Hailey Hatred is one of the most important women in wrestling. She appeared in some of the earliest Chick Fight events and the formative bouts of the influential IWA-Mid South women’s division. She was also in the first women’s match for AIW, a rising promotion with a strong women’s roster. She even helped put Beyond Wrestling on the map with her barrier-shattering inter-gender matches against the promotions top talent. She’s won titles in both the US and in Japan, her current place of residence where she is again opening doors for women. She’s one of the most talented diverse wrestlers in the world. Hailey has done it all from lucha libre to kickboxing to hardcore to Joshi Puroresu.
All this, and yet Hailey Hatred does not even have a US Wikipedia page. With this interview we hope that more people get to know and appreciate Hailey’s truly ground-breaking career. We caught up with her a few days before her biggest match yet, as on June 26th she will face Leon for the JWP Open Weight Championship, the most prestigious women’s title in Japan, if not the world. If she wins, Hailey would be making history yet again as she’d be American to hold the title. Hailey’s TLW and IMW titles will also be on the line, and the match will also decide the winner of the J-1 Grand Prix Tournament. Matches don’t get bigger than this. Wrestlers don’t bigger than Hailey Hatred. Enjoy.
You always said it was your goal to wrestle in Japan, and you accomplished that years ago. Now you’re not just on a tour but, as you put it, you own furniture there. Did you ever think that you’d become one of the few foreigners given a regular spot in a major promotion?
I’m always confident in my abilities, but it really all comes down to opportunity. When I first started coming to Japan, I was wrestling for various independent groups. Then I started wrestling for JWP in tag-match capacity. It wasn’t until Yoneyama and I had our Triple Title match that I feel I really got noticed there. If I wasn’t holding two championships [at the time] myself, I may have never gotten that chance.
An influx of foreign wrestlers have come to the Joshi scene recently, especially for REINA, which you are a part of. What can you tell us about REINA and some it’s foreign talent?
REINA is still finding its niche. It has all the means to be a cool, unique company, but everyone is still learning, from the wrestlers to the staff. I am hoping it succeeds and can continue to invite an interesting group of wrestlers to Japan from various countries. Its been a long time since Japanese fans have had the opportunity to see foreign women wrestling live!
Before paving the way for a resurgence of foreign female wrestlers in Japan, you similarly were there at the beginnings of the current women’s wrestling renaissance in the United States. You were even in the first match that IWA-MS female ace Mickie Knuckles ever had. You two also participated in AIW’s first women’s match ever. Tell us about your rivalry with her.
I really enjoy getting the chance to wrestle Mickie. She’s very versatile, she knows her way around the mat, with striking, and of course with hardcore matches. One of the toughest girls out there. The last time I wrestled her, I stabbed her in the head with a dart, then yakuza kicked it in deeper. If that puts our rivalry into perspective =)
Also in AIW, you had a series of matches with John Thorne. It began with a no ropes barbed wire match, an intergender first, and ended with an “I Quit” dog collar match. You got slashed with scissors, driven into barbed wire, pounded by chains until your face was covered in blood. The matches were very brutal and very emotional. What did they mean to you?
That’s the perfect description: brutal and emotional. It’s always up in the air how things will go the first time you have a match with someone, let alone the first match being such an extreme stipulation, no ropes barbed wire. I’d never done anything like that before. I couldn’t even think about how it would feel to get cut up by the barbed wire, all I could focus on was the match itself.
Things escalated to the “I Quit” dog collar match, which was actually more brutal than NRBW. I got beat up pretty bad that match, I was sore for weeks afterwards. I didn’t really take into consideration how heavy the chain would be or how much punishment it would provide. I lost a lot of blood, by far the most I’ve lost in my life. That match is really one of my favorites of my career though, the perfect end to a feud. It was very intimate, not in a creepy weird way, but to be that close to your loathed rival, and the only way to make it end is to say that you quit.
You also had a memorable match in AIW with “Girl Dynamite” Jennifer Blake. At the beginning of the match you can hear the crowd making lewd comments and cat calls. By the end they were on their feet chanting “This is Awesome!” How did it feel to win over a crowd like that?
I feel like the stars were aligned that match. It was a tournament, so it was both of our second matches that night. Neither of us had ever seen the other wrestle before, but we just were able to react and counter so much of each others offense, and win over the people in attendance, too. I felt such a nice natural chemistry with her, I’d really love to have another match sometime.
You were the first women’s champion in AIW and also one of the first contender’s for the JAPW women’s title. That belt is still held by Sara Del Rey, after a couple of successful defenses against you. What are thoughts in general on “The Queen of Wrestling?”
She’s great. Tough, smart, talented. She is what a Champion should be. I gave it my all in pursuit of dethroning her, but it still wasn’t enough. She’s deserving of the title of “Queen”, but I hope to have another Championship match with her again. I’d even put my belts up.
Sara resorted to piledriving you on concrete to win your epic streetfight match. What sort of payback do you have planned for that?
That really demonstrates that she has no limits. It’s been over a year since our last fight, and I know we have both grown and developed so much. Our matches are always intense – next time will definitely be “must see”
Another place where you opened the doors for women is Beyond Wrestling1. Beyond is unique in that the audience is made up of the other wrestlers, and many sounded pretty skeptical about a woman being in the promotion. What was your overall Beyond Experience like?
When Beyond wrestling was being explained to me, I couldn’t grasp it. Then the promoter just said “you have to see it to get it” – so I did. It was such a hot atmosphere, really electric. I was excited to be a part of it. Things don’t get much more intense than my first match. There was plenty of talk that “the girl couldn’t hang with the boys,” but after my debut, that went away. If anything, my opponents tried to one up each other to see how much I could really take.
My favorite part in each of your Beyond matches is the moment when you get fed up with your opponent not taking you seriously and you kick, elbow, or slap the shit out of them, leading to them getting visibly upset. How fun is it to surprise guys with your strength and toughness?
I like to wrestle guys, because I push myself harder. I’m very competitive, and while I don’t consider myself a tomboy I’ve always been around a lot of guys because I’m into the same sports. At the gym I want to lift harder than the boys, when I’m grappling I don’t tap easily, when I’m sparring I’m pushing the, “How hard will they punch a girl?,” envelope, and so on. If someone is stronger, I’m going to give them a good fight for that title!
The most intense and talked about match you had in Beyond was the one with Chris Dickinson. Even though you two beat the hell out of each other, you were beaming when you talked about it after the fact. Tell us about that.
Chris really challenged me, and I appreciate that. It’s not every day that someone can really push you. I respect that he didn’t treat me like a girl, and it resulted in an entertaining intergender match. I think that was the cool thing,: it was stripped down and just became a match, not a “guy versus girl” deal.
It seems like most places you’ve gone you’ve had to prove yourself again and again as a wrestler. Is that a challenge you have deliberately sought out? And in Japan, how does it feel now that you are an established veteran who’s helping show other women the ropes?
Ah, the “V” word! I’m still learning every day, and if there is anywhere to be humble, it’s in Japan =) I do seek out challenges, but I’ve been up against some pretty ridiculous situations in the past. To say I sought that out would be a bit sadistic, but I’m most definitely not interested in the norm.
Last year you formed a partnership with then JWP Champion Kaori Yoneyama. She’s a phenomenal wrestler. What is teaming with her like?
A dream. Life imitated art with us – before we had our Triple Title Match, we had just faced each other a couple times in tags in the weeks leading up to it. Personally, we didn’t really talk much, just the normal Hello’s and how-are-you’s. After our match, we became the best of friends, won Tag belts right away, and have continued to support each other. She’s been such an important part of my growth here, and one of my best rivals. She’s just the best.
Madison Eagles, the current SHIMMER Champion expressed a desire to return to Japan. You two had some serious exchanges in a six women tag last year 2. What were your thoughts on her? Is it safe to say you’d like to get in the ring with her again?
She really impressed me. I felt a natural chemistry with her, and immediately the fans were asking for a singles match between us. I know Japanese fans would love to see her return, and when she does, I’ll free up my plans for that show.
On June 26th you may reach the pinnacle of your career as you face Leon in the tournament final, triple title match. Please tell us your thoughts going into the match, and what it would mean to hold the top championship in all of Joshi Puroresu.
I don’t think words can begin to justify my feelings. This tournament has been a long, challenging road, and to reach the finals – to beat 3 of the best JWP has to offer – and for the end result being a shot at the biggest prize, it just doesn’t get any more exciting. I’m prepared and determined. Opportunities this big are rare, especially for a foreigner, and I won’t let that slip away.
We’ve seen you finish off people with German Suplexes, Tiger Suplexes, Fisherman Busters, and even a Wrist Clutch exploder. Which move do you think will be the one that puts Leon down?
I’m ready to throw them all at her, if she keeps kicking out, I’ll keep them coming. I don’t get tired easy, and her being on the receiving end of all that clearly puts her at the disadvantage. I have plenty of strikes and submissions at my disposal as well. I’m a complete package of death.
You have incorporated Martial Arts into your training from the beginning of your career. How has that helped in your wrestling and would you ever consider taking that a pro MMA bout?
Absolutely! I feel some sort of martial arts background is necessary. My wrestling coaches criticized my stance and whatnot when I was early in training, but I feel both are important for each other. I really like kickboxing, I actually got accepted into a big Dojo before I became a wrestler, but wrestling is my heart, so nothing could ever compare. I’ve gotten into MMA more recently, since I enjoy submissions too. I was watching a show that a Pancrase fighter was wrestling on, and I was so impressed by how tough he was, and how strong of a striker he was, so I told him I wanted to train with him. I since joined his Dojo and am training for my pro debut.
You’re one of the hardest hitters in the sport, but who has hit you the hardest?
Nanae Takahashi, Kyoko Kimura, Mickie Knuckles, Cheerleader Melissa are the first four that come to mind.
I like strange fashion, so I’m always looking for eccentric people that make costumes. The green dress is from an artist who happened to know how to sew and make wrestling gear. Her designs were so cool. She designed the zombie, and when I was in Mexico I had it made. I hate to wear pants, but I liked the design so much, and it just wouldn’t look right as anything else.
You also used to wear a”They’re coming to get your Barbara” top when wrestling, so is it safe to assume you’re a fan of zombies? Any favorite movies?
I like zombies, I like horror movies. I’d love to be in a deserted mall trying to survive. I like Raimi & Romero movies, Resident Evil, Dead and Breakfast, and Fido. And Buffy.
Speaking of film, you recently taped an appearance for the Joshi Puroresu dramatic series Muscle Girls. What has that been like? Will you be recording a J-Pop album next?
Ha! No thank you with all that idol junk. I could never be an actress. I’d much rather go have a 60 minute war than re-take and shoot-from-different-angles a 60 second fight scene. Doing a Japanese TV series was fun though. I mean, so much is interesting in Japan as a foreigner, so being on the set and seeing all the characters and stuff was a unique experience.
You’ve stuck to “Viscera Eyes” by the The Mars Volta as your entrance theme for a while. If you win the JWP title will you possibly pick a new one? “Wax Simulacra” or “Frances The Mute” both sound champion worthy.
I typically change when they release a new album, but the last album didn’t really have anything that was entrance-theme-y. They apparently don’t have me in mind when they are composing =) I really like “Frances the Mute” and I’ve stuck with Volta for the majority of my career, but I’ve been recently inspired by some Japanese groups, so we will see!
Between training and wrestling, you also spend some time following the men’s promotions in Japan. What promotions and wrestlers do you most enjoy?
I am so lucky to get to see so much amazing wrestling. I go to New Japan the most, both because they are a great company, and because they run a ton of shows. I watch All Japan, NOAH, Zero One, IGF, indies…I give most everything a chance. My favorites to watch are Jushin Liger (always), Go Shiozaki, Daisuke Sekimoto, Kushida, Hirooki Goto, Satoshi Kojima - I’ll keep it at a fave 6 since this could get long =) Also a couple K1 fighters have debuted recently, and they are really exciting to watch. I hope more K1 guys make the cross over.
Is a singles match with Jushin Thunder Liger still your dream match? What other opponents do you hope to face in the future?
Yes! Dream because it will probably never happen, and because he’s my childhood idol. I’d love to have a rematch with Nanae Takahashi - she was my breakout match in Japan that really pushed me to my full potential. It’s been a few years since that match, so I think it would be great to get in the ring with her again. I’d also like a rematch with Kayoko Haruyama, our only singles was a submission only match, so I think without that stip we’d have a very different fight. I’d love to wrestle Aja Kong, teaming with her was a huge learning experience, so having a singles match would be fantastic. Meiko Satomura is another person I’d love to get in the ring with. The Sendai Girls are great and have fantastic condition, so I know she would teach me so much.
You’ve achieved a lot in your career so far, any other goals you have left?
I achieved my career goal when I was able to come to Japan and wrestle, so I feel so fortunate to be able to say that – not many can. From here I am trying to have my best matches, learn a lot, be successful with Kickboxing and MMA, and continue to travel the world doing what I love.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
Thank you for the constant support, taking time to send me messages and tweets, purchasing DVDs, Photos, T-shirts, and coming out to shows. We couldn’t do this without you guys, so please never go away =)
To learn more about Hailey follow her on Twitter (@HaileyHatred) and like her on Facebook. We also highly recommend purchasing The Best of Hailey Hatred DVD from AIW, as it contains several of the great matches mentioned here.
Also, enjoy this match from JWP featuring Hailey as she teams with Yoneyama to take on Kayoko Haruyama and Tsubasa Kuragaka.