Just the other day I came across this old picture of me from my first tour of Japan. I wrestled Sumi Sakai. She was a very tough opponent, but taught me something amazing: wrestling is like dancing…even when you’re fighting.
I am not going to lie – my first time going over to Japan was incredibly nerve racking. I just wanted to be great. I had trained so hard and I had done the homework in the dungeon and with my coach Tokyo Joe. Somehow I was still worried that I wasn’t going to be as good as everyone else wanted me to be. I really didn’t want to disappoint my family, either. Their name brought so much respect with it and it was a duty of mine to uphold it.
It was me who was putting the most pressure on myself when all I needed to focus on was what brought me to the “dance” in the first place. I’d graduated from the dungeon and had my first real gig: Japan!
I also remember my uncle Bret telling me that he felt the same way when he first started wrestling and particularly when he went to Japan. He wasn’t the “Excellence of Execution” at 21, either. It took time for him to grow and evolve and learn his craft. He has always reminded me that there is no substitution for hard work and…TALENT CAN’T BE STOPPED. I have kept that advice with me always and it has helped me believe that the impossible can be done…even when I have felt incredible doubt within myself.
Back to my match with Sumi. It was one of my favorite matches of my career because we let our bodies do the talking and just had a good old fashioned wrestling match! There was a lot of hard hitting and I also realized that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. These girls in Japan meant business! It kind of made me want to fight even more, though. With every hard hitting move, I really wanted to hit harder myself.
I’ll never forget my first finishing move. Believe it or not- it wasn’t always the Sharpshooter! It was something I named: Nattie By Nature. It is only fitting that this move is what we all now know as The Glam Slam!
And that brings me to the Glamazon! In 2005 (Japan) I had never met Beth Phoenix nor did I know of her. Somehow, in other parts of the world, we were sharing the same passion and looking like twins doing it! I’d later come to find out Beth was fanatical about the Hart family and had a special soft spot for Owen, long before his passing. She had been compared to me much of her career and I had been compared to her. Yet we never had met each other.
It’s so great now that we can laugh over all of this – especially sharing the same finishing moves so many years ago. Beth wrestled Sumi too! So we also have that in common .
Now that I’m in WWE, experiencing another chapter of my life and running the ropes with my best friend, Miss Phoenix, I’ve realized that Sumi was right. There is an art to wrestling, and it’s a lot like a dance.
What I know now is the game of “life” is more like a wrestling match.