Well over a decade ago Madison Rayne was a 4.0 student in nursing school on her way to a sure thing
An unwavering passion for pro wrestling led the Ohioan to trade all that in for an opportunity to live out a dream.
The 31-year-old recalls Ring of Honor providing a big break early in the journey. Fast forward to today, Rayne has returned to the company and gearing up to participate in a tournament to crown the first-ever Women of Honor champion.
The company gave me the chance to test myself against the best women’s wrestlers at the time,” she said.
“Daizee Haize, Sara Del Rey, Serena Deeb. Here I was this 21-year-old terrified girl, who probably had no business being in a match with those caliber athletes at the time. I have always been grateful to Ring of Honor. To have it come full circle really is exciting. There is no other place in my career at the moment I would rather be.”
Rayne returns to ROH as one of the most decorated competitors in women’s wrestling. A former five-time women’s Knockouts champion, she was part of Impact Wrestling when the ladies were making waves and history.
“The Knockouts division was a launching point for women’s wrestling all those years ago,” Rayne said.
“I know right now there is a lot of contention of, ‘Well, the Knockouts started the Women’s Revolution.’ At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The Knockouts in 2007 did their thing and probably inspired many who are doing it now in WWE and Ring of Honor and Impact. I hate getting caught up into who did it and who did it better. I think for many years it has been growing and getting bigger and better. It makes me feel good that I was part of this first generation and did it at such a young age. I think I was 21 when I had my first tryout match at TNA. I’ve done it for so long. I’m in that really good spot involved heavily back then and involved into it now. It’s fun.”
She can feel the same type of atmosphere of hungry women attempting to build something special from the ground up in ROH.
“Deonna Purrazzo, Kelly Klein, Mandy Leon and Sumi Sakai, those women laid the foundation for what Women of Honor is right now,” she said.
“I have the opportunity to come in now to put my name and brand on the division. Brandi Rhodes is doing the same thing…Back when I was wrestling infrequently with them, they had some incredible names and could have easily formed a championship and division. But I don’t think women’s wrestling was where it is right now.
“There was a lull in the amount of activity women had at Ring of Honor for a few years. I would say this is the perfect time for them. Women’s wrestling is probably at its highest point right now. So, for Ring of Honor to capitalize on it, I think it’s brilliant because I think Ring of Honor is growing just as quickly as women’s wrestling is going. I feel like it only makes sense right now.”
Rayne created a buzz last year after news broke of her attending a tryout at the WWE Performance Center. The driven star was able to add another experience to an already impressive resume.
“I’ve been doing this for a really long time. If nothing else, it was so gratifying for me to be there,” she said.
“It’s so rewarding for me because I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my career. I was signed with TNA three years after I started. So, I have never been an extra for WWE or had a tryout. I’ve never done anything with them prior to last October. To finally be there and see it all and see how professionally it’s run and what a well-oiled machine it is, and wrestle in a WWE ring. It was amazing. The burning question since then has been, ‘Well, what now? ‘I don’t know. Will I go back? I don’t know. Right now, I’m humbled to have had the opportunity. I’m equally as humbled to be asked and received back to Ring of Honor last November when I re-debuted there.”
The in-demand talent believes being a “free agent” has its pros and cons.
“I think in 2018 it’s fun and exciting to be able to control your own narrative and go where you want and do what you want,” Rayne said.
“It’s also very gratifying to have a company who wants to invest in you and wants to put their branding on you and bring you on board. I don’t really know what I would prefer at this point. I want to have a contract and have that be home. Then I start doing all these things that make it exciting for me to be a ‘free agent.’
“I don’t know what the right thing is. I’m just going to do what works best for me and my family and for my life. Right now, getting to go everywhere and do everything and wrestle so many different women. I was with Impact for so long and have this group of women who are now lifelong friends and I’ve traveled the world with, but now I’m getting to branch out more and wrestle different people and different crowds.”
Rayne built a worldwide fan base thanks to her involvement with Impact Wrestling. Toward the end of the former Beautiful People member’s lengthy tenure with the company she was able to take on other duties behind and in front of the camera. Rayne became more involved in the creative process and tabled in color commentary as well.
“All credit goes to John Gaburick and Christy Hemme because they first carved out that position. It was something that Christy brought to John saying, ‘This is something I can do and do it well.’ So, just like he did with me, here is the ball. It’s up to you to run with it.
“She did, and I feel like I did the same thing. I could go on and on for an hour about how I love being a part of the creative process and loved getting to put my creative brain toward helping other women and talent. I was primarily focused on the Knockouts.
“It was so much fun. Producing that’s story with Laurel and Allie and Braxton Sutter and Mike and Maria Kanellis, that was my little baby. John let me take the ball and run with it. I wrote that whole storyline and sketched out all those pre-tapes. The talent, they’re the ones who put the whole thing together. Credit for them on that. The pride I felt watching it unfold backstage as it was happening, it made me almost as excited, if not more, than having a really good match of my own. It was really cool, I enjoyed my time on the creative time. Forever grateful for that.”
Impact will also hold a special place in the Rayne’s heart for another reason. It’s where she got together with Josh Mathews. The mother of a four-year-old daughter name Charley married the commentator in 2015.
“It’s awesome because we found our groove,” she said.
“We’re both for many years have been involved in wrestling one way or another. But at the same time, we try not to let that be our dialogue every day and night in our house. As it relates to wrestling, he has such a brilliant mind for the business, as he should since he has been around it since age 19.
“It’s nice for me to be able to go to him and get his feedback and thoughts on things. He tells me very honestly. Whether I like it or not, he will give me his opinion straight. And I appreciate that. He never forces his opinion or thoughts on me. We have this really good happy balance of when and where and how much we talk about wrestling. It’s good. Really good.”
Besides caring for a child preparing for kindergarten and wrestling regularly, Rayne is finishing up a personal training certification. She also never gave up on following in the footsteps of her mom by continuing to take classes within the nursing program. Somehow Rayne found time in 2017 to refine her in-ring skills as well. For Rayne, it was about reinvention and going back to the beginning by honing skills and adding some moves.
She wanted to be prepared for ROH’s competitive style with the potential to go 12-15 minutes in faster paced matches. Rayne looks forward to seeing all the work put in pay off in Women of Honor. The veteran speaks highly of the other female stars in the division including Purrazzo, who she refers to as the gem who is going to set Women of Honor on fire. In addition, Rayne is thrilled to be facing Leon in the first round of the title tournament at the TV taping on January 20 in Nashville.
“She is one of the ones I haven’t had the opportunity to be in the ring with. I’m looking forward to it,” Rayne said.
“She is one of the faces of Women of Honor. I think it’s going to be a really good match. I also think I will come out of top. It’s humbling that they would think enough of me and my abilities to put me in there with one of their homegrown talent and top girls.”
Ring of Honor television can be seen in syndication through Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliates, online and Sundays, 10/9c, CHARGE! TV.