TNA knockout Gail Kim talks women’s wrestling boom and finding success in it

Scott Fishman

When you think of women’s pro wrestling, TNA knockout Gail Kim has been consistently one of the best to lace up the boots.

Whether it’s Impact Wrestling on Wednesday nights, live events or pay-per-views the Canadian strives to steal the show. The former WWE diva’s success within the business over 15 years can be traced to her in-ring aptitude and want to evolve. Fans have likened her new onscreen persona to female heroines or something right out of Mortal Kombat.

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“We were talking about this for a couple of years, to be honest,” Kim explained.

“It has always been the Gail Kim that everyone kind of saw me as, but I never was visually like that. Christy [Hemme] and I have talked about this look for probably over two years now. It just never happened. We did a photo shoot for it like two years ago. The thing was it was never the right time with storylines, people getting pregnant or injured. With the way I look at it, everything happens for a reason. I think it has happened at the perfect time.

“If you look at my career, I try not to get stale. I try to keep things fresh. There have been times where I did feel stale, but I try to change that. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I don’t want the fans to ever be bored. That’s why I attribute my wrestling style to always keeping it fresh and the matches interesting.

“That goes along with my look and character. I feel like this was the evolution of where I should be and what I envisioned probably at the beginning of my career. It just happened now. I would say it was more mysterious, but still Gail. I don’t want to be too serious because I still want the fans to connect to me and know it’s still me, but serious when I need to be in the ring. It just depends on the circumstance. Christy and I went through so many stages and finding the happy medium because ultimately I had to be comfortable with what I was wearing, how I was portrayed. I needed to feel that character. It all worked out in the end.”

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Kim has been tangling with the dangerous group known as the Doll House. The female faction started out with newcomers Jade and Marti Bell joining up with bombshell Taryn Terrell before adding Rebel. Kim has enjoyed working with them.

“With Jade and Marti, this was a long time coming for them,” Kim.

“They were part of One Night Only pay-per-views. All the girls were so supportive of them joining the roster. They are such pros and really respectful. We knew they had the passion and were working hard to get to that point. With Taryn, there were just things that had to change that fans don’t know about in terms of why Taryn turned heel. That’s up to creative to tell you. I can’t say, but when it happened I think everyone was kind of surprised.

“It was nice because in this business you can sort of see things coming a lot of times. She didn’t even see it coming. They told her she was going to turn heel and this was going to happen. I remember her and I talking about it, and she had never been a heel in her life. I said, ‘Don’t worry. You just have to find that zone and you will get used to it.’ Honestly, we all laughed because wow, she was so good at it. It was really good for her and Marti and Jade because they got to work with one of our top girls and characters. I think Jade is really strong in the ring, but got to explore a different character she would probably not do on the independents on her own. That’s how you learn. It’s been a great progression with all three of them.”

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The knockouts division has seen much change. This has been do business circumstances, pregnancies and everything in between. Though the one constant has been inaugural Knockouts champion, and the consummate performer takes pride in that.

“I think we’ve been through so many ups and downs with the girls,” she said.

“There was a time where just about everyone was gone for one reason or another, and we made it through. I felt we kept it strong. As long as I’m there, I know I’m going to make that effort to keep it at certain level. That’s just me. I feel like we want to represent the company really well. I always will have that discipline or need to make the division really good. As long as they keep me apart of it, I’ll always be giving my all. I think we are going to make it through. I think all the girls are very passionate. We all want the division to be great. With this whole women’s movement now in terms of UFC, WWE, everything is just becoming pro-women. We’ve always been like that, but now we have to step it up and deliver even more I feel.”

Despite her affiliation with TNA, Kim is a fan of all women’s wrestling. She is happy to see WWE put the spotlight on its female talent with the whole “Divas Revolution.”

IMG_1019“I made a comment on Twitter that we’ve been doing it all along, but that was not to bash any other company at all,” Kim said. “I think it’s great what they’re doing. I’ve been waiting for them to do that for years now. I think it’s great. I think they have a really great group of talent, especially the girls that have come up through NXT. I wish Nattie was a part of it because I don’t see how see she can’t fit into the equation. She should have been in there from day one. They just have a really good core group of girls. I really like Sasha [Banks]. I know she is a fan favorite.

“I just love what they’ve been doing. It’s so funny I saw a match I thought, ‘That’s so like TNA knockouts style.’ They are bringing it to another level, and I love it. I the saw Sasha and Bayley match. I just loved the psychology and the crowd was into it. It was great.

“Now I just feel they are doing it on the main stage. I think they really need storylines and characters. They can do what we’re doing. TNA is very good about pushing individual girls and letting them stand alone and develop their characters and stories that way. I think fans can connect on a deeper level. Just throwing three girls against three girls out there, it’s great they are giving them more time. Now they need to give them the storylines and so forth.”

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The veteran grappler couldn’t be more joyful about her life. A main reason for that is the love she has for husband, celebrity chef and Food Network staple Robert Irvine. Irvine can be seen at TNA events and Kim is often by his side when he works on his projects.

“We’re very fortunate enough that we can afford for me to travel with him when I’m not working,” she said.

“Our careers are very similar, but so different. We are both similar in the sense we are both in entertainment. We both travel a lot and very understanding of each other’s schedule. The only thing that’s really different is wrestling and food. I will say the one thing about meeting him, which was for the first time while I was with WWE, when you meet that person. I was at a point where I was so passionate about what I do, but I also know I needed to have balance in my life. He gave me that balance.

“In WWE, you have to give your life to them. You are giving your life to them probably on average five or more days a week. It’s just really hard on relationships. I was at a point where I was in love with this man and ready to have balance in my life. Honestly, TNA has always made me happier [career-wise] no matter what. I’ve always been happier in that environment. For me, it was a much more positive and supportive environment. That’s how I succeed in that environment. Then having the balance in my life as well, it just kind of all came to a culmination at that point. Now I’m just happy.”

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Much like many red-blooded males (and lots of females, too), I’m sure Irvine appreciates the finished product of Kim’s contribution to the new knockouts calendar. The 2016 edition features not only her, but Velvet Sky, Madison Rayne, Brooke Adams and the rest of the ladies of Impact Wrestling. For Kim, it’s a delicate dynamic for a women’s wrestling to be taken seriously in the ring, but also have the eye candy element to it.

“I definitely think as a woman in this business you have to have something about you, whether it’s your character or your sex appeal,” Kim said.

“I always felt when I started in this business and in WWE I didn’t know what my sex appeal was. As the years go on and you feel more comfortable in your own skin, I knew I wasn’t going to try to be Candice Michelle. I’m not going to try to be Torrie [Wilson] or whoever people thought was sexy. In my mind, my sexy is my sexy. My sexy is strong sexy. My sexy is athletic sexy than just being in the ring sexy. I dress the way I want to dress.

“I think the most important thing is to stay true to yourself. People like Lita or AJ [Lee] were two people in my mind who stuck to their guns in terms of who they were. In terms of a look, it was a little bit different than the other girls. Fans like that. They relate to them. They want to see that person say they are okay with who they are, and I’m sexy in my own way. I’ve stuck to that too. In the beginning, I entered in an era with a strong women’s division, but there was the Stacy Keibler’s and Torrie Wilson’s and Sable’s. I was so overwhelmed. Then I realized after a long time that I’m sexy in my own way.”

She takes the positive response of her likeness on calendars and posters as a compliment.

“We all work really hard for our physiques,” Kim said.

“When we see the end product, we are all so happy. I think most of us girls are very self-conscious about ourselves because of being under the magnifying glass and the need to be perfect at times and look great and be great in the ring. Once it’s all said and done and the company puts the calendar together, they do such a great job and fans are always happy. It’s a good feeling all the way around.”

  • Watch Impact Wrestling 9/8CT Wednesdays on Destination America.
  • See Gail Kim and the rest of the TNA roster perform during their biggest show of the year Bound for Glory 8/7CT Sunday, Oct. 4 live on pay-per-view.
  • Follow me on Twitter @smFISHMAN.

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Photos Courtesy: TNA Entertainment