Mia Yim Is At The Helm Of The Pro Wrestling Revolution
"I think it's a true revolution now in women's wrestling. It's not women's wrestling anymore. It's just wrestling."
Women's wrestling has undergone a complete revolution in both the mainstream and underground. With the introduction of a handful of mega-athletes to the forefront of the WWE, the dark days of the 90's (in which pudding matches and suggestive banter about "puppies" were commonplace) are long behind us.
One of the newer faces of women's wrestling is Jade AKA Mia Yim, a fierce combatant and outspoken brawler on both television (as part of Total Nonstop Action) and the independent circuits. At only 26, Yim's career is rather prolific, having been a part of several underground leagues including Ring of Honor (ROH), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), and Shimmer Women Athletes, all the while maintaining a completely seperate full time career.
We took some time and chatted with Yim at Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore event in November, covering everything from time management to the trials and tribulations of female atheletes. Check out our conversation, below!
Hey Mia! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. So, when did you start wrestling?
I started in 2007 right out of high school. I debuted in '09. It depends if you mean starting as in training or starting in shows.
What were your first shows?
They were in like North Carolina, middle of nowhere. My first match was an intergender tag match. The other team was new as well. It was not so good. I'm so glad they didn't record it. I started training in Virginia and the people I trained with put me on a show with Sarah Del Rey. I wrestled with her way way way in the beginning of my career. She was my second match and my fifth match. I wrestled her throughout my whole career and she gave me advice and tips and everything each time as we went. I was blessed and lucky with that... She's always been a big sister type for all the girls in my generation. She was who we looked up to. When we wrestled years ago we emailed each other and I asked her for advice. She was always there to help me out. She's busy now, of course.
And how did you get interested in wrestling?
I was always a fan. My dad was a fan. I was probably seven or eight. I would watch with my dad and my sister while my mom would cook dinner. Of course when my dad and my sister grew out of it I was the only one who kept watching. I finally saw Lita and Chyna wrestling men, I thought, “I could do this!” I grew up a tomboy. I've always been on the street playing soccer, hockey, football. It was nice to see that girls could wrestle with guys and be part of a male dominated sport. I saw that and decided I wanted to do it. Of course my parents said no. So I waited til I was 18 and signed myself up.
What do you love about professional wrestling?
The people I meet! It can be very political but the friends I do make -- the real friends -- they're the people I'd have at my wedding. They're the people I keep in contact with beyond wrestling. The fans too! Being appreciated and people coming up and thanking you for the matches that you just put on. It makes it worthwhile to put our bodies through whatever we put them through and to be appreciated.
It's true, perhaps more than other forms of entertainment, wrestling fans are very effusive with their gratitude.
Yes! Even when we did stuff years ago. Like, my feud with Greg Excellent was maybe two or three years ago and I still get fans today that are so thankful for it. They'll say “Hey that was a really good match, thank you for such entertainment!” Even if a match is from a while back they still remember it.
Have you faced any sexism in the industry? Racism?
Depends on location. My first time going to Japan I experienced a little bit of racism. I'm half Korean and half black. In America everyone can tell I'm some sort of Asian but in Japan they know immediately I'm half black. So I've experienced a little bit of racism. Not from other wrestlers or promoters. A few fans, on the train or whatever. Sexism? Maybe a little bit in the beginning of my career. I was a young pretty girl who wanted to wrestle and make it somewhere. I never really was taken seriously. I started wrestling with the guys along with Sarah Del Rey and having good matches along with the vets of the business and I started earning their respect. There's always going to be fans out there that are like that but I never pay them any attention.
Earlier this year, prominent wrestler AJ Lee quit the WWE citing her frustrations with the huge pay gap between male and female wrestlers. Have you experienced any of that?
Not really. I don't know what other people are getting paid. My boyfriend is also a wrestler, we get paid the same. If you get paid more than me I don't really care. But if you just started out within the year and you get paid more than me, that's questionable.
Professional wrestling, at least historically, has always had a bit of a bad reputation as an inherently misogynistic form of entertainment. Do you see that as true anymore? Are things changing?
Women are now being looked at as wrestlers, which is awesome. When I first started it was like, “Oh just a pretty girl, put her in with another pretty girl,” or whatever. Now, intergender wrestling is so popular. We're looked at as equal competition. It's not like “Oh, she's got boobs, put her in a skirt.” They put us in with men. They put us in with other women. Even if it is woman vs woman, we still go hard. I think it's a true revolution now in women's wrestling. It's not women's wrestling anymore. It's just wrestling.
In the WWE there's not a “Women's Championship.” Instead, it's called the “Diva's Championship.” A lot of wrestlers are very outspoken about how much they oppose this label. How do you feel about this controversy?
I think they're starting to see what we're doing in the independent circuit. They're starting to see the market in it. The money. The fans want to see this. Since they've done Divas and “puppies” and the model search and whatever – they've done that for so long. If we want to see something like that we'll just watch something else. Now fans just want to see what people are doing in the independents on TV.
It's interesting that intergender matches (in which women fight against men) are becoming more commonplace, but not so much on TV. Do you think these types of fights will ever make it to the mainstream?
The intergender wrestling I do is more so in the independents. The stuff I do on TV is strictly just knockout stuff. I could see myself doing intergender with TNA. They wouldn't mind it. It's not a complete no. I wouldn't be surprised if they put me in with some guys. It's happened before. It's a possibility.
It's nice in the independents because I can go all out and do all my crazy stuff without any direction. No one ever says “You can't do piledrivers. You can't do whatever.” I don't mind doing intergender wrestling in the independents at all.
Do you prefer intergender matches to women vs women matches?
It really depends. I don't mind it. I have a lot of fun with it. As long as it tells a story. Especially lately, a lot of girls just want to wrestle guys. At some point you're going to have to wrestle women but you're so used to wrestling guys that it's not going to be good. You get overzealous women.
If someone wants me to wrestle a guy, sure, but what story do you want us to tell?
Something else that's being talked about now is the growing gay fanbase of proffesional wrestling! How do you feel about that?
I know several wrestlers that are out. Down the line, more and more are going to come out. It's accepted here. Before it was very college. Like, “Oh, we gotta go mess with him.” Now it's accepted. They don't look at [gays] any different. If you have talent and you treat us nicely, we're going to do the same for you. In the future it's going to be more popular and a lot of people aren't going to be scared to reveal that about themselves. Now there's a lot of support.
What's your training regiment like?
Right now I spend a lot of time at the gym. As far as in-ring training... Well, I work a full time job as well.
I'm a captionist for the deaf and hard of hearing. I've been to college, I graduated with an IT degree. As a woman, I know I'm not going to be wrestling forever. I want to settle down and get married and have kids, all that good stuff. Wrestling is temporary. Having a degree, at least I have a back-up plan. Wrestling is very inconsistent. I don't how the people that do this for a living actually do it. They gotta hustle. I like being able to know that I could do wrestling on the side but at least I get a paycheck every two weeks from my real job, so I have a constant flow of income coming in.
It must be hard to balance the two?!
It is. It can be. My job is very flexible. They know what I do. They're very understanding if I have to leave for a few days. Like any job, I have to put in requests and everything. They understand it, they don't judge me for it. It's a really good set up, but it is hard. I've always been a great time management person. When I first started training in college I had a scholarship for volleyball, so I had to balance that, and college, and wrestling. Sorry, I just rambled. I completely forgot the question!
We were talking about your training regiment?
Oh right. I work from 8-4. Right after work I come home, eat lunch, and go straight to the gym. Monday or Tuesday I'll go to wrestling school and roll around a little bit but that depends on if I have the time. The gym five times a week, work, a lot of dieting. Healthy living.
And you also have a boyfriend? How the hell do you keep up with all this?
He's Eddie Kingston so... I'm trying to help him with healthy eating and workouts and everything too! He's doing well!
Is there any competitiveness between you and your boyfriend?
Honestly, there isn't! It's funny, I've seen other wrestling couples where it is competitive. There's jealousy. It always starts a problem. For us, it's like he does his thing and I do mine. If they want us together they'll ask us. We're our own people. We can work together if need be. But if one of us needs to stay home, it's fine. As long as we're both safe and we come home.
Have you had any serious injuries in your career?
I haven't gotten anything serious. Knock on wood! I hurt my knee in Japan once. I messed up my lumbar. But I've never broken anything, never messed up my head. I've been very lucky. Never had to take any months off for anything. So far I'm healthy! Thankfully! It's just a constant thing … waking up in the morning hurts!
Do you have any advice for young wrestlers just starting out?
Just keep your head strong. It's changing every day. Now is a good time to get in. As long as you don't get lost. In the business it's really easy to get lost as far as drugs, or other people, stuff like that. As long as you set yourself a goal and keep focused on that goal without being sidetracked you should be fine. Being young, people are going to think of you as a threat. They're going to do whatever they can do to break you. Being a young person, I always just say “Eyes and ears open, mouth closed.”