Ahead of IMPACT’s Homecoming show this Sunday, available on FITE TV and pay-per-view, I spoke to IMPACT Hall of Famer Gail Kim on her thoughts about controversial topics in pro wrestling, being an agent and producer, her career, and more.
IMPACT Homecoming is happening on January 6th. IMPACT has made a lot of positive changes over the last year or so, which you have been a part of. What do you think is the best improvement the company has made recently?
I’ve always been a big believer in one strong leader leading the company. When all these changes came about in terms of management, after Jeff Jarrett’s departure, I’m not gonna lie, I said I’m a little concerned about that. We’re gonna have a couple of leaders, is that gonna work? Is there gonna be power struggles and egos involved? But it’s just been really great to be honest. It’s been very successful, and I think the common thing is that everyone wants the company to succeed.
There has been zero egos. There has been no power struggles, people just want to make this work, including the roster. It’s great to see this new generation of talent come in because they’re so hungry, and they’re so passionate. Right now, it’s just such a great, positive environment, but before people were like, “What’s happening? They’re going to go down!”, you know I’ve heard that for years because I’ve been part of the company for years. Even when people have tried to be negative, the roster has always delivered, and been so passionate, wants to do their best, and it shows. I think having everyone care and want proper story lines and just great wrestling it’s just been a successful formula so far.
Some really exciting talents have signed with IMPACT recently, such as The Rascalz, Jordynne Grace and more. Is there anybody in the company that really stands out to you as somebody full of potential?
I will say, there’s a lot of great male talent out there, but I am so focused on the women. I spend my whole days [at IMPACT] with women, that’s my whole goal, to get them to another level. Obviously I think Tessa, she’s one of those girls where I was blown away the first time I saw her wrestle. The common things I saw between her and I is we want to be the best, we want to be the best wrestler in the world, we want to have the best matches, even more so than the guys. In the future, she will be the best female wrestler in the world, she’s pretty close to it right now.
And then of course we’ve had the debut of Jordynne Grace, and I see a lot of potential in her. She’s really young, she had All In last year, and now she’s dominating as part of our roster, so I’m really excited to see what will come of her in the future. There’s just new girls coming in all the time at our live shows, and I always love to see who’s up and coming on the indie scene…. although WWE does have a habit of sweeping them away! It’s all about being on the ball and getting to them early.
Is there anybody outside of IMPACT you’d love to bring in?
Shotzi Blackheart. She has a lot of spunk and presence. There’s a girl in Mexico I saw work Tessa, I only saw a little bit of her, Keyra, but I would love to see more of her. I love her style as well, very hard hitting, lucha libre. I always ask other fans and wrestlers, “Who’s out there? Who’s got a lot of potential?” Especially during WrestleCon week, there’s a lot of shows going on, I like to see who’s there and get my eye on them before WWE does.
You were involved in some of the best matches in IMPACT history, your epic rivalry with Awesome Kong and your series with Taryn Terrell both come to mind. But who in pro wrestling today do you think you could have the best match with?
When I saw Tessa wrestle, I got that itch. I would have loved to have wrestled her. And of course, in the other company, there are plenty of great wrestlers: Charlotte, Sasha, Bayley. They’ve got a lot of the talent because they’ve got a lot of money! I’ve already worked most of the Knockouts roster anyway, so Tessa would probably be the only one I’d like to work with.
Something I found with you as a wrestler was your ability to change things up. Even when you were having matches against people you had a lot of history with, you seemed to pull out new moves and innovating ways to make each match feel individual and exciting. You’re clearly somebody with a very creative mind, so how has it been transitioning your ideas into your relatively new role as a producer and an agent?
I love my new role. That was a learning curve for me, definitely. I was trying to think outside the box for other girls as well, but I have to keep in mind that everyone has a different style. There’s certain people who are capable of certain things and not others, and there are certain people who’s strength is in their character, so it’s more about thinking outside the box for other people.
Also, it’s about making the girls think creatively too instead of me doing all the work for them, and they do that. But you’re right, that was one of my goals in wrestling from the very beginning: I never want my matches to be boring, I always want to be the best wrestler, and I want all my matches to be fun and exciting and different. I think every girl needs to have in their head what they want to achieve, and then I can lend my knowledge and experience to help them.
I think you’re known for taking some pretty brutal bumps in your time, and just generally being a badass. What’s the most painful thing you’ve ever experienced in pro wrestling?
See, there’s some things that looked really brutal but actually felt like landing on a pillow, and then there are things that are the opposite!
It’s always the little things that cause the worst injuries.
That is so true! Well obviously the one that stands out to everyone is the finish to my Last Knockout Standing Match with Taryn Teryll. We’re both very proud of that match just because the fans didn’t expect it. Always a part of my gauge of whether I love a match is the crowd, and I couldn’t have asked for anything better with this match.
Another big bump from early in my career was when I got Border Toss’d by Hernandez. Well… I guess I’m breaking kayfabe here but oh well! I remember he said to me, “Do you wanna go Sonjay far?” And I said, “What do you mean ‘Sonjay far’?” He let me choose how far I could be thrown, but yeah, that was fun.
You quietly retired from pro wrestling in 2018, wrestling your final match here in the UK? Does the UK have a special place in your heart?
Definitely, well, I married a British man! It’s always been my second home. I’ve been going there since I started wrestling at least twice a year. And the fans, they’re truly so special. They love wrestling so much, and I don’t think they’re as jaded as American fans because Americans get to see so much of it. It’s always special over there and the fans are always off the hook.
When I retired from television, I knew I had to have another match in the UK. That was my original plan: I wanted to retire during an IMPACT UK tour, but we stopped doing those. My last match was everything I could have hoped for and more. No, it wasn’t on television, but it was perfect. My opponent was great, and Southside went out of their way to make it special. It was an emotional day for me and I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Homecoming is taking place inside The Asylum, a building with a lot of company history. But out of all the venues you’ve wrestled in over the years, where’s the weirdest place you’ve had a match?
Oh, boy! That’s a great question… There was one show when I first started in the indies. I was in a mixed tag match, Angelina Love was my opponent. We got golf carted out to the ring because around the ring was covered in mud and there was a haystack around it. There was about 3 people in the audience. I hope we got a reaction out of them but I honestly don’t remember. In those moments, they’re not fun, but they are when you look back on them.
You are a very outspoken when it comes to various issues in pro wrestling, and you’re not afraid to make your opinion known, which I think is very important when it comes to the subjects you speak out about. Do you think more talents need to let their voices be heard?
They do, it’s just hard, and I understand their positions. When I speak up, I get a lot of support from fans, but you’re always going to get trolls that say you’re bitter. It’s always like that when you come out of WWE, you say one negative thing about them and everyone thinks you’re bitter. No, it’s about speaking the truth. For me, yes I didn’t like how I was treating as a human being there, but there is other issues in terms of racism and sexism there, and I still believe even though they are pushing the women more today, they’re still not paid equally to the boys. I could be wrong but I’m 99% sure they’re not.
When they main-evented Royal Rumble, I hope they were compensated like men would be. And Evolution, it was a successful pay-per-view for the fans, they all kicked butt, but I hope they got paid like the guys would have. They’ve definitely made strides in that direction, but there’s still a long way to go. I hope people don’t feel scared to speak up, but I know that they are.
I know recently the McMahon family came out and cut a promo about how they’re going to create change now for the good of the company. One of the comments I noted was something about the talent, and them feeling suffocated or something along those lines, and I hope they’re telling the truth about [changing] that. Because that’s the difference between WWE and IMPACT, and you can see it with how I was used, IMPACT always made me feel like I was allowed to be myself. I never felt that way in WWE, I had to play their games and be who they wanted me to be. I didn’t have to do that once in IMPACT, and that’s where I was most successful. I hope [the McMahon’s] are telling the truth, and make the talents feel more at ease to where they can speak up, with reason of course, not bashing them but have intelligent conversations on these topics to make things better.
In your role as a producer and an agent for IMPACT, do you apply the same level of honesty and do you always make sure your voice is heard?
Always. For the girls, I’m honest if I don’t really like something or I see things going a different way, but I always want them to be a part of the process, and say what they’re bothered by, if they have an idea, if they feel strongly about it, and if they want to fight for it I like that. That also goes for the production meetings with the guys, which are predominantly men and myself, so if I have to fight for the girls then I will. I think they all know that too, and I’ve worked with them for years, so they know I’ll speak directly to them and let them know how I feel.
Final question: What is the biggest reason why you love pro wrestling?
For me, I always tell everyone I fell in love with the sport of wrestling. I was always an athlete, so when I saw the girls wrestle in the golden era, Trish Stratus, Jazz, Victoria, Ivory, Molly, that was the time I was truly hooked and I knew I wanted to become a wrestler.
Follow Gail Kim on Twitter – @GailKimITSME
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Follow me on Twitter – @HairyWrestling