Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with former Impact Knockouts Champion and reigning AAA Reina de Reinas Champion, Impact’s own Taya Valkyrie.
We discussed her decade in the industry, including training with Lance Storm, her new clothing line LOCA, her lucha-libre heritage and the role Lucha Underground played in normalising cinematic and intergender wrestling.
If you wish to use these quotes, please credit Impact Wrestling and hookedonwrestling.co.uk.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary of your wrestling debut. Was professional wrestling always what you wanted to do?
I’m gonna say no; I didn’t really get set on wrestling until I was in my teens. I always knew I wanted to be a performer since I was a kid. But it wasn’t until junior high/ high school that I first saw wrestling and realised it was what I wanted to do.
I can’t believe it’s gonna be ten years, I know that sounds like a long time ago but to me it simultaneously feels like yesterday and also a lifetime ago. It’s been a crazy experience, but I’m just really thankful everything went the way that it did.
Lance Storm is credited as having taught you, do you think of him solely having trained you or were there others too?
So I started my career in Lance’s school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. From there I moved down to Mexico and was trained by numerous lucha-libre coaches, guys like Perro Aguayo Jr. Honestly some of the best people I could have ever had the opportunity [to train] in the ring with. So I have what I like to call a ‘Master’s degree’ in training.
How did you design your offence in the ring, and how much has it developed during your career?
I feel influenced by everyone I’ve been in the ring with, and my favourite wrestlers too. I feel it developed naturally over time; I’m someone who constantly learns and evolves, and thinks of different ways to do things, both attacking and defending. I also get a lot of inspiration from things outside of wrestling too, like movies and fight choreography. Wrestling doesn’t just come from itself, it takes inspiration from a million other things.
I’d agree, in more recent years we’ve seen something of an evolution in pro wrestling, and I actually think some of it comes from Lucha Underground, such as the cinematic style of wrestling storytelling.
I know! Thank you! There’s a lot of big stuff happening and everyone’s saying “wow, it’s so crazy and weird and different” and I’m like “uhhh…”. I think people like to have selective memory when it comes to wrestling, and I’ll just leave it at that.
Speaking of designing your offence, you’ve recently launched your own clothing line, LOCA and are a fashion student at the Academy of Art University out of San Francisco. Can you talk to us a bit about that?
That’s right, for the last six months, I’ve been studying fashion at AoAU. I live in Los Angeles and so had to start my studies online because obviously I travel, but I always wanted to start my own fashion brand.
I haven’t seen it in my foreseeable future just because of my scheduling, I’m involved in a lot of things outside of wrestling such as acting and things like that. And honestly, it just kinda got pushed to the forefront because of everything going on in the world right now.
I was at home just thinking about it, and still going to school because my school is online and didn’t really get affected by everything. I needed a creative outlet, and started dabbling in something I knew I always wanted to do, fashion. So LOCA is a street and loungewear brand, and I just want people to be comfortable and happy wearing my clothes.
It represents me, I’m passionate about it and I make everything myself. Everything is printed in LA, and I hand-dye everything myself. Every bit of clothing is unique and original. It’s all themed and signature coloured, but all unique. I see it as a representation of myself.
Having seen some of LOCA by Taya Valkyrie’s products, I notice how vibrant the colours are. What is it about colour that made you focus on this aspect of the product especially?
In and out of the ring, I’m a very colourful person. I always express myself through my clothing and always have. I don’t ever just want to wear black or white. Colour is part of your presentation, and can display your mood and how you see things. They’re influenced by my mood a lot.
I wanted to put something great and crazy out there, and I have Blue Moon, Sun Rise and Mars and Malibu and all these colours on my products, influenced by my personal mood I feel. Being from the West coast where it’s all colourful and bright, I feel that as part of my identity and that’s what I’ve put into LOCA products. I hope that when people wear my products, it makes them happy.
(More information on LOCA by Taya Valkyrie, including where you get your own LOCA products, can be found at the bottom of the page.)
You mentioned how COVID-19 hasn’t affected your education because of it being online. Unluckily, a lot of areas have been affected including in Impact. With Impact set to announce the fate of the World Championship, what would you have done if you were making this decision? Would you have allowed Blancahrd to remain as champion, or would you have put it back into the mix to allow performers who are able to compete to go for it.
Well I mean, I would just give it to myself. But not without beating up all the men and women on the roster, of course.
But seriously, I’m not sure what I would do. But I’m sure Impact Wrestling will make the best decision for the company. We’ll just see what happens, I’m waiting as much as you guys are.
Speaking of beating up all the women and the men, what are your thoughts on intergender wrestling?
I don’t even think of it as intergender wrestling. It’s just wrestling to me.
It’s been part of lucha-libre culture forever. I think it’s strange that people make such a big deal about it. I’ve been wrestling men, women, minis and exoticos for the last nine years. For me it’s just not weird, I don’t even think it’s necessarily special, I just think it’s a thing.
I’d rather people just didn’t make a big deal about it, and just see it as two amazing athletes just doing what they’re there to do. I do think it should be an option of wanting to or not wanting to, but I’d take on dudes for that title [Impact World Championship] any day of the week. Any guy on our roster right now, I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not scared of anybody.
I’ve taken on Brian Cage, I’ve taken on lucha-libre, AAA top guys in main events. I’m the first woman to have ever competed in main events in AAA. I’ve done everything when it comes to that kind of stuff, so put anyone in front of me and I will prove it; I’m tall, I’m strong and I’m better than everyone else.
You’ve been described as lucha royalty, what does that mean to you?
Lucha royalty came from the fact that I’m currently the Reina de Reinas Champion [in AAA], which means ‘Queen of Queens’. So, all the other Queens mean nothing, really. I’m also the longest reigning Reina de Reinas Champion from my first reign, which was 945 days over three years.
People seem to forget that, which is what I mean about ‘selective memory’. I earned that, and I’m also the first non-Mexican woman to win that championship. I worked away and broke down barriers of lucha-libre to establish myself as an important fixture in it.
Once the world is back to normal, I’ll be back down there doing my job and defending that championship again.
Taya Valkyrie and her team will be going live via her website & on Instagram at 12PM on June 15th to unveil all the new products, breakdown all the new styles and talk about what’s come back and what hasn’t. She’d love to see you there.
Fans in the UK can watch IMPACT Wrestling every Wednesday night at 9pm on Fight Network UK on Sky Channel 192