High-Flying Spirit: Facts You Should Know About Lita’s Extreme Life And Career

After nearly a decade away from wrestling, Amy “Lita” Dumas is again a regular fixture on WWE TV, and her return couldn’t be more welcome. From her days in Mexico, to her death-defying WWE heyday and eventual self-imposed exile from the company, Lita forged her own path, and it was that unique spirit that made her one of the most popular women in wrestling history. Lita faced a lot of obstacles put up by a business that wasn’t ready for her, but she kicked down those doors, and built a legacy that continues to inspire women, outsiders and people who prefer their wrestling not be constructed around a boardroom table.

The last couple weeks have no doubt been particularly satisfying for Lita as she got to unveil the new WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania, and, well, this week’s her birthday. So, what better time to take a (totally extreme) stroll through Lita’s life and career? Here are a few things you may not know about WWE’s redheaded rebel…

Her love of Pee-wee Herman led to her first extreme moment.

She meant to do that. 

Amy Christine Dumas was born on April 14, 1975 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Her family moved around a lot to accommodate her dad’s job, bouncing around Florida before finally setting down in the Atlanta area.

It was in Georgia that most of Amy’s lifelong passions were born, and no, wrestling wasn’t one of them. Not yet. Amy’s true loves were punk rock, animals and Pee-wee Herman, and the last one led to her first-ever extreme stunt. After watching Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, young Amy decided she wanted to mimic the memorable bike tricks scene. You know the one…

Well, it turned out just as well in real life as is did in the movie. Sometimes kids aren’t so good with thinking things through, okay? Amy went flying, and ended up a lot more scraped up than Pee-wee did in the movie. Those were far from the last bumps and bruises she’d receive in her life.

She flew to Mexico without a plan after being inspired by Rey Mysterio.

Like a lot of people, Amy didn’t really become interested in the grappling arts until the late ’90s, when she unwittingly began dating a wrestling fan. Her boyfriend was a WCW devotee, and at first Amy wasn’t terribly impressed by the “fat sweaty” guys trading fake punches on screen. Why do non-wrestling fans always walk by when the Nasty Boys match is on? Anyways, Amy’s opinion changed in a big way when she got her first look at an agile up-and-comer named Rey Mysterio Jr. Really, she loved all of WCW’s Mexican imports – Mysterio, Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera, La Parka – and just like that, she knew what she wanted to do with her life.

So, what do you do when you want to be a luchadore, but otherwise know nothing about the wrestling business? You buy a plane ticket to Mexico City and then walk around asking random people where the wrestlers are at. At least, that’s what Amy did. Eventually she was directed to Arena Mexico, home base of Mexico’s top wrestling promotion, CMLL. Amy started going to every show, and tried to figure out how to get trained, but the language and cultural barrier kept her from making much progress.

Eventually, Amy got to know some of the American guys working in Mexico, specifically Puerto Rican star Ricky Santana and journeyman Kevin Quinn. They agreed to teach her a few basic moves and bumps, but their big contribution was cluing her into the world of independent wrestling, and the fact that there were plenty of training opportunities right in her back yard. Amy Dumas’ real journey was about to begin.

Lita had no idea what her WWF name was until she watched her debut on TV.

After her impulsive Mexican adventure, Amy bounced around the U.S. independent scene for a bit. She trained in Chicago and in Dory Funk’s notoriously tough Funking Conservatory, wrestled in the Mid-Atlantic territory, where she met a couple daredevil rednecks named Matt and Jeff Hardy, and had a cup of coffee in ECW as Danny Doring’s manager Miss Congeniality. It was her training at the Funking Conservatory that would lead to her big break, as Dory sent a tape of her work to WWF’s Head of Talent Relations Jim Ross, who hired her and put her on TV pretty much immediately.

Despite Jim Ross’ enthusiasm, it seemed like the creative team didn’t have any particular interest in the new hire. She was teamed with Mexican wrestler Mr. Águila, who had been wrestling in WWF as Papi Chulo. Both Amy and Águila were set to receive new names, but nobody seemed to know what they would be. When the new team debuted on an early 2000 edition of Sunday Night Heat, they were sent out with no introduction, graphics or the slightest idea what their own wrestling names were. Only later, when watching her debut on TV, did Amy discover she had been christened Lita. She hated the name, but soon enough it would be one of the most recognized in the wrestling business.

She has a winning record against Triple H, Steve Austin and other Attitude Era legends.

While it’s since been swept under the rug by WWE’s Department of Revisionist History, Lita spent the majority of her time mixing it up with the guys at the height of her popularity. In 2000 and 2001, she had her share of matches against women like Stephanie McMahon, Trish Stratus and Jacqueline, but was just as likely to team with the Hardyz to take on the likes of Triple H, The Rock, Steve Austin, Edge, Christian and The Dudleyz in full-contact intergender brawls. Team Extreme won most of those matches, and as a result Lita has a record pretty much any legend would kill for.

Wrestlers she has more wins than losses against include Triple H, Steve Austin, Big Show and Kurt Angle. The Rock can’t claim the same. Nor can The Undertaker or John Cena. If you were wrestling in WWE in the early 2000s, chances are you were on the receiving end of a Lita moonsault and pinfall at least once.

Jessica Alba’s stunt double nearly paralyzed her.

Lita risked her physical well-being night after night in the ring, but in the end, her first serious injury happened on a television set. Lita scored a role as a villainous heavy in the 2002 series finale of Dark Angel. Y’know, the James Cameron show starring Jessica Alba they always advertised on The X-Files? We all watched a bit of it, although apparently not enough to keep it alive past two seasons.

Lita had a big fight scene with Jessica Alba’s character, but unfortunately Alba’s stunt double knew nothing about wrestling, so when Lita tried to practice the hurricanrana with her, she dropped her square on her head. WWE has a shaky history when it comes to medical issues, but based on Lita’s accounts, she would have been much better off being injured in the ring. According to Lita, nobody, including director James Cameron, took any notice of her injury or offered any real help, even though she was in excruciating pain and her left arm and hand were completely immobile. Dr. Zoidberg could’ve seen Lita was badly messed up, but the TV crew continued to march her through days of shooting, with assistants having to pry apart her numb, purple fingers so she could hold her prop gun.

Somehow, Lita soldiered through, only finding out after the shoot that her neck was broken in three places and so unstable something as minor as a sneeze could have paralyzed her for life.

Steve Austin helped her through her neck injury.

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If you need somebody to break you out of a hospital, he’s your guy. 

Lita suddenly had a deadly serious decision in front of her. The doctor she had gone to painted a dire picture, and wanted to immediately do surgery that would have ended her wrestling career permanently. Lita felt like there must have been another option, but she needed advice and somebody to advocate for her. She picked up the phone and called Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Austin, who had recently been through neck issues of his own, managed to talk down the doctors, who had been insisting Lita not be allowed to leave the hospital. Austin then suggested she go see Dr. Lloyd Youngblood in San Antonio, going so far as to buy her a plane ticket. Youngblood, who had worked on Austin’s neck, proposed a less severe surgery that would allow Lita to continue wrestling. Lita opted for Dr. Youngblood’s surgery, and over the following months would crash at Austin’s house whenever she had to return to San Antonio for a checkup. He may be the Texas Rattlesnake, but clearly Steve Austin isn’t all cold-blooded.

Vince McMahon wanted her to actually be naked during the infamous Live Sex Celebration.

In early 2005, the dastardly dirt sheets leaked information about a real-life romantic entanglement between Lita, Matt Hardy and Edge. The whole thing was a debacle, but to make a very long story short, WWE decided to capitalize on the mess by turning Lita heel and allying her with Edge. It was an awkward situation, but Lita embraced her heel character, and she and Edge became a major money and ratings-drawing act. Their success, er, climaxed with the infamous “Live Sex Celebration” segment, which pulled a 5.2 rating, one of the highest of the post-Attitude era.

For those who missed this cultural event, the Live Sex Celebration was just what the name implied – after beating John Cena for the title, Edge promised he and Lita would have sex, live on WWE TV. Of course nothing actually happened. Lita and Edge stripped to their skivvies, then hid under the covers and wriggled around a bit to simulate baby-making times. That said, if Vince McMahon had got his way, things might have been a lot more graphic. According to Lita, Vince wanted her to be completely naked under the sheets, because that’s what people do when they have sex! And Vince is completely insane! Lita shot Vince’s idea down hard, but I’m guessing he got over it pretty quick when he saw that sexy 5.2 rating.

Lita returned to where her career began one last time before retiring.

In late 2006, Lita surprised many by retiring from WWE. Contrary to rumors, it wasn’t because she was unhappy with her heel character or the audience’s reactions, she simply felt she had achieved all she could in wrestling, and turned down a lucrative new contract in order to move on. This apparently pissed WWE off, as her farewell segment was turned into a mean-spirited farce involving Cryme Tyme that wasn’t fit for one of WWE’s biggest stars. Or anybody, for that matter.

Thankfully, Lita did get to have a much more positive private moment near the end of her career. One of the very last things Lita did with WWE before her retirement was a house show tour of Mexico. While in Mexico City, she put on a lucha mask so nobody would recognize her, went to Arena Mexico and took in her first live CMLL show in years. Her wrestling journey had come full-circle.

Rockstardom and good causes kept her busy after retirement.

So, what did Lita do in her decade away from wrestling? Watch old tapes and pine for her glory days? Haha, no. Mainly, she went back to her first love, Punk Rock, founding a band called The Luchagors who released an album and toured America and Europe several times. I’ll say this much, they were better than Fozzy.

Lita also founded ADORE, a nonprofit that lent support to various animal organizations. In more recent years, she bought a second home in Nicaragua, and has been involved in charity work down there. Lita really ought to give classes on how to remove yourself from the wrestling business gracefully.

She’s returned to WWE as a full-time road agent and writer.

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After a good, healthy vacation, Lita recently began her gradual return to WWE. She beat up Heath Slater at the 1,000th episode of Raw in 2012, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014 and was a Tough Enough trainer in 2015. Well, as of at least October 2015, Lita is back working for WWE full-time as a road agent and writer for the Women’s Division. Hmmm, October was also around the time the revamped Women’s Division started to get away from meaningless tag matches and began building real characters. I have a feeling that’s not a coincidence. Lita helped pave the way for the current Women’s Division, and continues to make sure those inroads are in good shape.

There you are, a few details about the one-and-only Amy Dumas. Have any personal favorite Lita moments you want to share? Any storylines or matches you’d like to see now that she’s back with WWE? Jump into the comments, and let’s talk.

via Lita: A Less Traveled ROAD, Talk is JerichoThe Steve Austin Show, What Culture & Wrestling Data