Read previous Interviews with the Independents:
In doing this collection of interviews, I knew I wanted to have a female perspective on this wonderful business. With the way women’s wrestling has exploded in the last few years, I knew getting the perspective of someone who is a part of this revolution would be very enlightening. Plus, things are always better with a female perspective.
Wrestling has a wonderful way of bringing people from all over the globe together. I have been part of a Facebook group since college full of wrestling fans that are as passionate about this crazy world as I am. One of those people is Bradford, also known as, “independent wrestling’s first traveling barber,” who you can follow @BradfoordBarber if you are in need of a lineup. Through Bradford the Barber, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with the lovely Willow Nightingale. Willow is a very busy woman, working in promotions all over the northeast and into Canada, as well as being a part of the first season of WOW Superheroes as the bubbly “Eye Candy,” which you can watch on AXS TV weekly!
Interview with Willow Nightingale
Can you start us off by sharing a little about your background before you started as a pro wrestler? What got you interested in being a wrestler?
Well, I have been a wrestling fan since I was 9 years old. It’s something that I always wanted to do, even when I was little. But as a got older, it wasn’t as cool to like in high school and my friends didn’t watch it. No one loved it like I did. So I wouldn’t watch as much, but still kept up with what was going on, and I’d try to watch now and then when I could. I went to college at Northeastern University. I was a psychology major and a really good student, but after my freshman year, finances caused me to drop out. I really had no plans on what to do next, so I said to myself, ‘I’ve always loved wrestling, and wanted to be a wrestler, I should try doing that.’ So from there I started my training in 2014.
What was the training process like? Who trained you and where did you train?
I fell in love with wrestling all over again during training. Even more so than when I was a fan as a kid. I trained at the New York Wrestling Connection for 6 months, 3 days a week. I was trained by Mike Mondo, who I watched growing up when he was a member of the Spirit Squad, so that was really great. I was also trained by Bull James, who was in NXT as Bull Dempsey. The first 3 weeks of training, we didn’t even get in the ring. We would just learn chain workouts. Once we got in the ring, we would learn moves little by little. We would run the ropes, take bumps, basic things like that.
At NYWC they also had advanced classes during this time. We weren’t allowed to have matches yet, so I took the chance to volunteer to referee the advanced class matches. This helped me a ton during this time because I could learn from others about positioning and ring awareness. I will still show up to training sessions and give advice and help out at NYWC. I’ve been doing it there for four years.
How long was it before you had your first match, and what do you remember about that match?
I had my first match after that first 6 months of training was complete. I feel very fortunate because it’s not usually that quick before you have a match. NYWC had an all woman’s wrestling show. It was a tournament, and I was in the opening round’s first match. There was a dark match before, but I was in the first match on the main show, in my first match ever. I was super nervous, but it ended up going really smooth! I worked heel, which isn’t what I normally do and isn’t who I really am, but I felt great about it. It is good to have that kind of versatility. I loved the wrestling high I got off of that match.
Where are some of the places you have worked since then? Who are some of the wrestlers you have worked with?
I’ve continued to work for NYWC. I’ve worked for Beyond, Women’s Wrestling Revolution, Shimmer, Shine, Limitless, Outlaw Wrestling, CHIKARA, and WOW Superheroes. Working with WOW has been super exciting. I was worried at first that it would be too much like GLOW. Not that GLOW was bad, it was great, but it was a little too cartoony for me. But it’s been great and I’m super happy about it. There are great and unique characters, but it’s still serious wrestling.
I was actually able to make my Shimmer debut against Mercedes Martinez. I remember thinking to myself, ‘This isn’t real life,’ going into it, but it turned out great. I was able to wrestle Kimber Lee at Outlaw Wrestling a few months ago which was amazing. I also wrestled Jessicka Havok for an episode of WOW, which should be airing in a few weeks. She was always somebody I admired, so I didn’t mind getting beat up by her a little bit.
Along with some of those matches you mentioned, what are some of the biggest moments of your career so far?
Those matches are, of course, huge for me. But I remember being on the first taping of WOW. I was climbing to the top rope to do a backflip onto my opponent. As I climbed to the top, the crowd was going absolutely crazy. When I got to the top, I stopped for maybe 2 seconds to take it all in. It felt like time stopped for 5 minutes. That feeling is something I will never forget.
Being a part of WOW’s first season has to be amazing. You’ve mentioned it a lot already, but can you talk more about what working with WOW has been like and what being on TV has been like?
Well we filmed it all in Los Angeles. I was on the road and away from home a lot. I’m very much a relationship person and am very close with my family, loved ones, and those I care about. So being away from them was hard, but it also really made me appreciate wrestling more. I asked myself, ‘Do I love wrestling enough to be away from the ones I love?’ The answer is an emphatic YES.
I love the feedback I get from the fans on the internet, at my merch tables, and from the crowd. I love the impact I can have on others. Being a black woman, I will get people that tell me how they love my natural look. They will say, ‘I love the way you let your hair out all curly and natural.’ I love having that impact and changing the way some feel about beauty. It’s so crazy how something like wrestling can allow you to have that kind of an impact.
Women’s wrestling has exploded on the mainstream scene the last few years. What has that been like for you to watch and be a part of?
Women have always been super capable, but now we are getting more of the spotlight to show how talented we are. I was a huge Trish and Lita fan growing up, and they were allowed to get a lot of spotlight back in the day. But there were so many other women who were just as good that weren’t given those opportunities. They were sold as sex objects, or “Eye Candy,” pun intended since that is my WOW character name. This motivated a generation of females who were fans of those women to say, ‘We are going to get that spotlight.’
The bar has been raised so high nowadays, and that’s a great thing. Just being “okay” won’t do it anymore. I, like many other female wrestlers, want to be challenged and pushed to get better. Women are being judged now more for their abilities than their looks. Now, wrestling has always been a cosmetic business, and it always will be to an extent. That goes for the men and the women. Your “look” does still matter because of marketing and things like that, but they are looking for so much more now.
What are your feelings about inter-gender wrestling?
I actually enjoy it. I feel like man-on-man and woman-on-woman matches can get very structured. In inter-gender matches, I feel they are structured a lot less and there is more room for creativity. Some will look at it as awful and promoting domestic violence as a bigger stronger man is beating up a woman. As a bigger woman myself, I have been in matches with men where I am bigger and stronger, so that isn’t the case. I really feel like it can change the way people view gender norms. A female wrestler named Shotzi Blackheart has been promoting a slogan in support of inter-gender wrestling, “Not A F**king Victim,” to hope spread that inter-gender wrestling is not about domestic violence.
What are some of your personal goals for your career?
I really want to wrestle and train in Japan. Outside of Shimmer, it has always been my goal to work for Stardom or Sendai Girls, which is Meiko Satamura’s promotion. I want to travel internationally and work in the United Kingdom, Europe, Mexico, all over the world. Maybe even this year, who knows! I also want to be a part of the Mae Young Classic. I feel like that should be a goal for every female wrestler.
What are some aspects of your pro wrestling skills do you feel you can improve on, and what advice would you have for aspiring wrestlers, male and female, about getting into the business?
I want to be better technically. I really want to work on my grappling and mat work to continue to get better. I really want to add that to my repertoire. I’ve been doing training and seminars, as well as looking for more to continue to get better at that aspect.
As far as advice, I would tell anyone to find a reputable school. That is the most important thing. You need to have a good foundation to build from, and finding a reputable school with good trainers is a must.
I would also give some words of advice. You are going to doubt yourself. You need to just keep going. Something good will happen. I’ve seen it so many times. Even if the match you had you didn’t like, or anything else, just keep going.
What do you have coming up that people should be excited about?
As I said, the match with Jessicka Havok is coming up on WOW, as well as the rest of the first season. I have a crazy weekend at the end of February. I have Outlaw Wrestling on Thursday, Friday in Canadian Femme Fatales, Saturday I actually have two shows. Early in the day, I have Women’s Wrestling Revolution, then at night I have NYWC Psycho Circus, which is a yearly huge hardcore style match. It’s my first time actually in the Psycho Circus match, so that’s very exciting. Then Sunday I wrestle for Beyond Wrestling in a tournament to crown a number 1 contender for the Independent Wrestling Championship. I’m in a match with Chris Dickinson to start that tournament. So I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead!
Follow Willow Nightingale at:
- Facebook: Willow Nightingale
- Twitter: w_nightingale_
- Instagram: w_nightingale_