Leva 'Blue Pants' Bates is one of those rarest of talents in professional wrestling, someone who has organically 'got over' with the fans. The WWE NXT crowd erupted when she made a surprise appearance at the Takeover: Brooklyn event and she continues to enjoy success at independent shows across the country. We were lucky enough to talk with her on a recent visit to the UK and discussed her training with the Dudleys, her views on women's wrestling and more. Read on!
Tell us what it was like training at the 3D academy
Really rewarding to be honest. There's a lot of great schools in the central Florida area but I believe that if you want to be the best, be trained by the best and look at who they are! They're the most decorated tag-team in the world, they've worked everywhere and they're the ones who have the most experience not only about wrestling but about the business. It's pretty cool because they tag-team the teaching as well. Devon does more of the mat wrestling and beginners stuff, Bubba will focus more on psychology of a match and storytelling aspects of it. They also have a personal trainer, Dan Carr, who trained the original American Gladiators, so it's a really well-rounded school. Its cool because whether it's about a match, a company, the business in general, I can just ask them. They have advice, they've done it and they know people. Its very rewarding to have them round. It's also entertaining! Sometimes if we're tired and we don't want to wrestle, we'll ask Devon about WWE and if you get him talking he'll just tell you stories.... I've done that...
You've been wrestling nearly a decade, what's your advice for rookies?
Honestly, don't give up. I'm not going to say my age but I'm a lot older than I look. About 3 years ago I hit the point where I thought "Im never going to get used by WWE". That was in my head and I kind of almost gave up. I couldn't completely quit and thought I'm just going to keep going but I didn't see WWE on the cards. For some reason I decided to do the recruit page and didn't think anything of it. Once in a while I'd go and switch the picture, because I always like to do photos in crazy costumes. I thought "this is a cool picture, I'll just switch it up and go" and that's when I got the call. Last year, two years after Id thought "they're not going to use me". I'm happy with my career and at that point I could have completely quit wrestling but I didn't and I'm very thankful. So don't give up. There's a lot. Don't be an a**hole is another because everyone you meet going up, are the same people you're going to meet going down. So just treat people like you want to be treated.
Women's wrestling has come a long way, where next?
I'm loving that a lot of promotions are doing more than one women's match. There's a couple of companies in Austin, Texas that I love to work for. ACW and Inspire Pro Wrestling. They didn't have just one women's match, it was like a mixed card and it wasn't a big deal. It's not "here's a ladies match", it was just the next match on the card. I think it's getting to the point where it's not seen as a women's match, it's just a match. Maybe we'll see more of that. Women are main eventing. NXT is the frontrunner for that because there are so many eyes on it but it's really happening everywhere and it's pretty cool.
Tell us a good rib story
I don't know if it's necessarily a wrestling rib but Mia Yim (Jade on TNA) she and I are really good friends. She and her boyfriend Eddie Kingston were at universal and we were texting each other because Im a performer there and she wanted to come and see one of my shows. She had handed Eddie her phone and he texted for her saying "we'll see you there and sorry I'm stupid for not liking star wars!" I knew it was him and I took a screenshot and said "it's about time you admitted it" and I posted it on Twitter! And she was so mad! So it was kind of a tag team rib on her from me and Eddie. Poor Mia Yim is the blunt of most of my ribbing but she gets me back...
How does one become a good cosplayer? Must you look the part?
No! If you go to a comic-con a lot of people don't look it - you know how many fat batmen I've seen! It's a combination of costume and make-up. It's just passion for it. For me Ive always been an entertainer, kind of a chameleon when it comes to physical performance, so I take that into what I do with cosplay. It's basically piecing together a costume. Sometimes I'll buy one and alter it but a lot of times I'll go to good will or thrift stores. For the Mankind mask, he actually offered his mask for me but If you've ever seen a picture of him and me together, you'll know he's literally twice my size. So I found a weird foam dungeon mask at a costume store, I bought two, ripped one apart and re-glued it together and created little dots, and painted it - it's a lot of little layers but it looked a lot like his mask. I'll take a picture or video and use it as reference. Im a sucker for detail - I challenge myself to see if I can do it.
Who would you like to have the chance to wrestle?
[Leva points across the table at him....] Jimmy Havoc.