Lita On A Genderless WWE And Why She’s Picking Rhea Over Charlotte At WrestleMania 39
Lita was never supposed to be here.
At least, that’s how she felt coming up through the ranks as a tattooed woman with red hair who stood out in a pro wrestling locker room like a green hat with an orange bill. Despite where her ceiling was supposed to be, Lita overdelivered with a legendary career that spawned the greatest rivalry in the history of women’s wrestling.
Trish vs. Lita was not only great from a storytelling standpoint, but its legacy transcends WWE programming. Trish and Lita had a sea-changing effect on how the entire industry books, views and pays women’s wrestlers. In the process, Lita went from underdog to icon. Lita recently extended her Hall of Fame career alongside Becky Lynch with a WWE Tag Team Championship win over Damage CTRL. Similar to Liv Morgan’s “watch me” battlecry, Lita embraced her role as a fish-out-of-water.
“I do feel, in general, as solidified as I am and my legacy is, I always felt like the kid that wasn’t supposed to make it,” said Lita in an exclusive interview.
“The underdog that nobody believed in. Just wandered my way into the WWE ring. I don’t feel like I was supposed to catch on. And I know that it was the fans that made that happen. I was just going to be a random person who knew how to take bumps to support other people, and then I became so much more than that. That still sticks with me, as far removed as we are, I still feel like the underdog.”
“I want you to have no faith in me. I want you to think that my best days are behind me, because I’m going to train that much harder. Even if you don’t want to say that I showed out in the ring, you’re going to have to say ‘I mean, it was okay.’”
“I want to exceed the expectations that you didn’t even know you had for me, because you counted me out.”
“I don’t want to look like the weak link, I don’t want the other people in the segment to feel that they can’t depend on me. I don’t want to bring the caliber of the match down. We set the bar, they raised the bar, and I want to be able to go up on that level.”
Lita On Long-Term Stories In Today’s WWE
Lita and Trish will be teaming up with Becky Lynch to face Damage CTRL at WrestleMania 39. But first, teammates Trish and Lita will be featured in Sunday’s broadcast of WWE Rivals, which will explore the makings of what became one of the most important WWE feuds in history. Trish and Lita’s story dates back to Day 1 as Stratus made her in-ring debut against Lita in a mixed six-person tag match. 23 years later, Lita says she felt the magic then.
“I really did,” said Lita. “We were firmly implanted in the Attitude Era, where there were no rules on anything, so a mixed six-person match–that just felt new. We just felt like, from the very first match we had, the fans were so invested. I don’t know if we felt that day that ‘maybe this could be the start of something,’ but I think we felt that night ‘this could go all kinds of different ways!’”
Trish and Lita were forged in combat, not only against each other, but against the negative perception of women’s wrestling at the time. This created more cohesion than competition, and while there was a competitive rivalry behind the scenes, what made Trish and Lita so different is also what made them so close.
“There was competitiveness, of course, but the cool thing was we were so different,” said Lita.
“We considered ourselves the ultimate yin and yang. So, if she got something, I’m not what they were looking for, or vice versa. I think that allowed us to give each other space to go ‘you do your thing, I’ll go over here, and we’re going to come together at some point so we’d have our own bases.”
Trish Stratus and Lita’s rivalry spawned many different versions, some where Trish would play a heel, others where Lita would assume the villain role. But Lita’s favorite incarnation of her rivalry with Stratus saw Trish playing the mean girl. Roles aside, most great rivalry features a long-term storyline arc that adds emotional seasoning to highly physical wrestling matches.
As much as pro wrestling has evolved, Lita admits that long-term storytelling in WWE–which only recently asserted itself through the Bloodline storyline—is missing.
“It’s interesting, because our characters—whether we’re good or bad—are so significantly different as well as a lot of our moveset,” said Lita.
“So it did feel almost like working different people with the same familiarity, the same telepathy that we had developed very early on, just having to remind yourself your role. When I think of babyface Lita with heel Trish, I think that allows Trish to be more snarky. You want to boo her, but you’re also kind of into it.”
“I feel like because there’s so much content these days…we haven’t gotten to see a bunch of these long-term feuds in the continuous way that we did with me and Trish. I still think there’s an underlying Becky and Charlotte feud, but we’re just not seeing it right now.”
“Trish and I were never really separated from each other for that long. We always did these side feuds to come right back around and I don’t think you see that these days. Part of why you don’t see that is because there are so many options now. They have such a rich roster they don’t need to be like ‘we’ve seen this match 100 times…’ But I do think in some ways that variety doesn’t allow these really deep-seated, deep-rooted stories to happen as often.”
Great stories build legacies and change the sport for the better, which undoubtedly happened by the time Trish Stratus retired in 2006 in her home country of Toronto.
With a win over Lita.
Lita On The Future Of WWE Being Genderless
As women’s wrestling continues to evolve, Lita feels the next evolution won’t happen until the whole construct of “women’s wrestling” becomes genderless—and therefore more interchangeable with the men’s division.
“To me, the next barrier is genderless,” said Lita. “I don’t care how you identify, we’re just going to go out there and show out. And it’s not like ‘what women do we have on the show? Where’s this representation?’ No, fair game. Everyone go. Grab your spot and we go out there. Some nights that might mean eight women’s matches on the card, some nights that might mean two.”
“To not still feel like it’s a box to check to make sure to represent the women. Of course they’re going to be represented, because they’re good.”
“Just continuing on not being confined by gender, it’s like: ‘I see a prize, I go after it. We’re not worried about what defines my gender. I see a title, and that’s what I want to do.”
Lita captured her fifth championship with Becky Lynch last month, and is set to compete in just her second WrestleMania; her first as a champion. Outside of her own match, Lita is most looking forward to the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship showdown between Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley.
In some respects, Flair vs. Ripley is the new Trish vs. Lita. Flair is the athletic, highly touted blonde bombshell to Ripley’s more underground origin story, filled with tattoos.
So it’s hardly a surprise that Lita is rooting for Rhea.
“Charlotte’s natural role is to be a heel, right? Because it’s like that overconfident vibe,” said Lita. “I almost wonder if Rhea is going to bring that out of Charlotte because you can only get shown up with confidence so much before Charlotte puts it back in your face.”
“I know she is the heel in this match, but I’m rooting for [Rhea Ripley] because Charlotte has earned her shot, but she was also presented with a spot because of her lineage, and has just stepped up and continues to rise to the occasion. Whereas I do feel like Rhea created her spot, and she’s just getting started, but it has culminated in this high-profile match at WrestleMania.”
WWE Rivals airs Sunday on A&E Network, March 19, 2023 at 8:00 PM ET/PT.