HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
OWW Wrestler of the Week — Tara
Our resident philosopher salutes the new TNA Knockout Champion, Tara.
On Thursday, Tara shocked the wrestling world by taking the Knockout title from Angelina Love. Tara, previously known as Victoria, re-invented herself and gave herself a new lease on her professional life. Tara is this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week.
The early days of the Black Widow
Lisa Maria Sole-Varon was born on 02/10/71, to a Puerto Rican father and Turkish mother. Her mother was a popular singer in Japan and it has been suggested that Lisa was named after Elvis Presley’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley. That has never been confirmed.
Lisa was always a very athletic kid. She got into bodybuilding from an early age. She won several bodybuilding competitions in the late 1990s. Two different people are given credit for getting Lisa into wrestling. Lisa became friends with Torrie Wilson when they both worked the bodybuilding circuit. When Wilson took a position in WCW, she invited her old friend to come see one of the shows. Lisa was given a walk-on spot as one of Scott Steiner’s “Freaks”. Chyna also met Lisa and suggested that she give wrestling a try.
After the one-shot deal in WCW, Lisa went back to the Los Angeles area to continue her bodybuilding career. She also began wrestling for the UPW, which would also bring John Cena, Batista and others into pro wrestling. Lisa’s first character was a cheerleader gimmick, similar to her friend’s (Wilson’s) Miss Hancock character in WCW. Lisa was billed as H.B.I.C (Head B*tch in Charge). At her very first appearance in UPW, she was scouted by WWE talent scout, Bruce “Brother Love” Pritchard. Pritchard was very much impressed by Lisa’s look and attitude.
Victoria is born
Lisa was brought into the WWF as past of the Godfather’s stable of “ho’s”. She quickly became the lead girl or “head ho”. She began to rally the other girls to stand up to the “pimp” and become their own women. The initial run in the WWF came on August 7, 2000, when the reformed Goodfather sent Lisa through a table. It was around this time that she was given her WWF/WWE name of Victoria. The name was a tribute to England’s Queen Victoria, one of the most powerful women in history.
After being sent through the table, Victoria moved over to the developmental territories for further training. Most of her training came from “Fit” Finlay. She worked in MCW and OVW, as both a wrestler and a manager. She would feud with Stacy “The Cat” Carter and Ivory during her stay in the minor leagues. On July 7, 2002, Victoria was called up to the WWE to feud with Trish Stratus. The storyline was that Trish, also a fitness trainer/model, had betrayed Victoria in the past. It was during this time that Victoria began to use her Widow’s Peak finisher. Lance Storm is credited with the name. He used to tease Victoria about the Widow’s Peak hairline that both of them share (I have it as well).
The nasty feud between Trish and Victoria reached its first peak when Victoria took the Women’s title at Survivor Series. The night after her win, Victoria was brutally assaulted by Trish. This brought Stevie Richards out to defend her. They were then paired in an on-screen relationship. Victoria held the Women’s title until Wrestlemania XIX, where she lost in a Triple Threat match (to Stratus). From there, Victoria fell out of title contention, but not out of the limelight. She feuded with just about every Diva in the WWE, at that time. She became the first Diva to win a Steel Cage match (defeating Lita). Eventually, she would set her sights on the then-champion, Molly Holly.
Victoria would eventually take not only Holly’s Women’s title, but also her hair. At Wrestlemania XX, Molly Holly put her hair on the line to try and regain her Women’s title. Thanks to advice from Bubba Ray Dudley (Brother Ray), Molly agreed to have her head completely shaved. Victoria’s second title reign would come to an end at Bad Blood, where old foe, Trish Stratus, took the title in a Fatal Four Way match.
The Devil wore Pink
Beginning in the spring of 2005, Victoria was given a slight make-over. She dropped the black attire to start wearing various pink ring gear. She was partnered with Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle as the triad known as The Ladies in Pink. The L.i.P.s. took exception to Diva Search winners Ashley Massaro and Christy Hemme. They challenged them to several matches. Being outnumbered, the Diva Searchers enlisted the aid of Trish Stratus. The feud lasted a few months, until Torrie Wilson was booted from the group. Torrie’s departure was tied to her appearance in Playboy magazine. The Victoria/Candice alliance began to crumble over the next few months, culminating with Victoria rejecting Candice’s partnership after a July 17th match, where Candice served as a guest ref and awarded the match to Victoria’s (and Mickie James‘) opponents.
In the fall of 2006, Victoria got a new heavy push from Creative. The push came as result of an accident. During a Battle Royal, Victoria legitimately broke Candice Michelle’s nose, sending her to surgery. To play on this, Victoria began to compose a list of other Divas that she planned to eliminate. The checklist’s final name was the-then Women’s champion, Mickie James. The two faced each other at New Year’s Revolution. At the end of the night, Mickie was able to retain her title. Victoria would fail in various re-matches for the title and slipped into a supporting role in the Women’s division that lasted until the 2007 Draft.
Taking a bite out of Smackdown
Victoria was shifted to Smackdown as part of the yearly Draft. Once there, she was partnered with Kenny Dykstra (ironically, Mickie James’ long-time boyfriend) for an on-screen relationship. They feuded, both individually and jointly, against Torrie Wilson and Jimmy Wang Yang and Michelle McCool and Chuck Palumbo. Creative rehashed an old storyline, when Victoria broke Michelle’s nose, storywise. That break led to the end of the feud, as well as the alliance with Dykstra. (Dykstra would later be released).
Victoria’s next alliance was with Natalya (Nattie Neidhart). They played on the texting term, BFF (Best Friend’s Forever), to form a team. BFF became their unofficial team name. They were used, basically, to help usher in the twin Diva team of Brie and Nikki Bella. With no true direction in her career, at this point, rumors began to circulate that Victoria was preparing to end her wrestling career. On January 13, 2009, Victoria announced her retirement from pro wrestling and made it clear that she intended to follow that lead of several other former wrestlers and train for a run in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). She trained in Jui-Jitsu and began to make preliminary plans for her MMA run. That run would get placed on hold, indefinitely. Victoria made her final WWE appearance (for the moment) at Wrestlemania XXV, where she participated in the 25 Diva Battle Royal. Oddly enough, it was the Bella twins that eliminated her.
TNA = Tara’s New Attitude
Lisa Marie Varon used her profits from wrestling to open several business, over the years. Her most recent was a car customizing company, known as Black Widow Customs. The business, opened in 2007, played on the spider-based character that she portrayed during the latter days of her WWE career. As a tribute to that venture (and to avoid copyright issues with the WWE), Lisa Marie Varon decided to adopt a new arachnid-oriented identity when she accepted an offer to work for TNA.
When Lisa Marie first showed up on TNA, Mike Tenay slipped and called her Victoria, later changing it to Lisa Varon. On the following edition of Impact, she was introduced as Tara. Many fans though the name was a jab at the WWE (and Triple H), who worked his early days as Terra Ryzing. In fact, the name was short for Tarantula. Tara began to carry a fuzzy tarantula with her to the ring, in a plexiglass, see-through box. The spider would later be named Poison. Tara set her sights on Angelina Love, the Knockout Champion. Tara showed her desire to take the title by defeating Madison Rayne in her TNA debut match. Tara then placed Poison on Rayne’s chest. Love and Tara was set against each other at Slammiversary. Love managed to escape Tara’s challenge on that night, but her nightmare wasn’t finished. After putting Poison (the spider) on Velvet Sky‘s chest, one week earlier, Sky challenged Tara to a match. Tara hit the Widow’s Peak on Sky to take the win. Earlier in the night, Sky had threatened to turn on Love if she allowed Tara to place the spider on her again. To save her alliance with Sky, Angelina Love agreed to face Tara for the Knockouts title. After a rather short contest, Tara used her Widow’s Peak finisher to capture the Knockouts title. She became the second women to hold the WWE and TNA women’s titles during her career (Gail Kim was the first).
Tara has began the newest chapter in her wrestling career. At 38, it’s unclear how long she will chose to continue battling. Her desire to work MMA, as well as her car customizing business, may lead her to eventually walk away from the sport that made her a star. Whether it’s just a few months or a few years, Tara/Victoria will go down in women’s wrestling history as one of it’s top female competitors. She’s stood on the top of the mountain, numerous times, and has also helped to elevate other women to the top spot. She’s a true professional and it’s my honor to bestow this week’s OWW Wrestler of the Week to the new TNA Knockout Champion, Tara.
— Jay Shannon