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]
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?
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.
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?
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?
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!
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?
Thank you so much for your time today, Trish! We look forward to spreading the word about all the great stuff you have going on!
Thank you so much! I really appreciate the support!