The Latest Episodes of INSIGHT with Chris Van Vliet
Feb. 22, 2022

Taya Valkyrie Opens Up About Her Brief Time in WWE and What's Next

Taya Valkyrie Opens Up About Her Brief Time in WWE and What's Next

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Taya Valkyrie (@thetayavalkyrie) is a professional wrestler known for her time in WWE, Lucha Underground, AAA and as the longest reigning Knockouts Champion in IMPACT Wrestling. She sits down with Chris Van Vliet at her house in Los Angeles to talk about getting signed by WWE and then being released less than a year later, what is next for her and her husband John Morrison, her clothing line "Loca by Taya Valkyrie", her favorite matches, growing up in Canada and much more!

Check out Loca By Taya Valkyrie here:

Let’s pick this up from the last time that I saw you in fall 2020. John [Morrison] is working in WWE, does John working for WWE help you get your foot in the door?

“It didn’t help me get my foot in the door but I do think that it helped me make the decision that I made to go there. Once he had left IMPACT, I was just like oh my God. We had been working together for several years for several different promotions, so the idea of us being able to be together again was a huge influence on my decision to sign with WWE. It’s a very long and stressful process, I don’t know if people know that, but it is a lengthy several months of paperwork and background checks, medical, all that stuff. This is all while you are trying to figure out well am I going to get this job or not? Once everything happened it was like we are doing this. That was a huge motivator for John and I to be together and working for the same company.” 

I’m guessing all these checks don’t take place when you work for another company?

“I have never had to do that before. In Lucha Underground we had to do a lot of medical testing, which is for the TV network 100%. They run the TV show, so it’s like the liabilities and stuff like that. But that is the first time that I have gone through something like that on that level. If there’s a skeleton out there then they will find it.”

But I imagine that everyone watches WWE growing up. It must have been exciting getting told that they want you?

“It was very exciting. I wanted to go there forever, that’s why you start wrestling, you fall in love with the superstars you see as a kid. So for me it was always like well I want to be like the Canadian icon Trish Stratus. Also Lita, Victoria, I have mentioned that I got into fitness competitions because I wanted to be like them. At a certain point in my career I thought that I wasn’t going to get signed because I thought that I wasn’t what they liked. I was critical of myself, I wasn’t 25 years old, there’s a bunch of stuff. Then as time went on, people like Asuka, Shayna Baszler, Mercedes Martinez were all getting hired. I’m also seeing Tamina and Natalya killing it on the main roster and winning championships, it was like well maybe this is a possibility.”

You had made a name for yourself too?

“That’s right. I am a former AAA Women’s Champion, longest reigning Knockouts Champion in IMPACT Wrestling. I was on 3 seasons of Lucha Underground, main evented on all of these platforms, put some respect on my name folks! No but it was cool like I’m going to give this a go, holy sh*t this is happening. I said in an interview that it reminded me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when he gets the golden ticket. That was the way that I thought about it. I actually bought myself the book when I got signed to remind myself how I felt in that moment. It was such a big deal for me, I don’t come from wrestling. It was just years, 12 years of hard work. I was poor and didn’t have a lot of support, so I had to carve my own path. The opportunity to go there, I’m like ok. A lot of people were like ‘You should have known better. Blah blah blah…’ But it wasn’t about that. It was about do I at least try or do I spend my whole life wondering what if?”

But also you had seen John go there and he was very successful.

“Of course, and he’s my husband. Just like any job there is going to be good stuff and bad stuff but I was prepared for that. I don’t know if I was prepared for the level that it happened but I was like OK, I’m at least going to try. And they were super good to me when I first got there. They treated me like Taya Valkyrie and they were very protective of me. I don’t know if you look back at the Women’s Tag Title announcement. I am actually on the stage there, but they told me to not look at the camera. Because they wanted me to be part of it, but they didn’t want me to be seen because I hadn’t debuted yet. So you see the back of my head twice. But yeah Shawn Michaels and Triple H were super good to me. I started working with Sarah Motto in the girls class and training in the weight room with Sean Hayes. Things started going on and then WrestleMania came where Presley [Taya’s dog] debuted on TV before me [laughs]. But it was good, everything was hard and it was a totally different situation to what I had been in before, but if I survived all the drills and all the hours I spent in other places, I’m sure I can do it here. And that’s what I did. I had extra ring time and I was training every day doing promo classes and pitching creative ideas. Road Dogg and I would sit down and talk for hours and I was there with color charts and movie references. I would think about all this stuff because I care and because I love it so much. So things were really good and you can see what happened. As time went on 2.0 happened, and was when I feel like a really big change happened.”

And that was when Triple H was not there every single day?

“Yes. It was like night and day. It was a very obvious change of energy and a very obvious feeling. We were hearing all sorts of rumours about what they were looking for compared to last week. I was very confused and like well what is going on? This was in the summer and I had debuted in like March. It was so weird, it was the most confusing experience in my entire life. Having worked everywhere, I was left like what is going on?”

Do you feel like you are then walking on eggshells every day?

“100%, I think everybody was. I can only speak for myself, but I can say that the energy definitely shifted. We were hearing rumours all the time of ‘They are going to be firing people this week.’ So then the whole week everyone is scared. But we are all there busting our asses. I ended up training with Steve Corino and the boys in the tag class. I loved training with MSK and Imperium. They are pushing me and making me do new stuff. Everything was good and everyone was working hard, but the shift of how they wanted NXT 2.0 to be literally changed from one day to the next. So I feel it made everyone feel like they are holding their breath.”

I’ve also heard that if you are a Triple H hire then they wanted nothing to do with you in 2.0?

“I mean no one ever said that to me or confirmed that. But I don’t know, all I can say is that it was really confusing. I tried to make sense of it for a really long time, and I was really angry. But you can’t make sense of something that makes no sense. All I can say is that I worked very hard and gave everything I could, like I did everywhere before. But it was very confusing, I felt like I did something wrong.”

But that’s not the case. It has happened to dozens, hundreds of people in the last year. It must be difficult to not take it personally.

“I know and I am a sensitive person. When everything went down it was really confusing and heartbreaking for me. I felt like I let everybody down.”

It must have been confusing too because John is still working there at the time.

“Yeah. John was touring in the UK when it happened. Thank God my friend Heather Monroe had picked me up to go shopping when I got the call. So it was hard and it was confusing, I felt like I had let everybody down. I felt that I was representing the over 30 women that are still badasses, look good and can work, and I felt like I let everybody down. I know that I am putting that on myself and my mom has told me that. But it’s been really rough. Now I know that I did nothing wrong, but it just sucks. It sucks when you meet your heroes and you work somewhere that you dreamed about, but it is all just out of your control.”

You also feel like you will be the exception.

“Yeah I thought it would be different for me. I just think that I had to, because I know myself. If I hadn’t gone there, I would have regretted it forever. You can’t regret things, I don’t regret going there. I just wish that I had been given a chance.”

Was there ever talk of you keeping the name Taya Valkyrie?

“When I got there I went into meetings with Road Dogg. We are there hashing out who this character is going to be and just working out some of the little things. Like they loved the character, but they didn’t want me wearing a fur coat. The reason was because we were in Florida. I’m like OK, I don’t have to wear a fur coat. But then I discovered this amazing seamstress in Chicago that makes all these coats that I wear. I did want to evolve, but not go so far that people didn’t recognize who I was. So the hair got longer and the jackets got longer and bigger.”

So you were going to be Taya for a while?

“No, so everyone was calling me Taya at the PC [Performance Center] because they all know me. No one calls me by my real first name ever. Then they were like ‘Hey we are going to go through some names.’ And they give me a list and you can go through them and make suggestions. Man, I tried so hard to keep Taya. They didn’t want to keep Valkyrie because there is a Valkyrie that works for NXT UK. But with Taya I tried really, really hard. I’m sure that somewhere in a book there are some ridiculous names. So yeah it just started the 2 week back and forth of going through with the names.”

So how did you become Franky?

“Well Frankie is a name that I picked. I have always liked the androgynous names, the ones that can be used for a boy or a girl. I remember watching the Stigmatamovie and her name was Francesca in it, but they called her Frankie, and I thought that it was really cute. Technically you could say that it was Francesco, but it comes from that. But I didn’t want it with the ie on the end, because that was too normal. I got to choose the spelling. Monet is what I came up with, I started to think of artists. My dad and I and my sister used to take us to see all the art galleries, so that was where I picked Monet.”  

So what is next now for Taya?

“Oh my God so many things. I was kind of scared and anxious coming back to the indies. I had no idea why, I have been doing it for so long. It felt like I had let people down and I was putting it all in my own head. It is hard mentally to go through all that stuff. I was putting things in my head that made me anxious.”

Is there anything you have learned from your time in NXT that you will take into your future matches?

“Definitely some of the psychology stuff. I was so fluent in Lucha Libre that it was interesting to have a better understanding in their type of psychology 100%. Also just taking my time and not rushing things. I feel like my selling has improved a lot to make things seemed bigger. If anything they have polished me up to make me bigger.”

I end every interview talking about gratitude. What are 3 things you are grateful for?

“My health, my family and John.” 

Image credits: Instagram