UK wrestling fans are soon to be treated to TNA's second series of British BootCamp. In preparation for the show premiere on 19 October we sat down with BootCamp judge and wrestling legend Gail Kim, here's what she had to say:
You're married to a Brit and so we're officially adopting you! As one of us then, what did you make of the British wrestling scene?
In all honesty, I came into the process knowing that there was talent but I hadn't realised how deep a pool of talent there was. Given how busy my schedule is these days I'm not really too familiar with the indie scene as it's sometimes just hard to keep up, especially with what's going on in another country. I'd heard of some names- Nikki Storm, Kay Lee Ray - so in terms of the women I knew their faces but I hadn't seen their work. I will say, if we ever wanted to start a promotion over in the UK just with that talent alone, there was enough, that's for sure.
So you hold the British women's wrestling scene in high regard?
Yes! In each of the three cities we held auditions in - Glasgow, London and Manchester - we had maybe 4 girls audition per day and in each day we had a couple of girls go through. So just the fact that there weren't that many of them and at least 50% got through, that's pretty good.
So who should we be looking out for?
I would say the twins, Nikki Storm and Kay Lee Ray - as I've already mentioned. Before I even came over to the UK, through social media, a lot of fans were very outspoken about who they liked and so I'd heard a lot about them and they really did back it up.
When we visited boot camp, we were surprised by how real the auditions were. How did it feel to be on the other side of the table and what were the key attributes you were looking for?
When Jeremy Borash approached me about being a judge, I was just excited as it was something new. I'm was confident that I knew what we were looking for but I hadn't really thought about the heartbreak that people auditioning go through. When it came down to eliminating wrestlers it was just very difficult. I knew exactly how they felt and how badly they wanted to move onto that next step. Al Snow was the one to deliver the bad news but just to be there and to witness that is a little heart-breaking. As for what we were looking for, this is an entertainment business. I'm probably known more for my wrestling than my talking abilities or character but it was hard for people like me that zone in on the wrestling. Ultimately in this business you have to have everything. You've got to be able to look the part, to work real hard and back it up in the ring. The first round is always about personality and character and so that's what we were initially looking for. If you can reach and pass that round then you have the chance to prove that you can back it up in the ring.
Did you, Samoa Joe and Al Snow ever disagree on things and how did you resolve any arguments?
I would say for the most part we were on the same page. There were some times when Al didn't agree with certain things. It was mainly because Joe and I would be entertained by people and they might have been silly but he went with the flow!
What's your view on women's wrestling as a whole and has it changed since you started?
Well both for the women's scene and for wrestling in general, its always been a rollercoaster. There are hot years in which wrestling is a very successful sport and then it goes on a down slope. When I started in TNA, there was no women's division, there were maybe 4 of us. Eventually, with a lot of begging and pleading, we created a division and it was a success overnight. And TNA have really gone with that flow. There have been ups and downs with different girls coming in and out but I feel it's now at its strongest point. We have such a great division, we have a variety of girls and even recently they were confident enough to give us the main event spot. That was truly an honour. I just want to keep on going with that momentum and have a place for women who love wrestling, who can come and work at this company.
What do you think about women wrestling men? - surely you could take on most of the TNA roster!
Id like to think so, but who knows! We have a really talented group of guys. I certainly would try! When people say that to me, I'm flattered and very honoured that they even think I could take them on.
You've been crossing swords with Havoc, do you think she has a bright future?
I was amazed by her when I saw her in the independent scene but I'd never really seen her work until she wrestled Madison Rayne at our Knockouts Knockdown Pay-Per-View which is airing soon. That's when I was most impressed by her. She's been really dominating in our division so far.
Do you see your role now as a gatekeeper and to push new talent forward?
Oh yes, definitely. I've always looked to almost take care of this division and make sure that it's going in the right direction. If you ask anybody who knows me, I'm very vocal about it. The company or the other girls might not always agree with me but I fight for what I believe in and so far so good. I feel like we're really proving ourselves. For example, there was the ladder match which I begged for and although there was some resistance, I promised to deliver. It was Eric Bischoff who said to me, with that much passion how can I deny you. We went out there - and I didn't know what was going to happen but it was a success.
Do you have any good rib stories?
Well the girls aren't as mean as the guys [We don't believe that for a second!-RR] - why not! I've told this one before and its not mean but its quite funny, I don't eat cheese or dairy really and the girls know that. One time I was catching a group flight and we ordered breakfast. My omelettes came with cheese on and so the girls (Victoria and Jackie Gayda) waited with me whilst they re-made it. I had a special security pass on my ticket and we were all worried about missing our flight because we were making it very close. So I made it through the special security and they missed their flight. They had to drive - I think it was 6 or 7 hours in a rented car to the next show and get changed in the car into their gear and perform as soon as they got there. Needless to say I told them I felt horrible and their response was "from now on you're eating cheese!"
What's your view on TNA's TV negotiations and the deal with Spike?
I've never really been concerned. Obviously you want the company you're a part of to continue, to be successful and to grow but I was never worried because I've always had confidence in our company. We are a family, we always have been and no matter what, we've always faced adversity and people have put us down and we've overcome. As a group, we're going to keep on doing that. It's just the passion and the positive attitude that we all have. We want TNA to grow and move forward.
Will you be on the UK tour?
Yeah! I'm scheduled to be on the UK tour, so as of right now I am confirmed! I'll see you guys in Scotland, London and Manchester!
TNA tour the UK in January, tickets can be purchased through this link. British Boot Camp starts on Challenge TV on the 19 October.