Beth Phoenix on WWE Documentary ‘Heaven’ and Being a Wrestling Trailblazer
Wrestling commentator Beth Phoenix knows from breaking down barriers. Some of the trailblazing moves the “Glamazon” has accomplished: Winning multiple championships; being one of only four women to enter the men’s Royal Rumble match; and making history in the amateur ranks as the first female varsity wrestler at Notre Dame High School in Elmira, New York. It’s no surprise that after retiring from wrestling in 2012, she became the youngest Hall of Famer in WWE history.
All of which makes her the perfect candidate to narrate the upcoming WWE Network documentary Heaven. The doc dives into the story of high school wrestler Heaven Fitch, who in 2020 became the first female athlete to win a boy’s state wrestling championship in North Carolina. The junior took the top spot in the 106-pound weight class. It’s the first project produced by the WWW Network to extend beyond the pro wrestling world.
Below, Phoenix chats about Heaven and how she continues to move the needle forward for women outside of the ring.
How much of Heaven’s story were you aware of before working on this doc?
Beth Phoenix: Living in Asheville [North Carolina], I remember seeing her story on the local news channels and social media. I follow women’s amateur wrestling and do some advocacy work with [nonprofit] Wrestle Like A Girl, which tries to get women’s wrestling sanctioned in every state in the U.S. The pandemic stunted Heaven’s story from getting out there. I’m really excited we’re able to pick up where it left off last year with this documentary.
Have you two met?
Heaven and I got to interact early on when we did a little bit of media. She is absolutely darling. Once the pandemic eases a bit, I hope to spend some time with her when cameras aren’t in our faces.
Heaven has lived in this space of having to block out all the adversity and succeed. I really appreciate her strength to have done so well at such a young age.
You’re the singular voice for WWE commentary on Wednesdays on NXT. How do you feel you’ve grown into that role?
If you told me a few years ago that I would be working as a commentator, I would have laughed. I was the strong silent type. That was my wrestling character. I was really intimidated speaking. It has been wonderful to have this new job, but I have to attribute so much to my partners during this learning time. It has been all hands on deck coaching me and training me and giving me so much grace. I know I had stumbling blocks in the beginning, but everyone gave me a chance.
There are many talented women conducting interviews backstage and hosting WWE shows. Who else do you think would do well on commentary?
Our female broadcasters are some of the hardest working women I’ve ever known. It is a grind. They have to be ready for anything. I guarantee you can sit down with any one of our ladies — McKenzie Mitchell, Kayla Braxton — any of them. They each bring a whole new perspective to the table and honestly, crush the job. From a wrestler’s standpoint, other than Natalya who I think would be hilarious in commentary, I think Bayley would be awesome. She is entertaining, quick. There might be no bigger wrestling fan. She would bring a lot to the broadcasting table.
What does it mean for you to see your husband Edge [Adam Copeland] in a main event at WrestleMania?
It feels great. I can’t tell you how much better it feels watching someone you love accomplish these things. I remember crying backstage as a peer when he had to initially announce his retirement in 2011. He didn’t have a choice [due to injury]. I’m so happy to see him have his moment and to do it on his terms.
Does he motivate you to have another match?
When I was a wrestler, I only really got to work with one person or help one person at a time. In my broadcasting role, I can help everyone on the show. I feel like I have a great job right now. I am in the ring all the time though because I’m Edge’s training partner. The wrestling bug will always be with me, but right now, where I’m at is where I belong.
What do you think NXT can do to grow its audience even more?
Thinking outside the box. Being open to change. I think that our women’s division is a big part of the foundation of NXT. More character building. We’ve been having [producer] Jeremy Borash doing these amazing production pieces for Cameron Grimes and the one he did with Xia Li. They are like mini-movies. We need to continue to try new things and not stick to the same formula. I think NXT has an incredible roster. We just signed a whole batch of new recruits at the Performance Center. I think you’re going to see the brand as a whole continue to grow.
I’m especially looking forward to seeing what new recruit Taya Valkyrie has to offer. She seems to share similar traits to you when you first started.
I saw Taya at Royal Rumble weekend last year, and I was trying to bait her to come to NXT. I said, “NXT is amazing. You belong with us.” Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I saw her at the PC, and I [saw her and] said, “You’re finally where you belong.” It was such a happy moment. She deserves this opportunity.
Heaven, Sunday, March 7, WWE Network and across WWE social channels