Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bulletproof Blonde

On the surface, a division full of experienced veterans and Amazonian monsters doesn't exactly provide the kind of atmosphere where a 5 foot 6 inch petite former model can survive, let alone thrive, but dig a little deeper and you end up asking not how she rose to prominence but how could the other women in the division even try to stop her.

This is the story of Taryn Terrell, a hot mess of a young woman who took on just about every criticism that could be thrown at her, broke just about every stereotype put on her, and is now – and perhaps for the foreseeable future will be – your TNA Knockouts Champion. But how has Taryn succeeded where so many others have failed?

The wrestling landscape is littered with the careers of women who attempted to make the transition from modeling or acting to life inside the squared circle (or six sides, if you please). Many were perfectly talented women, most of them very beautiful women, but all, for one reason or another, didn't understand or simply lacked what it took to make it in the cut-throat, competitive business that we call professional wrestling.

To find out why Taryn Terrell wasn't just another pretty face added to the former model/actress "graveyard," you need to go back a little further and find a plucky young athlete growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana – a young athlete who excelled as a power lifter and a cheerleader in high school and college. Taryn Terrell is not a model who became an athlete; she is an athlete who became a model. Pro wrestling was a natural fit for the blonde from the Bayou.

Trying out for the 2007 WWE Diva Search, Taryn was determined to use the platform to showcase her athleticism, as well as her good looks and personality. Sadly, athleticism wasn't a top priority for that competition and Taryn was eliminated from the show; however, common sense prevailed and in February 2008 she was signed to a WWE development contract. For the next three years, Taryn honed her craft in Florida Championship Wrestling while moonlighting as General Manager for the relaunched WWECW brand.

Under the name 'Tiffany', Taryn came across well in segments that involved speaking and acting and, for a relative newcomer, was a cut above many of the Divas on the roster at the time. But, in the fickle land of WWE, talent can be forgotten as quickly as they came and more often than not, Taryn was lost in the shuffle as she moved from ECW to Smackdown and into storylines and angles that really went nowhere.

In 2010, an incident with then-husband Drew Galloway at a hotel all but sealed her fate with WWE. She was cut from her contract that November without us ever really getting to see what she could do in the ring. For most women, they would have taken it as a sign that maybe wrestling wasn't for them. They would have concentrated on modeling or acting and carried on with their lives, but as we've come to know, Taryn Terrell is not most women.

Debuting in TNA in 2012 under her real name, Taryn began her stint as a referee in the Knockouts Division, a role that set her up for her transition into becoming a full-fledged Knockout. I don't need to rehash the buildup to her feud with Gail Kim here, but if you haven't already done so, go check out the Last Knockout Standing match they had at Slammiversary XI. Seriously, do it now; this column can wait until then...

To this day, that match stands as my favorite match of 2013 and one of the best women's matches I have ever seen, period. That performance was when I stopped asking questions about Taryn Terrell and accepted her as a special performer: a combination of looks, personality and talent that is hard to find in wrestling. I found myself wondering just where this bubbly blonde could go next.

Well, it turned out that next, the career of Taryn Terrell took a little detour into motherhood. As a father of two girls myself, I know that there is no better or rewarding thing in the world than having kids and sometimes, even for pro wrestlers, wrestling must take a back seat to the real world. The question then became, would or could Taryn come back to TNA?

In the summer of 2014, after a year off, Taryn did indeed come back. Sporting a toned and trim physique, the NOLA native looked like she was ready, and although she was slow to acclimatize to the six-sided ring when it was reintroduced, Taryn was rewarded for her hard work, both in the gym and in the ring, by lifting her first Knockouts Championship. For the first time in her career, Taryn got to start a new year (and a new era) as the leader of an entire division. So far, Taryn Terrell has done, in my opinion, a very good job as the standard bearer for the Knockouts Division and if you think that title doesn't mean a lot to T-Double, then think again.

For Taryn Terrell, the Knockouts Championship doesn't just symbolize that she's good at what she does – it symbolizes that she was right, and more importantly, that others were wrong. For everyone who said that she's just a model and an actress, she's able to stand proud and hold that championship aloft as a statement, that to judge Taryn Terrell is to be wrong about Taryn Terrell.

I've said that Taryn should christen her finisher "The Heartbreaker" because that's what she does to her foes in the ring, but also what she has consistently done to all the haters who have wanted to see her fail, and what she is going to continue to do to anyone dumb enough to say she can't do anything she sets her mind to. And how appropriate that it contains the word 'Heart' which is the one thing Taryn has always had propelling her to the top.

So yes, she's a mom and a pretty blonde, but don't let her looks fool you. This blonde is bulletproof, and she's poised for big things.