Chelsea Green, better known as Laurel Van Ness, has been one of the brightest spots of a revitalized Impact Wrestling over the past year or so. Her 2017 was a whirlwind, as she went from jilted bride, to near-beau of Grado, to just generally being off in her own world. And now she’s the current, reigning Impact Knockouts Champion!
We recently spoke to Green/Van Ness about what it’s been like to work at Impact Wrestling during the changeover of leadership, how she created the Van Ness character, who contributes to her wacky decisions, and what it was like to find out she was going to win her first title in the company.
This is just an excerpt of our lengthy interview with Chelsea Green. For the complete conversation, make sure you check out the McMahonsplaining With Spandex Podcast.
WITH SPANDEX: In Impact, you’re not only getting to play a character, but you’re getting to play a character that’s evolved over the year, and has had periods of … sobriety? That’s my other question: Is Laurel Van Ness drunk, or is she just crazy? If you don’t wanna commit to an answer, that’s fine.
Chelsea Green: Let me tell you the evolution of LVN. She started out, yes, she got left at the altar, so she had champagne. She was drunk, a little drunk. Then she turned kind of crazy-drunk, then she turned more psycho drunk, but maybe she was coming off the alcohol? Maybe she was just crazy?
And then we had the Grado period. She sobered up, for about a day. Now, I think she’s just crazy, but outlandish, like out-there crazy, flamboyant, a little schizo, like split personality. So I’m kind of leaning towards the split personality character with hints of like, “Was she out last night? Did she maybe go to the club?” You know what I mean?
But I do wanna stay away from the drunkenness, only because I wanna show everyone in the Impact Zone, and everyone who’s watching that I am still a wrestler. So yes, we’ve done the character thing. I spent almost nine months not wrestling. I can wrestle, and be crazy, and be a character at the same time.
Where did the character start? Who’s responsible for Laurel Van Ness? I know you’re responsible for a lot of it, or all of it. Is it all you?
Well, everyone asks me that. It started out basically where, yes, when I was left at the altar, everything that happened after I was left at the altar, so me dropping down to my knees and being the most dramatic human in the world, that was me.
Then when I got to the back, everyone was leaving, that was the last day of tapings, and Dutch [Mantel] came up and said, “I just want you to cut a quick promo. We don’t know if we’re gonna use it. You’re gonna sit, and you’re gonna cry.” So as I was doing this promo, drinking champagne, which was real champagne, it was like my second bottle of champagne.
Oh yeah. I’m drinking the champagne, and he’s kind of shouting ideas at me, like, “Oh, sing. Sing ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.’ Do you know that song?” And I’m like, “Oh, sure.” He’s like, “Act crazier. One more take, but do it even crazier.” When that aired, it kind of took off in this weird way I never thought it would. So then when I came back for the next set of tapings they were like, “Okay, we’re gonna roll with this crazy bride. I think we’ll keep you in the dress.” I was like, “Oh, that’s cool.”
From there on it was them saying to me, “Do whatever you want and be as crazy as you want, and hopefully we have to tell you to dial it down.” So every time I went out there I did something crazier. You know, more outlandish than the last time I went out there.
But I can’t just say it was only me, because what I loved about Laurel, and I still love about Laurel is that every time I was kind of going through a match someone random in the locker room, it could have been Dutch, it could have been Abyss, it could have been EC3 or Spud. Random people have always had ideas. One idea, Pat Kenney was like, “Oh, you should do an airplane around Kong.” I was like, “Sure. Done.” He said that as I walking out, and then that became Laurel’s thing.
Someone else was like, “Hey, I saw this funny spot where you take the girl down, and then you pin her like Cameron from WWE. Pin her on her stomach, and you think that that’s real.” So then I’m like, “Easy. I’ll do that,” as I’m going out there again. And the next time it’s like, “Oh, you should get tangled up in the ropes, that’s funny. And then you should get hit with this move,” and I’m like, “Okay. Sure.” So it’s kind of like this weird character where it doesn’t matter what you tell me to do, I can go out and do it because I am the most unexpected kind of random character. Nothing that I do you question and be like, “Wait. Why?” You know what I mean? Because it’s fun like that.
There’s an actual context to it.
Yeah. So I’ve kind of taken random spots I’ve seen or random things people have been, “Oh, you should do this as a joke,” and I’m like, “Okay. Joke’s on you because I’m gonna do it,” but now I’m gonna go out there and be that ridiculous fool, or use champagne to fuel you, like ODB did. All these ridiculous things, I’m like, “Okay. Try it today. Maybe I won’t try it tomorrow but I’ll try it today.”
So it’s been this amazing combination of everyone’s ideas with my ridiculous facial expressions, you know what I mean?
What’s the secret to the makeup?
Oh my gosh. It’s my favorite thing ever. It’s so funny, because I go in in the morning and I get my makeup done. I’m looking good, I take selfies. Then they’re like, “Okay, Chelsea. You’re on in three matches,” and I’m just like [smearing] makeup all over my face. My lipstick’s going everywhere, and smudging my makeup.
So it’s always good makeup that you ruin?
It’s beautiful makeup. They do such a good job. Now it’s gotten to a point where I have mastered the awful look of smudging my makeup and doing my own hair. So now I come in, I’m like, “Hey. All you have to do is my eyes. Just make my eyes look pretty and I’m gonna mess it up, so I’m sorry in advance, but make me look pretty for right now. Make me feel pretty for a couple hours.”
Changing the subject briefly, to go back to something that you were mentioning, where you were like, “I’m just gonna get a suggestion I’m gonna try.” Do you think that’s undervalued in pro wrestling?
You know, if someone kind of got their big push off of a character, they want it to be like, “That was my idea.” Maybe you gave me the idea to be Laurel, you would tell everyone in the world that you … You know what I mean? Just like the wrestler wants to be like, “It was me, it was all me.” I just think at the end of the day I don’t have the best ideas for spots, I don’t have the best ideas for my character. There’s always gonna be other people’s input that’s gonna make you evolve and make you grow as a wrestler, as a character.
So I don’t understand why you wouldn’t take people’s suggestions, but I do understand on the flip side that everybody wants to have come up with that character, you know? Everyone’s claiming that someone else stole their idea or this and that. It’s just like, I couldn’t care less.
For Laurel Van Ness, for Chelsea Green, what was the tumult behind the scenes at Impact like for you? Did any of that impact you at all, no pun intended?
You know what? It’s upsetting when I hear negative stuff in the media about Impact, because the locker room is awesome. I like everyone that works for Impact. I have a really good time when I go there and I get to just chill in catering with anyone. I can sit at any table in catering and be friends with any person at that table. Anyone who sets up the ring, who does the lighting, who does production, who writes, who wrestles. We’re all friends and I really like that. We’ve come together as this unit to protect Impact, I like to think. We’re a little bit of a family in that sense, we have to go through these ups and downs together. The changes between TNA, Global Force, Impact, back and forth, that hasn’t affected me, because at the end of the day I’m coming in, I’m doing my job for the week.
So for anyone who says that that affected them, I think maybe those are the people that are on the salary end of things, that maybe have to deal with the creative aspects going back and forth, or maybe their contracts are changing. But for me, it’s been fairly steady. Yes, we’ve had people come and go from creative and our agents, and that sucks because those people are family. But I’m still going in to do my job. That doesn’t affect me at indie, so why would it affect me at Impact, you know?
We’ve never heard anything from talent, ever. No, “Oh, it sucks.” It’s always been like, “Everyone I work with is great.”
No, it’s always on the dirt sheets and stuff, and I hate that, I hate seeing that. The people that work with me, if anyone could come and spend a day at Impact, everyone’s smiling, everyone’s happy. Aside from the normal, everyday stuff that goes on at anyone’s work, whether you’re working at Burger King or Impact or at a school. I love it. We have some good fun times there.
On the subject of locker room camaraderie, and how much everyone has fun, how bummed are you that Spud’s gone?
Oh my gosh. I told him, I texted him when I saw in the dirt sheets that he had asked for his release. I texted him right away, and I was like, “No.” I love him. He has got this amazing mind. When you watch him wrestle, he always tells a story. We’ve kind of lost that nowadays.
He’s amazing. He tells such cool stories with his wrestling. I was really upset, but then again the indies is such a small world, I’m gonna see him. I can text him. I know his girlfriend. I can come to Nashville. I can go visit him if I really want, so I’m sad, and then I’m like, “Ah, I’m being dramatic. I could probably just take a flight to Nashville and visit him if I wanted to.”
TNA Hall of Famer and Impact legend Gail Kim had to vacate the Knockouts Championship, and now you hold the title. Tell me about what that’s like.
It’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s so crazy. Bound for Glory week was such a whirlwind. With it being filmed in Canada, it was really exciting for me. Although it was on the East Coast and I’m from the West Coast, still felt like I was kind of in my hometown, I don’t know. It felt like this wrestling world had come full circle, and for it to come full circle and then for them to be putting the title on me was also really overwhelming. I wrestle Rosemary for the title, which you’ll have seen by now I guess. She could tell you the same thing, and Gail would say the same thing. They told me three times that I was winning that match. I didn’t realize that that match was the finals at the tournament for the title.
So I was like, “This is weird. I’m going over against Rosemary? Okay, that’s weird, but whatever.” And then she said it again, like, “Okay, we’re gonna do this for the finish.” Okay, sure. Third time she said it, I was like, “Yeah, okay, that works.” Then Gail came up and was “Okay, what’s the finish?” “Then after the finish, Chelsea, we need you to get your beauty shot with the title.” And I’m like, “Okay.” She’s like, “You’re gonna stand there. We need you to pause for hard cam. Hold the title up.” I’m like, “Wait. I’m sorry. What? What do you mean hold the title up?” I’m thinking like, “Did I miss something? Was I literally just going over this match for an hour, and I don’t know that I’ve done something to hold the title?” I’m thinking, “Maybe did I hit her with the title?”
They’re both looking at me like, “Are you crazy, or are you just being a bit of a douche? Do you want us to tell you that you’re winning the title?” It all kind of clicks and I’m like, “Oh. Oh. Oh, I’m winning this tournament. Wait, what?” Very surreal for me, because if you’ve watched this journey, after my wedding you know, I can count the amount of matches I’ve had on one hand, from January until I win this title in December. I probably have five matches, and they’re not real matches, they’re me winning by doing something ridiculous.
You’re 2017’s Sting.
Like, actually. I don’t have to do anything, right? Honestly, it was all such a whirlwind. For me to have this on my resume, and to be able to say that I was a champion for Impact? I get to put that on my Wikipedia page, you guys.
On your Wikipedia page, it says, “One time, current.”
Does it really? That’s exciting. Hell, yeah. Under like, “She was called back to Tough Enough after being kicked off, and one-time current.” I love it. I love it so much.
So that’s Laurel Van Ness’ year. Left at the altar in January, the champion in December.
Became drunk, got sober, became psycho. Lost her mind, won the Knockouts Title.
Didn’t have to sleep with Grado.
Epic. Epic. Didn’t have to sleep with Grado.
Again, check out the With Spandex podcast for the full interview with Chelsea Green, or listen to the link in the player below.