Taya Valkyrie is riding high. Having been one of the most impressive and sought-after wrestlers on the Mexican scene, she is now one of the top talents at Impact wrestling.
Rumoured to be a focus for other companies, part of a power couple with John Morrison, dynamic, daring and a thrill to watch; its no wonder wrestling fans are backing her in Impact. In the UK for a short tour, Taya was good enough to give TWM her thoughts on her wrestling past, insight into her wrestling present and thoughts on her future plans. Read on to find out where she got her name, what her parents think of her career and whether she has any hard feelings with the other Valkyrie on the wrestling circuit.
You trained in Ballet, what was the conversation with your parents like when you said you were going to give that and modelling up, and going to be a wrestler?
Well, it was an interesting one. I don’t think my parents thought very much of it when I first started training. I don’t know if they actually thought that I would continue to do it. I don’t come from a wrestling family, so I just think they were like “this is just a kind of a fun thing that Taya’s doing”. As soon as I moved to Mexico, I think that was the biggest shock. I still think, even if you asked them they would deny this, but I still think that when I was in Mexico they just thought this was a hobby and a passion of mine but not something I would really do forever.
It wasn’t until they started coming to visit me in Mexico City, I brought my mum to Triplemania for example, when I won the Reina de Reinas title for the first time, where she realised the scale of what I was doing. Because obviously in Canada they don’t have AAA on TV. Even on YouTube, the assumption of anything on YouTube is “oh that’s cute”, they didn’t really get it. When I brought my mum and my dad separately to Lucha Underground that’s really when they realized, the extent of it, to the point of “so I guess that’s what we’re doing now”, “this is her life”. Honestly, when I started wrestling, I kind of explained it in a way that they could relate to.
So, I’d say, “you know, it’s performance art, it’s entertainment”. I would give comparisons between dance or theatre and things, to pro-wrestling. That was how they started to understand what it was. Now my mum wants to sit front row and throw things at people! She knows exactly what it is! I know they’re so thankful that I found and followed my passion because pro-wrestling has been the last ten years of my life. I’ve been able to wrestle some of the best men and women throughout the world. I have travelled, lived in other countries, learned another language, found my husband. It’s just been this amazing evolution.
They’re definitely on board and they’ve always believed in me or they’re very good at convincing me of it, ha! They’ve always just let me be the free spirit that I am. I’ve never done things in a very normal way. If there’s a box they try to put me in, I’m breaking it. They’ve known that about me since I was a little kid. So, they knew I’d be following my heart and they truly have belief in me and have been that great support system through it all.
You moved on and went to Lance Storm’s training academy. How did you get into it?
I found out about Lance’s school because after I did the Arnold Classic, I came in second place, and WWE emails me. I was like “Oh my gosh, what is happening! Everything’s working out like I planned, ha!” I did my first try-out and I was not selected. I actually had my try-out at the same time as Celeste Bonin, who became Kaitlyn. I didn’t get picked, they told me that they really liked my work, they thought I had a lot of potential and to look at Calgary and find Storm Wrestling Academy.
So, I went online and did a little Google search, as anyone else would, and found Lance’s school and wrote an email. He invited me in to have a meeting with him and there were three, four-month kind of training sessions. His September training had already started and was about two weeks in, so he said if I think you can join this group, I’ll add you directly to it. So, when I went to have the meeting, he wanted to see me run and show some athleticism. He said I could join the training group and the rest is history. I ended up doing two different sessions with him back-to-back. I’m forever grateful I found that school, and him, because there are tons of schools out there.
I always tell people, if they want to be a pro-wrestler, go and find the best, most reputable school because that’s how you’re going to have that foundation. I had the best foundation coming from Lance Storm.
Did he come up with your ring name? How did that come about?
It’s really not even that exciting! Haha! My best friends and I talk, and I was like “I need a name!”. My real name is Kira and I didn’t want to be Kira. So, I made my girlfriends write lists of names and we picked what was Taya, it was pronounced Taye-ya at first, from that list. I wanted it to be short because my whole life I grew up having a four-letter name. I wasn’t about to begin now calling myself something long and complicated. Then Valkyrie came because I am of Norwegian descent, Norwegian family on my mother’s side.
I’ve also always been fascinated with the idea of Vikings and things like that, obviously, that comes from the Valkyrie Goddess. So, it was also from a friend of mine that came up with that idea. Then when I went to Mexico, they kept calling me Taya (pronounced tie-ya) and I kept correcting them. Perro Aguayo Jr and Konan were like “stop correcting them! You’re Taya”. Because they couldn’t pronounce Taye-ya, and Valkyrie was really hard for them because V’s are pronounced as B’s in Spanish, so people were calling me all kinds of different things which is why in Triple A and in Lucha Underground they just called me Taya.
Have you been getting lots of Google alerts for a wrestling Valkyrie? Because there’s also a UK wrestler, Aoife Valkyrie.
I did see that. I think she’s doing NXT UK. Someone was getting us confused. I don’t really know anything about her, but she does have a very nice name, ha!
You’re with Impact, what chance of the company visiting the UK anytime soon? You’re here, can’t you bring everyone else with you?
I know! I’ve always heard so much about TNA and Impact coming to the UK. I would absolutely love to have a giant Impact show. The UK fans have been incredibly supportive, thank-you to everybody out here, and in Europe as a whole, who follows me. I see all your tweets; I see all your stuff and I’m really, really thankful for all the support that we get from over here. I think its time, it’s long overdue that Impact comes over here and does a big show for all of you.
You’ve been in Impact some time now. What’s the programme you’ve most enjoyed working? And why?
I will go with two answers. I loved working with Rosemary, because she is such a creative soul. Everything about her is creative and interesting and different. She makes me think about things about my character that I never would have thought of. She creates layers in things that you wouldn’t even imagine, and I think she’s really helped the character, and as a person, has helped me create layers to the Taya character. She’s been so amazing to work with inside and outside the ring. I think our funny little dynamic that we have going right now is some of the most fun I’ve ever had in segments, backstage.
Then obviously I’m going to go with Tessa Blanchard because me and Tessa have a long history that’s translated throughout a very long time in Impact wrestling and in AAA. We both push each other physically, mentally, we both have the same amount of drive and love for this business and we’re both very stubborn. We both just want to be the best. When you have two people clanging heads who are just trying to outdo each other, that’s when you have these epic matches. I think we did that last year and I’m looking 100% right in her direction for 2020 because I believe I’m the number 1 contender for the Impact world championship. So maybe we will see that happen again and you can bet your butt that it will be an epic re-invention of our rivalry. We’ve both come so far since last year, and I’m very excited to do that again.
On championships, do you think we need to see the word ‘knockouts’ changed? It’s a women’s division and a women’s title. Is knockout outdated or misogynist perhaps?
No. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I’m an advocate for women’s equality, for us getting the same opportunities, and obviously, Impact is a company that is at the forefront of that. With the way, it pushes the women in the number of matches we have on television shows, the fact that we main event, the fact that Tessa is the World Champion, we are at the forefront.
I don’t think we need to change the name Knockout because when I watched TNA-Impact years ago, I wanted to be a Knockout. Maybe it’s nostalgia, I think the women that were considered Knockouts before us were always the baddest bitches! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I am proud to be a Knockout, to be a woman, and I don’t think people should take that away from us. I don’t have a problem with it, I’m sure lots of people will disagree with me but too bad! I’m the one on this interview, ha! I just don’t see anything wrong with it and I’m proud to represent women, proud to be a Knockout and to continue the legacy that the Knockouts before me laid out. I’ll continue to be a Knockout, for sure.
What does it mean to you to be the longest reigning Knockouts champion? That’s quite accomplishment.
I mean, it’s a lot of pressure because I’ve been put in a category with people I look up to SO much. People that really shaped this division, that shaped my opinion of women’s wrestling, that laid down the bricks that led us to where we are now. To where we have two or three girl matches on a show, when a woman is the world champion. If it wasn’t for those people, we wouldn’t be here.
I think that TNA and Impact were a huge part in, if not the people that started, what people are referring to the women’s evolution or revolution. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here today and for me to be considered in that category, as the longest reigning Knockouts champion of all time, is just very humbling. It’s a testament to how much hard work I’ve put in over the last nine years of my career. I’m forever grateful and thankful and I hope that I continue to build this legacy and keep it going for everyone that will come after me.
Impact can be seen weekly in the UK, from 2am Wednesdays on IMPACT Plus, 9pm Wedesdays on the Fight Network UK (Sky 192/Freesat 161/TVPlayer.com and app) and a repeat at 9pm Sunday and circa 11pm Fridays on 5Star.
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @DannyStone1. Thanks for reading!