I'm sure you all know by now that I'm a huge fan of the WWE. I've been that way since I was a kid and have always enjoyed their athleticism to go along with the storylines. This Sunday, the WWE comes to Buffalo for the PPV event known as Night of Champions. As of now, the PPV consists of six match-ups, with CM Punk vs. HHH and John Cena vs. Alberto Del Rio being the headliners. However, there is one match, or in this case, one diva that Buffalonians should keep their eye on, and that's Beth Phoenix.
Beth is challenging Kelly Kelly for the WWE Divas Championship, but besides the match and the fact that Beth could kick all of our asses, we should be rooting her on because she's one of us. She's a Buffalonian who loves talking proud about her roots. Beth was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her Buffalo roots, becoming a WWE Diva, her favorite opponent and much more.
What made you decide to become a WWE Diva? To me, this is the most elite group of women in the world as far as Sports Entertainment goes. Not only do we have to be beautiful, but we have to be able to out-perform the men. What appealed to me the most about being a WWE Diva was the opportunity to touch people’s lives and set a good example.
I know you did amateur wrestling in high school. How did that influence your training?
A lot of WWE Superstars have amateur wrestling backgrounds, such as Dolph Ziggler, Jack Swagger and Cody Rhodes. It not only teaches you to push yourself and some of the in-ring mechanics, but it also teaches you to have fire and hunger when competing. It is the most physical of all sports, in my opinion. The hunger you learn in amateur wrestling translates well in the squared circle.
Were you a WWE fan growing up? If so, who were your influences or memories from Sports Entertainment?
I was influenced heavily by the bad guys! Loved Ted DiBiase, Owen Hart, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Ivan Putski. As far as women go, I liked Sherri Martel and the Fabulous Moolah. Sherri had a crazy, hellcat quality to her. Above all, those Superstars and Divas, whether they were good or bad, had confidence that nobody else could match. Confidence is what attracted me to them despite their dastardly ways.
You've been a WWE Diva since 2006. Who has been your favorite opponent or storyline you've had and why?
There have been many. I have enjoyed working with different people for different reasons. When I first came into the WWE I enjoyed working with Candice Michelle, a girl who was a model and seemed to live a carefree life and worked really hard to become a WWE Diva. To me it was remarkable to watch her transformation and see her dig so deep and have such a passion for this business.
My other favorite opponent – whom I haven’t had many opportunities to compete against because most of the time she’s on my side – is Natalya. She has the pedigree, coming from the Hart family, and I have always admired them. Competing against her is the closest I will ever get to stepping into the ring with Bret Hart or Davey Boy Smith.
Over the last month, you turned some heads when you and Natalya decided to wage war on the WWE Divas. What brought about this change in attitude?
Natalya and I have worked hard the last few years to be noticed and to be successful. No matter what we do – I’m a 3-time champion and Natalya is a former Diva's Champion – we seem to be passed up for the opportunities that we feel we deserve. While we enjoyed getting attention from the WWE Universe, it always seemed like Kelly Kelly and Eve got more love, more fans and more attention. We believe the fans have come to want things that aren’t good for them. They want this sweet candy that makes them feel good. They don’t realize that Natalya and I are what’s good for them, and we are here to educate them.
I wanted to shift gears towards your hometown roots. Being from Buffalo, NY (Elmira), I know anyone who is from that region seems to have a sense of pride because of the city. What does it mean to you to be from Buffalo?
Of all the places I have been all over the world, I would say Buffalo definitely has the most hometown pride. I think it’s because people from Buffalo are some of the toughest people and we endure some of the worst winter weather. We have had economic challenges too, but what’s great about Buffalo is that nothing can tear us down. Buffalo is the “phoenix” of all cities because no matter what trials and tribulations Buffalo has had to endure, everybody bands together to keep the city successful. That’s where our sports teams come in too, because they represent the fight that we all fight, from working at the convenience store down the street to being a Buffalo Bills player. Whatever challenges we face, we are tougher and stronger than anybody else and we are going to steamroll the competition.
What is your favorite thing about Buffalo?
I think I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was the food! When I was a little kid living in Elmira, my grandparents would drive to Buffalo to go to Redlinski Meats, one specific Polish butcher. The food was so great there that they would make the long trek just to get meat from Buffalo. I think that holds true with a lot of our other specialties too. If you haven’t had a Buffalo wing in Buffalo at the Anchor Bar or Casa Di Pizza or La Nova, you haven’t had a real Buffalo wing. We have a culture of rich, great comfort food. There is no better way to keep warm on a cold Buffalo winter night than with extra spicy Buffalo wings.
Growing up, were you a big sports fan? Did you cheer for the Bills and Sabres? What were your memories of those teams?
Yes. I was a big fan of the Buffalo Bills and one of my best friends was a Sabres fan. It’s hard to grow up in Western New York and not be touched by the sports team spirit. Some of my fondest memories were going to Ralph Wilson Stadium to watch those games and cuddling up with my brother in a blanket with my family. It was a bonding time when you could yell and scream and have a great time cheering for the team. Every single one of the 70,000 people in the stadium was there for the same reason: to cheer for the team and show our support.
How do you feel about the Bills and Sabres current teams today?
Well, the Bills have taken a few gambles over the last few years, such as adding T.O., which didn’t really pan out for us. He wasn’t the savior we thought he would be. However, our team is always a work in progress. I think this season, the outlook is great. Same goes for the Sabres. Like I said, make us underdogs. Put us in a situation where it is up to us to step up to a challenge and Buffalo will never let you down.
Now, I know Night of Champions is coming up, which takes place in Buffalo, NY. What will it be like for a hometown girl to walk into the arena and have 18,000 Buffalo fans root her on? Will it be more special than in another city?
A lot of people may not remember, but the last time I was in Buffalo, I was Women’s Champion and I lost the title to lay-Cool in a handicap match. It’s kind of bittersweet… this feels like it’s coming full circle. That was actually the last appearance of the Women’s Championship. It was the end of the road for the Championship, and it was also the end of the road for my last title reign so it was very sentimental. I actually went in for surgery after that match and I had wrestled that match with a torn ACL and my knee all taped up. To think that I have an opportunity to walk into Buffalo and possibly win the Diva's Championship in front of that very same crowd and start a new chapter and begin a new legacy is not only exciting and cool but also very sentimental to me. It’s a very personal journey. It has been a long road to come back from that injury and get back in the ring and earn another title opportunity. To be able to do it in my hometown in front of my friends and family and the people that supported me back when I was nobody is really a dream come true. Win or lose, I know that is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime, career-changing night.