Lita should never have been here.
At least, that’s how she felt rising through the ranks as a tattooed woman with red hair who stood out in a professional wrestling locker room wearing a green hat with an orange brim. Despite where her ceiling should be, Lita overachieved with a storied career that spawned the biggest rivalry in women’s wrestling history.
Trish vs. Not only was Lita amazing from a storytelling standpoint, but his legacy transcends WWE programming. Trish and Lita had a profound effect on the way the entire industry books, watches and pays female 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. Like Liv Morgan’s “watch me” battle cry, Lita embraced her role as a fish-out-of-water.
“I feel, in general, as solid as I am and my legacy is, I’ve always felt like the kid who shouldn’t have made it,” Lita said in an exclusive interview.
“The underdog nobody believed in. I just walked my way to the WWE ring. I don’t feel like I had to hit. And I know it was the fans who made that possible. I would just become a random person who knew how to take punches to support other people, and then I became so much more than that. That still sticks with me, no matter how far away 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 so much harder. Even if you don’t want to say I showed in the ring, say, ‘I mean, it was okay.’”
“I want to exceed expectations you didn’t even know you had for me because you counted me.”
“I don’t want to look like the weak link, I don’t want the other people in the segment to feel like they can’t count on me. I don’t want to lower the caliber of the game. We have set the bar, they have raised the bar and I want to be able to go up at that level.”
Lita on Long-Term Stories in Today’s WWE
Lita and Trish team up with Becky Lynch to take on Damage CTRL at WrestleMania 39. But first, teammates Trish and Lita will be featured on Sunday’s broadcast of WWE Rivals, which will explore the ingredients of what became one of the most significant WWE feuds in history. Trish and Lita’s story goes back to Day 1 when Stratus made her in-ring debut against Lita in a six-person mixed tag match. 23 years later, Lita says that’s when she felt the magic.
“I really did,” said Lita. “We were firmly implanted in the Attitude Era, where there were no rules for anything, so a six-person mixed match – that just felt new. We just felt like the fans were so invested from the very first game we had. I don’t know if we felt ‘maybe this could be the start of something’ that day, but I think that night we felt ‘this could go either way!’”
Trish and Lita were forged in battle not only against each other, but against the negative perception of women’s wrestling at the time. This made for more cohesion than competition, and while there was a competitive rivalry behind the scenes, what made Trish and Lita so different was also what made them so close.
“Of course there was competition, but the nice thing was that we were so different,” said Lita.
“We considered ourselves the ultimate yin and yang. So if she’s got something, I’m not what they were looking for, or vice versa. I think that allowed us to give each other the space to go ‘you do your thing, I’ll go here, and we’ll get together at some point so we can have our own bases’.
The rivalry between Trish Stratus and Lita spawned many different versions, some where Trish would play a heel, others where Lita would take on the role of the villain. But Lita’s favorite incarnation of her rivalry with Stratus saw Trish play the mean girl. Roles aside, most major rivalries have a long-term storyline that adds emotional flavor to highly physical wrestling matches.
As much as pro wrestling has evolved, Lita admits that long-term storytelling in WWE — which only recently came about through the Bloodline storyline — is lacking.
“It’s interesting, because our characters – whether good or bad – are so significantly different, as are a lot of our moveset,” said Lita.
“So it almost felt like I was working with different people with the same familiarity, the same telepathy that we developed very early on, just to remind yourself what your role was. When I think of babyface Lita with Trish on heel, I think Trish can be more snarky because of that. You want to jeer at her, but you also love it.”
“I feel like because there is so much content these days… we haven’t seen some of these long-standing feuds in the continuous way that we did with me and Trish. I still think there’s an underlying feud between Becky and Charlotte, but we’re just not seeing it right now.
“Trish and I have never been separated for that long. We used to have these feuds between us to get back on our feet and I don’t think you see that these days. Part of the reason you don’t see that is because there are so many options now. They have such a rich selection that they don’t have to say ‘we’ve seen this game 100 times…’ happen so often.”
Great stories build legacies and change the sport for the better, which no doubt happened by the time Trish Stratus retired to her home country of Toronto in 2006.
With a win over Lita.
Lita on the future of WWE being genderless
As women’s wrestling continues to evolve, Lita thinks 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.
“For me, the next barrier is genderless,” Lita said. “I don’t care how you identify, we’re just going out to show off. And it’s not like ‘what’ women do we have on the show? Where is this performance?’ No, fair game. Everyone goes. Grab your spot and let’s go. Some nights there may be eight women’s matches on the card, some nights there may be two.’
“To not still feel like it’s a box to tick to make sure you’re representing the women. Of course they are represented, because they are good.”
“Just continuing to not be constrained by gender, it’s like, ‘I see a prize, I’m going after it. We don’t worry 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 will compete at her second WrestleMania; her first as 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 ways, Flair vs. Ripley the new Trish vs. Lita. Flair is the athletic, acclaimed blonde bombshell of 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 such an overconfident atmosphere,’ Lita said. “I almost wonder if Rhea is going to get that out of Charlotte because there’s only so many times you can show up with confidence before Charlotte puts it in your face again.”
“I know she’s the heel in this match, but I’m rooting for it [Rhea Ripley] because Charlotte earned her chance, but she was also given a spot because of her heritage, and has just stepped forward and continues to take the opportunity. While I feel like Rhea has carved her niche, and she’s just getting started, but it’s peaked in this high-profile match at WrestleMania.
WWE rivals airs on A&E Network on Sunday, March 19, 2023 at 8:00 PM ET/PT.