Recently we had the chance to catch up with one of SCU’s favorite ladies, SoCal Val. She got her start in wrestling at the age of 15 at the famed Anaheim Marketplace and went onto become a performer and producer at TNA. Since that time she has worked with FIP, Evolve, and Shine among other promotions. She is also involved with the new Fite TV app. In this interview we discuss her time in TNA, the rise of women’s wrestling, new ways to watch wrestling, her crush on Jason Allgood, and foot fetishes among other things.
Steve: It’s been almost 11 years since our last interview, which is crazy because I’m pretty sure you are still only 25 or so. For just a quick refresher, how did you first get started in wrestling?
SoCal Val: [laughs] I first got started in wrestling pretty much in thanks to SoCalUNCENSORED. I was going to independent shows around the Southern California area. I was 15 and living in Hollywood at the time. The first shows I attended were XPW shows because I had friends who were friends with guys like Dynamite D, Chris Hammrick, and Jerry Lynn who were part of XPW. I went to one of those shows, and I forget what the name of the building was, the big building they always ran in at the time. If you said the name I know I would remember it.
Steve: The Grand Olympic?
SoCal Val: Yeah, that’s it, the Grand Olympic Auditorium. So I met Henry Luna, who ran GSCW, and my friend said to him “this girl is really young but she loves wrestling and would love to manage, could she be on your show?” and Henry said “yeah, let’s try her out.” By then I had already gotten a reputation for attending shows and kind of dressing up, and on the SoCalUNCENSORED message boards someone posted asking “who is the chick with the legs?” and then everyone started speculating who I was, and by the time of the show people were kind of interested to see what I would do. So my first show was for GSCW, which later became APW LA, at the Anaheim Marketplace on March 30, 2002. Every year on the date I have sort of a personal anniversary of my first show, my first foray into the world of professional wrestling. I’m now 29 and it’s been quite a ride.
Steve: Do you remember who you managed on that first show?
SoCal Val: I do and we are still buddies to this day, and we see each other on shows at least once or twice a month; that would be TJ Perkins, who at the time was called Pinoy Boy. I came out with him and left him in that match for Scott Lost. Scott Lost is still one of my best buddies. He and Joey Ryan later brought me into PWG and we are still really good friends. It’s funny the two guys I managed in that first match I’m still friends with today.
Steve: I know we went over some of this on our previous interview, but why did you end up leaving SoCal for Florida?
SoCal Val: My family. My mom got a job in Orlando and as a family we moved. My mom and my sister and I. I just barely turned 16 so I had to go with them.
Steve: I think anyone that was seeing you back in the GSCW and PWG days, I don’t think anyone thought you were 15 or 16 years old at that time, and I imagine there are a few people reading this right now that feel a little dirty about themselves.
SoCal Val: [laughs] Yeah, it’s so funny, like my mom was not into the whole wrestling thing at all and she would say “if this business changes you I’m going to yank you right out of it” and would have me go to shows with my two friends, David and Deija, who were a little bit older than me. Old enough that my mom felt I had a chaperone. In Florida I started working for IPW hardcore and NWA Florida, which is sort of a joint promotion run by Joe Price and Ron Neimi. Shortly after that I started working for Full Impact Pro, which I’m doing a show for Friday [February 12], the guy who runs that is Sal [Hamaoui], Gabe [Sapolsky] was the booker, and Gabe is still the booker for Evolve. It’s all the same people from when I started which is great because you get to know them and have a comfort level. So yeah I started doing independent shows in Florida and I’ve always felt like I have two bases. I see my SoCal home base, my friends from PWG and the smaller promotions that aren’t really around anymore, guys like Super Dragon, American Dragon [Brian Danielson], Joey Ryan, Scott Lost, Supa Badd and B-Boy. One of my favorite guys to talk to was Shawn Riddick. Then in Florida when I was working for NWA Florida, IPW, FIP, I met great guys like Claudio Castagnoli, to many different people to name. I kind of see that I had two home bases that really influenced me in those first formative years in wrestling, around 2002 and 2003. In 2003, I don’t even think I was 17 yet, I got an opportunity to go to a TNA tryout with Roderick Strong, Sederick Strong, Bruce Santee, and Steve Madison. We had a tryout match up in Nashville, and I ended up doing that when I was really young. Then when they came to Orlando I showed up with tapes and resumes to the shows hoping to get a spot, and that eventually lead to a very long career in TNA.
Steve: You were in TNA for nine years?
SoCal Val: Yeah, nine years.
Steve: That is really amazing. I mean, in all honesty females in the wrestling industry historically have a really high turnover rate. Nine years with them is quite an accomplishment. I mean you look at WWE and one year to the next it’s almost a complete roster turnover when it comes to women a lot of the time.
SoCal Val: Thank you. I think it’s interesting, people have a lot of opinions like “what did she ever do?” People would say they don’t see me much. People know me know I’m a really hard worker and what you would call jack-of-all trades, or jill-of-all-trades I would prefer you say. I was doing a lot of different things. When I first was there I was trying to be seen by the right people and I wanted them to know I was there. When you are a girl in wrestling and that young you are immediately going to be thought of that you are in it for the wrong reasons, but I proved over time that I’m a nice girl and I just wanted to be involved and contribute to the show in any way possible because I just loved it. David Sahadi approached me about being a production assistant, so that’s what I did. I helped him with various odd jobs like promos and commercials. One time for example I was spraying a water bottle in the back so when Monty Brown was getting hyped for his match it looked like there was mist in the air. Little things like that. There was one promo where Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are dressed up like Elvis in this convertible car, and the car was bouncing like it was riding down the road. I was one of the people helping to bounce the car.
Steve: [laughs] That’s hilarious.
SoCal Val: [laughs] It was fun. Eventually Jeremy Borash put me on ring girl duties, and I did that for a really long time. That became sort of a lot longer of a position than I was really comfortable with. Everyone knew I wanted to be on the show a lot more than I was, I mean I was shown every week on the TV show but it was getting to the point where I really wanted to do more. They finally put me in a storyline with Jay Lethal and Sonjay Dutt but then after that they came to me and asked if I thought being a ring girl again is a step backwards. I very boldly in my opinion told them “yes, I think it is a step backwards, but if that is what you need me to do I’ll do it.” So I became ring girl again for a little while after that, then I was able to get into producing segments, producing commercials, writing scripts and lines for the guys. Not their promos but for our international TV segments. I was doing a lot of on air hosting. I did an Impact recap that was on Spike TV and to all of our international channels. I did one in French. I think people didn’t realize the work I was doing there. I can say it honestly that the last two years I was there I was the first one there and the last to leave. It is a little disheartening when fans don’t really realize all the work you put into it. I guess it is not really their business, it’s just something I dealt with people wondering what I was doing but you can’t let it bother you. I had a steady job with a wrestling company for nine years doing a lot of different things and learning skills that help me to this day. For that reason I’m really really lucky.
Steve: It seemed like with TNA there was always rumors of its pending demise. Did you get any sense that it did anything to morale or was there any talk about it?
SoCal Val: There was always that rumor and I don’t think it bothered most of us because we heard it so often. I think it was easier for me because I saw the changes and saw it growing. I will also say I am one of the people who will openly say that I support everything that Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff did for TNA, because I saw what they were doing. I saw that they were trying to help. They were getting us noticed on places like ESPN which was such a bigger platform than anything we were seen on before. I can squash the opinion that Hogan and Eric Bischoff were anything but helpful for the growth of TNA. I was there for such a long time before they got there and I saw the difference. I was never more impressed than the way they treated me too. For example I had to get guys to do promos for me all day long on the set and Hulk Hogan was one of the nicest, most professional ones to come and do it, then he would even thank me for my time after. So many other guys were nowhere near Hogan’s level would give me a hard time or be in a bad mood. These guys who had nothing to prove, guys like Hulk Hogan, RVD, Mick Foley, and Mr. Flair were the complete opposite. They were the best I could ever ask for.
Steve: Now that WWE is running NXT out of Florida, have you made any attempts to get in there? I know in the past you’ve told me that it is one of your dreams to be in WWE.
SoCal Val: The interesting thing about WWE is about the same time I was about done with TNA they had just started hiring females that were only announcers. That was almost unheard of. That’s how I wanted to be hired by WWE. As soon as I was contractually able to go to WWE live shows and NXT shows I was there. I am such a fan of the product. I was pleasantly surprised to see all the characters they have there, I thought it was going to just be a feeder system where generic wrestler a wrestles generic wrestler b. It was such a production and such a cast of characters, the first show I went to in Tampa, and the more I watched the product the more I fell in love with it. And now living in Orlando a lot of these people are my friends. I just think it is really a weird position to be in when you already have a following in wrestling that they didn’t create and number two being a female that has no interest in becoming a wrestler. When I left TNA in 2013 I remember thinking “if WWE wants me to be a wrestler and for me to give it a try, maybe I’ll try it.” Since then my opinion has gotten a lot clearer of what I’m willing to do and what I’m not willing to do. I know my strengths lie in announcing, hosting, modeling, that sort of thing. I’m much more of a creative person than I am a physical, aggressive, athletic person, and that’s just who I am. I’ll never apologize for that. My goal is to remain doing what I love to do and that doesn’t involve being a wrestler.
Steve: How have your experiences with them been?
SoCal Val: My experiences with them have been nothing but great. I was at least three or four RAWs and live tapings, I was at Wrestlemania, I got to shoot with Paul Heyman in California that same week. That photo shoot will be up on heymanhustle.com pretty soon [Editors note: It is available now]. Just getting to be around the WWE roster and get to know some of them a little bit and see old friends like Mr. Flair and Mr. Hogan was great. It was really cool to be backstage at a Wrestlemania; I had never done that before. All the experiences I’ve had with WWE have been great so never say never but right now I’m really happy with what I’m doing. WWE, they know where I am, and if it fits within my schedule in a way that will make me happy I’m all for it, but as for right now I’m not sure what will happen.
Steve: You are doing a lot of work with Evolve and Shine. Is your job their similar to your job in TNA, with more of an on-air role? Do you have any role in creative there as well?
SoCal Val: I don’t have any direct involvement with creative. Gabe, our booker for Evolve, is so wonderful. He sort of gives me bullet points of what he wants my character to convey, but he has the trust in me to execute it in a way that sounds like SoCal Val is saying it. My roles in Evolve and FIP are just as a heel manager, which I think has been one of my strongest points other than hosting. It all comes to down to having wit and having timing and that is something I pride myself on because it isn’t something you really can teach. Of course I pick my own stuff apart all the time, I’m a perfectionist. I don’t think there ever been any piece of footage where I looked at it and didn’t think I can do it better. So in Evolve and Shine I’m just a manager, and with FIP I’ve been doing commentary, which is a really cool part of the business that I really wanted to get into. I’m grateful that they’ve let me kind of use all my skills in the different federations that are under WWN Live.
Steve: Recently on SoCalUNCENSORED we’ve had a few things kind of dealing with the rise of women’s wrestling. Ten to fifteen years ago there were hardly any women wrestlers in the U.S., and even fewer that were actually good wrestlers. Now there are a ton of women wrestlers putting on good matches. Look at Bayley and Sasha Banks. They had a match that finished third in the Wrestling Observer’s match of the year voting, that is unheard of. What do you think the turning point was that started leading all these women into professional wrestling and to get good at it?
SoCal Val: Well, first of all I have kind of a funny Bayley story. When I first met Bayley she said “oh my god I used to see you managing at the Kirk White shows [Big Time Wrestling] in Northern California.” I was looking at her thinking we were around the same age, she’s probably a few years younger than me, but then it hit me how young I was working on those shows and she was probably just getting into wrestling around that time. It was cool to see that we have sort of a California connection. She is like a Hulk Hogan or a Ric Flair, I mean she is one of those girls who is going to have such a great career because not only does she have the talent and the look but she is a student of the game. She has worked so hard and she has the respect of everyone, which is hard to get as a female. She has the heart and attitude. She is such a very nice girl who you can tell she is in it for the right reasons, she just loves to wrestle. I was really thrilled to be able to interview her on a radio show that I do here every Thursday morning called Monsters in the Morning, it’s on 104.1 and monsters.fm. She came in for the interview after she had just won the belt. I am really proud of her and happy for her because she is such a nice girl.
I’m really not sure about women’s wrestling to be honest. I really never had much to do at all with women’s wrestling. I never really loved wrestling myself, meaning having me physically wrestle and I’ve always managed guy wrestlers and have watched more men’s wrestling. I’m proud of anything that is going to empower women though. What I find interesting about women’s wrestling on the independent circuit, when I started watching wrestling in the 90s girls were free to use their sex appeal, of course it got a little trashy sometimes, but I think now WWE has a great roster of women who are beautiful and they have tons of sex appeal and they are still someone a guy would want to hang a poster of on their wall. A lot of girls on the indies, and I’m not sure why, rebel against that. I think they have an old mentality that WWE has tried to break over the years that to be taken seriously you can’t use your sexuality. I think the sexuality is what sets us apart from the guys and women should use it because it something men will never have. I think that’s the secret to what makes a great women’s wrestler, to find your niche and don’t be afraid of your femininity, that’s what sets us apart.
Steve: In our previous interviews you mentioned Sunny [Tammy Lynn Sytch] as one of your inspirations and someone you wanted to model yourself after. What are your thoughts on her recent, let’s say career choices?
SoCal Val: I’ve done so many shows with Sunny. When I first met her it was really nerve racking since she was someone I really looked up to. Then we started to become good friends since we were on a lot of the same signings and we roomed together. I’ll say this it is not a career that I would in any way shape or form ever get into, but I know deep down she is a good girl, and you can never take away what she did for wrestling and how she paved the way for other women. To knock it as a career choice and try to wipe out everything she’s done is wrong and quite frankly it’s disrespectful. Sure going into the porn business is a topic of conversation, it’s controversial, but it doesn’t color my opinion of her as a person what so ever.
Steve: Before we started the interview we were talking about how the internet has really changed the availability of wrestling over the last five to ten years. We were using the example of the GSCW shows you debuted on, that unless someone has an old VHS copy of those shows, no one is going to get to see them.
SoCal Val: Let’s hope somebody does. Write me if you do.
Steve: [laughs] If Scrub is out there somewhere he may still have a copy, but he’s been missing in action for awhile himself.
SoCal Val: [laughs] Speaking of Scrub, I remember one thing about my time in SoCal was all of the different repeat fans that were as famous as the wrestlers. I remember years later I saw, I think his name was World’s Biggest Mark?
SoCal Val: Yeah. Oh my god it was just like seeing a famous person. I was like you don’t even understand I saw you all over the place. There are fans all over that are getting recognition. In WWE there is Sign Guy that wears a red cap and is in the front row of every WWE show. It is hilarious. Fans are carving out a place in wrestling for themselves and I think that is really cool.
Steve: Yeah, we used to have Joey Ryan Fan and Angry Fan is still around I think…
SoCal Val: [laughs] Yeah! Hey, do you remember Jason Allgood?
SoCal Val: Oh my god, I used to think he was so cute when I was fifteen. He had that move he called the Brittany Spear. I thought he was hilarious. He was so dreamy when I was fifteen years old.
Steve: Speaking of fans have you had any weird interactions where you thought “this is not something normal?”
SoCal Val: Yeah, I’ve gotten a lot of weird requests, and I am always surprised by the foot fetish guys. I mean I find women’s feet to beautiful in a way, I love shoes and all, but I’ve never understood the obsession. I’ve gotten requests for used trash bags, used q-tips, one person wanted me to squish bugs in designer high heels. One guy e-mailed me obsessively about pictures of me in the abdominal stretch. Another guy who e-mails a lot wants photos of women being picked up, kind of like the honeymoon hold.
Steve: Like carrying you over the threshold?
SoCal Val: Yeah. There is a fetish for everything and you can’t let it freak you out. Certain things you can see how someone will see it is sexual, but then other things are like why do you need a used trash bag? There are also people who have bought by event worn items from socalvalstore.com. There was a guy who sent me a photo of him in a denim skirt that I sold. At first it was a little strange but then I thought if this guy wants to dress up like SoCal Val in his living room and get sassy, more power to you. If you aren’t hurting anyone get your kicks and have fun.
Steve: Have you had any scary moments in person?
SoCal Val: A guy tried to buy my Red Bull can at a signing in Dallas recently and I was not going to sell him my used Red Bull can. That stuff is crazy.
Steve: You never know, he could have been a scientist and he was going to clone you or something.
SoCal Val: [laughs] Yeah maybe he wanted to make a Val.
Steve: There could be a whole bunch of SoCal Vals running around if you only gave him your Red Bull.
SoCal Val: That’s just what the world needs.
Steve: So we were talking about the internet and the availability of wrestling now compared to a few years ago. You work for Shine and Evolve for example and they stream their shows on WWN. In the past if I wanted to watch indy wrestling in Florida you had to either buy a tape or DVD or trade with someone. Now it is so easy to watch everything it has really changed the dynamic.
SoCal Val: It has. I remember the days of buying Best of Francine VHS tapes off of eBay. Which I still love that video by the way. Now you have things like the Flipps TV and Fite TV apps. I started working with the Flipps TV app and I thought it was really cool because when I was overseas I was able to watch ROH and TNA on this app. It streamed live to your phone or connects instantly to a smart TV. I was able to watch it live on Wi-Fi. Now a few days ago we launched the sporting edition of Flipps TV called Fite TV and it is centered not only around wrestling, like Evolve, FIP, and Shine, but also MMA, we started adding some arm wrestling, bull riding, all sorts of combat sports. We also just announced a partnership with Jim Ross, which is such an honor for me to be able to work with him and see his interviews first hand and to hear his insights on how he thinks Fite TV is the future of how we watch sports and order pay-per-views. There is a lot of free content available too. There are a lot smaller MMA shows on there too. For example there is UFFC that is coming up in March and Tanner from Tough Enough is going to be on it. There are nice tie ins like that where I have friends that are going to be on some of these shows and now I can watch them on my app. It has been a really convenient thing to download for me to have more freedom in what I watch, and like I said working with Jim Ross is very cool. He is going to call into the radio station I work with next Thursday to talk about the app and how he is involved. You know anything he gets involved with is worth it.
Steve: Yeah, as far I’m concerned he is still one of the best wrestling announcers and I have no idea why he isn’t on WWE.
SoCal Val: I agree.
Steve: I had a chance to check out the Fite TV app doing a little research for the interview, and I think it’s great. I love all of these new ways to watch wrestling like Fite TV, WWE Network, YouTube, etc. It is a great time to be a wrestling fan.
SoCal Val: Yeah. The coolest thing to me on all these different ways to watch wrestling is it isn’t just focused on one promotion. You have WWE Network where you can watch WWE, but then you have something like Fite TV to watch different indies. I have always tried to instill in people’s minds that if you want to support wrestling, you should support all wrestling. Wrestling is a drop in the bucket of the overall entertainment and for people to pit federation against federation is completely pointless. There is so many great indies out there that someone may never heard of, or even MMA. Someone might only watch UFC and have never heard of Legacy or MMA Platinum Plus and now they have access to find these promotions. It’s also personal to have that connection to a wrestler you see who is up and coming, for example in Evolve, and now that we have a partnership with NXT you see them go to NXT within a year, then Raw, then Wrestlemania and you’ve seen their whole career. That is the really cool thing about indies is you get that connection because you saw them before they were famous.
Steve: I agree. I know me personally I can say I saw John Cena wrestling in a night club in front of a few hundred people, or SoCal Val when she debuted at the Anaheim Marketplace. [laughs]
SoCal Val: Yaay!
Steve: Where do you see yourself in ten years? Do you still think you will be in wrestling?
SoCal Val: I don’t see myself as someone who is going to announce some sort of retirement; I’m not even a wrestler. In ten years I don’t really see myself being in it fully. I might be a mom at that point. I would never want to shy away from the fact that I was in wrestling though. I get very offended by people who leave wrestling then kind of sweep it up under the rug that they were in it. That seems very disrespectful to the business. I think I would sporadically do signings, maybe do an appearance on a show once in awhile as long as it is convenient for me, and if I have a family if it is convenient for them for me to take time away from them. I will always be someone who is supportive of wrestling and proud of my time. I will always be thankful for what I’ve been given the opportunity to do. If I left wrestling tomorrow I could look back and say I have the best memories from it and I gave it my all and stayed positive throughout it. I’m not sure everyone could say that. I feel really content.
Steve: I’ve asked you this in the last two interviews we’ve done, and since you never really answered I have to ask again. If you could shoot one person in the face, who would it be?
SoCal Val: [laughs] Can I use a water gun?
Steve: [laughs] No.
SoCal Val: I’d rather slap someone because to me that is much more satisfying. Who would I slap in the face? I’m such a goody-two-shoes I can’t think of one person. Bully Ray. I’m going to choose Bully Ray for all of the anguish he put me through on interviews. I think fans would love to see that and quite frankly I think it would feel good. It would be a healthy exercise for Bully Ray.
Steve: Lastly, when are we going to see you in Southern California again?
SoCal Val: I know I’m going to be busy until about maybe mid summer this year. I plan on going to the UK quite a bit and will be doing shows for Evolve on Wrestlemania weekend, WWNlive.com has the info and of course on the Fite TV app as well. I hope maybe like July. I would love to come out and see my friends and do some shows. Oh, and most importantly shop. Nobody in the world has better vintage shopping than LA. You can take the girl out of SoCal but you can’t take SoCal out of the girl.
Steve: Is there anything else you want to plug or go over we that we didn’t cover?
SoCal Val: I think we are good. I just want to say thank you to you Steve for staying in touch and I think it is so cool that the first wrestling website that gave me a chance is still supportive to this day. I’ve always loved SoCalUNCENSORED and if you want to put that in you totally can.
Steve: Thank you. I always say you are my favorite person to interview. I’ve always had a good time interviewing you and catching up with you. I think part of it is when we first met you were fifteen years old and I remember thinking “I hope this girl knows what she’s getting into.” Seeing you grow up through wrestling.
SoCal Val: That’s the beautiful thing of it all. I remember seeing Steve from SoCalUNCENSORED.com is in the audience and thinking “whoa there are some big time people out here.”
Steve: [laughs] I’m glad we were considered big time among fifteen year olds.
SoCal Val: [laughs] Hey, I saw Frankie Kazarian and he had a rolling bag and I was like “this guy is going places.” I should have just calmed down and stopped marking out.
Steve: Thank you again Val.
SoCal Val: Thank you.