admire him. You know, I can’t even watch him fight anymore because it is too difficult emotionally.
Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker
Working with your wife as a co-director, how do you typically divvy up the work for a project such as this?
I am always shooting and often due to the subject matter, I am out on location alone. Or if we are together, I will be shooting and Petra will be doing sound. Our editing process is very intensive and she is always adding a fresh set of eyes to it. She is always able to be critical about what I have captured. That is important because when you are out there with people, you get very emotionally attached to things and you fall in love with the characters and what you have been shooting. She is the one who is able to kind of kill things off that need to be killed off. but, ya know, we are married and we live together and make films together and I can’t think of a better life!
As a director, what was the biggest challenge that presented itself on this film?
It is a very difficult thing to film well and try to make it beautiful. We were very lucky to end up in this dingier world which had a lot of texture to it. It wasn’t like the UFC that you see on television where everything is brightly lit. This was more of a shadowy world where we we just able to concentrate on the fighters, so we kinda made do with what we had. But I think the biggest challenge has probably been the perception of the sport. A lot of people walk into it thinking it is something that it is not. I think we are constantly battling against that. It is a sport that is growing really, really fast and has a huge audience but at the same time, it is a very controversial sport.
'Fightville' star and UFC Fighter Dustin Poirier
The characters in this film were all inspiring. What did you take away from them and from the journey of making this film?
Probably more than anything we have made, the process of making this film really became personal because through Dustin and his hard work, you could really see, “if you apply yourself, what you are able to achieve.” That kid would be up every morning, pushing himself and pushing himself and pushing himself. Not only would you begin to admire him but you also found yourself wanting to emulate him, which was strange because I am a 45-year-old man looking at a 21-year-old kid, but it made you think, “What can I do to be better? Am I working hard enough?” I think it is easy to become complacent. It is funny in this day and age, a lot of people are experiencing rough times right now and a lot of us had it better before. Now things have become a little bit more difficult. I think it is something about the champion and something about the guy who is willing to go out there and put everything on the line that is truly inspirational.
Is this a subject you can see yourself revisiting again in film form in the future?
I think so, absolutely!
What other projects are on the horizon for you, both short and long term?
We have been focusing on documentaries for, basically, the last 10 years. I think we are ready, as we have gone off into different directions and are producing commercials now, and we will probably see some narrative features on the horizon. Doing documentaries is a difficult process because you throw yourself at it for two or three years and you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. It is a pretty edgy way to make a film and everything kind of rests upon your shoulders. You don’t have this whole structure around you. It would be interesting to working in a more controlled environment, just to see how that goes.
Seeing you have been so successful in the field of filmmaking, what is the best piece of advice you can offer to someone who is just starting out?
I think things have changed so much. The best piece of advice is that, at the end of the day, if you make a good film, it will find a home and an audience. It will be discovered but it really starts with the work. It is really a matter of anyone being able to go out and buy a camera now for a $1,000 that can take absolutely stunning images, if you are careful. You can put some great work together if you are out there everyday, discovering the world around you and even trying to find something that in not that interesting but trying to make a good story out of it. Pick something difficult or challenging, rather than something that is obvious. That is where you find your voice.
Thank you for your time today, Michael. I really enjoyed the look into the world of MMA you have given us with “Fightville.” Best of luck to you with the film and on your future projects!
Thank you so much for your time! Have a great day!
Fans of Mixed Martial Arts need to check out the official trailer for ‘Fightville’, a moving documentary about some of the sports dedicated young athletes. The film opens on 4/20 in New York and Los Angeles, with nationwide dates to follow. Also available the same day via on demand and digital download.
Synopsis:Over the last decade, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has grown from a controversial no-holds-barred gladiatorial sideshow into a billion dollar phenomenon. MMA has eclipsed boxing as the dominant combat sport in the world, and is so popular that MMA fights regularly appear on U.S. network television – even as a longstanding ban remains in force in New York State. But far from Las Vegas, in sweat-soaked gyms and low-rent arenas across America, the big lights are but a dream. Here, men fight to test their mettle, fortified with the mythic promise that an ordinary man can transform into a champion.
Directed by the accomplished filmmaking duo of Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker (GUNNER PALACE), FIGHTVILLE takes us to Southern Louisiana, where a group of young athletes, including future MMA powerhouse Dustin Poirier, strive towards personal and professional greatness. The reward? A triumph that could ultimately yield an opportunity to compete professionally in the sport’s upper echelons.
FIGHTVILLE is a microcosm of life, a physical manifestation of the American Dream and the relentless dedication required of all who hope to attain it. Here, men are not born, but are instead built through self-determination, hard work and faith. In FIGHTVILLE, that’s what champions are made of.
Trish Stratus is a woman that needs little introduction. Her story began simply enough — a mild mannered Canadian girl looking to turn her passion for fitness into the career of her dreams. When her dreams of becoming a doctor were suddenly put on hold, another interesting opportunity presented itself. Little did she know, this newly opened door would take her places which she had never imagined. A little bit of luck, coupled with her natural athleticism and charismatic personality would lead her to a new career path in the world of professional wrestling. As a WWE Superstar, Trish Stratus found herself battling some of the fiercest warriors ever to grace the squared circle, creating legendary moments in the ring and capturing the hearts of fans in the process! Her role as a WWE Diva would help define what we have come to know and love about sports entertainment today. Her life after her epic run as a seven time WWE World Champion is no less intriguing! After her retirement in 2006, Trish Stratus found herself in the position to bring her love of yoga to the masses. She has gone on to open the wildly successful Stratusphere Yoga Studio and has developed the Stratusphere Living product line, which caters to the growing needs of yoga practitioners around the globe. If that wasn’t enough to keep this inspiring woman busy, she is now taking on one of her biggest challenges to date with her action film debut! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Trish Stratus to discuss her unique career, her starring role in the action flick ‘Bounty Hunters’ and she has in store for us in the years to come!
You have an interesting career arc. How did you go from a mild mannered Canadian girl to the heights of professional wrestling super-stardom?
Who said I was a mild mannered Canadian girl? [laughs] I am just kidding! How did that happen? I will give you the short version of that story. In 1997, there was a strike here at York University, which is our local university. I was attending the university and this mild mannered Canadian girl had plans to become a doctor. I was in school, I was doing all of the volunteer work and doing everything I needed to do to become a doctor when my professors decided to go on strike! Then I was like, “Oh, shoot!” and my plans got put on hold. Basically, a series of events unfolded that got me to the place I am at today, which is kinda crazy! From there, I ended up working at a gym where I was approached about doing fitness modeling – which was a new industry at the time. There weren’t too many girls being featured as athletes. In the past, it had been bodybuilding women who lifted weights or girls who did bikini modeling. This was a new industry that began to emerge and Robert Kennedy, who is the publisher of “Oxygen” magazine here in Canada, was at the helm of this new industry. I always say timing is everything! At least it has been in my career, anyway! As I was waiting for school to come into session, I was approached to do some fitness modeling. I said, “OK, I will give it a try! Why not!” He took my first professional photographs, and he took me to Miami’s South Beach to do my first photo shoot. I ate, slept and trained to prepare for my very first professional fitness modeling shoot! I went on that first shoot and they contracted me, and my career as a fitness model had begun.
At the same time, I was on a television talk show, where they would have different sports figures come on and talk sports. I guess I was a good guest because not too many chicks knew about sports! They knew that I was a fan of wrestling and there was one episode when WWE was in town. They were announcing that WWE programming would be prime-time in Canada on our sports network, TSN. They had a big press conference and a live show in front of the Skydome and of course, that evening they had the big show. So again, I am doing this television show as a fitness model from Oxygen magazine, I knew wrestling and the fans were into it. That evening, that was when it all changed! I went to the show and fans kept coming up to me and saying, “Oh my gosh! I can’t wait to see you start in wrestling! When are you starting?” This was back in 1999 when the Internet was still kind of a new thing to a lot of people. Now, of course, the Internet has become a big part of wrestling and, apparently, a big part of my career! The rumor was that McMahon had spotted me, that I had been contracted and I was going to start to wrestle soon. I was like, “This is news to me!” [laughs] Of course, the Internet was going crazy and got the rumor mill going. I would be doing interviews and people would say, “Tell us about WWE!” and I would have to say, “I haven’t even been contacted by them but I love the product!” [laughs]
Trish Stratus: Wrestling Royalty
Finally, I guess the rumor got big enough that the WWE decided to find me and bring me down to Connecticut. I met with their talent relations people in 1999. They wanted to see my press kit and I had a few meetings with them on the phone. I was waiting for them to call me back and a few months went by. There is one thing I always do, which I call: preparedness meets opportunity. This is where I thought, “Well, if they call, I am going to prepare the best possible package.” So, I went to wrestling school here in Toronto to get a little training for my background. They finally called me and flew me in to talk about how I would be doing more of a physical role than females in the WWE had typically done before where they had been mostly eye candy. I told them I was up for it and that I had been training for a couple of months. That is basically how it all started! I left with a contract offer, that was in 1999. I made my television debut in March of 2000. I went from eye candy to becoming a seven time WWE World Champion! And that, in a nutshell, is how a mild mannered Canadian girl became a WWE Superstar!
Obviously, you had a tremendous run in the WWE. Is there anything you didn’t accomplish in the ring during your time with the company which might eventually draw you back in?
Ya know, that is one thing that I am very happy to say that I did, I crossed off everything on my list when I left. My official retirement was in 2006 and I can say that I really did tackle everything that I wanted to tackle. I became the seven-time champion, which is something that hasn’t been done again, to this day. I wrestled with all of the people that I wanted to wrestle with and I worked programs with all of the great WWE Superstars from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to just about everyone! I really crossed just about everything off my list. I always say that the door is still open for WWE, only because the landscape is constantly changing. With new performers, you potentially have a new match and exciting new moments can be created in the ring. The landscape of the WWE is very different when it comes to the women right now. There are a lot of very talented women that I haven’t had the opportunity to wrestle with. I always say that I keep the door open, just a little, because you never know and I am all about creating exciting moments! But at the point that I retired, I had pretty much done everything I wanted to do, so aside from a few little butts that I haven’t kicked, yes, I have done my little bucket list within the wrestling world!
You have been very busy since your departure from the WWE. You went on to develop a very cool line of yoga products. How did that all come about?
Trish Stratus In The Studio
That was sort of a happy accident! It was a very organic thing that happened. Yoga was a big thing for me during my career in wrestling. I discovered it towards the end of my career when I had a back injury and was kind of put on the shelf. I used it as a means of rehabilitation for my back. It completely reversed the damage in my back and I went back to wrestling and finished up my career while doing yoga. I really feel that yoga contributed to me being a better performer in the ring, it improved my recovery time and physically I was able to do what I had done in the past at a better capacity! I feel like I was able to handle the stress and the craziness of the WWE schedule a little bit better after I did yoga. It positively impacted my life! When I retired, I delved deeper into it and became certified in the disciple of Ashtanga. One day I decided that I wanted to open up a yoga studio and before I knew it the opportunity presented itself. I opened up Stratusphere Yoga Studio in Toronto in 2008.
The idea behind it was that I knew that I was a better person by simply integrating a practice into my day to day routine. I thought that was cool and I wanted to spread the word, so I opened up the studio to have the platform for people to be able to explore having a better life. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with my students and instructors to see who’s body responds to what. That is something that really drew me to yoga and made me realize why it has been around for 5,000 years! It is so versatile! It is one of these things where I had the Toronto Maple Leafs in or the Toronto Argonauts from the Canadian Football League. I basically saw that I was taking a regular practice and I would adapt it to what the needs of this particular body was. I even created a yoga program for golfers because I had been a celebrity ambassador for Callaway. They kind of said, “What is it you do?” and I created a 60-minute program holding a golf club. Really, yoga is just a big basket of moves and you take the ones that make sense for your particular goal. I was really on this kick about creating these unique programs.
Trish Stratus: Pure Stratusfaction!
During this time, I got approached to do the movie “Bounty Hunters.” The script had landed on my desk and at the time it was called “Bail Enforcers” but I read the script and what I fell in love with was that I was going to be doing a fighting art. I was going to go out and learn Krav Maga, which is Israeli Special Ops fighting. I was aware that I was a yogi and a retired wrestler and I needed to kick butt again, so I needed to look like I kick butt! At the time, I looked like a yogi! [laughs] I had abandoned weights and cardio and everything! It was just straight yoga! I didn’t want to abandon my yoga practice as I was training for the role, so I started integrating some strength training movements into it to kind of pump up the areas that would show more of an aesthetic thing. I started doing your traditional calisthenics like squats, bicep curls and things like that. What was neat was that people coming to my studio would say, “Wow! What are you doing? Your arms are nice and chiseled!” That is when I realized I was on to something because every woman, of course, wants chiseled arms! I realized that I had created this unique yoga thing which is now called Stratusphere Yoga. It started with that! Basically, I created this yoga thing and after the movie was done, I kept doing it, teaching it to some of my students and now some of my instructors are teaching it at my studio. I realized that it is such a cool concept and it hadn’t been done before. People either did weights or they did yoga. Now to combine the two, the strength training and the yoga, I produced a video and that is kind of how it started. The key to this was to create this product, which was taking a one pound weight, which is a hand glove that has a skid free bottom, so you don’t slide when you are doing your downward dog. I spoke to a company about creating these gloves and from there, everything happened. I had created the glove, so the obvious next step, from a yogi perspective, as a yoga practitioner and as an teacher, was to create this whole new line. Then I went and found the perfect mat and the perfect block. It just became really natural! The retailers here in Canada were really excited as I have been a face of fitness for over a decade, so the line really took off. I launched that just last year. The yoga video is launched and the product line is called Stratusphere Living.
You mentioned “Bounty Hunters” and that is the next big thing on the horizon for you. Had you ever been approached to do films before and what was it about this project that made you dive in?
It was the role, it really was! A few things had landed on my desk before. You know, that is kind of the number one thing you hear when you retire from wrestling, “Oh! Are you going to be an actress now?” [laughs] I wasn’t actively pursuing it. Obviously, I had dabbled in television and I pretty much stayed in television after I retired because it was something that I had been doing anyway. To do a movie role, I thought, “I am not actively pursuing it but if something cool comes along or something I can relate to, of course I would consider it.” It was a cool role and not too much a stretch as an actress, I can tell you that much! She is pretty much Trish Stratus from wrestling! [laughs] A couple of things sold me. The character of Jules Taylor was very Trish Stratus, so I knew I could approach that. I was learning a new fighting art and the director said, “I want you to do your own stunts, if you can.” And I said, “Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way!” I was excited to do my own stunts and it was filming in Toronto, so for me, I was still able to do what I had to do, I was staying here in Toronto and I was supporting a Canadian project. That was very important to me as I have always been a big proponent of supporting things locally. That was what sold me and I think that “Bounty Hunters” is a really fun little film!
How does stunt fighting in a film differ from the fighting you did in the world of sports entertainment?
That was probably the biggest adjustment for me, realizing, “Oh, there is no contact in stunt fighting!” [laughs] We definitely make contact in the WWE! That was a big adjustment for me, to learn to pull back my punches. It is a very different approach to how we execute the movements, so I had to adapt to that. Patrick McBrearty, the director of the film, gave us not only creative freedom to work with the script but also with the fight scenes. Once he said, “Listen, just do what you are comfortable doing and go for it.” My counterpart, Andrea James Lui, was amazing to work with. She came from a martial arts background and I came from a wrestling background. We knew that if we brought those two different dynamics together, which we were able to do naturally, it would come out well. The fight coordinator was really amazing about giving everybody their own fight style — he was very protective over the characters and what moves they would do. He would say, “No, no! Your character would do this!” I think because he was so protective of that it translated really well and created an interesting dynamic between Andrea and I. I brought a lot of my wrestling style into the role, not so much the style but how I approached the fights. I think that it translated really well and that is why there is a bit of realism in there. I have always said that when real fighters do a fight scene, they know how to take a punch to the face. They know how to, in wrestling we say sell it, sell it in a way the crowd will connect with it and that will evoke an emotion. I think that really played into it and while I haven’t seen Gina Carano’s new film, “Haywire,” but I bet you her fight scenes are amazing because she gets it and knows how to deliver for real! I hope that translates as well with our work in “Bounty Hunters.”
Did doing your first action film wet your appetite for doing more film work in the future, should the timing and material be right for you?
Yeah! I really enjoyed the process and it was a different process for sure! There was no instant gratification. I am used to doing a move and getting a lot of reaction from the crowd. I have been getting a lot of offers now and I am keeping the door open. I am focused on building my brand now and that is my main thing but if the right project comes along or there is a script that I love or who knows, maybe there is a “Bounty Hunters 2” in my future! [laughs]
I know you are into taking on big challenges and I am sure this project presented all sorts of them. What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself on this particular project?
Trish Stratus: Making action films a just a little bit sexier!
I think at the end of the day, I realized why I loved this project so much. There were two things. Number one, I love telling stories. In wrestling, you and your counterpart are given, within a two-hour program, 10 to 20 minutes which are yours. You get to create your moment within that space. I think that is where I learned how to produce moments and that led to me producing television shows when I retired because I understood that process. I think that is what I understood about this film, that I was telling a story. The words are on the paper but it is up to you to tell the story with your character. I also love producing, so when the director said that I had creative freedom for the fight scenes, it was amazing to me. I thought, “Great! What roller coaster ride are we going to take the audience on?” I think that was very cool and it is something that I really love to do, to physically take the audience on a story and make people get some excitement out of something we are doing physically!
I have to admit, I was excited in when I discovered you were making the jump to film and bringing your skill set to the action movie world. We could use some heroines who have the skills and aren’t reliant on movie magic alone. I was a little shocked it took you so long to make that transition.
You know what is cool about it? I always felt like I was missing! I would see a lot of these action movies and these actresses were playing the role of an action star but they weren’t quite action stars. I found that it was lacking something. I would always joke on the side, “Oh, I could totally kick more butt than that! [laughs] I don’t think that people realize what we do as WWE performers and that is why it works. It really does work on film. Like I said, I haven’t seen Gina Carano’s film but she is probably an example of what I am talking about. She can bring it! Did you see her movie?
Yeah, I did and you are exactly right in what you are saying.
Yeah, we get it and this is what we do! I would even say that is why Jean-Claude Van Damme’s movies … there were a little, certain something to the scenes versus some of Sylvester Stallone’s fight scenes. They are all good but I think you are going to want to watch a Van Damme fight over a Stallone fight, I think, ya know?
Yes, definitely it has a bit more realism to it in some way.
Yeah. So, I think it is time. I think it is time to have more strong female leads that can walk the walk and talk the talk, I guess you could say!
I know you entertained the thought of entering the world of MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) at one point. Are you a fan of the UFC?
Trish Stratus gets animated for the latest WWE video game!
Yeah, I really enjoy it. I got into it originally when one of my fellow wrestlers, Brock Lesnar, got into it. I started watching it a little bit more and understanding the product a little bit more. I hadn’t really been watching it or following it until he came along. He had the same effect on me, which I think he had on many people and he brought in a lot of new viewers. I am definitely a fan and I definitely admire them as athletes. It’s funny because I see the shift that has happened and that they have taken a few pages from Vince McMahon’s entertainment approach to the sport. It is kind of neat to see that! I did a show called “Stratusphere” where I traveled to all of these different places, all over the world and did different fighting arts. For example, I did Muy Thai boxing in Thailand. I would learn the craft and have an exhibition match with someone out of that craft. I had my first Muy Thai boxing match and it was just an awesome feeling. I loved the training. I had been retired for two years at that point, so I kind of got the bug again! I was thinking, “Yeah, I think I can do this!” and then I almost got my nose broken! [laughs] From there, I went on to shoot another show in Vietnam and took on another fighting art there. At that point, I thought, “Mmm, no. I’m good! I’m retired, I’m good!” [laughs] The bug did bite me for a bit there but it went away! [laughs]
Your career has certainly been keeping you busy! What other projects are on the horizon for you?
I am already thinking about the second DVD for my product line! The first DVD really took off and it was really interesting for me because I wasn’t sure how my wrestling fanbase would respond to my yoga product line. Twitter has been a really great way to tap into the pulse of what is going on out there. My Twitter used to be filled with, “Wow! You kicked her butt around the ring like crazy! It was awesome!” Now it is, “Trish Stratus, I am eating healthy today! #stratusphereliving” It has been cool to see the transition of people who are getting into healthy eating and are coming to me for advice. It is kind of like going full circle because that is where I started back in the day, when I went to the University for Biology and Kinesiology and that is kind of where I went back to! Developing the Stratusphere line, possibly opening another location for my yoga center up here in Canada and possibly some more movies are all on my list. We will see!
You have had such an incredible career and I am sure you have many stories to share. Have you given any thought to penning an autobiography?
Yes! That is also kind of pending! It is a matter of when am I going to do this, when am I going to tackle that and when my schedule actually allows me to begin penning a novel! [laughs] But yes, it is on the to-do list! I will get back to you when there will actually be time to do that!
Trish Stratus: Bringing Fitness To The Masses!
As you said, you are one of the most recognized faces of fitness. What is the biggest piece of advice you can give to those looking to make a change to a more healthy lifestyle?
My biggest piece of advice is to make little shifts. Everyone wants to get healthier, they want to work out more and they try to do everything at once. They kill all of the junk food and want to workout every single day! It has to be a slow and gradual process to get into it because the problem is people just don’t stick with it. Do it one step at a time. Take out this food or take out that food and start to get on the track for healthy living a little bit slower and that way you are more likely to have it stick with you. I also tell people that yoga is something that is approachable. Give it a whirl and put it into your daily regime. You will be surprised at how it helps you, as an athlete, as a stressed out person from work or as a stressed out mom with five kids running around. It is so versatile! I tell people all of the time, “Yoga just makes peoples lives better!”
You also continue to benefit peoples lives outside of the fitness realm with your charity work. What can you tell us about that?
I continue to work with the Heart & Stroke Foundation (www.heartandstroke.ca). I have also been working with a lot of local charities in my community as well! At the studio, we try to do fundraisers a lot and we do Karma Classes, which is where people come in and pay us what they will and we donate the proceeds to charity. I, with the Heart & Stroke Foundation and “Power of Movement,” I am getting ready to do something with them shortly which is to help beat arthritis. Working with them, I will be co-emceeing an event! It is cool because now I am actually taking the yoga and realizing that we can host these great events. People are coming out and having a great time but we are raising awareness at the same time!
Where are the best places for fans to catch up with you online and learn all about everything you have going on?
ActionFest returns to Asheville on April 12-15, to once again showcase the most exciting action films from around the globe and feature mind-blowing live stunt performances by the best in the business. The festival will also continue to pay tribute to Hollywood’s stunt men and women, fight choreographers, and 2nd unit directors, whose fearlessness makes action films thrilling for audiences worldwide.
ActionFest is pleased to announce that Haywire star Gina Carano will be the recipient of the inaugural Chick Norris Award at the 2012 festival. The Chick Norris Award honors the Best Female Action Star of the year, in a play off the attitude, spirit, athleticism and grit of Hollywood legend Chuck Norris, who was awarded ActionFest’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 (this year that honor goes to the legendary stuntman Mickey Gilbert, as previously announced).
Carano’s decisive prowess in the MMA world has won her the support of fans worldwide and recognition as a pioneer in women’s MMA. She first appeared on TV on the legendary American Gladiators show as “Crush,” and debuted in film alongside Michael Jai White in Blood and Bone. Recently, she made a splash as the lead in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire alongside Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, and Michael Fassbender.
Said Carano: “It is an incredible honor to be included in this event. Chuck Norris has always been someone I respect and look up to. Being able to represent martial arts as a woman has been a blessing in my life and I am so intensely grateful to the people who have supported and shared this passion with me.”
Said ActionFest co-founder Aaron Norris: “An award to honor the work of women in action films is long overdue, and we’re honored to present the first Chick Norris Award to the astonishing Gina Carano, who I am a huge fan of. She has exploded on the movie scene with the magnificent Haywire. We know from very bruised and reliable sources that she’s as tough as they come—making her the perfect honoree for ActionFest.”
Chuck Norris also commented: “I am honored to have Gina Carano receive this award. My entire career has been blessed because martial arts allowed me to do what I love– make Action Movies. I cannot think of a better person than Gina for this honor, and I am proud that she is the first to receive this award. I highly respect her martial arts ability and she deserves all her accolades for Haywire. Watch out world, a star is born. A proven fighter and very tough actionstar is here to stay.” The 2012 film line up, information about celebrity attendees, and badge sales are upcoming at www.actionfest.com.
About ActionFest ActionFest is the only international film festival devoted exclusively to action cinema and its unsung heroes, the men and women who put the action into action films. Currently in its third consecutive year, ActionFest was founded in 2010 by Bill Banowsky, Aaron Norris, Dennis Berman and Tom Quinn. About Gina Carano Wildly considered the face of Women’s Mixed Martial Arts, Gina Carano has crossed over into the realm of feature films, cast as the star of director Steven Soderbergh’s film, “Haywire.” Carano plays the role of a black ops soldier seeking retribution after being deceived on a past mission. With a supporting cast including Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum and Antonio Banderas among others, Carano will made her big screen debut on January 20, 2012. Born in Dallas, Texas Carano was brought up in an athletic background as the daughter of Glenn Carano, a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback. Gina’s career as a Muay Thai specialist began in the famed Master Toddy Gym in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under Master Toddy, Gina competed multiple times internationally, garnishing a 12-1-1 professional Muay Thai record.
At that time, Carano was simultaneously pursuing a degree in Psychology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. As her fighting career grew and Carano realized her passion for the sport, she chose to focus solely on Muay Thai, traveling the world for fighting events.
Among her athletic achievements include her participation in the first ever sanctioned MMA bout in Nevada. Carano defeated opponent Leiticia Pestova in an impressive 39 seconds. Carano was influential in the introduction of women in competitive fighting, as her fight against Elaina Maxwell was the first time StrikeForce, the well-known MMA promotion, had women on their card in December 2006. Carano was the victor, defeating Elaina by unanimous decision. Three years later, Carano fought Christine Cyborg-Santos in the first StrikeForce Women’s Lightweight Championship. This fight was also the first Women’s Main Card Event and was televised nationally on Showtime. Coming off of her first professional loss to Cyborg-Santos, Steven Soderbergh reached out to her team after having seen her in action. They soon met in San Diego, where he discussed with her the vision for a film he wanted to shoot with her as the star. Soderbergh selected Gina to bring authenticity to lead character Mallory Kane, relying on Gina’s background in Mixed Martial Arts. Gina agreed to the role, and soon began production on the film in early 2010. Carano did 99% of the stunts in the film and was aided by her fight background as well as special combat training she did with ex-Mossad agent Aaron Cohen. Carano hopes to continue pursuing her new found love for acting balanced with her existing fight career. Carano currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Francesca Zappitelli is a lot of things. She is a talented actress, a filmmaker, producer and an accomplished fighter. An unquenchable thirst for knowledge took her on an incredible journey around the world. One thing she is not is your typical girl next door! Her natural athleticism and passion for acting and traveling led her to enter the University of Professional Wrestling, which launched her career into wrestling and fighting. Although she was heavily trained in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), piano, drama and public speaking, the acting element of her wrestling career soon became her true love. She focused on acting and the entertainment business and set her sights on the highly competitive world of acting and producing, where she continues to hone her impressive skills! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with this remarkable woman to discuss her unique career and the many projects she has lining up for the months to come!
Where did you grow up and how did you first become involved in the world of martial arts?
I grew up in Northern Ontario. I was born in a little place called Ignace, Ontario but then we moved to a bigger city of about 100,000 called Thunder Bay, which is way up north. The closest American city would be Minneapolis, Minnesota. I loved horseback riding and that became a big part of my life early on. To be honest, I got into mixed martial arts originally because there isn’t too much to do up north! As a kid, I was into kickboxing and would go to kickboxing classes. From there I got into personal training and became a Tae Bo instructor. My love for fighting and training is something that has always stuck with me. I loved doing those things! I was also into horseback riding and I traveled a lot as well as a young adult with a group girls. I didn’t like being afraid when I was traveling. That made me pursue martial arts even further, so I would know self-defense and I wouldn’t have to be afraid when I traveled the world by myself.
Who were some of the early inspirations who helped shape the woman we see today?
Growing up, I loved Rachel McLish. She was a female body builder in the ‘80s. She was ultra-feminine yet really strong. I always loved female superheroes and I grew up watching “Wonder Woman” and “The Bionic Woman.” It was very inspiring to see woman who could protect themselves. I found that very inspiring. Then there was my grandmom! When she came to Canada, she didn’t have anything. She was an entrepreneur, self-made. She started a bunch of businesses for the whole family and had two sons. She was definitely a source of inspiration for the whole family.
You have had quite an interesting career so far. How did you go from this curious teen in Canada to a career ranging from MMA to wrestling to acting and beyond?
Interesting! How did I do it?! [laughs] I have always been a big dreamer and I had always dreamed about becoming a professional wrestler. One of my early dreams was being a horseback rider and I accomplished that. So, I started knocking them off my list one thing at a time! I got to the point in my life where pursing a career in professional wrestling just seemed like the right thing to do. I decided to go to the University of Professional Wrestling. Before that, I had been doing jujitsu, kickboxing and theater. It all helped me make the jump to professional wrestling. I am very spontaneous and I believe that we have dreams and we can manifest them. I figured, I had always wanted to do this, why not give it a try? Especially when I found out about the University of Professional Wrestling. I was like, “Wow! There is actually a university? I had no idea!” [laughs] Sometimes you have a dream and know that you want to make it become a reality but you just don’t know how to find a door to open up that dream. Finding the school really was a catalyst because it really combined everything that I had been achieving previously.
Is there anything you haven’t achieved in that realm you would like to try to accomplish in the future?
My dreams have definitely evolved through the years. Originally, I was vying for a spot in WWE. When I got a taste of that, it definitely wasn’t what I had perceived it to be. At that point, my dream evolved and took on another dream — it was a work in progress, as I am! That is what life is, sometimes you start out thinking you want to do one thing and as you take that step forward and another door opens and you find your way in the process. I got really heavy into MMA training. As much as I love the training and the discipline, I am not a professional MMA fighter. I don’t like being punched in the face. Some people are real fighters. If you punch them in the face, it powers them up and they want to fight even harder but that is just not me. I am what they like to call a fake fighter. [laughs] I like competitive jujitsu because you are less likely to get hurt in it but I lack the certain je ne sais quoi that a real fighter, like Cris Cyborg or Gina Carano, have for pursuing MMA. Once I started pursing that training, the dream morphed into, “Why not make a film about this world of wrestling and fighting that I have learned about along the way?” and “Why not do acting and stunt fighting as I already have that technique and I can do it without getting hurt?”
The film you are referring to is “Ballerina, I’m Not.” What got the ball rolling to bring this project to life?
I really loved wrestling and fighting, as I still do today. It was such an unveiling of what I thought it was all about. I thought getting into ECW and WWE would be one thing but as I proceeded with my journey, this entirely different world was revealed. It was a world that I don’t think you know about unless you are a part of the industry. I really wanted to shine a light on what is really an underground industry, so that the world really knows what it is like to be a female wrestler or fighter and the challenges of that journey. I met some other great female fighters and they aren’t what you think they would be. They aren’t stereotypical, buff meat heads! One of the girls that I showcased in the documentary has her PhD — a southern girl who has won beauty pageants. You would not think that she would be a professional fighter and power lifter! She is a really empowered, strong, smart woman!
What has been the biggest challenge for you on the project so far?
Like I said before, sometimes you have these dreams but have no idea what it is going to take to make everything happen! It was the same thing that happened when I walked in the door of the fighting world as it did in filmmaking. There are so many pieces of the puzzle to make a masterpiece and there is so much work entailed to get there. I really enjoyed the process of learning and I have had some amazing people around me, who I couldn’t have done it without! There are so many elements involved from the composing to the editing to whatever you are focused on at a particular moment. There are a lot of long days but I have loved every moment of the journey!
Do you think the perception of female fighters changed in the years you have been involved with both MMA, jujitsu and professional wrestling?
One hundred percent! You know, when I first started out in jujitsu, the Gracie’s wouldn’t allow girls to train at the dojo. I am dating myself a little bit! Now MMA is so mainstream! Look at Gina Carano for example, who has “Haywire coming out right now and she is the star! Or look at Stacy Keibler who used to be a WWE Diva and is dating George Clooney. Female MMA fighters and professional wrestlers are really being perceived as incredible women! They are well-rounded and have that element of competitiveness. I think we will definitely see it become even more mainstream in the future.
What is the current status of the film and when can we look forward to seeing it?
I have it entered in a bunch of film festivals and I am waiting to see how that turns out over the spring of 2012 and I am pursuing distribution for early summer!
That’s great! It seems like things are moving right along for you!
Yeah, it’s great! Things never happen quite as quickly as you would like them to but if you take it one day at a time, one step at a time and stay focused, everything falls into place!
Is filmmaking something you hope to do more of in the future?
Yes, definitely! That is why I got into fighting, it empowered me. I find the same is true about filmmaking. In a film, you can tell a story that could change someones life or changes the way they view themselves or others. It is such a dichotomy of so many elements of life and I find it both empowering and challenging. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be fun! [laughs]
What other projects are on the horizon for you?
I just finished writing, directing and starring in a short film called “Frankie.” Putting that project together was a lot of fun and I have it entered in several film festivals right now. Fingers crossed! I am also in pre-production for a sci-fi creature-feature called “Embryo.” We are looking to start production on that in late spring. I am also working on a book to talk about my journey.
Wow! That is great! I imagine doing something like that is quite an undertaking.
Yeah, it is! I have all of these things going on and ideas for the future. I like to write and that is definitely a beast that I want to tackle. Most of the things I want to achieve, I set a deadline goal for to keep me moving forward. I have set my goal at a year, so I work on the project a few times a week. All of my other goals I work on daily to make them a reality.
It is really inspiring to see someone like yourself achieving the goals they are setting out for on so many levels.
Thank you, Jason! I am really trying not to be what they call a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none!” I have had so many different hats I have worn. I like to focus on one thing and move on to the next.
What is the best advice someone has given you so far in regard to your blossoming career?
I had one manager that told me to “Live the life you want to live now.” If your dream is to be a filmmaker, go be a filmmaker! You can’t be a makeup artist working at a local department store and be a filmmaker. You need to put everything you have into filmmaking. Even if it is scary because it is not a 9 to 5 job or because it is something new or this or that, if you give your all to it, you can achieve it. The same thing is true of being a fighter. If you want to be a fighter, you have to jump in and give it your all. You can’t be a holding on to something in your past and give your dream everything you have. You need to set your sights on what it is you want and go for it!
Where is the best place for people to find out more about all that you have going on?