What It’s Like Being a Professional Female Wrestler

It hurts.

by Tiffy Thompson
10 April 2017, 3:20pm

Billede via Chelsea Green

Chelsea Green (AKA Lauren Van Ness) is a professional wrestler with Impact Wrestling. The 26-year-old made the leap into wrestling from kinesiology school after learning there was a training school just down the road from her place in Calgary. She has appeared with Raw, WWE Tough Enough VI, and made her feature film debut— Chokeslam—this month.

VICE found out what it's like to love to be hated, and how to not murder your body (while getting beat up on the regular).

VICE: How'd you get started in wrestling?
Chelsea Green: I was always very interested in fitness, I played a lot of sports growing up. I didn't grow up with wrestling. I didn't know anything about wrestling. I lived in Calgary, and a lot of old WWE, WWF and WCW guys went through Calgary—whether to train or to work on the independent scene. When I lived there, I became immersed in all of this wrestling talk and it sparked my curiosity.

I was on the computer one night, Raw came on and I saw a women's match. I thought, huh, I could do that. Next thing you know, I was knee-deep in wrestling. I called [Canadian pro wrestler] Lance Storm and started training the next week. I fell in love with it.

How'd you come up with your persona, Lauren Van Ness?
I remember being told; if you're a bad guy, find something that people hate about you. Maybe you have a voice that people get really annoyed with. Whatever it might be. On the other hand, if you're a good guy, you're trying to get the crowd behind you. Try to play the underdog.

I found that when I went to the ring as a bad guy, people hated that I took care of myself. That I went to the gym, that I had hair extensions, that I put makeup on. They hated that I was a girly-girl. I thought, OK, I'm going to crank that up to 110 percent and make people really annoyed. So I go out there and talk about the way I look, or the way I dress compared to what they're wearing. That really annoys people.

As you progress in your career, your character progresses and evolves. I started with an idea, and it's evolved into this rich, money-hungry, daddy's girl character. With Impact now, they wanted my character to get married and be left at the altar, so I've changed it to a jilted bride.

What do your days look like?
My job is all over the place. I really have no routine. I have a couple constants though. I go to the gym at least 6 times per week. I'm constantly eating healthy. I train as often as I can in the ring. But I'm traveling all the time. I may be on a couple of flights a week. Always on the go.

What are the other wrestlers like? Do you hang out with them?
Yeah. In a way, it's like a sisterhood. We all wanna look out for each other. You should have everyone's best interests at heart. Although we're competing for the same spots, we also need to make each other look good, and support each other. Because we get in the ring together, you have to trust these girls. A lot of us are friends. I'd say I'm friends with 90% of the girls I meet. I have to trust these girls with essentially my body and my life.

It's like any normal job. There are people you butt heads with. The main thing is that while you might have difference of opinion, when you get into the ring you take care of each other and you don't try to hurt the other person. As silly as that sounds, because what we're doing is beating each other up.

Is it all choreographed?
It's feeling each other out. People ask, is wrestling fake? No, it's not fake. We are flipping each other around, landing on our head, landing on our neck, taking punches. The only thing that's pre-determined is the end result. Everything else is like an interpretive dance.

What did your family say?
I came home to Victoria, BC for Christmas and told them: "I'm going to start training in a couple of days to become a professional wrestler."

I had been going to school for kinesiology so this is not something they saw coming. The look on their faces... they were so surprised. For a while, it was a joke to them. But once I dove headfirst into this crazy wrestling world—they saw me succeeding and gaining notoriety, then they said, OK this is real. As much as they wanted to laugh, they did support me. My mom and my grandma come and watch me.

What do you like about it?
I love the showmanship and the athletic side of things. I love getting in the ring and doing cool moves and learning new things. I'm a bit of a show-off—I like going out there and putting on a show for people—acting, getting made up, wearing cool outfits. I really do love that part.

On the athletic side, it is gruelling and tiring. There I times I drag myself out of bed and think "Oh my gosh, am I really going to do this to myself today?" I want to make sure my body is in the same shape leaving wrestling as coming in. I want to protect myself as much as I can. I have a lot left in me.

Signature move?
Probably a missile drop kick. That's a drop kick off the top row. It's pretty hard on your body because you're jumping off the top of something and landing on the ground. That kind of hurts, but it's worth it to hear the crowd's reaction.

How do you mitigate wear-and-tear?
We learn proper technique; how to land, how to fall, how to take care of each other. We can protect ourselves all we want—tuck in our chins to protect our necks—but you're still landing on your back. There's only so many times you can land on your back and still be OK.

You have to be smart about the way you wrestle. There are people that do high-risk maneuvers, but those people may not be in the industry as long.

How long is the average career?
It's so different. For females, as a professional, I'd say probably seven years. That's quite a long time even, it might even be five. For men it's different, men have a lot more meat on their bones. Women are quite fragile in a sense, when we're landing on our back we don't have all that muscle and that cushion. We have to protect ourselves even more.

And if you get pregnant you have to take a break?
Yeah. But at Impact, we have a lot of moms on the roster who come back after having babies. It's amazing. I don't know how they do it, but they do better than us females who haven't had babies. It's unbelievable.

How've you seen the industry change?
Three years ago is when I saw the fans really turn and take on a love for women's wrestling. Women were doing amazing things back then, but they weren't as recognized as they are now. In the past three years, they've had the Divas Revolution—which is a step in the right direction for women. We're being noticed, we're main event-ing, we're doing the ladders and chairs and cage matches—things they really didn't want us to do before. There are so many eyes on female wrestlers—that's what we needed. That mainstream focus.

Now we have the show Total Divas—even though it's a reality show, it's still focused on women in this industry. A lot of girls watch it and think; I've never thought of it like that. I never thought female wrestlers could be cool and strong and beautiful. They've never seen that side of us.

Biggest misconception?
A lot of people look at me and say "How could you be a wrestler? You're not big and jacked like Chyna was." A lot of people say that to me. Or they think you don't wrestle—that we're just valets and managers to the men in this industry.

Best part?
Interacting with the fans. Whether it's positive or negative. They're so amazing. Everytime I go to an expo or signing; I have so many people coming up to me and supporting me. Even if they do "hate" me, it's because I've done a good job. I love that. It's rewarding to see little boys and girls coming up to me and kind of idolizing me. That's what I'm doing it for. It's a lot of fun.

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Chelsea Green
Lauren Van Ness
Impact Wrestling