By John Allman
For anyone who watched World Wrestling Entertainment in the late 1990s, early 2000s there were always a handful of personalities that shined brightest.
There were the epic storylines – Triple H stealing Stephanie McMahon from Test; The Undertaker coming back from the grave to face his brother, whom he disfigured; and the rise, fall and rise of D-generation X.
And there were the ladies – the female wrestlers who eventually became known as the WWE Divas.
One of the most popular, if not most popular, Diva was Trish Stratus, a stunning blonde fitness model who came to embody everything that was fun, and entertaining, about professional wrestling.
Stratus won over fans with a mix of girl next door and sultry femme fatale. She wowed with a wardrobe that was incredibly sexy, but not scandalous. She held her own as much on the microphone as in the ring, and Stratus’ fight skills often outshined any of the female athletes she faced. Most telling, however, was how her popularity survived and prospered even against the most ridiculous or degrading of storylines.
Stratus retired from wrestling in 2006, after winning a record seventh women’s championship belt.
Unlike her contemporaries, Steve “Stone Cold” Austin and Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, she didn’t try to capitalize on her appeal immediately by leaping into feature films. She returned home to Canada, returned to yoga, a practice that had helped her recuperate from a serious injury, and opened Stratusphere Yoga outside Toronto.
Now, less than five years later, she has her own line of yoga equipment, she’s launched a successful exercise DVD and she is appearing in her first movie, “Bounty Hunters,” playing a character that is quintessential “Trish Stratus,” a no-nonsense, sexy babe who kicks butt and can hold her own against any man.
The film, a low-budget action-comedy, by director Patrick McBrearty and writer Reese Eveneshen doesn’t try to do anything outside its comfort zone. The pace is fast, the fight scenes are shot well and feature truly rough, hand-to-hand combat that exceeds even the most hardcore MMA releases of late, and it’s funny.
Stratus took time to speak to BVB: Blood, Violence and Babes from Canada, chatting about her return to physical combat, her hands-on role in making a debut film that would please action fans and her love of yoga.
I really enjoyed “Bounty Hunters.” It was kind of a return to old-school, action comedies that you used to see in the 1980s and early 1990s, and I thought you did great. You have a definite screen presence, and you actually came off like a seasoned veteran even though this is your first lead role.
I loved doing it. I definitely was the newbie on board. I guess I was doing a role that wasn’t exactly a stretch.
I read the script (and) truly, Trish Stratus jumped off the page to me. The director wrote the script with me in mind. He was from Toronto. He knew of me, my wrestling career. Like I say, it wasn’t a huge stretch for me. I was pretty much playing Trish.
Stratus said she did all of her own stunts, which was an important component for her.
I wouldn’t have them any other way. I would be embarrassed to say I didn’t do (them). That was one of the other selling points. He told me the role was written with me in mind. He was really passionate about the fight scenes. I learned a new fighting style for the role – Krav Maga. It’s an Israeli special ops fighting, lots of hand to hand combat. I ended up being one of the producers on the film. I wanted to maintain the integrity of the fight scenes, and being one of the producers gave me the opportunity.
The fight scenes in “Bounty Hunters” are unique and different from most Hollywood action films. For one, they feature an up close intensity that Stratus says came from lots of training and working together with her co-stars.
I wanted to meet with Andrea (Andrea James Lui). She plays my nemesis in the film. I know how important it is from my wrestling days to have that trust, that relationship. When you kick someone’s butt, you really bond. We trained together, had a chance to get through the same bumps and bruises.
We decided we were going to kind of, no boundaries. She is a martial artist and also a stunt person. We tried to craft scenes – Patrick was really cool, going ‘Do what you’re comfortable doing.’ Instead of approaching it like stunt people, we approached it as fighters. I think that’s why the fight scenes are different. I’m really proud of the scenes.
One particular extended sequence features Stratus’ character Jules battling Lui’s Ruby in the back of a moving ambulance. The fight is brutal, with very little room for error given the confined quarters of the set.
That scene – that was one of the first scenes we filmed. We were at the dojo where we trained. We made this rectangle out of masking tape, this is the area we would fight in the back of an ambulance. Then we get there and it’s like, wait, it’s a real ambulance. We didn’t account for that. I went back to my wrestling roots. Let’s go into the environment, let’s see what we have to work with. We can use this. We made this organic fight scene right on the spot.
Everyone talks about the realism to my fight scenes. I know it’s because we approached these scenes as fighters. We know what it’s like to take a punch to the head, to get kicked in the head.
One impressive aspect of the fights in “Bounty Hunters” is that Stratus and her team is they aren;t your typical over-dominating, undefeatable heroes. They all get the snot beat out of them at one point or another before finally rallying for the win.
It’s classic Wrestling 101 storytelling. In order to have any sympathy, you have to get your ##### kicked first. It was a great opportunity. Thankfully I had the chance with Patrick to have that creative freedom.
Stratus said she isn’t actively pursuing a follow-up feature. If something interesting comes along, she would be eager to take on another acting challenge. But, for now, she’s content to continue building her brand, Stratusphere, and sharing her love of yoga with as many people as possible.
Stratus discovered yoga after suffering a herniated disc during her wrestling career. The practice helped her to rehabilitate her back, and she continued to perfect her yoga during her final years in the ring.
The yoga helped me approach what I was doing a little differently. It made me a better performer, mentally and physically.
Stratus got certified in Ashtanga yoga, a style whose practitioners include Madonna, and in 2007, she opened her first yoga studio north of Toronto. The facility’s website,http://stratusphereyoga.com/,is impressive and offers a look at the magnificent facility and its amenities.
She recently released her first DVD, Stratusphere Yoga, which fans can buy an autographed copy of on her website, along with their own copy of “Bounty Hunters.” She has her own line of workout gear, Stratusphere Living, which includes one-pound, weighted workout gloves, that is available in retail stores across Canada.
Fans might miss Trish Stratus from her wrestling days, but Stratus said many of her followers have kept up with her latest forays. They follow her on Twitter, often sharing their own personal stories.
I’ve seen my wrestling following go from ‘You should kick her butt!’ Now they’re going, ‘Trish, you would be proud. I accomplished Stratusphere Yoga.’