Tessa Blanchard is undeniably a wrestling star on the rise. At twenty-three years old and five years into her career, she’s a former Impact Knockouts Champion and the current Crash Women’s Champion. She won the women’s match at All In, wrestled the longest one-on-one women’s match ever (a 75-minute Iron Woman match against Mercedes Martinez) in RISE, and doesn’t plan to stop there. Even one of her former tag team partners says Blanchard “is running women’s wrestling right now.”
The signing of Blanchard was an eye-grabbing announcement by WOW Women of Wrestling, the promotion owned by GLOW-creator David McLane, which will start its first season on AXS this Friday, January 18 at 9pE/6pP. With Spandex spoke to Blanchard ahead of the WOW premier about her role on the new series, her career on the independent wrestling scene, how she balances carrying on her family’s legacy with forging her own path in the wrestling world, and more. That conversation is below and has been edited for length and clarity.
With Spandex: Can you tell us how you got involved with WOW?
Tessa Blanchard: David McLane had contacted me about working with WOW, and I had just signed my contract with Impact Wrestling, and so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do both, so I just told David “no,” that I couldn’t, and then David went and contacted Impact Wrestling, Scott D’Amore, and I guess they worked out a business relationship, and Scott reached out to me, and he was like, “Tessa, WOW sounds like a great opportunity. Their vision for women’s wrestling and how they want it to be perceived, where they want to see it go sounds like really neat, really beautiful, so if that’s something you want to do, please, you have our blessing; you can go.”
So I was like, “Okay! Let’s do it! I want to do everything. I want to go everywhere; I want to wrestle everyone; I want to do everything.” So I did. I just dove headfirst into this great pool of WOW, and here we are today getting ready for the debut of our first season on AXS, so I’m excited.
For fans who know you from Impact or other places, is it pretty much the same Tessa Blanchard persona in WOW or are they seeing a different side of you?
No matter where Tessa Blanchard goes, she doesn’t change. She’s still the same badass that goes after what she wants by any means necessary. She does whatever is necessary to get the job done, and I’ve always noticed that no matter what I do in life, no matter where I go, whatever company I wrestle in, I have to be the best. I never settle for good; I want to be great. I don’t want to be passable. I want to be one of the best in the world. I want to go down in the history books one day, and so at WOW I’m going, and I have my sights set on one thing, and that’s the gold. The Blanchard always goes after the gold, and right now Santana Garrett has the world championship and so my sights are set on her, going after that WOW World Championship.
You’re champion a lot of different places right now… with Santana Garrett, you guys have a history in the Crash, right?
Kind of… She had been to the Crash in Tijuana, Mexico, a few times. We wrestle at Auditorio de Tijuana, and Lacey Lane was their champion and I came in and I beat her for the Crash Championship, and then she went on to work for NXT. And since then they’ve brought in different luchadoras and different people from all over the world to wrestle me for the championship, and Lacey and Santana wrestled me in a triple threat match for the Crash Championship, and I ended up beating both of them.
Working for the Crash with luchadors, and you’ve worked in Stardom, and working in WOW, are there a lot of differences working with those different styles of wrestling?
Well, no matter where you go in the world, I feel like the wrestling style is a little bit different, but what’s cool about that is, I believe I’m one of the most versatile wrestlers in the entire world, and that I can – no matter who I wrestle, I can change my style if need be, or I don’t have to change my style if need be … I feel like in Mexico maybe I do change my style a little bit, but it’s not really necessary to get the job done. I feel like in Japan, I hit a little bit harder and I’m a little bit more strong style because that’s how those girls are, and in Japan, it’s a big respect thing. The more strong style you are, I feel like sometimes that’s where the respect is.
When I did my first tour of Japan I was only like a year and some change into wrestling, I think. I was still very new. And then my second tour of Japan, [Jessicka] Havok and I were tag team partners there and I think that tour was where I really found myself, where something clicked and I was like, “This is my ring, and anyone who stands in this ring with me is going to realize that. This is undeniably my ring, and I control what goes on here.” And that’s when everything changed. My move-set changed; my hair changed; my gear changed; my demeanor changed. Everything changed, and something just clicked, and I knew exactly who I was in that moment.
Okay, and since then, the version of Tessa that’s a big wrestling star right now… You have the old school wrestling pedigree, but you also are doing a lot of new achievements in wrestling. How do you deal with bringing the history of wrestling just from your life and of the sport to new achievements, especially with how women’s wrestling is right now?
Well, one thing I’ve always said is, like, so my last name, it might get my foot in the door, it might get me in front of the right people, it might get me an opportunity, but at the end of the day, when I step in the ring the last name doesn’t really do jack shit for me. I have to work really, really hard, extra hours – I have to work harder than most just so that when people make those statements, I can back it up and there’s no validity to it…
I knew, off the bat that when I started in professional wrestling, that I wanted to be one of the best. I didn’t want to be good; I wanted to be great. I didn’t want to be passable; I wanted to go down in the history books one day. And so when I started at eighteen years old, I would drive the fourteen hours to New York City for $75, sleep in my car, and turn around and drive fourteen hours right back. I would make that drive almost every weekend just so I could be around wrestling, set up the ring, set up the chairs, help out, just be around wrestling and learn and watch and study, and I would go to the ring six, seven days a week from six p.m. until three or four in the morning with Cedric Alexander training and training and failing and messing up just so I could finally get it right and be freaking great.
Because like I said, I don’t want to be good; I want to be great. I want to be better than every single person that’s been in the ring with me, and how do you get there? You wrestle people that are better than you. You learn from people that are better than you. You take the greats, you take people who have done something in this business, you take people who are great, and you study them and you learn from them and you travel the roads with them and so that’s what I did.
That’s some of the advice my dad [Tully Blanchard] always gave me was don’t strive to be good, strive to be great, and be around the people that are great and learn from them. You learn from the people who have actually done something in the business. So that’s something that I always took from my dad and saw great value to, and now I’m able to carry on my family legacy, do my family name proud, but also forge my own path at the same time. I’m able to – one thing I always said I wanted to do was I wanted to do everything. I wanted to wrestle everyone, and I wanted to do it on my terms.
Because at first I was kind of caught up in the – I had my WWE tryout and I thought I was going to get signed right after it. I thought like that was it, “Alright, I killed this tryout, I’m going to get signed. It’s going to be great, smooth sailing from here.” And then it didn’t happen, and we kind of went back and forth a little bit. I did like a few NXT spots. I wrestled WrestleMania Axxess and I did the Mae Young Classic, wrestled Kairi Sane in what’s said to be the best match of the entire Mae Young Classic that year. And since then nothing happened…
We were in talks a little bit, and I realized – I don’t know what it was, but something clicked, and I was like, “Tessa, you’re different.” My stepdad [Magnum T.A.] told me once that, “Tessa, you have ‘it.’ You’re not good yet, but you have ‘it.'” And that’s all I needed because that’s that thing that you’re born with, you can’t teach it. It’s that unexplainable thing that makes head turns, and – and so that’s what I’ve done, I’ve tried to travel the world. In China, I was the very first ever televised singles women’s match in China [against Abilene Maverick] to ever, ever be broadcasted… right now I have the longest singles women’s match in history – it’s 75 minutes bell-to-bell, I believe the whole segment was about 83 minutes – in history. Nobody can take that from me right now.
I’ve done tours of Japan. I’ve main-evented Korakuen Hall, one of the most infamous buildings in Tokyo, and I’m 23 years old. I’ve gotten to hold titles in Mexico. I’ve gone to Australia, China, Japan, the UK. At 23 years old, I’ve got time on my side and I’m one of the best in the world because I’ve beaten some of the best in the world, and I’m coming to WOW to take the world championship from Santana Garrett, not because she’s the best, but because I am.
And beyond WOW Women’s Champion – I know you want to do everything, but are there any specific goals you have in the near future?
Something that I really, really would like to do is to share the ring with Gail Kim… I respect her so much because I believe that she is one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world, and I feel like her entire career she was underrated. And now I’m able to kind of learn under her at Impact; she’s the agent for most of my matches. And she’s got such a wealth of knowledge that’s completely invaluable. But one thing I would love to do is to stand across the ring from her, and since I respect her and I do believe her to be one of the greats, I want to wrestle her and challenge myself because I want to be the best in the world. I don’t want to be under anybody. I want to take that for myself, and to me, I believe wrestling some of the greats and beating them is the kind of validation that I need to believe that I am the best in the world.
Do you have like a favorite match that you’ve recorded for WOW so far, anything you think people would really look forward to?
I do. I don’t know if I’m even allowed to say like the match-ups yet, am I?… But there is one girl who I think is – she’s a homegrown WOW talent, she started at WOW, and she’s… been with WOW for many, many years… she and I got to share the ring with each other, and we had no idea we were wrestling each other until that afternoon. And it was one of my favorite matches that I’ve had. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but, you know, in any match that I have, I’m in the ring and I legitimately hate the person that’s across the ring from me. And that was no different… That was one of my favorite, favorite matches because it was – it was a defining factor on my trek to becoming the WOW World Champion.
David McLane and some other people have kind of talked about the family-friendly nature of the show, and you guys are called “superheroes” and have talked a lot about the empowering aspect of the show. Is that something – how do you connect with that aspect?
Well, I know that they call all the girls “superheroes”, but I’m not a superhero. I’m a badass. I’ve done way more than anyone on the WOW roster has ever done in their careers, their short-lived careers. I am talented. I have gone to different continents and different countries. I’ve won tournaments, I’ve won championship title all over the globe. I’ve beaten some of the best in the world and therefore I am one of the best in the world. And so walking into WOW, I don’t have anything to prove, they have something to prove to me. I’m going there for the sheer fact of I want the WOW World Championship because that means you’re the best in WOW.
Talking to other people who have been on the show, I’ve heard different things about the atmosphere of working for the company. I was wondering if you could talk about how does working for WOW compares to working for other wrestling promotions?
I think working with WOW is a little bit different because… I’m doing a little bit more with WOW than I would be just normally on the independent circuit. I get to help a lot at the training school, which I am very passionate about. I love helping beginners. I have a passion for basics, which is the way I was brought up. George South at HighSpots, you know, he drilled our basics into us because if you don’t know them, they’re going to come back to bite you in the ass later on… and I’m very confident in my basics, so I’m very passionate about helping other people and elevating them so that they can be better and go on to, like – I feel like once you’ve mastered your basics you can kind of figure out who you are, and try out different things and some of those things don’t work, and some of them do work and then maybe we’re going to put some of those things in our back pocket for later…
So with WOW I’ve been able to work with Selena Majors, the head trainer at WOW, and help some of the newer talent – so the people who are just now finding their love for professional wrestling and help them grow and learn and elevate them at the same time…. Everyone wants everyone to do well. Everyone wants everyone to be successful, and I love that because at WOW, the girls check their egos at the door, and we’re all people, we’re all human beings, we’re all athletes, and everyone watches each other’s product. Everyone watches each other’s craft, and then to see like the culmination of it all at [the TV tapings at] the Belasco was really, really neat because we worked for months and months and months and it’s – I’m just so excited for everyone to see the first season because it’s just the culmination of hard work. It’s really a neat thing.