It’s safe to say the 2000s were a mixed bag for women’s wrestling in WWE.

While Trish Stratus and Lita tore it up on Raw in 2004 and Mickie James and Melina held down the divisions after both retired, women in the largest wrestling promotion in the world were still by and large treated the same as they were in the 90s: eye candy best suited to being valets and experts at bra and panties matches. For every solid Trish/Lita bout, there are a couple of Piggy James storylines or Jackie Gayda matches. As a result, fans have had a tendency to overlook this period of WWE, as far as the women are concerned. Trish, Lita, and Mickie were great, and that’s about it.

Recently, this trend has started shifting with wrestlers like Molly Holly gaining more respect from fans for giving their all in the breadcrumb-esque five-minute matches WWE handed out to them during this period. Lisa Marie Varon, better known as Victoria, has been on that list of women respected for the work they put in for WWE at the time, and nowadays, it wouldn’t be uncontroversial to say she’s well-remembered by the wrestling fandom at-large. With her recent appearance in the 2021 Royal Rumble, even more eyes have been drawn back to the HBIC.

You’ve still been sleeping on her.

Victoria’s career began as many Ruthless Aggression-era women did in the world of fitness competitions and bodybuilding. Befriending Torrie Wilson, she started appearing backstage at WCW shows. However, it wasn’t until meeting Chyna in 2000 and applying to the then-WWF that she got into wrestling proper. Training at UPW, Victoria eventually made her debut for WWF as one of Godfather’s “ho’s,” specifically his “head ho.”

Once Godfather joined the Right to Censor as the Goodfather though, she found herself powerbombed through a table and sent back to developmental for seasoning.

Working her way through developmental territories Memphis Championship Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling, Victoria finally made her now-WWE debut in 2002, feuding with Trish Stratus and capturing the Women’s Championship. Portraying a sadistic, unstable villain, she feuded with many of the top women of the day, including Molly Holly, Ivory, and Stacy Keibler.

In 2003, She participated in the first women’s steel cage match in WWE history versus Lita, a solid match for the five minutes they had to work with but a match best watched on mute to keep Jerry Lawler’s grating horniness out of your ears. It features one of the nastiest spinning fireman’s carry side slams the author has ever seen. Matches with Stratus and Mickie James are also recommended.

After feuding with just about every woman that came through WWE during her tenure, Victoria had her last match with the company until this year at WrestleMania XXV, participating in the 25-Diva Battle Royal. You know, the one where Santino Marella in drag won.

An auspicious end to the run of one of the most prominently-featured women in the company.

After WWE, Victoria signed with TNA, working under the name Tara. Her 4-year tenure with the company allowed her to work with some of the best women in the US, including Mickie James, Gail Kim, ODB, and Awesome Kong.

Matches with any of these women are highly recommended, but her match with Kim at Against All Odds 2012 is one of her performative peaks. Tara left TNA in 2013, losing to ODB in her final match. Since then, she has been kicking around the indies, wrestling various shows against top indie talent and ex-WWE wrestlers like Maria Kanellis. Her most recent appearance was in the 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble, a welcome return.

Since the ‘80s, working for WWE has given talent the biggest platform to make a name and opportunity to make as much money as possible in the wrestling business, but most fans will forget you exist once you leave unless you’ve become a megastar. If you’re a Hogan or a Rock or, for the women, a Trish or a Lita, people will remember you of course, but many wrestlers, even ones once prominently featured, have faded into obscurity without the WWE machine behind them. Victoria was sadly not immune to this.

Victoria helped carry the women’s division of a company that at times seemed hellbent on keeping them in the lane of lingerie pillow fights and Diva Searches. Her powerhouse style was unique among her peers, and her character work was solid and showed good range, especially in the shift between her hyperactive dancing character and the psychotic heel character she’s best known for. Sifting through Victoria’s body of work won’t produce a bevy of hidden gems the way Masato Tanaka’s or Satoshi Kojima’s might, but what is there can definitely be worth the watch. Just try to tune Lawler out.