Beth Phoenix helped blaze the trail for many women in WWE as she stood out in the Divas era with her powerful style.
Though Beth didn't fit the mold of a Diva, she was not the first to break barriers in WWE. And Beth took plenty of inspiration from Chyna, the woman who came before her.
"I felt that pressure to fit in and to fit a stereotype and fit a mold, so I started unhealthily trying to lose weight. I was really obsessed and focusing on my weight. There was a point where the school counselor and my parents had to intervene and end up helping me get counsel through that time period. It was a point in my life where I realized body image was going to be a challenge for me and I had to find a way to learn to accept myself for who I was," Phoenix said on WWE Icons. "Female representation was sparse in wrestling in the 80s and 90s. When Chyna came on the scene, I was just enamored. I’d seen female bodybuilders before, but Chyna was more than that. She was an athlete. She had that star power alongside all the men. It was just a lightbulb for me, and I was inspired like hell by Chyna. Anytime Chyna had a feature anywhere, I was scooping up fitness magazines to unlock those secrets of ‘how did she get that strength? How did she get that body?’ I want to be like that. So in my own mind, in my own journey of how I’m going to make it to WWE, I said, ‘I got to start with the wrestling team.’"
Beth won her first Women's Championship at No Mercy 2007 when she defeated Candice Michelle. On that night, she wanted to pay tribute to Chyna with her gear.
"The day of No Mercy 2007, I didn't have a great costume made. The match was booked last minute and I didn't expect it. I brought this corset to our seamstress Julie, who used to make Chyna's outfits. I told her, 'I really want to give a Chyna vibe. A powerful woman.' The idea of the Glamazon was to be halfway between Chyna and Trish. I wanted to bring forward some of the things Trish did but at the same time, I want to be a powerful and mold-breaking woman like Chyna was. Julie blinged out [the corset] with crystals and I brought her a pair of briefs and she put a hunk of leather on it and gave me more crystals. For the little wrestling fan at home and in my heart, it was so special. I would continue to have parallels with Chyna along the way that was meaningful," she said. "It's such a mind-blowing thing because it's the same title I watched Chyna, Trish, and Molly win. This piece of history was held by my heroes. What was really special was, I won the WWE Women's Championship when I stopped trying to be the next Trish and I started being the first me."
Not only did Beth follow in Chyna's footsteps in holding the same title as her, she also competed in the men's Royal Rumble in 2010, accomplishing the same goal Chyna accomplished in 1999 and 2000.
Speaking about her appearance in the Rumble, Beth said, "Dean Malenko came up to me and said, 'I have an idea for the men's Rumble.' My heart skipped a beat and I'm like, 'Wait, what? Me?' He goes, 'Can you keep a secret?' 'You're darn right I can.' 'If anything gets out, it's not happening.' The guys were so excited for me and so happy. It was a throwback to that moment when I won on my amateur wrestling team. Chyna was the first woman in the Rumble and it was one of those moments where I got to walk in her shoes and add my own contribution to breaking barriers in female history. Personally, it felt so good to have that support from all the male wrestlers."
Beth ended up eliminating Hall of Famer The Great Khali in her Rumble appearance. Beth is one of two women who have competed in both the men's and women's Royal Rumble matches. Nia Jax is the other.
Elsewhere during her WWE Icons special, Beth recalled being disqualified from Tough Enough 3. You can find her full comments by clicking here.
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