By Matt Berkowitz
Arguably the most popular WWE diva, Trish Stratus has become a fixture on WWE's Monday night programming. Leading the new breed of female wrestlers, Stratus has helped bring the popularity of women's wrestling to a new level.
No longer working in the men's shadows, the divas have worked many hours before shows to develop their in-ring skills. They wish to be viewed as wrestlers rather than mere eye candy.
''Right now, there are more women wrestlers than ever before. There's more interesting wrestling characters that the fans are more behind,'' Stratus said. "I'm so thrilled to be involved in a time like this. Man, I just hope for bigger and better things to come in the division.''
In 1997, Trish was attending York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, studying biology and kinesiology when the university went on strike. She then became a fitness model and appeared on the Canadian TV show TSN's Off the Record with several wrestlers. This led to her signing with WWE in November 1999. She made her television debut March 2000.
The York University strike seems to have been a blessing in disguise.
''Last year, I thought, `I'm happy where I am. I've been in the business for two years, and I'm actually in contendership for the belt. I couldn't have asked for a better scenario,''' Stratus said. "Now, I'm happy at three years with WWE."
Fit Finlay, a former wrestler and current WWE road agent, has put great effort into raising the bar in the women's division.
''[Finlay] has been really great. He's kind of stepped back and watched us personally. I think everyone has a personal style once they get in the ring,'' Stratus said. "So he's been really good at assessing us once we get in the ring and what sort of things our character would do in the ring."
"The great thing is he's very encouraging as far as saying `You know what? You can do that too.' Then I would do it, and I'd be like, 'I can, too.' So he's been really encouraging saying, ''Give that a shot. Try that,''' said Stratus. ''He's really motivating us and encouraging us. He's very supportive of us, and we definitely could not have done it without him.'' An example of the confidence WWE displays in their divas surfaced at Wrestlemania X-8 as Stratus, Lita and Jazz competed after the famed Hulk Hogan/Rock dream match.
''Wrestlemania X-8 was incredible. Yeah. That was certainly a highlight of my career. It was a real enjoyable experience,'' said Stratus.
Agreeing with fellow diva Lita, Stratus feels that while women are gaining more exposure on television, their storylines tend to be sub-par.
''I feel that sometimes we do have a story rolling, and it seems like not as much focus is put in the story as I'd like to. Thankfully we get a chance,'' Stratus said. "We have an allotted amount of time in the ring that we are able to tell our story physically. You always hope for the best."
''But right now, there are so many main event fields and so many storylines. I can only sit back and appreciate that time [on an event with] [Hulk] Hogan, Rock and [Steve] Austin,'' said Stratus. ``Hopefully our time and development will come.''
With all the momentum this young diva has been building, Stratus seems to have a bright career ahead. However, she has not changed her philosophy. Live life day to day.
''I have to take it one day at a time, because I would have never predicted for myself to be where I am today character-wise and as a person. So I certainly can't predict the future,'' Stratus said. 'I just know I'll be delivering `Stratusfaction.' Every time I go out to the ring I try to just improve upon the last time. You know, improve upon what I've done, build my character and entertain the fans.''
So what makes Stratus such a fan favorite? The answer can be seen at any RAW event. As soon as Stratus leaves her car, she signs as many autographs as possible for fans.
''I really believe that it's the fans that make us. If [the fans] didn't cheer for me, then I wouldn't be popular. I really depend on the fans to get behind me. When I feel the energy in the crowd, that's what gets me going in the ring,'' Stratus said. "As a fan myself before I got into the business, I recognize what it's like to be one."
"I have my website www.trishstratus.com that I spend a lot of time on and try to update for fans as much as I can because I realize it's the fans support that helps me get along.''
Stratus is currently feuding with Jazz and Victoria in WWE's stellar women's division.