Tammy Sytch is considered by many to be the original WWE Diva. As Sunny, she was the top woman in wrestling during the mid-1990s. Since her release from WWE a decade ago, however, she has been one of the industry’s more controversial figures. After brief stints in ECW and WCW following her departure from WWE, Sytch has been a fixture on the independent circuit for the past eight years.
She appeared on Raw’s 15th anniversary show last December, which sparked rumors that she was going to be offered a WWE contract. Later, the buzz on the Internet was that TNA was going to bring her in to play Kurt Angle’s love interest. A job never materialized with either company.
I spoke with Sytch in a phone interview recently to discuss her career.
How often are you appearing at independent shows these days, and who are some of the promotions that you’ve worked for recently?
I work for the smallest little indies all the way up to Ring of Honor; I work overseas; I work in Germany a lot. Every single weekend I’m somewhere – at least one show per weekend, sometimes up to three. Business is actually very good right now. One big trip I’m looking forward to is going to France in November. I also did a Star Wars convention recently in Niagara Falls. They’re always interesting. You get these weirdos walking around dressed up like Darth Vader (laughs).
They make us wrestling fans look normal by comparison, right?
Oh, absolutely. The Stars Wars fans are so much creepier than wrestling fans. You get all these girls walking around like Princess Leia wearing the little bikini – and they really shouldn’t be wearing that little bikini. But whoever wants to hire me to sign my name and smile, I’ll go (laughs).
Are you enjoying getting out there and meeting the fans?
Oh yeah. There were a few fans that showed up to see Stars Wars who had no idea that I was going to be there and spent more time talking to me than they did the original Darth Vader. It’s cool. I really like doing conventions and signings. It’s a lot easier than doing anything in the ring or even ringside. I like keeping my face out there.
You appeared at the Raw 15th anniversary show back in December, which sparked rumors that you might be headed back to WWE. Is there still a chance of that happening?
There’s always a chance. Anything can happen in this crazy business. That was a really awesome night. They called me three weeks ahead of time and told me that they were thinking of having me on the show, but it wasn’t definite yet and they would let me know. Then about a week before, I got the phone call back and they said, “We definitely want you there. I was like, “Awesome.” I was so excited and all pumped up. I dieted my butt off. I worked out like a madwoman in the gym. I’m in the car on the way to Bridgeport, Conn., and my boyfriend’s driving and we’re about 10 minutes away from the building, and I started physically shaking. He looked at me and he goes, “What is the matter? Are you nervous?” I said, “I’m so nervous. You have no idea.” He said, “Why are you nervous? You’ve been doing this for 18 years.” I said, "No, you don’t understand. Hearing my music, walking down the ramp and doing my thing in the ring, that’s not what I’m nervous about. That’s old hat for me. I can do that with my eyes closed. What I’m nervous about is walking into that locker room and seeing all these people I haven’t seen for years and seeing people I don’t know.”
I’d heard from people who have been in that company since I was there that the locker room was completely changed. We were all friends when I was there. It was kind of like a family on the road. And what I had heard was that the past few years there was just a bunch of back-stabbers [and] nobody likes each other in the locker room. So I was actually very nervous about how the whole locker room scene was going to be, seeing people that I had history with – good and bad. It was nerve-wracking. But as soon as I walked in that back door everybody who saw me came right over, gave me hugs and kisses and was so happy to see me that every bit of nervousness exited my body immediately. I was shocked because here I am, ready to walk into the female locker room after hearing all these horror stories from people like Dawn Marie, who told me how all the girls hated each other, and every single girl in that locker room kissed my butt (laughs). They were awesome. They paid me so much respect, and the girls that I thought I would not like at all, like the girls from the Diva Search like Maria, she was one of the nicest ones there.
I’m not a big fan of the Diva Search thing. I was raised old school in this business. To bring girls in off the street that know nothing about this business and giving them a job when there are so many girls that really respect this business and have learned their craft that can’t get a job, I think that’s the wrong way to go about hiring girls. I was thinking that I definitely was not going to like these girls, but Maria came right over to me; she got me a bottle of water when I was thirsty and couldn’t find anything to drink; she was great. Melina – I didn’t like her character, so I guess she was doing her job really well because I bought into it – she was great. Now we keep in touch all the time. We talk on the phone, we e-mail, we text. She’s awesome. Every girl was just so nice. I was like, “Wait a minute. This is not the locker room that Dawn Marie was warning me about.” It was completely different from what I expected. It was a really fun night. I didn’t want to leave. Around 11:30 everybody’s starting to pull their bags out and go home and go to their hotels, and I wanted the night to keep going because I was having such a good time.
There also were rumors that you were going to be brought into TNA to play Kurt Angle’s love interest. What happened with that?
I heard that, too, but the only place I ever heard that was on the Internet. I was never contacted. Nobody ever said anything to me about any kind of idea. After 18 years in the business, I’ve learned that you don’t believe anything until you have your name on paper and money in your hand. You can’t believe rumors; you can’t believe that somebody has an idea for you unless it’s actually happening. I’ve been heartbroken many times when I thought ideas that were going to happen didn’t happen, so I don’t get my hopes up for anything. So all of a sudden, all these people are saying, “Oh, what happened? How did you screw up your deal?” I’m like, “There was no deal. It was an Internet rumor.” I’ve even contacted a couple of my friends that are producers and writers in TNA after I heard the rumors, and I was like, “What is going on?” And they were like, “We have no idea. We never heard anything like that.” So as far as I’m concerned, it was just an Internet rumor.
Do you want to work full-time again with one of the two companies?
Never say never. I kind of like how my life is right now. I work every weekend. I’m comfortable with money. And I like playing the housewife role during the week. Monday through Thursday, I clean the house, I cook dinner, and I take care of the landscaping. It’s kind of fun and it’s something I’ve never done before. It’s a nice, calm, normal life. I go the gym, I go to the tanning salon and I come home and take care of the house and my boyfriend. And then on the weekends I go and play (laughs). But never say never. I do love being on the road, and being on the road is where I’ve always been most comfortable – in hotels and rental cars and airplanes. A lot of people wouldn’t be able to fathom being away so much, but I kind of enjoy it. I’m kind of a gypsy at heart.
It would really have to be worth it. I definitely wouldn’t get in the ring and do anything physical. I’ve got some herniated disks in my lower back that I need surgery on and it’s just not worth it to me to go in there and have to get the surgery any sooner than I have to. I’m trying to put it off as long as possible. I’ve never been a wrestler; I’ve never said I was any good at it, because I’m not, even the couple times that I have been in the ring. If anybody wanted to hire me and have me in the ring, I think they’re foolish because why have me do something I’m not good at. Put me on the microphone, let me be a manager or a broadcaster or host a TV show – that’s what I’m good at. Don’t put me in the ring, because I suck (laughs).
We’ll see. If something comes about and there’s an offer made or an idea, I’ll definitely consider it. The night I was there for Raw, I got a lot of good vibes from people like Johnny Ace and Stephanie McMahon, and you never know. See, they’re the kind of company that they’re not going to hire you just to hire you and then figure out something to do with you. They’ll wait until they have an idea and see who is going to fit in the role for that idea, and then they’ll give you a call. They’re never going to hire somebody and then try to think of what to do with them. So if something happens down the road, great. But they better get a move on because I’m not getting any younger (laughs).
You mentioned broadcasting. I actually threw your name out there a while back when JBL left his job as color commentator on Smackdown. I thought you would be a good choice because it would be different to have a woman, and the fans are familiar with you and you’re a student of the business.
Well, I had the experience of doing commentary for Shotgun Saturday Night with Vince [McMahon] every week. That was so much fun. I had a blast. A lot of people have always been intimidated by Vince, but I don’t get intimidated very easily. I think the only person in this business who has ever intimidated me was Hulk Hogan. Vince doesn’t intimidate me. He was kind of like a father figure to me. He was very good to me. A lot of people, every time they have to work with Vince they totally blow it because they’re just so nervous to be around him. I used to play off of him. I used to grab him and make him dance with me on tables. The goofier I got with him, the better it was. It made it fun and took those nerves out. I got that history doing that kind of thing, so you never know.
You’ve talked in the past about problems that you’ve had with drugs …
All right, back up a second. I’ve never had a problem with drugs. I’ve never used any kind of recreational drug in my life.
What about prescription drugs?
Prescription drugs that were prescribed by my doctors, yes. I’ve never smoked pot. I’ve never even touched it. I’ve never done any kind of recreational drug in my life. I’ve never smoked anything; never snorted anything; never did anything like that. When I say the word “drugs,” that’s what I think of – recreational drugs. Prescription medication I don’t consider drugs. You’re not taking that to get a buzz; you’re taking a painkiller because you have pain, or you’re taking a Xanax because you need to go to sleep. It’s a totally different thing.
You did talk about having a problem with prescription drugs during an interview with Paul Heyman on the old ECW, right?
(Sighs) Can I tell you how scripted that was? That wasn’t even me. He wrote down everything he wanted me to say. He said, “We want to make it like a True Hollywood Story thing, but I’m going to script it out so we can try to get sympathy from the viewers.” Every single thing I said on there was basically written out on paper by him. So, a lot of it was truthful, like when we were talking about my dad or my niece, but there was a lot that weren’t – it was straight out of Paul Heyman’s head. Come on, it’s wrestling. You think this is all real? (laughs)
Obviously not. But I thought that interview was presented as a shoot.
Of course. And everybody believed it was, but it really wasn’t (laughs).
Well, the reason I brought the subject up is because I wanted to ask what your thoughts are on WWE’s Wellness Policy.
It’s something that should have been there a long time ago. When I was there, we had random drug testing, but it was so obvious that whoever they needed to pass the tests always passed the tests. I knew of a lot of people – and I’m not going to name anybody – that were doing a lot of stuff that they shouldn’t have been doing, and they passed every single time. And then there were some guys who would go out and party just a little bit and they would get popped on their tests because they weren’t necessary in the business. It was just to prove a point, or if they needed a way to get rid of you and they couldn’t just release you, you’d get popped on a test. But if they needed you for your angle and you weren’t expendable, you passed every single time. So it wasn’t as serious as it is now, but it should have been because maybe we’d have a lot of guys around that have passed away. I think it’s a good thing, but I do think they test for things they really shouldn’t.
See, I’m not one of those people who say, “Oh, steroids are bad.” Let me tell you, steroids are in every professional sport. You can’t avoid it. Yes, it does enhance your performance. But in a lot of ways, some of these guys do need that enhancement. You can’t go out there if you’re 5-foot-5, 145 pounds soaking wet and be a contender for the heavyweight championship. You’re going to need some kind of enhancement to even be taken seriously. So, I’m not an advocate of it, but I’m not the kind of person who says, “Oh, steroids are bad. Don’t do them.” So in that sense, I really don’t think they should be so hard on that. But as far as all the recreational drug use and abuse, absolutely, because like I said, maybe we’d have more guys around now.
I want to ask you about a well-documented incident that took place when you were in WCW. I was actually backstage the night that Kimberly Page supposedly found some drug paraphernalia in the women’s bathroom and told management that it was yours. I heard that you took a drug test after that and you passed, so why were you let go?
I volunteered [to take the drug test]. I said, “It’s not mine. I’ll go pee in a cup right now.” They said, “We’ll send you tomorrow when we get to the next town.” I said, “OK, fine. Send me.” So a week after I took the test, I went to [Eric] Bischoff and I said, “Do you have my results yet?” “Uh, no, we can’t seem to locate results.” He was beating around the bush the whole time. Three weeks later, after bugging him like every single day for my results, he said, “Well, we finally got a hold of your results and you passed – you’re negative.” I said, “I [freakin’] told you,” and I went off on him. See, I’m not the kind of person that will keep my mouth shut and go with the flow; I’ll speak my mind. I guess he didn’t like the fact that I told him off and that he was wrong and had to admit it. He couldn’t live with himself, and like two weeks later I got a phone call from Terry Taylor who said, “The angle doesn’t seem to be working out, so we’re going to have to release you.”
At that point, I was like, “I don’t even want to be in this [expletive] company. For you to accuse me of something, have me pass the test and then not be able to face up to the fact that you were wrong and let’s just go on with work – I didn’t even want to work in a company like that. It was pathetic. But that night when it all happened, Scott Steiner chased Kimberly Page out of the building and she never came back (laughs). I’ve always been friends with Scott since I was 18 years old. When he heard about what happened – you know, he snaps. You know Scott. He chased her out of the building and she never came back, so at least I got a little bit of my payback that way (laughs).
Moving on to a happier topic: What is your favorite memory from your days as Sunny in WWE?
I don’t know if I have a No. 1 favorite because there was just so many, but one of my favorite things to do – and people are shocked when I say it – is that I loved getting slopped [by the Godwins]. It was so much fun. First of all, it got me on magazine covers and so much TV time. How can you not like getting all that press? And it was just a lot of fun. I got to throw it in the crowd. People who hated me at that time got faces of slop. It was all over me and it was on the floor, so I would pretend I was slipping on it and grab handfuls and – boom – hit people in the front row (laughs). So that was my little revenge on them for spitting on me or cursing me out or whatever. But it was a blast. I did it every night on the road for like three nights. It was one of the highlights of my career, and people are always like, “Really?” I’m like, “Yeah.” You couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing a replay of me getting slopped. Of course, managing The Legion of Doom was awesome. That was really, really cool. I loved hosting all the TV shows because it was basically my show – I was on the whole show for the whole hour. There’s so much stuff. I had a lot of fun years there.
It’s public knowledge that you have a history with Shawn Michaels. What was it like seeing him at the Raw 15th anniversary show after all these years?
That was one of the things I was very nervous about, because I haven’t seen him since I left that company. I didn’t know what to expect. I was in catering and all of a sudden someone taps me on my shoulder, I turn around and it’s him. Of course, I was like a deer in the headlights (laughs). And he hugs me, kisses me on the cheek, said how great I looked. I tried to say the same thing about him without lying too much because he aged quite a bit since I saw him last (laughs). I was like, “Oh, you look the same.” And I’m thinking to myself, “No you don’t.” (laughs) But he was very cool. He showed me pictures of his kids. He was in great spirits that night and he was a sweetheart. That’s probably what I was most nervous about going in there that night, and he totally made it easy.
Shawn had a reputation for being a prima donna in the ’90s. Do you think he is a different person today?
He seems a lot more centered and at ease with himself than he did in the past. Yeah, he was a prima donna; he was a [jerk] to just about everybody except for his very close friends, and me for about nine months. In December, he did seem like he had a different attitude. He seemed like a happier, more content person. Back in the ’90s, he was so good, he was the best that we had in the company, but he was still very insecure about himself. And that’s why he thought he had to be a [jerk] to everybody, to kind of uphold his image. I do believe he’s changed over time. I think it did a lot of good for him to settle down, get married and have kids.
You talked a little bit about the Diva Search girls earlier. What is your overall impression of the current women’s wrestling scene in WWE and TNA?
First of all, I think if you have more than five girls at one time it’s way too much. It takes all the specialness out of it. When I was [in WWE], there were three of us, and every time you saw one of us it meant something. Now, there’s a girl in practically every single segment on the show. To have a women’s match on every show I think is just too much. I’m not a fan of women’s wrestling. Just leave that part to the guys. When you’ve got 19-20 girls on the roster, it’s redundant and it’s not a special thing. To be honest with you, a lot of girls that came from the Diva Search, I can’t tell one from the next. I don’t know what their names are; all I know is that they came from the Diva Search at some point.
As far as TNA girls go, I think they do have a crop of girls that have a lot more talent than the WWE girls because they have been schooled in the business. They either went to wrestling schools or they studied the business before they got into it, and they actually have respect for it and they want to be in the business because they like wrestling. The Divas want to be in the business because they want the quick paycheck. You have to remember, at the very first Diva Search, there wasn’t one girl who knew who Kamala was. How do you not know Kamala? I watched that and I swear I couldn’t watch another Diva Search segment because I was so [ticked] off.
Is there one guy in either company that you would like to manage if you came back?
The one person I always said I wanted to manage before I was completely done was Ric Flair, and I don’t think that’s going to happen now. Who knows if he’s ever going to get in the ring again. He’ll probably end up being like Terry Funk and have eight retirements and eight comebacks and wrestle until he’s 70 (laughs). That remains to be seen, but I’d like to do that just so I can say I walked the aisle with the “Nature Boy.” As far as anybody else, I love Randy Orton. I’m a big fan of his, and I was from the first time I saw him. I would like to work with him.
Have you thought at all about writing a book?
I have actually started writing one. It’s probably going to take about a year because I’ve got 18 years of stuff to write about. I’m probably going to have two volumes – nine years in Volume I and nine years in Volume II. It would be too hard to condense 18 years of stories into a 300-page book. So I have started writing, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. To try to recall everything from like 1991 and 1994, it’s insane. But it’s definitely going to be a good one. It’s not going to be the kind of book that bashes people or tries to ruin marriages or break up families or anything like that. It’s going to be a fun book. I’m telling road stories and funny ribs that happened. There are so many Davey Boy and Owen Hart stories that it’s ridiculous. I traveled on the road with them so much, and with all the ribs that they pulled on me, that I pulled on them and that we all pulled on other people, that’s like a book in itself (laughs).
Photo credit: Bob Mulrenin