THE LIFE of a professional wrestler isn't an easy one, especially if your boss is named Vince McMahon.
Besides the monthly pay-per-views and weekly television tapings, World Wrestling Entertainment superstars perform more than 200 times during the year without a vacation.
They wake up in a different hotel room in a different city every week, and must adhere to strict diet and exercise programs to keep their bodies in optimal condition. Add in personal appearances and guest spots on television programs, and there's even less free time during the day for these athletes.
Now factor in the need to stay beautiful, despite all the bumps and bruises endured in the squared circle, in order to model for an upcoming swimsuit calendar.
"I did three photo shoots and one commercial last week, and that was during my 'off' days," sighs 29-year-old Trisha Stratigias, better known to her fans as WWE Women's Champion Trish Stratus.
"We always say the guys have the same schedules, but we've got to look pretty doing it!"
BORN AND raised in Toronto, Canada, Stratus has been a fixture on WWE's "Raw" roster since her debut in March 2000.
As a varsity field hockey player during college and an avid soccer fan, she had always enjoyed athletic competition and keeping herself in shape. A teacher's strike at her college afforded Stratus the opportunity to get into fitness modeling, which she enjoyed success with for a few years before sparking the interest of professional wrestling.
"It was a distinct moment," she said of the opportunity she was given to get into the business. "I was on a talk show with a couple of wrestlers."
Shortly after appearing on Canadian network TSN's "Off the Record," rumors began to circulate on the Internet that the model would make the jump to wrestling. The buzz was strong enough to generate interest not only by WWE, but also by rival promotions World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling.
"I got a WCW offer, I got an ECW offer and finally WWE flew me to headquarters and I went home with a contract offer," she said. In the nearly five years since she first appeared on WWE television, Stratus has gone on to capture the Women's Title six times -- more than any other female wrestler in the 48-year history of the belt.
SPEAKING FROM her home in Toronto, where she was still recovering from being choke-slammed by Kane on "Raw" the week before, Stratus explains how far the women in her business have come in just the last few years.
"It was actually a distinct movement, the wave of women wrestlers," she said. When former WWE wrestler Chyna left the company in 2001, the Women's Title remained vacant for about six months before Stratus won it for the first time.
"I knew that win was significant," she said. "There were a handful of women who could work ... (but) we had to re-educate the fans to get them to take us seriously."
The past three years have been spent changing the perception of female wrestlers in the eyes of the fans. Instead of being used as "eye candy" and relegated to gimmicks like bra-and-panties matches, the ladies are pushing to be respected as equal performers in the business.
"Now we're finding that balance, where we have women's wrestling and we also have the new 'Raw Diva Search' girls," Stratus said.
One significant milestone, she added, was her match with Lita during the main event of "Raw" a few months back.
"The first amazing feeling was that Vince (McMahon) had enough confidence in us," she said. "We had to really go out there and prove ourselves, and I think we did that.
"We got great ratings and fan interest, and that's what management wanted."
NEXT WEEK'S "Supershow" will be just the second time WWE mixes the rosters of each brand at non-television event (also known as a "house show").
Normally, wrestlers on the "Raw" and "Smackdown" rosters only see each other at monthly pay-per-views, and that's only if they're scheduled to appear on the program.
"The fans don't usually get to see these two brands together," Stratus said. "They don't get to see these people interacting."
The absence of television cameras also means that the wrestlers don't have to stick to storylines, which allows them to be more creative when it comes to entertaining the audience.
"We tend to have more fun with the crowd," she said. "We don't have to stay on storyline ... (so) if Torrie Wilson's out there, I'll probably tell her how I really feel about her!"
by jason genegabus