Tessa Blanchard Reflects on Empowering Impact Wrestling Championship Win
Starting out her career, Tessa Blanchard looked up to strong female figures, like the late Chyna — ones who weren’t satisfied with the status quo for women in the business. The third generation is hoping to inspire in a similar way and move the proverbial needle even further.
The 24-year-old did just that in the aptly titled Hard to Kill pay-per-view, making herstory as the first woman to hold the Impact Wrestling championship. The milestone capped off a heated rivalry with former title holder Sami Callihan, putting intergender wrestling on the big stage in the main event.
“My family got to share that moment with me,” said Blanchard during a media call. “It has been a long eight months Sami and I had been going through all this … For it to culminate at Hard to Kill and for me to walk out the first-ever woman to hold the Impact Wrestling world championship, it honestly meant so much. It meant the past six years of my career meant something. The past 24 years of life has led to that moment. It was very rewarding.
“... I’m living in the moment. I’m so proud of everything I’ve overcome to be where I am right now. I’m so blessed to be where I am right now ... I never thought it was possible. Now that it has [happened], it’s very clear what my next challenge is. I’m going to have to defend the title against all comers. I’m going to work harder. My intensity is going to have to be equal to, if not greater each and every time I step into a ring. That’s what I’m focused on right now — facing the best in the world.”
Along with the oVe leader, Blanchard has other colleagues looking for their shot, like the longest reigning Knockouts champion Taya Valkyrie and X Division champion Ace Austin. She faces Austin on February 22 at Sacrifice on Impact Plus. With this “Diamond” finding such success, it begs the question if Impact would move forward in unifying the men’s and women’s top prizes.
“Never say never. Anything is possible. I’m in this to break stereotypes,” Blanchard answered. “I want to grow as an athlete and wrestle the best in the world. And some of the best in the world happen to be female. That’s just the time we’re in right now. I take Taya very seriously as a competitor. I take Ace Austin very seriously as a competitor. I take a lot of our locker room seriously because they are so talented. We’re filled with such versatile, diverse talent.
“There is no telling. I’m all for it if that were something that were to happen down the line because Impact has proven we don’t look at it as intergender wrestling. We’re just looking at it as pro wrestling. And it might make some people uncomfortable. It’s not traditional. It’s not what people are used to, but it is our outlook.”
Blanchard not only had to think about putting on the match of her life at Hard to Kill and hoping her knee would hold up four or five weeks after surgery — she was also was in the middle of a social media firestorm that began the day before the PPV with women’s wrestlers accusing Impact Wrestling’s top star of bullying and throwing out racial remarks in the past.
“It was a very emotional weekend. It was full of highs and full of lows. I chose to step away from social media a little bit because of all the things that were going on,” Blanchard said. “With everything that went on that weekend, not everyone is going to like me. Not everyone is going to agree with what I chose to do in my life. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve faced challenges. One thing I will say is I've never used a racial slur of any kind. It’s just not in my heart. It’s not something I’ve done or will do. It’s just not true. Some people look at social media, and someone will make an accusation and say something and then everyone hops on the bandwagon.
“We all have our own stories. There is a side of everyone’s life that is public and a part that’s private. There is a part that is out for all the world to see and can be judged by anyone actually interested in it. It is very unfortunate that some people resort to saying certain things, but it’s just not true. That’s as much as I’ll say on it. I know who I am. People online, that’s the world we live in with social media. I’ve faced obstacles and challenges that have enabled me to persevere and become the woman and athlete that I am today. It’s just another stone in that step.”
Blanchard prepared mentally and physically for months with lots of emotions going into the match. Hearing what was being said admittedly hit her very hard, but she credits inner strength for remaining focused at the task at hand.
“With my family, my little sisters in there that weekend, in the front row to watch everything culminate at that event, it was special to me. I knew everything I’ve been through I was going to have to use to fuel me to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities — to be the best version of Tessa Blanchard that I can be that night, and go out there and win the world championship," she said.
"That way my little sister, who is 12, and other little girls and younger talent might look at me [and] see I took something that I’ve loved and I went and made myself great at it. And they can take what they love and become great at it too. That’s what motivated me. I can handle almost anything … I’m going to base my legacy on my work ethic. Not by trying to win some popularity contest.”
Blanchard doesn’t see the same person that she was in the past staring back at her in the mirror. The champion feels that inside and outside the ring is a constant learning experience.
“This isn’t a business for the timid, the meek, the too thin-skinned. I’ve been tested in this life, this journey, in this sport. One thing my dad always tells me is that I’ve graduated from the school of hard knocks,” Blanchard, the daughter of Four Horsemen Tully Blanchard, said.
“I’ve given some and taken some, but one thing I’ve never done is quit. Through this whole journey of the past six years of my career I’ve grown a lot as a person ... You grow and experience life and take those experiences, your fumbles, your wins, your losses, you use them as fuel to become the best person of yourself possible.
“One thing I’ve really learned is to show respect to people, even when they don’t deserve it. Not as a reflection of their character, but a reflection of my own.”
Blanchard stands at the top of the Impact Wrestling mountain unapologetically comfortable in her own skin. She wants to be proof that nobody can kill your dream.
“The world is going to ask you who you are every day you wake up. The money and fame and the TV and all the social media ... People say nice things about you. People say bad things about you. People will always have something to say. You’ve got to have the mental strength to know who you are,” Blanchard said.
“And if you don’t know that, then the world is going to come to you and tell you who you are. I’m a strong believer to know that I’m stronger than that and that the world can’t take away who I am because the world didn’t give it to me. That goes for everyone. The world can’t take away your dreams or tell you who you are because they didn’t give it to you. That’s the one thing I focused on, grown as a woman, grown as an athlete, grown as a sister, grown as a daughter. And hopefully grown as a leader.”
Impact Wrestling, Tuesdays, 8/7c, AXS TV
The company is presenting three nights of tapings February 7-9 as part of its “High Roller Tour” at Sam’s Town Live in Las Vegas.