I recently conducted a phone interview with former WWE diva and Playboy cover girl Torrie Wilson to discuss her wrestling career and what she has been doing since retiring from the business due to a back injury. The interview was done prior to Wilson, a Houston resident, agreeing to participate in the 25-diva battle royal at WrestleMania XXV .
Can you talk about your back injury and why you decided to leave WWE?
It's kind of a freak thing. I never thought it was a bad back injury. Every once in a while for the year leading up to when it started really getting bad, it would lock up on me and I'd be laying on my floor, on my bed, wherever, for 30 minutes at a time because I physically couldn't even move. I was in tears. I just let it go, let it go, and it got to a point where, when I had matches I was really, really scared that it would lock up while I was wrestling and I wouldn't be able to move in front of a crowd. The last straw was when I had a match, I think it was on Smackdown, and I actually went to Vince [McMahon] and Johnny Ace and said, "Look, I don't think I can wrestle. My back's been hurting me and I'm afraid it's going to lock up and I'll look like an idiot out there. And so they sent me home and I went to a specialist, who couldn't find anything at first. And then I was going to a chiropractor for about nine months. I was getting epidural shots. You name it, I tried it. It got to the point where I couldn't even bend over to pick my dogs up or tie my shoes. I ended up finally meeting this new surgeon who has this new surgery where they go through your side, and they realized that one of my discs was completely collapsed. So no matter what I was doing to try to ease the pain, nothing was going to help it unless I replaced the disc. So that's eventually what I did in May. It was shortly after that where I was getting so tired of traveling. At that point I had already opened my clothing store. I knew I wasn't going to be wrestling any more. There was no way I was going to risk hurting myself again knowing how it felt to be so crippled. I just sat back and really thought long and hard and said, "You know what, I don't think I want to do this anymore." And they completely understood. They were great about it.
How are you feeling now?
I don't think the pain is ever going to go away completely. I think I was kidding myself thinking it was. I finally started running again, which is a huge passion of mine. So it's a step for me.
When you first got into the business in WCW it was as a valet – they still had valets back then. I'm guessing that you never thought you would actually be a wrestler.
Never. When I first got into wrestling I hadn't ever really watched wrestling. I didn't have cable where I grew up [in Boise, Idaho] and I didn't really know much about it. I was just kind of offered a job and I thought, "Heck, why not? I'll try it. It sounds fun." And it just really snowballed. Wrestling – physically wrestling – was the last thing on my mind. They sent Stacy [Keibler) and I and bunch of us down to the training facility in WCW and tortured us (laughs). I really got a sour taste in my mouth for it then. But when I joined WWE and I started doing it and learning probably the correct way of working, it became a little more fun. And then when I got to actually have matches in front of the crowd and they started getting into it, of course it was even more fun.
You talked about learning the ropes in WCW. So what was it like training under Madusa?
Oh my God. It was pathetic. When I think back now, I was just a young kid that was scared of everybody and never really spoke my mind. I just think, what nerve she had to be dropping us on our heads and making us miserable and not wanting to wrestle. Looking back, I feel for her. She was bitter. All these new young girls that had no clue about wrestling were coming into the business and taking her spot, but I just thought she went about it all the wrong way.
Was Fit Finlay the main person who worked with you in WWE?
He worked with me a lot. Eddie Guerrero also worked with me a lot when I was on Smackdown. Billy Kidman, my ex-husband, worked with me a lot. A lot of the cruiserweights were very helpful with the girls. Arn Anderson. But Fit Finlay was probably the main person. You know, it still took a while. For a long time I had no interest whatsoever in wrestling because of the bad experiences I had and how much it hurt in the past. Of course I really appreciate what these guys are doing all the time, but I don't think I really got into it until I started actually having decent matches and being OK with what the crowd saw that night [laughs].
With your back issues, do you think you'll ever get back in the ring again?
Today, while I'm sitting here driving in my car, there's no way I would ever get in the ring again and take bumps. Do I want to go back to wrestling? No. But would I like to have another match? Yeah, of course I'd like to have another match. When I left I just kind of fizzled away. I didn't have a goodbye match. I don't even remember what my last match was. It would be a great experience. I do miss being out in front of that crowd a lot.
That was my next question, actually. Has it been a tough adjustment after being in the spotlight for years and hearing the roar of the crowd to step away from that world?
It's funny, because I love to entertain, but I am actually a pretty shy person and I don't like a lot of attention to begin with [laughs].
Now I know people will be surprised by that.
They would, because they see me on TV, but that's a character. My own boyfriend always says, "I don't understand how you got in a bikini in front of all those thousands of people." I own a clothing store and I'm not a salesperson whatsoever. I don't like coming up to strangers [laughs]. There are many things about it I miss. I love doing the photo shoots and I did love being in front of the crowd. That wasn't me in front of that crowd – it was a character. Do I pine away and wish that I could have all that attention? No, not really.
Going back to the shy thing. When people hear that, I'm sure they're thinking: "But you appeared in Playboy twice, so how can you be shy?" Was posing nude hard for you?
[Laughs] It was pretty hard for me. I'm not shy with my body. I work out extremely hard, and so I am proud of what I work for. Definitely being nude was quite an experience for me and it was not what I expected. I thought I would be a little more confident, but I wasn't. What the fans don't know is that I was the bikini contest girl and all that stuff, but there were many, many times that I would come backstage from doing those bikinis and just ball my eyes out because I felt so degraded.
You mentioned your clothing store. Tells me about the store and your clothing line.
I started my own clothing line called Jaded, and my store is also called Jaded. We have our own line of men's and women's T-shirts and sweat suits right now. We sell upscale, trendier men's and women's clothing that you would see on Melrose in L.A. We're in Houston and doing really well. We actually just opened our second, larger location, and we're working on two more locations here in the next two years. So I'm becoming quite the businesswoman.
Any other irons in the fire at this point?
Yeah, I'm still doing photo shoots here and there and I'm still going out to L.A. and having meetings and stuff like that, working on a couple of projects that I don't want to jinx by talking about. I'm hoping to not disappear completely out of the entertainment industry.
You did a promotional thing with JBL for his energy drink not too long ago, correct?
Yeah, I did. It was a great time. He just called me out of nowhere and asked if I'd be interested. I actually love the energy shot. It has Advil in it, so it helps with your joints and easing the pain a little bit, as well as giving you a little boost. We shot a commercial and then we went and shot a bunch of photos for ads and different health and fitness magazines.
With WrestleMania taking place in Houston, will you be making an appearance?
I definitely will be there cheering everybody on. I have spoken to someone briefly about possibly doing something. It's kind of all up in the air right now, but I would love to do something with them. I miss everybody.
Do you still watch wrestling?
I hadn't watched for the longest time, and I just recently started watching here and there a little bit a few months ago. It was hard for me to watch for a long time. I felt like I was missing out on everything.
Do you still keep in touch with many of the people you worked with?
Gosh, now that Victoria quit [pauses]. Michelle McCool and Carlito I'm still really good friends with. And Chavo Guerrero. But really not very many. It seems like everybody's disappearing.
I know some of your old WCW friends are working in TNA. Would you have any interest in doing anything with them?
No. Nothing against TNA, but WWE is where you would want to be in that industry. And, you know, I get anxiety going to visit my mom on a plane now because I was just traveling so much before [laughs]. So the thought of being gone even one day a week doesn't sound like something I want to do.
So you're not even taking any wrestling bookings at all these days – appearances at indy shows or autograph signings?
I've gotten a lot of phone calls and I've done a couple of autograph signings, but I'm really just taking a step back. Like I said, I'm just not really into that travel right now. And after watching the movie The Wrestler, I don't think I'll be doing any indy appearances any time soon [laughs].
Well I doubt they'd ask you to go in the ring and do a weapons match or anything.
[Laughs]. When I watched that it made me nostalgic for wrestling, but also just so sad because that is so many people I know.
You never had to go through the indy scene, you just kind of walked right into the business, as you said. Did you ever get any heat from people because they felt like you didn't pay your dues and wrestle in high school gyms for $20?
Oh yes, of course [laughs]. I just think it's so hilarious that people brag that they practically broke their necks for $20. I commend that people work their way up and you have to get experience and everything, but any one of the people who wanted to give me crap when I first joined WCW, I can't say that they would have turned down the same opportunity, and they would have said, "No, I really want to go to Mexico for $20 a night." [laughs]. I never did any indy appearances or anything like that, but we did do a couple fundraisers for the older wrestlers, so I did get a peek of that world.
How was it in the locker room coming over to WWE after having been in WCW? I remember talking to Stacy [Keibler] at the time and she said she got a chilly reception. Did you have the same experience?
Yes. But for me it wasn't nearly as hard as when I got into WCW, because I didn't know anybody and people were just awful. I had no clue what I was getting into at WCW. With WWE it was much easier because I had my friends. Stacy and I were inseparable, and I could rely on her to walk down the hall with and not have to worry about people being mean to me for walking down the hallway by myself. I think a lot of people felt their jobs were being threatened, so of course they're not going to be extremely welcoming.
One of the first things you did in WWE was have some racy scenes with Vince McMahon. Was that uncomfortable?
Extremely. That was the first day I was actually on the show. The guy made me nervous anyway. I didn't know him very well at all. He was very intimidating, and I had to make out with him in front of his wife. And his wife is telling me to grab him more and harder. It was just a very weird experience [laughs]. To top it all off, I didn't have a chance to tell my husband at the time [Billy Kidman] everything that I had been doing that day, so he actually saw it all at the same time as everybody else.
Do you think that was an initiation of sorts?
I think so. I just think it's very odd how Vince has had a bevy of girls make out with him when they first come in. I guess if you're the boss ... [laughs].
I'm sure you probably get tired of answering questions about your dad, Al Wilson, but was it your idea to have your real dad play your dad in the story line?
Yeah, and I probably kicked myself a little bit for that later. Paul Heyman gave me the story line idea and he said, "We could use your real dad or get an actor." I said, "No, let's use my real dad. He did plays when he was younger." And of course my dad loved the limelight. He just had no clue about the wrestling industry and was asking Vince McMahon for rides in his limo to the building and just doing various uncouth things. After a few months of that, I was just ready to boot his butt home [laughs].
So what did you think of his performance as a corpse?
[Laughs]. I just found it all very humorous. It was funny to see all the wrestlers get so mad that he was getting so much air time, but he was literally getting the highest-rated segments of the show.
Do you have any good road stories or ribs that either you were involved in or that you saw that you can tell on a family Web site?
I'm horrible at remembering great stories. I can say that I have some great memories traveling with WWE. It was somewhat like a circus but I got to see the world and I have some of the best friends. How many people get to travel four or five days a week with four of their closest friends on a constant road trip? The overseas trips were the best, and seeing some of the ribs that were played on some of the guys, I just can't believe guys do that to each other, but I guess it's a frat boy thing.
So did they pretty much leave you alone?
Yeah, they did leave me alone. You know, there were a couple girls who really believed their own hype. I used to travel with my dog Chloe, and she went to the bathroom one time in the locker room, and I was feeling extra frisky and mean, and there were two girls that I just did not like very much that were very mean to me, and let's just say some of their stuff had dog poop on it [laughs].
What's your favorite moment from your wrestling career?
As painful as it was, the best story line I had was the one involving my father. It was the one time during my whole career that I knew that every single week I went to work I was going to do something. I wasn't going to sit in the back and wonder if I was going to have a match or a story line or a pre-tape segment. It was exciting to follow the whole story line and be a part of it. And I go so into it that during that time I truly did hate Dawn Marie. I was believing the story line and into it so much. That was probably the most fun time for me as far as working. Not the best matches, but story line [laughs].
Your dad must have loved working so closely with Dawn Marie?
Oh yes, he did, believe me. He still talks about it [laughs].
Do you have a Web site or anything that you want to tell people about?
The Web site for my store is called officiallyjaded.com. My MySpace is myspace.com/torries_space.