By Scott Fishman
Iconic WWE diva Trish Stratus has gone from kicking butt in the ring to battling it out with bad guys in her feature film debut “Bounty Hunters.”
The blonde bombshell portrays Jules Taylor, a fearless member of a team of bounty hunters. It’s not only her first movie, but first time fans have seen her on camera fighting in a schoolgirl outfit since the WWE Taboo Tuesday pay-per-view in 2004.
For Stratus, who retired from full-time competition in 2006, coming from a wrestling background helped make a smoother transition into the film.
“The number one question when I retired from wrestling that I always got was, ‘Will you go into acting,’ Stratus said. “It is nothing that I am actively pursuing. However, it is something that I always said, and it is much like I say with wrestling, if something exciting and challenging landed on my desk or came across me, I would entertain it. So that is what happened with the movie.”
There were several reasons she took on the physically demanding role.
“First it was held in Canada and supporting the Canadian independent film scene was important to me,” Stratus said. “Then there also was the fact that I could do a fight movie, and it’s an action movie. They proposed to me that I could do my own fight scenes. I came on in a sort of producer role so I could produce the fight scenes. That to me was what sealed the deal for me. Basically Jules Taylor is Trish Stratus. So it was an easy transition into my first film project.”
The fitness guru was already in great shape due to her healthy and active lifestyle, as well as her commitment to Stratusphere yoga. Though getting into fighting shape was a different story.
“At the point when they approached me I opened a yoga studio up in Toronto and was building my Stratusphere brand,” Stratus said.
“So I was all about the yoga when this project came along. Then of course I’m a bounty hunter here, so I had to play this badass bounty hunter chick. I realized I had to go back and do some training. I was learning a new fighting art in Krav Maga, which is the Special Ops Israeli fighting [style]. So I knew that was going to entail being physical again and not just acting like a fighter, but being a fighter again.
“I started doing some new training for myself, which was part of how I ended up creating my own version of yoga in Stratusphere Yoga. That is how I ended up developing my own brand and style of yoga, which was about creating a yoga flow with strength training movements. Then I actually got into the dojo learning Krav Maga with my nemesis in the film Andrea James Lui (Ruby). It was basically to develop the fighting, the fight scenes and the choreography.
“Something that I knew was important from wrestling was I wanted to work closely with Andrea so we can work one-on-one because that chemistry is key to creating a scene and creating good fight moments. It was the same for me and Jazz or me and Victoria. That was the chemistry between us which created those neat moments. The prep work was mostly to prepare myself as a fighter and to get badass again.”
Stratus had experience in front of a camera, besides wrestling. Among them was guest star on comedy sketch show “MADtv” and on the CBS reality show “Armed & Famous.” Stratus believes those are different from her work in WWE.
“In wrestling you are used to doing it live and getting a reaction and kind of vibing off the energy of a crowd. Live entertainment can’t be compared to anything. It was a big difference, but to be honest, Patrick [McBrearty], the director, was really cool in taking a unique approach to the fighting scenes. He tried this thing where he let us roll with the fight and let’s see what happened.”
It is because of this the movie produces action that comes off more authentic. Stratus said even though there were the usual cutaways and takes, with fight scenes like the one with Lui and Boomer Phillips (Chase) in a bathroom, it was done in one shot. There is another memorable brawl in the film with the Canadian beauty and Lui in a moving ambulance that was done in the same and natural way.
“We approached it not as stunt people, but as fighters,” Stratus said. “She comes from a martial arts background and I come from a wrestling background. We meshed well.”
In addition to the movie, which recently came out on DVD, the savvy businesswomen has build her Stratusphere brand beyond her studio into a workout DVD and signature products. The Toronto native also has been interacting with many who have found success using her techniques, which has been a rewarding experience for her. A Stratusphere Living 30-day fitness challenge had almost 400 people signup. Yoga has greatly enhanced her life, and she wants that for others.
“Initially I did it to rehab a back injury,” Stratus said. “I didn’t think it was something I would continue doing when I went back to wrestling. It’s the recovery time and you become more agile, but also don’t forget the stress that comes with WWE when it’s go, go, go. You barely have a moment to yourself. It made me a better performer, but I was able to assimilate what I was doing and control the stress. It’s a different approach.
“I know when I went back to ‘Tough Enough’ that I was going to bring some yoga to the Tough Enough kids because I know this is what made me a great performer. I still keep up with them like Luke Robinson on Twitter and A.J. Kirsch, and they still do the yoga. I definitely recommend for any wrestler to have an element of yoga in there because it really will increase the longevity of your career. I feel like if I started 10 years earlier then I would probably be wrestling today.”
The former seven-time women’s champion was part of one of the most successful and competitive times in the diva’s division. Compared then to now, there is criticism from fans that the female performers aren’t given enough time or attention. For Stratus, it’s more about quality than quantity.
“Jazz and I were given that same two-minute timeslot and were regarded the same,” Stratus said. “We were just two chicks where there were the puppy chants and things like that. It was up to us to put something together that was so memorable or out of the box or giving them a certain level of entertainment or performance for the fans. At the end of the day it is what Vince [McMahon] and the other members of production want, but they are very much about what the fans want.
“We said we need the fans to demand more women so we went out there and tried to give them a match where they think, ‘Man, I’m not going to chant puppies anymore. I’m actually going to cheer for more of this.’ Then suddenly we found that because the interest has grown from the fans that allowed our ideas to be spoken louder to the production team. I kind of see it as my or their responsibility.
“I always said, whatever time they give you, it is your responsibility to make those the best one, two, three or five minutes you have because that is your opportunity to give the fans what they demand to see more of you.
“I think when Beth Phoenix and Natalya started the ‘Pin-Up Strong’ movement, it was all them creating this and making the fans want it and creating that chatter on Twitter. At the end of the day it helps to have the WWE backing. We’ve seen it with Eve and her storyline gaining traction. There is more interest for fans, and that is a great thing. It’s about creating memorable moments no matter what you are given. It’s also great to have the backing, character development and all that, which is key to making it stick.”
Stratus has seen a number of divas taking on diverse roles onscreen.
“I think what WWE got away from was keeping it just the women,” Stratus said. “You have two women feuding then they put a mishmash of eight people in there, so nobody gets a real focus. I think what was key was seeing the women in the men storylines like we have seen with Rosa Mendes out there with the guys. It gives them the opportunity to be out there with other characters. We are seeing them in valet roles a little bit more, and that helps highlight them and allows character development happen. It seems like they are moving in the right direction.”
Many members of the WWE Universe have been less than thrilled with Natalya’s latest character development. Stratus has seen moments over the years she was involved in that caused a similar response, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
“A lot of my interviews lately have been about Nattie’s flatulence,” Stratus said. “I kept saying, ‘Well, she is getting two minutes of TV time now, where she maybe wasn’t getting any time to talk’. She texted me thanking her for the support.
“You can easily say that you are outraged and that she shouldn’t be disrespected because she is a Hart after all. Look at Santino’s gimmick. He was the joke, and they made fun of him. People used to say to me it was a shame because he was a good wrestler. Guess what? He is now a champion. You never know. When they asked me to do the worm with Too Cool, I was like, ‘Really? Ok, who cares? It’s fun.’ It’s a moment to show a little side of yourself, and who knows what can stick. It may people like you a little bit more.”
Stratus still gets asked about the infamous segment on Raw where the diva had to get on all fours and bark like a dog.
“There is always an ultimate plan,” Stratus said. “I still talk about that moment with people asking me how I felt about it. It was great. It was so key in my character development at that point. It led to this, ‘I’m a women, hear me roar kind of moment’ where I stood up to Vince McMahon at WrestleMania. To stand up to Vince McMahon at WrestleMania is a huge moment as a character on the show. It was definitely a turning point in my career. You never know what moments are good and bad or what they can be turned into.”
Stratus had a hand in many WrestleMania moments. With a limited amount of slots on the big event’s card, performers like her see it as an honor to entertain on the grand stage.
“I have the luxury of being in every WrestleMania I was really around for,” Stratus said. “Thankfully it was just a moment to where we got the time we wanted. You know there is only so much time, so you are just excited to be part of it and have a storyline culminate at WrestleMania. I look back to my match with Mickie [James] and moment. The storyline we had going into it was months and months of development…There was that somewhat controversial yay and boo moment [with the reaction from the crowd], which was fantastic because people were so vocal and engaged in our storyline.
“I was very lucky in that regard. Then going back with Snooki and that neat highlight last year, it’s about creating these fun moments and getting to mix it up with new people is always exciting as well.”
The history-making diva is looking forward to what WWE puts together for the divas at this year’s WrestleMania.
“If I was booking it, I would have had Kharma and Beth run strong leading up to ‘Mania,” Stratus said. “I think that would be an epic match. I really do. I would love to see those two go. It’s funny how Twitter can give you a real pulse about what the fans are thinking. Initially, people were telling me that Beth and I would be amazing.
“Then of course Kharma came back at the Royal Rumble and people said Kharma and I would be amazing. Now, with the Eve storyline, they are saying Eve and I would be amazing. So it’s interesting to see the minute there is a highlight on TV I get that. Kharma coming back was an exciting moment because they saw her and Beth as two characters that can really see go.
“So I think anything to show what women can deliver would be good. Tamina and Beth having that match [at Elimination Chamber] were great because it was a reminder that, yeah, they are women and watch this match. I would like to see them build on that momentum and give the fans something that they won’t expect would be a good thing.”
Stratus is respected throughout the industry for all she accomplished in WWE. She is grateful to have led such intelligible mark.
“It’s great and humbling,” Stratus said. “That is what you spend your career doing. When I decided to leave the business, I wanted to leave a legacy and be able to know that I created a career I can be proud of. If they are looking up to me, that is great. We were given tremendous opportunities back in the day as well. I was able to learn and take advantage of them. I’m in touch with a lot of the girls right now in giving them advice or encouragement.
“For me, I don’t know the backstage dynamic right now, but Fit Finlay was someone I spoke to weekly about what we are going to do, which always sparked new ideas. Whatever I can do to encourage that and support it to create or aide a women’s division that is what we had back in the day or better. We always wanted to showcase the women’s division in a positive light and show we could offer everything a male competitor could offer.”
Although Stratus is off the road performing every night for WWE, she has made a few appearances over the years. In a similar position as The Rock, short stints have had its share of backlash.
“When people say, ‘The Rock is back, and that is not fair.’ I look at it as The Rock is back and giving wrestling mainstream attention,” Stratus said. “It’s getting interest for WrestleMania and WWE, and he is an amazing performer, so you can’t knock that. It’s a great thing.
“I know when I came back I wasn’t there to take a spot so to speak, I was there to serve a purpose. I was there to promote ‘Tough Enough’. We elevated the status of the match because it got a lot of mainstream attention, which is something they try to do every WrestleMania. It’s about getting new eyeballs, new viewers and use them to draw them in.
“WWE is very strategic. They never bring in someone just to take someone’s spot away. They do it because they are trying to enhance the product. So I believe if it’s me or someone else who comes back, as long as it enhances the product or the moment, then I definitely support that.”
• Dish with Trish
Thoughts on fellow Canadian Edge being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame? Are you soon to join him?
“I’m so proud of him. I think Adam does deserve it. I think it’s very fitting the way his career came to an end. This is just an amazing exclamation point for that. For me, of course, it was like winning the women’s championship. I went into the business hoping to become the best women’s wrestler ever and winning the women’s championship was the ultimate goal. As I wrapped up my career the ultimate goal was to leave a legacy and be remembered for everything I did. So a WWE Hall of Fame induction is something that would be a way of recognizing that. One could only hope.”
Will there be a second season of “Tough Enough”? Will you return as trainer?
“Absolutely zero word. I think there is a focus on the launch of the WWE Network, and that is a huge undertaking. I think once there is a clear idea on individual programming, I think that is when we will get a clear idea if or when there would be a season two. It’s a timing thing. I had a great time doing it. When they called me, I happened to be available. So if I’m available, and they have me back, of course I would entertain it.”
Will you be in Miami for WrestleMania?
“No plans at this point. I will kick back and watch it like every other fan out there. I’m actually really excited about this year’s WrestleMania.”
Who do you have: The Rock or John Cena?
“It’s hard for me to answer that question because I can answer as a fan or a booker. To be honest, after watching in the past weeks, I’m not sure what they are going to do. Vince is sneaky. The minute you think he is going to go this way, there is a swerve on you. It was like my WrestleMania with [Chris] Jericho. I thought we were going walk away as this new babyface couple until I got there that day when I found out I was about to have my heel turn. I’m telling you eight months of storyline leading up to me and Jericho being the big babyface couple who were going to be this sarcastic. corky, babyface couple that we really haven’t seen before. We were really excited about it. Vince brought us into a room and said, ‘You know, I have this idea.’ Nobody knew what to think. His instinct was super dead on. It really took my career in a whole different direction, which was great. Vince has that way of dealing it out. I’m just interested and going in not know what is going to happen. I’m feeling it is going to be as iconic as the Hulk Hogan/Rock match at WrestleMania 18 with that same energy in the building. I’m excited to see that.”
Anymore film projects?
“Amy [Lita] and I have talked about making a movie. There are these old school movies with the Luchadoras. It goes back on the Santo movie. We talked about developing it. We kind of developed it some, and it kind of went away because things got busy. We recently got together and started chatting about it again. I think that is something that could come to light.”