I first met TNA Knockout Lisa Marie Varon (AKA "Tara") at Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con a few years ago. She was seated in the autograph area that was set up for all the pro wrestlers who attended the annual pop-culture convention in Rosemont, IL. When I approached her, I fessed up to being a “total mark” for her, having been a fan since her days in the WWE as the Diva named “Victoria.” She humored the awkward geek that I was, and we did an interview for Youtube, where she talked about her experiences in WWE/TNA, moving away from Chicago and being my date to the prom (see video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDBWZ0MJKKM). Soon after, Varon became a fixture in the world of Geek To Me when she stepped up and helped run the “Geek Fit Challenge.” (If you’re wondering who won the GFC, I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t me.)
Since then, Varon has returned to Chicago with her husband and dogs after they moved to the South in the 90’s. Along with working a full schedule with TNA, she is opening a pizza place named The Squared Circle (2418 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL). And for the first time in years, she will be wrestling in front of her hometown fans when TNA Impact is broadcast from the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates on Thursday, March 14th.
I was able to catch her while she was on the road, traveling to one of her many appearances. We spoke by phone about the move back to Chicago; the challenges of going from WWE to TNA; and what advice she had for female athletes wanting to follow in her footsteps:
Geek To Me: You’re living back in Chicago again, what made you decide to come back?
Lisa Marie Varon: I lived here in the 90’s and lived here for 5 years, but I had to move to Kentucky for wrestling. (I was) working in a territory there, so I learned to wrestle there. We opened a pizza place there, and opened a custom car shop. Once that closed down, I saw my husband looking at Chicago real estate and said “Oh my god are we going to move back?” and he said “Do you want to?” I said “absolutely!” The next weekend, (we) got a rental car, drove to Chicago, met with a real estate agent about looking for homes, for permanent residency.
I cannot tell you how much I love Chicago. When I drive into the city and see the skyline, my heart quivers and I get super, super excited. It’s my home. I love the people there, people are super nice there. I love the city life, and it’s clean. The summers are terrific. I’m a Cubs fan, a Bulls fan, a Bears fan. There’s nothing like Chicago.
Geek To Me: What kind of challenge has it been for you making the transition from WWE to TNA?
Lisa Marie Varon: Oh gosh, no difficulties at all. I had a lot of freedom going to TNA. They told me to do what I do best. And I wasn’t used to that, having so much freedom. Its heaven, I’ll be honest with you. Don’t get me wrong, I loved WWE too, I learned all my craft and psychology - how to be fierce in the ring - from Fit Finley. I don’t have any hard feelings. (But) I wasn’t used to getting that much time on TV, having Dixie Carter - our boss - who is very “pro-woman”, she gave us a lot of time on TV.
And that’s what I say about the WWE girls, people are like “you need to help the WWE Divas”, I get tweets like that all the time. I’m like “it’s not their fault, it’s their time on TV!” They don’t get to showcase their talent; there are very talented girls there. And there aren’t very many places where girls can go, so, I love both (WWE and TNA).
Geek To Me: What can we expect at the TNA event in Chicago?
Lisa Marie Varon: I don’t know what to expect, but expect whoever I’m facing to get a beat down of their life! I am not going to hold back, especially in my home town. Performing in front of your home town, there’s no feeling like that, the fans are crazy. I’ve been doing a lot of media, especially with my restaurant (The Squared Circle) opening. I’m super stoked about it. I don’t know who I’m facing, but expect a beat down.
Geek To Me: What advice do you give to young female athletes who want to get into the business?
Lisa Marie Varon: I always suggest (getting) a college education. I’m very pro college education. You never know how long this business is gonna last. You can tear your knee; you’ll be out of business. You could break your neck, you’re done. What are you going to do? You always have to have a backup plan. And I think that people need to learn to be level-headed business people.
I extremely believe in living your dreams. Look at me, I get to wrestle for a living, and this is heaven for me. I think that you can tell I have the passion. I love what I do. Thirteen years in this business and I’m in the best shape of my life!
There are some girls who get into this business and don’t really take care of their bodies. Your body is your temple. You know from me training with Joey Thurman I take it serious. I’m 42 and I feel like I’m 20. That’s how you have to look at it. You have to go in it thinking that you’re a fighter and need to be in the best shape of your life.
You have to be able to mesh well with the travel schedule, being away from your family, and putting this business in front of your family. This is not a 9 to 5 job, this is your life. I love what I do and I think my fans know that. Expect it to not be a 9 to 5 or three day a week business, it’s 24/7.
Every second of the day I need to think - I’m getting my nails done “I have to look good for my fans.” I’m working on my body. These fans are expecting entertainment, extreme hardcore, even for female athletes. You’ve gotta be ready to throw down.
Follow Lisa Marie Varon on Twitter!
Watch "Tara" throw down with the TNA Knockouts Thursday nights on Spike TV!