Rhia O’Reilly has been a Friend of TOWIS almost since its inception – so what better way to mark our relaunch than by catching up with her?
The last time we met up, you were about to have your match in EVE with Nikki Storm…
I remember! I’ve probably seen her more since she went to America than I did when she was in Scotland. It’s funny – the first person I was friends with who went to WWE was Bayley, but she’s American, that’s what they do, they go to WWE. Then it was Paige. To see this small, angry Scottish woman on telly is weird – but I’m so happy for her.
It’s odd that TNA missed out on her during British Boot Camp 2.
Yeah, well, sometimes you have to wait these things out. British wrestling is having this massive boom right now. There has been an undercurrent of it for about a year – the guys were starting to go over and do EVOLVE, PWG, what have you. Then Nikki went to WWE, they signed Damo – WWE are becoming more aware of the British scene. ITV announced World of Sport, and all of a sudden WWE thought they’d better have a UK tournament. Everyone realises British wrestling is a hot commodity now, and that’s really exciting.
It’s good to see collaboration too rather than quite as much territorialism.
I think that trickles down. WWE are letting their talent be on EVOLVE, Finn Balor at ICW, Aleister Black at Progress. They are willing to let people go out there – they’re less protective, and that makes other companies further down realise that’s a good thing too.
The focus has been on men’s wrestling, which is fine – but WWE are going to do this women’s tournament. There’s been talk about it for months, but now they’ve officially swaid they’re going to do that. I’m hoping they’re going to bring in really good talent – I know a few people who are probably going to be involved in it, so that’s exciting. To see the women they’re signing, they’re really putting a focus on indy women’s wrestling, and hopefully that’ll start to elevate the women’s scene. They’ve talked about doing a weekly UK show on the Network – I’m hoping they’ll put women on that platform as well.
So what are your plans for this year?
Real life is this thing that happens. Sometimes it comes in peaks and troughs – wrestling gets in the way of real life, real life gets in the way of wrestling, but at the moment I have some kind of happy balance. I have a big focus on Pro Wrestling EVE, which I think is going from strength to strength. Every show we had last year got better and better, and the crowd got even more passionate. Having Manami Toyota over was mindblowing – she’s been wrestling for 30 years this year, she’s achieved so much. It’s not about bringing someone in to draw – but bringing people in to impact on a locker room and help us grow as performers. There’s always new things you can try and do, and it’s so nice to have these new perspectives.
Emi is involved in talent-spotting now, isn’t she?
Yes, she’s going to run a training seminar, and we’ll do a trainee show afterwards. The idea is she’ll pick out things, people she sees do well, they’ll be on the show. It’ll be people who are already training, or people who are already on the scene – not absolute beginners. You’re seeing so many women now – that’s an ongoing trend as long as I’ve been training. WWE’s focus on women’s wrestling has an impact on that. There’s more women in wrestling now than possibly there’s ever been. There’s people around the country now I haven’t got to wrestle, and I want to wrestle them!
Everybody! There’s just so many people.
Does it make you feel old, though, now you’re kind of one of the senior stateswomen of British wrestling?
Well…I guess there’s a few of us now, so it’s not so bad. I suppose a little bit! It makes me so happy to see that people are inspired by it. Not everybody who gets into wrestling wants to be a WWE superstar – but the more women who try it will find that they really want to do this, and that’s awesome. It’s empowering.
And you’ll still be working with SHIMMER this year?
Yes, planning to be over there again. Those shows are going from strength to strength. There’s been a changing of the guard there – the originals are finishing up or going on to do other things. Del Ray’s at WWE, Cheerleader Melissa has been doing Lucha. But to see these others rise up, Kimber Lee, Heidi Lovelace, being snatched away by WWE, you realise they’re paying attention to this amazing talent. It’s an amazing hub of women. EVE is doing a mini-version of that, and Bellatrix as well, another locker room that’s nourishing women to be proud of what they do – and be good at what they do.
I’m hoping to wrestle for some new companies and in new places this year, which is always fun. I love wrestling and I want to be a part of this business for as long as I can – but there’s other things I want to do. There are things I want to do to make the world a bit happier – wrestling does do that for people, and that’s awesome, but I want to do more with that too.
Photo courtesy of Oli Sandler/Pro-Wrestling:EVE
Pro-Wrestling:EVE’s next shows are on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th February at the Resistance Gallery, London.