Trish Stratus: Returning to WWE helped Lita and the “I see what we did” rivalry

Trish Stratus and Lita had a WWE rivalry from 2002-06 that defined their era and proved to be the spark of inspiration for the company’s current women’s evolution.

Stratus and Lita were the first women to main event “Monday Night Raw” and were a driving force for WWE when women’s wrestling began to be seen in a different light during the Attitude Era.

Now, they will meet Becky Lynch at this year’s WrestleMania.

All of this, including Lita’s true friendship as godmother to Stratus’ son Maximus, is revealed in an episode of A&E’s “WWE Rivals” (Sunday, 10 p.m.).

Stratus, 47, took some time to ask The Post’s Joseph Staszewski questions.

(Edited for clarity and length)

Q: Even before you were in the ring together, did you see your chances of competing given the different paths you took to WWE and how different your looks and storylines were?

There was something between us because of where we came from, who we represented in the ring – a kind of yin and yang. We have always said that we are. We knew right away that there was that intangible between us, there was something special where the fans were like, ‘Oh, when those two get in the ring it’s going to be something special.’

Trish Stratus on SmackDown in 2000WWE

Q: Lita was in your first match with the Hardy Boyz against you, Test and Albert in 2000. What was your mindset when you were already in the ring and this was your chance to show, ‘Hey, should I be? doing this with him too.”

I wouldn’t say I was that confident. “I think I can do this. I did it for a few months.’ It was more traditional, there were independents and Mexico. I trained my way in Toronto for a few months and got a good foundation. My apparition was learning live on TV. Yes, right for me.

I was a little bit like, “I don’t want to suck so badly that I’m going to impoverish his segment.” This gave me motivation, drive and motivation to really give. I had to make sure my bar was up so I could keep up with him…maybe I didn’t have his ability. I had to bring it in a different way, whether it was my character work or doing my best and trying to maximize that moment or that opportunity.

WWELita and Trish Stratus WWE

I knew when she had that neck injury (in 2002) that’s when things started for women. Then we had Molly (Holly) and me and Molly, me and Jazz, me and Victoria, me and Mickie James, me. I knew that because me and Lita still had that, dare I say Rock-Austin-esque quality, I knew that now that she’s back I can match her ability in the ring. That will be fun. Now we had the opportunity as we developed these two characters, but also skilled fighters, and now we could go out and physically tell our story in the ring the way the guys did.

Q: He missed two big chunks of time with injuries. I’m sure there was something you could have done as an opponent, but it always felt like it gave you a little time to catch your feet and plant them.

Even with the second knee injury (in 2005) we were on our way to WrestleMania, and then he got injured and it’s like, ‘Oh man, that’s what we’ve been working on.’ Trish and Lita’s rivalry would finally end somehow.

Now (this year), it’s different. We are on the same page and I think we are happy to share this moment together at this point in our lives. So now to be able to share a WrestleMania moment with my bestie is all I could ask for at this point.

Q: At what point did you and Lita’s friendship begin to strengthen? Often in combat the opponents do not make up the level of connection that you have.

As our rivalry became known, we knew we were doing it together but we were also fighting the same battle. Rock and Austin, I don’t know if they were beasts like Lita and me, because they were competing for that first place. Who is better? We said: ‘On behalf of women, we must be represented. We must be heard.” So we were fighting the same fight, knowing that the work we did together could possibly change the dynamic, could change the course of the women’s struggle.

It was our journey together, and I think that bonded us and knowing that it wasn’t about becoming the most popular fighter or him being the most popular. It was about what we were doing for women’s wrestling, kind of normalizing women’s wrestling and making it part of the show. Not only that, this is a women’s segment. It’s the final segment of the women’s show, but it’s not a women’s match. It’s a main event match. Now we see this. The women’s main event happens all the time, even at WrestleMania.

WWELita hit a moonsault on Trish Stratus in the main event of the 2004 Raw.WWE

Q: Has time and what has happened to the women’s division continued to change the way you view your matchup with Lita? I’m sure it meant one thing when you first left (in 2006) and now that you have this other generation that was a spark for them, I’m sure it adds a deeper meaning.

When you’re in the moment and you’re doing what you’re doing… for example, it was the main event to get the spot, let’s not fail tonight, they give us a big chance here. We didn’t realize that it’s a very important rung on the women’s wrestling ladder in general. It was almost retrospective to go back and see the impact. But we needed to be in the current landscape to see what we did.

What surprised me was hearing someone like Nattie Neidhart, this woman lived there. So he said. “I didn’t even know I wanted to become a fighter, I didn’t think I did or wanted to until I saw you. And then I say, yes, that’s very nice what I want to do.” To have someone like Nattie say that and then you realize you’ve done this. It took us coming back to the world and seeing what we did and that’s why I think this match at WrestleMania is so special. We have the opportunity to work with Becky Lynch or an Iyo Sky.

We both debuted 23 years ago, which is pretty crazy, right? To come back and share that moment with him (Lita). As friends, we are traveling together. We are enjoying the moment. We’re enjoying the road together and having fun while we’re doing it. We feel privileged and honored to be doing this at this point in our career.

Q: Do you see WrestleMania as a one-off or something that would require more chapters?

I hope this ends at WrestleMania. I think the mission is to silence and stop the Damage CTL and if I can accomplish that at WrestleMania, we’re good. As long as I can close the chapter. So we’ll have to see what happens at WrestleMania.

Q: The match everyone points to with you and Lita is the main event on Raw. Is that the one you show your kids when they want to know and see what mom did or are there others that hold a special place in your heart?

That sure meant and what it was and because it set a precedent. It was history making. But also the Mickie James-Trish Stratus storyline. The competition was so deep. There was character development, ebbs and flows. It really showcased the storytelling. The WrestleMania 22 match between Mickie and I, for me. because you really… you really hear the crowd. They’re into it, they’re invested, they’re down with the story. They get what to do. They understand their role in that thing and it’s a lot of fun to watch them play.

That and the retirement match with Lita. There is a real emotion for me. It was bittersweet to leave the business I love but to do it because I had family things to take care of but to do it in front of my hometown and my friends and my family. It was emotional and you could see that emotion in me and in him.

Q: You talked about your first retirement on the show and your mom having Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the time and where the divide was. How emotional was it to have all of that happening at the same time and having to make that decision?

It was a lot and you can see the emotion in me in that (retirement) match. You see the end. I felt it was the last time I would be in this ring that I love, doing what I love. It was a bigger picture and there was a bigger reason and so I’m grateful that I was able to have that moment and end that chapter of my life and then move on, start my family, start my business, live away from the struggle. . It wasn’t just fighting for years and years and years.

WWETrish Stratus vs. Lita at Unforgiven in 2006.Craig Melvin/WWE

Charlotte (Flair match in 2019) was just an opportunity we took advantage of. Vince (McMahon) thought this is going to be a really epic moment, let’s do this. Even now I feel like, at this point in my career, coming back with my best was my first album.

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