By Erin Valois
For Gail Kim, women’s wrestling is not about wearing skimpy clothing and watching men get the job done. The former Ryerson student knows a thing or two about kicking ass and she’s showing the wrestling world that girls can play too.
And so when she dropped out of her food and nutrition program, the only people she didn’t tell were her parents.
“I never told my parents about my wrestling at first. For a year they thought I was still going to Ryerson. They are very traditional Korean parents and they felt school and education is important,” she said. “I just knew I could make it in wrestling.”
Kim’s big break came in 2001 when the WWE was in Toronto for a fan event. She was introduced to wrestler Molly Holly, who thought she had a unique look and submitted a video to WWE representatives. A few months later, Kim received the call.
“It was the most perfect day when I was signed,” she says. “I just met the right person at the right time.”
Several months later, Kim was officially living her dream. She made her debut on June 30, 2002 and her first televised match was in Buffalo for the WWE Women’s Championship. With her sister and trainer in the stands for support, Kim won the match and was the first woman with a Korean background to win the title.
Kim’s passion to be an athlete began at an early age. At her Toronto high school, she played over five sports and was named “Athlete of the Year” twice. After two years at the University of Toronto, she found her calling at Ryerson in the food and nutrition program.
“I’m a very spontaneous person,” she says. “I just loved fitness and health and I always knew I wanted to have a career in that direction.”
In her second year in the program, Kim rediscovered her passion for wrestling. Ryerson was just a layover for the future wrestler and she knew it was time to focus on her physical rather than academic education.
“I was always a fan of wrestling growing up and when I got to university, I was almost obsessed with it again,” she says.
She soon found a wrestling school in Toronto where World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) wrestlers trained. She then fell in love with the place and the idea of being more than just eye candy in the ring.
Dave Hodgson, vice president of the Professional Wrestling Association at Ryerson and a fourth-year radio and television arts student thinks Kim was a good addition to the sport.
“The WWE focuses on catfights and the usual bimbo stereotypes. Gail is different — she’s more than just a pretty face,” he says. “She did a lot of things that even some of the guys were unable to do.”
However, Kim’s dream of being a pro wrestler was not always so glamorous. She broke her right collarbone in late 2003 and returned in April of 2004, only to be released seven months later.
She soon found a new home with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) and began her career on the television show “TNA iMPACT!” Kim was also an important force behind the creation of TNA’s women-only division. But don’t expect it to be full of hair-pulling and screaming.
“Our show is very family-oriented. We do have to be sexy, but we are never degraded,” she says. “The writers really portray us as strong women. We wrestle like the guys.”
A month ago, she achieved her ultimate goal when she won TNA’s first ever women’s championship. Now that her dream has come true, the 31-year-old is in no rush to find a new ambition.
“I’m still on cloud nine,” she says. “I just want to continue having a strong woman’s division and put something good on television that the kids can watch.”