With six major title reigns, Gail Kim is one of the most decorated female wrestlers in history. She's not done, either.
Kim will compete for the Knockouts Championship tonight at Bound For Glory, and took some time to speak to Ring Rust Radio ahead of the show. They sent Fightful.com the following highlights.
Ring Rust Radio: At the 2016 edition of Bound for Glory, you will take on Maria Kanellis-Bennett for the TNA Knockouts Championship. What should casual TNA fans expect from this match and what would it mean to you to win the title at the company’s biggest PPV?
Gail Kim: First off, the Impact Wrestling roster is the one roster that goes through ups and downs and people always report about our morale. I will tell you every time we come together and put more than a 100 percent out there. We come together as a family, and no matter what happens we always give the fans the best performance we can every time. Bound for Glory will be no exception for us. In terms of my match with Maria, casual fans may know us from our WWE days even though she hasn’t really wrestled a lot since then. I think the people who have been watching the storyline will be so looking forward to the moment when I finally get her in the ring. It honestly has been almost eight months in the making; to finally get in the ring with her. To have the title has always been special to me and I would love to win the title. For me it’s more about getting her in the ring on that day, and I think everyone just wants to see me give her a major beat down. I am really looking forward to it personally.
Ring Rust Radio: Also at Bound for Glory, you will be the first female inductee into the TNA Hall of Fame. What does that honor mean to you and how much more would it mean if you were to be inducted as Knockouts champion?
Gail Kim: I think that would be the icing on the cake if that happens. In terms of being honored at the TNA Hall of Fame, I think that’s something that every pro wrestler dreams about. You don’t think about it as your career is going on. For this moment to come it was almost surreal. To have the appreciation from your peers, the fans and the company you work for is the ultimate reward. For me, that has always been ultimate because respect has always been the most important thing to me in this business. I am very old school in that mind set and thinking that way. The business has changed a lot, and I love when I go to a show and see the up-and-coming talent being taught respect. For me, the Hall of Fame and being respected that way is the ultimate and top of what I can achieve in this business. I don’t know how much longer I can go and what I can achieve beyond that.
Ring Rust Radio: You've consistently been among the top wrestlers in the world, helping to change the perception of women in wrestling. Over the past few years, the women have become a major focal point in TNA and at times the most anticipated and exciting moments of the show. WWE even started their "women's revolution" last year. As somebody who was a major factor in this shift, what does it mean to you that fans have become to appreciate women's wrestling like they do today?
Gail Kim: Way back before all this women’s wrestling happened for us back in 2007, people would always tell me that fans don’t want to watch women’s wrestling. I always refused to believe that. I could have listened to all these people who were my friends and other fans who thought they didn’t want to see it because they had a perception of what women’s wrestling was. I always believed and I was always passionate about women’s wrestling. I think the fans at the time saw us deliver and felt our passion. I always tried to think about why I wasn’t connecting with the fans in my early WWE days, and there were a lot of aspects to that at the time. Maybe I didn’t have a great story line, maybe I just wasn’t relatable, but I feel like ultimately in this business I connected with the fans because they felt my passion for this business. We shared that passion for wrestling. I am so glad that they appreciated everything from the beginning. Like the feud I had with Awesome Kong, they were the reason it was such a success. Yes, we took the ball and ran with it, but they truly believed in it. It took a long time for women’s wrestling to come this far since looking back at 2007. Now in 2016, the strides women’s wrestling has taken is great. I have said this in other interviews because people see us as competitive with WWE girls, but I support them. I want them to have that opportunity and the stage I never got to have back then. I can appreciate how bad they want it. When I see them accomplish what their dreams are it’s an unbelievable feeling. I know what it feels like and I want that for them as well.
Ring Rust Radio: There are a lot of new, young faces in the TNA Knockouts division currently. How does the overall talent level right now compare to the talent over the course of the division's history, and as the veteran, what kind of role do you play in terms of teaching and elevating these women to ensure the success of the division moving forward?
Gail Kim: I love the whole new group of girls. It’s funny, between us, Madison and I are the only ones leftover from the Knockouts of the past. At every TV taping, we joke around and say, “Wow, this is the first time I feel almost like an outsider,” even though we get along with the girls. Obviously we are a very close locker room. I am at the point where I go out there and give the best performance I can, but I am also at this stage where I feel like I just want to help as much as possible to rebuild this division. The new girls are all friends and came up through the indies together, which is great. To see girls like Chelsea and Gabby who have had very little experience, but they are so eager to learn. They have a thirst and passion for it and I love that. We are all working together to make this division great, not just themselves. It’s a powerful thing and I love it. I want to go on and in the next couple of years finish up my career and transition to behind the scenes where I can continue to help these girls out and pass on my knowledge. I think they all know my personality and that I am very straightforward. I am a perfectionist in the ring and I want that for myself as well as them.
Ring Rust Radio: Mike mentioned the matches with Taryn earlier and we thought that they were excellent matches that had a lot of great spots and were filled with emotion. I saw a few months ago you mentioned on Instagram that the ladder match was one of your favorites of all time. Why does that match stand out so much to you and what do you think you would have to be done to top that match in the future?
Gail Kim: The same thing with Kong and Taryn apply when I talk to them. It was almost like a magic chemistry I had with them. So every time I wrestled them in a big match or an Impact TV match, we always felt the pressure to top the last match. To have that kind of magic chemistry with Kong and then after her I didn’t think it would happen again. Then Taryn came along and the magic was there so we had the pressure to do it again and again. With the ladder match, it was supposed to be another Last Knockout Standing match, but fans don’t really know about that. We just successfully had the Last Knockout Standing match and they thought because it was so successful we should do it again on TV. I literally begged for something different then I started asking for a ladder match. Taryn agreed and that was a pretty high pressure situation. That day couldn’t have gone more perfect than we envisioned and it turned out to be one of my top three matches of all time.
Ring Rust Radio: You've faced so many of the biggest names in women's wrestling and been part of so many memorable rivalries over the course of your career, but having said that, is there anyone you've never had an opportunity to wrestle or never had a chance to have an extended program with that you'd like to mix it up with at this point in your career?
Gail Kim: Yes, yes, many people! Most of them are from my past like Beth Phoenix. She is probably, from my recollection, the best person I have been in the ring with from a worker’s point of view. She is always so calm and collected and really knew what she was doing in the ring. She was a great leader as well. Beth, Natty and Alicia Fox are probably my top three. There are so many girls that are really talented like Sasha Bank and Bayley. I have been lucky enough to work with many generations of girls, so every time you see someone really talented you get that urge to make some magic with that girl. There are definitely a couple of girls I would still like to work with.
Ring Rust Radio: You have already accomplished almost everything imaginable in the wrestling industry. Now that you’ll be a member of the TNA Hall of Fame, what are your long-term goals in wrestling and how much do you have left before you walk away?
Gail Kim: A lot of people have been asking that. I am almost 40 years old. I am grateful to have been in this business for 16 years which not a lot of women can say they have been fortunate to do that kind of run that many years in a row. I would say in the next couple of years, I will have to retire. I have always said that I will retire when my body starts giving out on me. I would never want the fans to see me deteriorate in performance at any time. I am such a perfectionist that I wouldn’t want them to see me loose a step. I always said when that day comes, I am going to retire. In terms of future plans, I would like to work behind the scenes and help the girls build their division even more. I want to see the next generation be as successful as I was.