The name Stampede Wrestling is still one that inspires awe in the minds of Canadians. Whether you were a fan of professional wrestling or not, the promotion holds a special place in Albertan’s – no pun intended – hearts.
Throughout the long and storied history of Stampede, many of the promotion’s top stars, including Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Dynamite Kid, and more made their respective way at one point or another to the former WWF or current WWE. One of the final Stampede roster members to sign with the world’s biggest promotion is Natalya, who of course can still be found on national TV on a weekly basis with her work on Friday Night Smackdown.
Appearing on the Duke You Suck podcast hosted by former Stampede/PWA star Duke Durrango, Natalya described her early days in professional wrestling plying her trade for her family’s legendary promotion.
“It was such a special time,” she commented to begin the show. “We don’t realize how important those early years are. Looking back on it, they were so special. They were really the building blocks of my career that helped me to achieve everything that I have today. But, when we were living it, we were wrestling in the Ogden Legion and the Bowness Sportsplex and we were just scraping by, and we were happy to do it all for literally nothing. When I look back at what I was making and how much work I was putting into it, it really taught me so much about how much I wanted to do this.”
“When people ask me about getting into the industry, and they tell me they love wrestling and they watch me on TV, or they watch me on Total Divas, or they have followed my career, they don’t understand how important it is to find what it is that you love and to run hard with it,” commented the former WWE Women’s Champion. “When I found what it was that I loved, which is pro wrestling, being able to be given that opportunity in Stampede Wrestling was everything.”
Speaking of her introduction to the business, Natalya then went on to describe how the promotion not only affected her career in professional wrestling, but life itself, listing a number of ways that Stampede influenced her as a human.
“I kind of fell into it through the family, but then 20 years later realized how pivotal it was for me as a human being. It taught me a lot about resilience. It taught me a lot about work ethic. It taught me a lot about relationships. It taught me a lot about what matters to me. It taught me a lot about fighting for things that I believe in. I learned all of that those early years with [Duke] and [his] brother and TJ and with Harry and this motley crew of people that we worked with, from Bruce and Ross to the whole crew that we worked with, from Jamie and Anna and Harmony. I look back on it now and I laugh, but it was such a special time for me to really hone my craft.
“I definitely would not be where I am today without Stampede Wrestling.”
Please credit the Duke You Suck podcast with any of the above quotations, with an h/t to Spencer Love for the transcription.