EyeglassesThose of you who have been watching TNA wrestling over the last few months have seen a female “fan” from the crowd replace Miss Brooks as Robert Roode‘s valet. From the first time they showed this “fan” in the audience I could tell it was a work. Partly because they never show someone at ringside for more that a couple of seconds as the handheld sweeps by them, and partly because something about her looked strangely familiar. Usually when I get a feeling like that, it means that it’s someone from the wrestling business that I just haven’t placed yet.

In her case, everything that she had a pair of looked familiar. At first, it was the legs. It seemed like I had seen those before. I couldn’t place anyone at the national level, so I thought about the local. Any of the blondes working the scene at the time I was active didn’t seem to fit.

In the next week or two it was the arms, while she was wearing a sleeveless top. Looks familiar- can’t place her.

Then the low-cut top exposing the overflowing- Whoah! Definitely ringing a big bell now. And they look real, which shortens the list of possible wrestling blondes quite a bit.

Before I thought about the possibility of her looking like someone who wasn’t blonde, her glasses slipped slightly down her nose. “Hey, I recognize those eyes…” and the legs, arms, and other parts match.

Kind of like one of those kid’s games where you have combinations of feet, a body, and a head you have to match up. Usually it’s a clown or a fireman. Normally pretty easy for an adult. I had the body, didn’t notice the feet, and I was searching my mind for the right head to go with them.

On TNA, she was announced as Payton Banks, but in the Upper Midwest she wrestled as “Rain“. She wrestled both in singles matches and with Lacey as a tag team called the “Minnesota Homewrecking Crew” (a take-off on a more famous tag team called the “Minnesota Wrecking Crew“).

Now I know how Superman could stay disguised as Clark Kent for so long. The use of the glasses seemed like some kind of comic book shortcut, but it really worked on me. The combination of the glasses and the blonde hair led me down a dead end.

Rain worked quite a few of the shows I was on. She wasn’t trained by Sharkey, but she also worked out at the Sharkey/Fox wrestling camp a few times while I was still active.

One thing that many people don’t realize is that the female wrestlers go through the exact same training as the men. I don’t mean that they just have the same curriculum, I mean they are thrown in the mix and work with the guys. If we’re going through drills learning armdrags, biel throws, hiptosses, etc., they get in line with everyone else.

Typically we would form a line and one person would perform a particular move on each person in the line. That person would then go back to the end of the line, and the next person would take their place as the “giver” and go through everyone in line again. When the camp was at its largest, we had up to 17 people there on any given day. That meant that you were taking 17 bodyslams in a fairly short period, followed by 17 armdrags, 17 hiptosses, 17 clotheslines, 17 biels, 17 shoulder tackles, and around 3 Advil.

While it seems like the mixing of the sexes in a situation like this might cause some problems, it wasn’t really the case. Everyone remained very professional whenever they were in the ring- more like a brother/sister relationship (I’m talking about the midwest brother/sister, not the Alabama version). Outside the ring may be a different story, but inside was all business.

Wrestling a new female for the first time would take me maybe a couple of minutes before my mind got into the “sister/coworker” zone (and out of the gutter ;). It’s kind of like when you see the lions at the circus. They sit perched up on a little stool staring at the lion tamer and the people in the crowd. They learned to suppress their natural instincts because they know if they don’t they’re gonna get smacked.

After those first few minutes though it’s out of my system. Then just stepping through the ropes with them was enough to switch my brain into “professional” mode for that particular girl. When someone new came into the camp, I’d have to repeat the same process.

Another part of the regular training camp activities was pairing people up and having them wrestle a match. Work through it like you’re in front of an actual crowd- no stopping, no time outs, if you screw up cover for it.

Sometimes the guys had to fill in if there were an odd number of women there. This happened one of the times that Rain was at the camp. She wanted to tag with Lacey against Crystal and another girl that I can’t remember right now [sorry]. The “problem” was that Crystal hadn’t shown up yet. That’s where I came in.

In the past, my lack of hair could have killed a womens match. Some female wrestlers have 80% of their arsenal based on hair pulling. That wasn’t an issue with these women though, as they had the talent to work around that fairly easily. It reminds me of my 9th grade basketball coach who made us play with a partially deflated ball so that we could get better at moving it down the court though passing instead of just driving it down solo. If you tried to dribble, the ball wasn’t going to bounce back. In this case, learning to work a match without always going for the hair was probably a good training drill. I’m going to go out on a limb and recommend this to any female in the business… Wrestle a Bald Guy (sounds like a good T-shirt idea to me).

After Lacey had been working me over, she tagged in Rain. I was a mere 10 seconds away from a possible side headlock, leg scissors, hurricarana, or any number of pinning combinations.

Just then, the door opened and Crystal came walking in. Damn!

If only there had been some road construction, or she had gotten stopped by one more traffic light, or needed some gas. Then I would have gotten my two minutes in with Rain and gotten it out of my system.

But instead, more than 6 years later I’m sitting on all fours up on my couch like the King of the Jungle, watching Robert Roode’s new valet on the TNA broadcast.