Lisa Marie is owner of The Squared Circle Restaurant in Chicago, IL. She is formerly known as TNA Knockout Tara & five-time TNA Knockouts Champion as well as an one-time TNA Knockouts Tag Team Champion. She is a former two time WWE Women's Champion, Finishing move is the Widow's Peak, debuted on WWF as one of the Godfather's Ho's, has worked on all three WWE brands (RAW, ECW &a Smackdown). She departed from the WWE in January of 2009. Owned Black Widow Customs & Fat Tony's Pizzeria in Louisville, KY. Moved to Chicago, IL for for a few years & currently resides in southern California.

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 06/10/2013

The wicked witches of WWE
BY Ryan Murphy
#9 Victoria

Her Nicki Minaj-rapped entrance theme warned, “I ain’t the lady to mess with.” That wasn’t just an empty threat for the physically imposing Victoria — a rare Diva brawler who was at her best in high-risk Chicago Street Fights and Hardcore Matches.

As attractive as she was — like Trish Stratus, Victoria was a fitness model in her pre-WWE days — this powerful female didn’t wince at broken nails as she bashed Trish Stratus with garbage cans and battered Lita in the first-ever Divas Steel Cage Match. A two-time Women’s Champion, Victoria rarely stooped to humiliation or degradation like many of the names on this list. Instead, she let her brutality speak for itself.

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 05/21/2013
 
 
 05/09/2013

Slammin’ Body: Train With Tara, Aka TNA Wrestling Star Lisa Marie Varon
by Roger Lockridge May 08, 2013

Tara has fitness to thank for her successful pro wrestling career. The former WWE and TNA champion made her initial splash in the IFBB. Try the workouts that made her a star!

Her real name is Lisa Marie Varon, but she’s known as Tara, the sexy and strong knockout for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Tara became the first woman to win the WWE and TNA Women’s Championship twice. But before she was slammin’ bodies, Tara was slamming the weight with enough force to compete in the IFBB as a professional fitness competitor.

How has this powerhouse mastered and excelled at two distinctly different muscle sports? And how has her training differed when pursuing them? We checked in with Tara for an interview—and scored her fitness and wrestling workouts in the process. Compare them for yourself below!

Fitness Roots ///
Many top female pro wrestlers have backgrounds in fitness, but few were ever IFBB pros like Tara. She learned under the tutelage of veteran training and nutrition expert John Parrillo and built an impressive resume by winning ESPN2’s Fitness America Series in 1997 and the Miss Galaxy Competition in 1998. She turned pro by placing second at the NPC Team Universe in New York City in 1999.

As an IFBB pro, Tara followed a set plan and committed lots of time to the gym. “When you are preparing for a fitness competition, your life is very structured and you have a set plan that you will follow from day one to contest day,” she says. This discipline, and the body that it helped forge, were instrumental when it came to transition to a decidedly more colorful career.

Wrestling fell into Tara’s lap when she attended a wrestling show with her friend, Torrie Wilson. The bug bit Tara hard, and she committed to a wrestling camp in 2000.

Her ascent was rapid. She worked in different independent organizations, caught the eye of the WWE, and competed in its developmental system at Ohio Valley Wrestling before joining the main roster.

She debuted as Victoria in 2002, remained under the alias for seven years, won two WWE Women’s Championships, and made several tours around the world before joining TNA in 2009. New federation, new name: she began going by “Tara.”

Ageless Wonder ///
She’s now a well-known veteran in the Knockout division, but seems ageless in the ring. “Many people look at me with shock when I tell them I’m 42,” Tara says. “That makes me feel good to know I still look and move like these other girls who are, well, a few years younger than me. I still feel great doing it, so I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon.”

These days, to stay on top, Tara must stay in exceptional shape and adapt to rigors of life on the road. Whereas her training for fitness was highly organized, change is the only real constant in wrestling. “As a pro wrestler,” Tara says, “I’m on the road a lot and have commitments that get in the way of following a set training program, so I have to make the best of the time I have to get in the gym.

Joseph Thurman, Tara’s trainer, plays a massive role in her athletic prowess. Based in Chicago, Thurman helps Tara design her programs and accompanies her in the weight room. He takes no mercy on her because the ring demands top performance and industry appeal.

“Lisa’s program is built to enable her to add lean muscle tissue, maintain strength, shed fat, keep her backside, and work on cardiovascular and muscular endurance,” Thurman says. “I add more speed and agility work toward the end of the hour to burn more fat. I also have her do more abs at the end since she is engaging them during the beginning of the workout. For the most part, we always use compensatory acceleration training—explosive positive, slow negative.”

Tara’s IFBB Pro Fitness Routine ///
45 minutes of fasted morning cardio.

Day 1: Chest/Shoulders/Triceps/Cardio (45-60 seconds rest between sets)
Machine Bench Press: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Cable Crossover: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Standing Military Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Side Lateral Raise: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Triceps Pushdown – Rope Attachment: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Triceps Overhead Extension with Rope: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Dips – Triceps Version: 1 set to failure
Abs: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Cardio: 45 min

Day 2: Legs/Cardio (45-60 seconds rest between sets)
Seated Leg Curl: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Barbell Squat: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Dumbbell Squat: 3 sets of 25-30 reps
Stiff-Legged Barbell Deadlift: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Hyperextensions (Back Extensions): 3 sets of 12 reps
Abs: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Cardio: 45 min

Day 3: Back/Biceps/Cardio (45-60 seconds rest between sets)
Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Seated Cable Rows: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Straight-Arm Dumbbell Pullover: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Reverse Flyes: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Dumbbell Alternate Bicep Curl: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Hammer Curls: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Standing Biceps Cable Curl (w/ Cambered Bar): 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Abs: 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Cardio: 45 min

Tara’s TNA Wrestling Routine ///

Tara’s Wrestling Routine: Full Body Day (5-10 minute cardio warm-up)
Giant Set: 30 sec rest after each set
Seated Cable Rows: 3 sets of 15-20, 12-15, and 10-12 reps (hold and squeeze scapulas, go to failure)
Pushups (w/ dumbbells): 1 warm-up sets of 15-20 reps; 2 sets to failure (pause at the bottom)
Dumbbell Squat to a Press (w/ Neutral-grip): 3 sets of 15, 12, and 10-12 reps (go to failure)
Dumbbell Rear Lunge: 3 sets of 15, 12, and 10 reps (each leg)
Reverse Flyes: 3 sets of 15-20, 12-15, and 10-12 reps (squeeze scapulas)
Giant Set: 30 sec rest after each set
Dumbbell Walking Lunges w/ Bicep Curl at the Top: 3 sets of 10 reps (each leg)
Plank to Triceps Push-up: 3 sets to failure
Pullup with Hanging Leg Raise: 3 sets of 15-20 reps
Giant Set: 30 sec rest after each set
Sled Push: 3 sets of 40 yards
Freehand Jump Squat: 3 sets of 12-20 reps
Jackknife Sit-Up w/ Medicine Ball: 3 sets of 20 reps
Side Bridge: 3 sets of 1 min (each side)

Check out Tara in the ring on Impact Wrestling every Thursday at 8 p.m. (EST) on Spike TV. You can also follow her on Twitter @TARALiSAMARiE.

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 04/09/2013
 
 
 04/04/2013

A killer tag team: Burgers and pizza
Pro wrestler and her husband open pizzeria in Lincoln Park
By Kevin Pang, Chicago Tribune reporter
April 4, 2013

Of all the tropes about professional wrestling, the most tiring is the one about it being fake. Here’s what’s really fake: celebrities who attach their names to restaurants, then show up twice a year to wave and pose for pictures.

How do those two statements sync up? Several weeks ago, professional wrestler Lisa Marie Varon and her husband Lee opened The Squared Circle, a pizzeria in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Your knee-jerk reaction might be, “Oh, athletes cashing in with the lowest-denominator bar food.”

There are several reasons to think this isn’t just an in-name-only cash grab for the Varons. For one, they live a few blocks away from Fullerton and Ashland, where their restaurant is. Lee Varon helped open a California Pizza Kitchen in Louisville, Ky., claims to have spun “hundreds of thousands of pizzas” in his career and mans this kitchen. And when I asked Lisa Marie Varon how she describes her job to strangers, she answered: “I own a restaurant and I’m a professional wrestler.” The order is important.

The most persuasive argument is that on a recent Saturday night, two days before a scheduled sit-down interview, I anonymously dined at the restaurant with friends. Unlike Tara, the antagonistic on-screen character she plays for TNA’s “Impact Wrestling” — in wrestling parlance, she’s considered a “heel” — real-life Lisa Marie happily snapped photos with fans, offered hugs, then sat down with customers and asked for feedback on food. She shared war stories from the wrestling road — she spent 10 years in the WWE as Victoria, where twice she held the women’s championship belt. When she left the restaurant that night, it was because she had to walk her dogs. She seemed more engaged than, say, Michael Jordan at Michael Jordan’s Steak House.

But let’s not bury the lead: The pizza and burgers at The Squared Circle are quite good, miles beyond my expectations for a pro wrestling-themed restaurant. The regular crust isn’t too dough- or yeast-heavy, doesn’t swell around the perimeter and is closer in bite to a crisp, lightly garlicked breadstick. (There’s also cracker crust and deep dish.) The underside is uniformly golden with dimples along the surface, good if you prefer hearing your pizza while biting.

The deep-dish pizza uses duck fat, which gives the bottom crust a sturdy crunch. When the square pie is baked in the 675-degree stone oven, the sides of the deep-dish pie puff up, resembling — the Varons say this was a happy coincidence — the turnbuckles in the corner of a wrestling ring. The interior of this swollen side-crust remains cotton-ball soft. I’m not a big fan of deep dish in general, only because most versions contain a half-inch layer each of sausage and cheese. By contrast, the toppings on The Squared Circle’s Hangover Helper are portioned so you’re not ingesting a meat bomb — pepperoni, toothsome diced bacon, tomato sauce and two fried eggs, their runny yolks leaching down the pizza slope.

There’s also the Kentucky Bourbon, a barbecue pizza that isn’t too cloyingly barbecue — chicken or pulled pork, mashed potatoes and a light brush stroke of a house-blended bourbon sauce.

All the burgers here pay homage to the Minnesotan “Juicy Lucy,” where the patty is stuffed with cheese before it’s cooked. I only tried one, a special that night with jalapenos, bacon and Cholula hot sauce aioli. Sadly it didn’t have that desired cheese ooze, but it was a solid effort otherwise. The patty — in between steakhouse thick and griddle-top thin — was cooked through but retained its moistness. The pickled jalapeno and hot sauce aioli is just a marvelous pairing. (Also on the menu: “Fat Elvis,” a peanut butter-stuffed burger with bananas and bacon.)

Save for the autographed tights hung on the walls and the pay-per-view bouts on the big screen, the wrestling aspect is rather subdued. Thankfully there’s no “Sausage Smackdown” or “Hulkamania Hawaiian” or any other tackily named menu items. There is, however, a menacing photo of Lisa Marie Varon by the entrance, posing angrily next to a bruised-up male opponent. She warns that your fate will be similar if you don’t tip the servers.

kpang@tribune.com
Twitter @pang

The Squared Circle
2418 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-904-8170
thesquaredcircle.biz
Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday;
11 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday

Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

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 03/26/2013

Impact Wrestling Superstars Tara and Mr. Pec-Tacular Take on Scripted Drama
Wrestlers Are Soap Stars in “Tainted Dreams”
New York City, March 26, 2013

“IMPACT WRESTLING” superstars Lisa Marie Varon, known as Tara, and five-time CBS “Big Brother” superstar, Jessie Godderz, known as Mr. PEC-Tacular, have signed on to join the cast of NYC Brand Production’s ”Tainted Dreams.” This new, scripted “soap within a soap” is set to blow the lid off the behind-the-scenes comedy and drama of producing a daily soap opera. “Tainted Dreams” is a rare, realistic look at the interaction of actors, cast, and crew involved in producing a daily, scripted drama.

Emmy-winning director and “Tainted Dreams” creator, Sonia Blangiardo finds the casting choice of Jessie and Lisa Marie natural and symbiotic. “Wrestling has evolved into an ‘action soap opera,’ combining athletic prowess with the on-going, serialized drama taking place in and out of the wrestling ring,” said Blangiardo. “There is a tremendous crossover audience between traditional soap operas and wrestling which creates a perfect fit for Jessie and Lisa Marie in our cast.”

In the world of pro wrestling, Mr. PEC-Tacular (Jessie) and Tara’s (Lisa Marie) onscreen chemistry has earned them monikers such as “The Hollywood Power Couple” and “The First Couple of IMPACT WRESTLING” where they already rival the popularity of some of the most well-known pairings in wrestling history. Both Godderz and Varon are world-class athletes in their own right. Godderz is the youngest 2-Sport Pro Athlete in History. Lisa Marie was an All-American in Cheerleading and has held numerous fitness and wrestling titles including winner of the Fitness America Series, Miss Galaxy and the TNA Wrestling Knockouts Championship.

“Tainted Dreams” boasts a unique combination of high profile soap stars, reality stars, sports figures, singers and theater actors. To date, casting announcements for “Tainted Dreams” include Dina Manzo (“Dina’s Party and “Real Housewives of New Jersey”) Alicia Minshew (“All My Children”), Kelley Menighan Hensley (“As The World Turns”), Walt Willey (“All My Children”), Marnie Schulenburg (“As The World Turns”), Michael Lowry (“All My Children”) and Anthony Wilkinson (“My Big Gay Italian Wedding”).

Distribution details for “Tainted Dreams” are not yet finalized.

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 03/15/2013

Pro Wrestler Tara Opens Pizza & Burger Joint Updated 3 hrs ago
By Paul Biasco, DNAinfo.com, March 15, 2013 7:45am
@Paul_Biasco pbiasco@dnainfo.com

LINCOLN PARK — When Lisa Marie Varon isn’t laying the smack down inside the ring as a professional wrestler, she will be running the front of the house at her new pizza and burger joint on Ashland Avenue.

Varon’s The Squared Circle opened Thursday night at 2418 N. Ashland Ave. The name is a wrestling reference that dates to the Greco-Roman days.
The restaurant will serve New York-style thin pizzas such as the Hangover Helper topped with pepperoni, bacon and an egg, but the specialty will be the Squared Circle deep dish with a duck fat caramelized crust.

“You can’t reinvent pizza in Chicago, but we are trying to do our own take on it,” said Lee Varon, Lisa’s husband, who will be in the kitchen most nights.

Lisa Maria Varon, who goes by Tara in the ring and lives in Lincoln Park, wasn’t far from their new restaurant Thursday night during the opening, as she was performing at TNA IMPACT Wrestling which was broadcast live on Spike TV from the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

Varon wrestled in World Wrestling Entertainment under the ring name Victoria for most of the 2000s. She debuted with Total Nonstop Action as Tara in 2009.

The restaurant, which is adorned with wrestling memorabilia donated by fellow TNA stars, features a menu of her guilty pleasures: pizza and burgers.

Similar to their duck fat-take on deep dish pizza, the Varons decided to take their burgers to another level by stuffing each with cheese.

“We are kind of late to the gourmet burger race, so we are stuffing all of our burgers,” Lee Varon said.

The burgers are also topped with the cheeses, such as Merkts cheddar and gouda.

The Varons know that while wrestling fans will come in to watch pay-per-view events on the restaurant’s numerous flat screens and to see Tara, if the food is not top-notch they don’t stand a chance.
“They are going to come in to see the Jeff Hardy poster once, but only good food will bring them back,” Lee Varon said.

Lisa Marie Varon will be at the restaurant almost every day they are open, as she is only on the road for two weekends each month.

Although she won’t be making the pies every night, her first job was at a pizza place, and she has the experience, her husband said.

“She can throw some dough,” Lee Varon said.

Menu items such as the Hangover Helper pizza go for $12.50 for a small and $25 for a large. The Squared Circle duck fat deep dish pizzas cost $14 for a small and $22 for a large, plus $2 for each additional ingredient.

The burgers include the $11 Big Vic, stuffed and topped with Merkts cheddar, and the $13 Windy City, stuffed with Gouda and topped with sauteed mushrooms, onion rings, avocado, Gouda and aioli.

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 03/14/2013

Pro Wrestler Serves Duck Fat Dough, Stuffed Burgers at Ashland Eatery Debut
By Carrie Frillman

Diners at Lincoln Park’s new The Squared Circle can expect to devour burgers stuffed with peanut butter, deep dish pizza dough made with duck fat and tons of other decadent menu items inspired by pro wrestler Lisa Marie Varon’s guilty pleasures.

Peanut butter-stuffed burger patties, wood-fired clam and bacon pizzas and wrestling memorabilia have joined forces to create a new Lincoln Park restaurant inspired by what owner and pro wrestler Lisa Marie Varon considers to be her vices.

“All of this stuff at the restaurant represents my guilty pleasures,” Varon said Wednesday at a soft opening for The Squared Circle. “People always ask me why pizza, burgers and wrestling. Those are my three favorite things.”

Located at 2418 N. Ashland Ave., the restaurant is parked on a busy corridor in Lincoln Park. Its official grand opening is Thursday. The wood-lined walls are adorned with autographed wrestling memorabilia and there’s enough seating for about 60 people.

Although wrestling fans can rest assured that the sport will be showcased at Varon’s restaurant, she insists other sports will not be neglected. Basketball, football, baseball and hockey will also be shown on a regular basis.

“This is a great move for her,” her cousin, Ryan Madigan, 28, said at Tuesday’s soft opening. “The food is unbelievable and there are millions of sports bars in Chicago but there’s nothing like this.”

Varon said the process for opening Squared Circle—it was first announced in October—went smoothly but it definitely came down to the wire.

“We just got our liquor license this morning,” she joked. “Yesterday, none of these chairs had their backings on.”

The restaurant is the third in Varon’s family, she said, but unlike others owned by her father, this one is all her own.

Her husband, Lee, is her partner in the venture and the brains behind several recipes, including the “fat Elvis” burger which was recently featured on WGN News. The beef patty for the creation is stuffed with peanut butter and banana caramelized ricotta cheese.

“All of our burgers are stuffed,” Varon said. “They’re delicious. They’re all gourmet and all have a different, unique taste to them.”

She’s also serving up crispy fries and several different types of pizza—an extra crispy thin crust, a traditional New York-style and a deep dish with dough made using duck fat.

“It’s decadent,” she said, smiling.

For now, the restaurant will focus on its dine-in customers and will offer carryout. Delivery may come later but Varon says she wants to take “baby steps.”

The 41-year-old competitor, who goes by the ringname “Tara” in TNA Wrestling and formerly, “Victoria” in the WWE. She won the TNA Women’s Knockouts Championship at last year’s biggest TNA pay-per-view event, Bound For Glory.

Varon previously owned a pizza restaurant in Kentucky, she said, and brought several family recipes along with her to Chicago. She also tapped into local businesses to help with branding—Bucktown’s One Hour Tees created the signage, which features a pro wrestling motif and the backdrop of a Chicago flag.

Though she remains active in pro wrestling, Varon says Chicagoans will definitely see her at Squared Circle.

“This is not a pet project for me,” she told the Chicago Tribune when she announced the restaurant. “This is my job. I will continue to travel a couple days a week for wrestling, but I will be in the restaurant several days a week.”

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 03/14/2013

TNA Knockout Tara ready to take on Chicago
March 13, 2013 | Elliott Serrano, for Redeye

I first met TNA Knockout Lisa Marie Varon (AKA “Tara”) at Wizard World Chicago Comic-Con a few years ago. She was seated in the autograph area that was set up for all the pro wrestlers who attended the annual pop-culture convention in Rosemont, IL. When I approached her, I fessed up to being a “total mark” for her, having been a fan since her days in the WWE as the Diva named “Victoria.” She humored the awkward geek that I was, and we did an interview for Youtube, where she talked about her experiences in WWE/TNA, moving away from Chicago and being my date to the prom (see video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDBWZ0MJKKM). Soon after, Varon became a fixture in the world of Geek To Me when she stepped up and helped run the “Geek Fit Challenge.” (If you’re wondering who won the GFC, I’ll give you a hint: it wasn’t me.)

Since then, Varon has returned to Chicago with her husband and dogs after they moved to the South in the 90’s. Along with working a full schedule with TNA, she is opening a pizza place named The Squared Circle (2418 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL). And for the first time in years, she will be wrestling in front of her hometown fans when TNA Impact is broadcast from the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates on Thursday, March 14th.

I was able to catch her while she was on the road, traveling to one of her many appearances. We spoke by phone about the move back to Chicago; the challenges of going from WWE to TNA; and what advice she had for female athletes wanting to follow in her footsteps:

Geek To Me: You’re living back in Chicago again, what made you decide to come back?
Lisa Marie Varon: I lived here in the 90’s and lived here for 5 years, but I had to move to Kentucky for wrestling. (I was) working in a territory there, so I learned to wrestle there. We opened a pizza place there, and opened a custom car shop. Once that closed down, I saw my husband looking at Chicago real estate and said “Oh my god are we going to move back?” and he said “Do you want to?” I said “absolutely!” The next weekend, (we) got a rental car, drove to Chicago, met with a real estate agent about looking for homes, for permanent residency.

I cannot tell you how much I love Chicago. When I drive into the city and see the skyline, my heart quivers and I get super, super excited. It’s my home. I love the people there, people are super nice there. I love the city life, and it’s clean. The summers are terrific. I’m a Cubs fan, a Bulls fan, a Bears fan. There’s nothing like Chicago.

Geek To Me: What kind of challenge has it been for you making the transition from WWE to TNA?
Lisa Marie Varon: Oh gosh, no difficulties at all. I had a lot of freedom going to TNA. They told me to do what I do best. And I wasn’t used to that, having so much freedom. Its heaven, I’ll be honest with you. Don’t get me wrong, I loved WWE too, I learned all my craft and psychology – how to be fierce in the ring – from Fit Finley. I don’t have any hard feelings. (But) I wasn’t used to getting that much time on TV, having Dixie Carter – our boss – who is very “pro-woman”, she gave us a lot of time on TV.

And that’s what I say about the WWE girls, people are like “you need to help the WWE Divas”, I get tweets like that all the time. I’m like “it’s not their fault, it’s their time on TV!” They don’t get to showcase their talent; there are very talented girls there. And there aren’t very many places where girls can go, so, I love both (WWE and TNA).

Geek To Me: What can we expect at the TNA event in Chicago?
Lisa Marie Varon: I don’t know what to expect, but expect whoever I’m facing to get a beat down of their life! I am not going to hold back, especially in my home town. Performing in front of your home town, there’s no feeling like that, the fans are crazy. I’ve been doing a lot of media, especially with my restaurant (The Squared Circle) opening. I’m super stoked about it. I don’t know who I’m facing, but expect a beat down.

Geek To Me: What advice do you give to young female athletes who want to get into the business?
Lisa Marie Varon: I always suggest (getting) a college education. I’m very pro college education. You never know how long this business is gonna last. You can tear your knee; you’ll be out of business. You could break your neck, you’re done. What are you going to do? You always have to have a backup plan. And I think that people need to learn to be level-headed business people.

I extremely believe in living your dreams. Look at me, I get to wrestle for a living, and this is heaven for me. I think that you can tell I have the passion. I love what I do. Thirteen years in this business and I’m in the best shape of my life!

There are some girls who get into this business and don’t really take care of their bodies. Your body is your temple. You know from me training with Joey Thurman I take it serious. I’m 42 and I feel like I’m 20. That’s how you have to look at it. You have to go in it thinking that you’re a fighter and need to be in the best shape of your life.

You have to be able to mesh well with the travel schedule, being away from your family, and putting this business in front of your family. This is not a 9 to 5 job, this is your life. I love what I do and I think my fans know that. Expect it to not be a 9 to 5 or three day a week business, it’s 24/7.

Every second of the day I need to think – I’m getting my nails done “I have to look good for my fans.” I’m working on my body. These fans are expecting entertainment, extreme hardcore, even for female athletes. You’ve gotta be ready to throw down.

Follow Lisa Marie Varon on Twitter!

Watch “Tara” throw down with the TNA Knockouts Thursday nights on Spike TV!

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 03/14/2013

Chicago wrestlers are all about TNA
March 12, 2013|By Elliott Serrano | For RedEye

TNA wrestling is picking a fight with WWE, and Chicago is in the middle of it.

If Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling is going to be a true rival to the WWE empire, building its fan base in the Windy City certainly will help. TNA’s “Impact Wrestling Live” will be broadcast live on Spike TV on Thursday from the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates. The last time the organization held a show in the area was in 2008 for a pay-per-view event.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been back up in the Midwest, unfortunately,” said wrestler Chris Daniels, 42. “It wasn’t up to me; if it was, I would have been there a lot longer. I’ve got ties in Chicago. I was trained there. I’ve got a lot of family and friends. … And I don’t get a chance to visit them as much as I should because of the schedule.”

TNA typically televises “Impact” from Orlando, Fla. The Nashville, Tenn.-based organization has a roster of talent that includes names such as Daniels, Austin Aries and Bobby Roode, along with superstars like Hulk Hogan and Kurt Angle.

The presence of these ring veterans has helped raise TNA’s profile and has had a positive effect on the athletes in the locker room.

“You see someone like Kurt Angle, who has had immeasurable success in professional wrestling as a whole, going out there and doing his best to try and make people aware of the product—you can’t help but give 110 percent in that same respect,” Daniels said.

Lisa Marie Varon, aka “Tara,” made the switch from WWE to TNA in 2009 and relocated to Chicago in the process.

“I lived here [in Chicago] in the ’90s and lived here for five years, but I had to move to Kentucky for wrestling,” said Varon, who lives in Lincoln Park. “[My husband and I] opened a pizza place there and a custom car shop. Once that closed down, I saw my husband looking at Chicago real estate and said, ‘Oh my God, are we going to move back?’ and he said ‘Do you want to?’ I said, ‘Absolutely!’ ”

Varon dismisses the notion that there were any challenges in switching wrestling organizations.

“I had a lot of freedom going to TNA,” she said. “They told me to do what I do best. And I wasn’t used to that, having so much freedom. … Don’t get me wrong, I loved WWE too, I learned all my craft and psychology—how to be fierce in the ring—from [WWE trainer] Fit Finlay. I don’t have any hard feelings. [But] I wasn’t used to getting that much time on TV. Having Dixie Carter—our boss—who is very pro-woman [helped]. She gave us a lot of time on TV.”

Daniels said TNA faces an uphill battle trying to compete with WWE.

“The truth of the matter is sometimes it’s hard to be different from the WWE when you’re trying to gain those same viewers,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a tendency to sort of follow in the footsteps of the WWE. And so it’s sort of a fine line where you want to be recognizable as professional wrestling but you also want to set yourself apart from what some people consider the standard of professional wrestling, which is the WWE.”

In the long run, putting TNA in the same league as WWE falls on the talent in the ring, Daniels said.

“I think the challenge for us as individuals is [to] try to stand out,” he said. “Try to get people talking. Try to get that word of mouth out about our product. Not just ourselves but the entire roster as a whole. Trying to get people talking about the differences in our talent. The differences in terms of the stories we’re telling in the ring. Trying to get some buzz about the things that we’re doing.”

Elliott Serrano is RedEye special contributor.

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 03/14/2013

Wrestler Lisa Marie Varon’s Chicago faves
March 12, 2013|By Elliott Serrano | For RedEye

Now that she again is a resident of the Windy City, TNA Knockout Lisa Marie Varon, aka “Tara,” recommends the following for those who want to get better acquainted with it:

1) Experience the food
“I recommend going to all the cultural food places like Greek Town and China Town. I’m a foodie. So you have to stop by the Squared Circle for burgers and high-end pizzas.”

2) Go to a Cubs game
“Nothing like a Cubs game. I recommend getting seats behind the visiting team’s dugout because I like to heckle; that’s my favorite.”

3) Take the double decker boat and bus tours.
“I took my father on one of those tours, just to do the tourist thing with him, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Chicago now. I can’t tell you what I’ve learned about the city, the architecture, the history. It’s an amazing city.”

Elliott Serrano is a RedEye special contributor.

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 03/14/2013
 
 
 03/14/2013

TNA Wrestling’s Tara takes Chicago pizza into the Squared Circle
MARCH 14, 2013 BY: KEVIN KELLAM

Former TNA Knockout and WWE Women’s Champion Tara has answered the age old question: “When are wrestling fans going to get their very own brick-oven pizza place? “ The master of the Widow’s Peak has answered that question with a new pro wrestling themed pizza restaurant in Chicago fittingly called ‘the Squared Circle’ located at 2418 N. Ashland Avenue. The Lincoln Square dine-in spot which opens today, features a variety of pizzas, burgers, and more of the Second City’s delicious delights all with a heavy focus on pro wrestling fun.

Last night, Tara and the staff of the Squared Circle welcomed a packed-house of special guests to a grand opening party which Pro Wrestling Examiner was lucky enough to attend. An all-star cast of IMPACT stars were also on hand including Magnus, Chavo Guerrero, Matt Morgan, Robbie E, Velvet Sky, So Cal Val, Gail Kim, Joseph Parks and Brooke Hogan. The TNA talents dug into tasty pizza samples and mingled with the crowd in attendance. Tara greeted guests personally and appeared to be in great spirits with the opening.

How long have you been working on it?

Tara: A year, good lord in (Chicago) it’s pretty tough to open a business. We made offers on several locations, they never bit. They would change their minds, our this building is not zoned for a restaurant. Finally, we got a location in Lincoln Park by Depaul University. It’s pizza and burgers, my two favs. I am super excited about the menu. You have to come out and try it.

Read the entire interview with Tara at this link where she discusses the WWE Hall of Fame induction of her rival and great friend Trish Stratus

The atmosphere of the Squared Circle is perfect for wrestling fans with several collectible wrestling outfits and autographed framed photos on display. Ring gear worn by stand out wrestlers like Gail Kim, Lita, and Kurt Angle are all featured but the coolest prize was a striking glove worn by the Undertaker which hangs over the bar.

The restaurant has an inviting brick and wood interior and big bold ‘Squared Circle’ sign on the outside of the building that bares a striking resemblance to the same flag that adorns CM Punk’s ring attire.

Numerous big screen TV’s were showing TNA wrestling action during the party which is pre-cursor to the Squared Circle hosting live screenings of TNA, WWE, and UFC pay per view events. If you live in the area, make the Squared Circle your destination for pro wrestling get-togethers. Wrestling fans and pizza fanatics can find out more at http://thesquaredcircle.biz/ or by following @theSQdCircle on Twitter for more details. https://twitter.com/@theSQdCircle

TNA Wrestling has a big night on Spike TV tonight as they broadcast IMPACT live on the road for the first time from the Sears Center right outside of Chicago in Hoffman Estates. The show will feature some serious fallout from Sunday’s Lockdown Pay Per View with new TNA World Champion Bully Ray betraying Brooke Hogan and revealing himself as the leader of the evil faction, Aces & 8’s.

Pro Wrestling Examiner has exclusive coverage of TNA IMPACT in Chicago including three exclusive interviews, read them in the links posted below.

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 03/14/2013

The Squared Circle Serves Up a Delight of a Night
March 14, 2013

OK, I have to admit it: I spent the night with Brooke Hogan. All right, not the entire night. Oh, and with Christy Hemme, Gail Kim, Velvet Sky, SoCal Val and Lisa Marie Varon. Plus Robbie E, Chris Daniels, Joseph Park and a bunch of other wrestling folks.

My idea of work: Posing with Brooke Hogan was painless. Well, for me it was.
They all were at a private pre-party Wednesday (March 13) for the grand opening of The Squared Circle (2418 N. Ashland, Chicago), the restaurant owned by Lisa Marie and her husband/chef Lee. The restaurant is wrestling-themed — with memoriabilia framed on the walls alongside flat-screen televisions — but not overwhelmingly so.

The establishment will show wrestling on those TVs. Included will be the TNA Impact Wrestling live event Thursday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. The show is to be televised at 7 p.m. on Spike TV, so opening-night diners and/or drinkers (there is a bar area) will be able to take in the wrestling action.

Because the TNA Impact Wrestling action actually will be showing one card live and taping another, Lisa Marie and her colleagues are unlikely to make an encore trip to the restaurant Thursday before it closes at midnight.

Meanwhile, back to Wednesday night. Also attending were some members of the media. Included were Rich Koz (aka Svengoolie of TV fame), Luis Gomez of the Chicago Tribune and Elliott Serrano of Redeye, another Tribune property.

Also present and chronicling some of the evening’s events was filmmaker Matt Goldberg, whose movie “Tarafied” has been submitted to the Cannes Film Festival. And before anyone scoffs at that notion, let the record show Goldberg had an entry in 2012 at Cannes.

Goldberg has the knack for capturing the action and activity without being intrusive. One example occurred when Brooke arrived with a gift for Lisa Marie (known in TNA circles — or rings — as Tara). Brooke brought a little bag whose distinctive color indicated it was from Tiffany. Inside was a small box. Inside the small box was a smaller trademark Tiffany bag.

Lisa Marie carefully opened the present that included Tiffany tissue and a white ribbon around the book. Inside the bag was a necklace (you can see it in the accompanying video that Lisa Marie was gracious enough to submit to after an evening of meeting and mingling with her friends and assorted guests).

Goldberg blended into the woodwork — well, close to it — and captured the moment. Can’t wait to see where that video footage ends up.

Toward the end of the evening’s festivities, your humble correspondent approached Christy Hemme and reminded her of having escorted her to the ring at TNA’s 2008 “Bound for Glory” event, also at the Sears Centre. She feigned remembering our previous relationship. Can’t imagine why. At the very least, one of us recalled the moment and called it one of the highlights of his life.

Well, Christy still was/is a good sport and consented to posing with Velvet Sky for a photo (there it is toward the top of today’s posting).

Meanwhile back to Brooke Hogan. She is attractive and tall (especially in 4-inch heels, or however high they were) and seemed in good spirits. She even performed waitress duties by bringing a round of drinks to the table where she and some of her female cohorts were stationed.

Brooke also was a good sport and posed for a photo with yours truly — with Lisa Marie taking the picture.

If all this sounds a bit surreal, the reason is simple: It is. Was. Always will be. Was there an hour or two of waiting for that moment to occur? Indeed. Does anyone really care? Nope. Certainly not me.

***
Here is the interview that Lisa Marie Varon was gracious enough to do after a busy evening at The Squared Circle:

***

* Speaking of Lisa Marie Varon, she will be a guest on “Sports & Torts” on Thursday (March 14) at noon Chicago time on talkzone.com with co-hosts David Spada and Elliott Harris. Because she has to be at the Sears Centre before noon to prepare for the TNA Impact Wrestling event at night, the interview with her is taped. For those who miss the original “Sports & Torts” broadcast, it will become available on podcast later in the day.

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 03/09/2013
 
 
 03/05/2013

Exclusive interview with TNA’s Tara
Posted on March 4, 2013 by Seth

The lifestyle of a TNA Impact Wrestling Knockout is not easy, especially for a champion. And with Impact Wrestling taking to the road full-time, the schedule will only be getting more demanding.

Five-Time Knockout Champion Tara has been taking care of business in the ring for over a decade, but the still manages to find time to open a pizzeria in downtown Chicago. Tara also takes some time out to talk to us about both.

Ms. Tara, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. What do you think about Impact Wrestling going on the road full time?
I think it’s the right thing to do for the long term success of the company. I love going to work at Universal Studios in Orlando. But I’m also looking forward to feeling the excitement from crowds who don’t get to see us every week. And I think it gives the company an opportunity to bring in new fans who maybe aren’t as familiar with us now, but will become regular viewers once they get the chance to see us live.

How do you manage to stay in shape while on the road so much?
I train hard. I like to think that nobody trains as hard as I do. I’m living a dream, and in order to keep doing that, I need to be in peak physical condition. I have trained in the gym with MMA fighters, football players, boxers, triathletes. I have never seen anyone train harder than I do. I am fully committed. When I go through the indies, and people tell me that this is their dream, and they tell me they do no conditioning, I know that they aren’t 100% committed. If you want to be a professional wrestler on an international level, at least be in as good condition as this 42 year old woman.

Which heel character have you had more fun with? “Crazy Victoria” or “Cocky/Snobby Tara”?
They are both awesome. I have fun doing characters that are different than myself. For me, the more ‘out there’ the character is, the more fun I have.

Was Jessie always the planned “boy toy”, or was there ever discussion of using Joey Ryan?
I’m not involved in what happenes in those meetings. I show up to work. They give me some direction, and I take it from there.

Who is the one opponent you have yet to wrestle, and would be your dream match?
I have said Chyna several times. People don’t like that answer because a lot of people don’t think she’s been living her best life since she left WWF. Since it is a dream match, she would have come to WWE 8-9 years ago and we would have had a slobberknocker (to use ne one if JRs terms).

Where can people find your restaurant, “The Squared Circle”?
2418 N Ashland in Chicago, IL. We’re on pace to open on March 14th. You can get more details at www.TheSquaredCircle.biz or @theSQDcircle

Will “The Squared Circle” host PPV “parties or events”?
Absolutely! We’ll definitely be hosting pro wrestling PPVs.

Will you make appearances at your Restaurant?
I will be there on a regular basis. Several times per week. This isn’t a pet project. I will be managing it

What’s next for Tara? Perhaps setting a new record as a six-time champion?
The sky’s the limit!

Impact Wrestling begins touring full-time starting March 14th, and can be seen every Thursday Night at 8PM ET. If you’re in the Chicago area, make sure to check out Tara’s pizza restaurant “The Squared Circle” in downtown Chicago at 2418 N Ashland Ave.

More details on attending the historic first live Impact on March 14th is available HERE.

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 02/26/2013

Tara Opens “The Squared Circle” Restaurant in Chicago
BUSINESS OWNER BY DAY, PRO WRESTLER BY NIGHT… CHICAGO’S LISA MARIE VARON (TARA) OPENS THE SQUARED CIRCLE

A new pizzeria is taking shape in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago and the owner is professional wrestler Lisa Marie Varon. The Squared Circle, which is a term often used by wrestling promoters to refer to the ring, is located at 2418 North Ashland and will feature house-ground burgers, brick oven style pizzas and a full bar.

Formerly Leon’s Ribs, The Squared Circle will accommodate approximately 48 patrons in addition to 15 seats in the bar area. Autographed wrestling memorabilia will adorn the walls and TV’s will showcase live sports including wrestling pay-per-views.

Varon’s husband Lee, will head up the kitchen which will include a custom-built brick oven.

“I could not be more excited about returning to chicago, and about bringing my concept to one of the greatest food cities in the world,” explains Varon.

Varon is currently on board with TNA’s Impact Wrestling as “Tara” where she is one of their biggest stars and can be seen every Thursday night at Spike TV.

On Thursday, March 14th at 7:00 pm she will join wrestlers Hulk Hogan, The Icon Sting, Bully Ray, Austin Aries, Velvet Sky and many more to perform at Impact Wrestling at The Sears Centre at 7:00pm. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.

The Squared Circle will be open for business beginning Thursday, March 14th.

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 02/19/2013

Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Morph Trainer Joey Thurman, Lisa Marie Varon Keep Fit With Kettlebells.
Morph personal trainer Joey Thurman shared tips on how to keep fit using kettlebells. He and Lisa Marie Varon, a-k-a Tara, from TNA’s Impact Wrestling showed us how.

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 02/09/2013

Exclusive Interview: TNA Wrestling’s Tara talks IMPACT on the road and much more
FEBRUARY 9, 2013, BY: KEVIN KELLAM

TNA Wrestling is bringing their weekly Spike TV show IMPACT on the road with the first stop being on March 14th at the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, IL which is just outside of Chicago, one of the biggest Pro Wrestling towns in America. One member of the TNA roster who is really excited see IMPACT in the Second City, 5-time TNA Knockouts Champion Tara.

Tara who some fans may know as Victoria from her time in WWE, grew up in the city and is getting ready to open her own pizza/burger spot in town, so it was fitting that she greeted the first fans to buy IMPACT tickets Thursday night at pre-sale party held at Jersey’s Pizza & Grill. The master of the Widow’s Peak sat down for an interview with Pro Wrestling Examiner discuss her new restaurant, her future in TNA, her good friend Trish Stratus getting inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame, and much more.

IMPACT is coming to your town March 14th. How do you feel?
Tara: It’s a big big event. I have a new outfit actually that represents Chicago, I am super stoked about that. This is first one, this is history, going on the road, first show on TV live, it’s going on in Chicago, and I could not be happier.

You have been active in Pro Wrestling for 13 years, enduring numerous injuries, and having a lot of violent matches. How is your body holding up at this point in your career?
Tara: “I am a little older than some of the kids in the business.”

They call it ‘vintage’.
Tara: Yeah it’s like wine, it gets better with age! Honestly though, I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. I work really hard, train really hard in the gym. I eat healthy. I don’t see myself slowing down. The day I do slow down a little bit, I’m done. I don’t want to be watching me walk down the ramp and feel sorry for me saying “oh, I remember when she used to be able to do this or this.
But I will never say ‘retire’.It’s always going to be a part of me. Wrestling is always going to be a part of me. It’s always so bad to say retirement, because we always come back. Something brings us back. Ya know? And I love it.

In March, you are opening up your new pizza and burger restaurant in Chicago. How did that new venture come together? What’s something on the menu that should be a must-eat?
Tara: I am opening a restaurant in Chicago, in the Lincoln Park. It’s called the Squared Circle. We are going to show all wrestling, local wrestling, WWE, and of course TNA. Pay Per Views and stuff like that. It’s going to be awesome. It’s pizza and burgers, my two favs. I am super excited about the menu. You have to come out and try it.

How long have you been working on it?
Tara: A year, good lord in (Chicago) it’s pretty tough to open a business. We made offers on several locations, they never bit. They would change their minds, our this building is not zoned for a restaurant and so on. Finally, we got a location in Lincoln Park by Depaul University. 2418 N. Ashland is the address. The opening is on March 14th.
Fans can follow the Squared Circle on Twitter @theSQDcircle for more updates

You are one of the most pure female wrestlers around.Is there any established wrestlers out there you want to lock up with?
Tara: There are several. What comes to mind is, Chyna. I never got to wrestle her. She was the one who recommended to the company (WWE), and said I had the good look for it. And Medusa, she’s freaking hard-as-nails. I heard she can whoop my butt and I never fought her. Maybe the ‘Divas’ when they are done, I can take them on the independent circuit. Eve Torres, I never got my hands. Her and I do jiu jitsu, so it would be an interesting submission match.

You have reached a point in your career where you are still very healthy but have gained a certain level of experience where you can have a new and exciting dynamic with fresh talent. Is there any new younger female wrestlers you want to have a match with?
Tara: Oh my god, I love it. I salivate over it, so many girls coming up too, that are green, nice, young, youthful and fresh. I can not wait for the initiation to the ring. I talk to them, tell me what’s your repertoire? What’s your style? Do you fly? Do you stick to the ground? Are you strong? They always say “I’m generally all of them”. And I am like “really?”, we are gonna test that out. Usually, you should be humble and say something like “i’m really just feeling it out” ya know? The respect thing.
But when I see a girl who has a little of , ya know 60% good in the ring. I am gonna make them look 100%. That is my forte. You give me a rookie, I will make them look like a million bucks.

You had to make too many look good in the ring.
Tara: Ya know, I did but so be it. This is my longevity in the business, too. I am never upset about it. It’s part of the business.

A friend of mine called you the “female version of William Regal” for your ability to make less talented wrestlers look better and your visible toughness in the ring. How do you respond to a comparison like that?
Tara: Yeah! Oh my god! I love him too. I am HUGE fan of his. And he’s still in the business though, it’s the longevity of us. You will never get rid of us.

But it’s harder for a lady, because there is a double standard with that.
Tara: I have been in this business a long time. I think I have earned that respect. A lot of people come up and ask me about that backstage, my bosses. I think they are protective of my character and they don’t want me to look too bad, never squash what I can do.
You are only as good as your opponent, you have heard that. I am hoping the girls coming up want to throw down. Not wanting to be here for pretty nails and looks. We can hire models for that. You need to be able to take a whooping.

Let’s say you get the call to put together your DVD of ‘greatest hits’. What matches should make on to that DVD?
Tara: Oh my goodness, I have a lot of good feuds. I would go with a lot of the ‘golden era’ as we like to call it. Trish Stratus, Lita, Jazz, Molly Holly. all of them. My cage match (against Mickie James in TNA) was brutal. Just because I tore my elbow but I kept on going and then I got a standing ovation from the crowd when I came back from the respect level. The Chicago Street Fight with Trish that is the epic. We beat the hell out of each other in that match. We just laid everything in. Ya know you give us a match, we made it just as good as the guys. I am very competitive with the guys. I want people to go “oh that was a great match for a women’s match”. I want people to say “that was a great match period.” Every match I try to top it, and it’s pretty tough.

What is the feeling in TNA right now with IMPACT coming on the road? How do you feel bring IMPACT out of Orlando and to the rest of the country?
Tara: Our fans get spoiled and callused They want to see us draw blood. In Orlando, thank god we are going on the road, our fans in Orlando got a little bit spoiled because they see us every week, but we were out there killing ourselves for entertainment. We are actresses and actors who do our stunts with drama. And when they don’t react to certain things, it’s like my God, what do you want me to do?!

Was that becoming an issue in Orlando?
Tara: Not for like my bosses. it’s just that we feed off the fans, we feed off their reactions. It becomes stale (without those reactions). And now we get to see fresh faces and that’s why it’s nice to go overseas too. I am just excited about going on the road, you have no idea. We don’t want ‘hush hush’ fans. It’s nice to hear everything, I have a problem where I can hear everything in the first couple rows. And if I hear someone cheering for my opponent. I am going to go out there and freaking tell them like it is. I am very fan-interactive. That’s a big part of TNA.

One of your greatest rivals and best friends in Pro Wrestling, Trish Stratus was recently announced as an inductee in this year’s WWE Hall of Fame class. This has to be a great news for you to hear. How did you feel about hearing this announcement ? Is there any chance you could attend the ceremony?
Tara: Oh she so deserves it! I am going to be honest with you, I wish I could induct her. I was in WWE. I am proud to be a part of WWE history, and now I am with TNA, there is no rivalry between companies for me. I love both companies but I am super proud of her, she deserves it for ‘the Golden era’. She also reached out and called me and said thank you, you helped me be inducted because we had hellascious matches. That’s a true professional, she appreciates who got her there. I would love to be there, but I don’t know how both companies would feel. Honestly, I am super proud. I love her, we are best friends.

So what’s the hard sell for IMPACT at the Sears Center on March 14th? How would you convince a fan who maybe likes watching IMPACT on Spike TV but might be on the fence about seeing the show live and in person.
Tara: Oh come on! You got Hulk Hogan, Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries, first live TV on the road! You know we are going to be pushing the limit. You have no idea of the excitement that the talent and the wrestlers are feeling. We are brainstorming on what we are doing. I don’t know who I am facing but I guarantee that person will not walk out of that ring pretty, because ya know I am going to feed off Chicago fans!

Follow Tara on Twitter @TaraLisaMarie

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 02/07/2013

Published: 12:30 AM, Fri Feb 01, 2013
TNA Impact: Big names won’t be holding back for show at the Crown
By Brian Dukes, Staff writer

If you’re wavering on whether to get tickets to the Saturday, Feb. 2 TNA Impact Wrestling show at the Crown Arena, there are three words you should consider: Steel. Cage. Match.

TNA is bringing its Road to Lockdown Tour to Fayetteville, and the action will be amplified by the use a 15-foot reinforced steel cage. Wrestlers slated to battle it out include Austin Aries, the “Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray, Chavo Guerrero Jr., Hernandez and TNA Knockouts champion Tara, who will take on Velvet Sky.

The tour leads up to TNA’s Lockdown, a popular annual pay-per-view program that will air March 10.

“Until then,” said Lisa Marie Varon, better known by her wrestling name, Tara, “You never know what’s going to happen.”

The show starts at 7 p.m. with an autograph session at 5:30 p.m. for those who bought $75 tickets. A “Gut Check” seminar is earlier in the day but is open only to those who registered by Monday.

Hardy, a North Carolina native, is the current TNA World Heavyweight champion. He said fans can always expect surprises.

“It’s going to be a great show, and it’s going to be great being back home,” said Hardy, originally from Cameron.

Weekender caught up with Tara and Hardy by phone in Orlando, where the two were taping a different wrestling show. During a break, the pair spoke about the Saturday, Feb. 2 show, their lives and their upcoming projects.

Weekender: What can fans expect when TNA comes to town?
Tara: We’ve got a great lineup. My best friend – Chavo Guerrero – will be there. And one thing I really love about TNA is that we can play toward the crowd more, and we’ll do autograph sessions before the show and interact with the fans a lot. That’s really unheard of in this industry.
Hardy: We go out here every night and are able to spend time with the fans, and that’s what so special with TNA. We try to give back a lot to the fans.

Weekender: Tara, how are you approaching your match against Velvet Sky?
Tara: I know she’s been off a bit from time away, but she’s been brushing up. She’s feisty in the ring, so you never know what to expect, but I’m prepared and excited about the match.

Weekender: If you could pick anyone to wrestle against from all time, who would that be?
Tara: For a female opponent, I’d pick Madusa. She’s a legend. For a male opponent, there’s too many. Maybe Sting. He’s a legend, and he’s hot, too. I’m not gonna deny that.
Hardy: Yeah, Sting’s a legend. I remember seeing him when I was 10 years old.

Weekender: Jeff, how often are you able to return to North Carolina, and are there any spots you’re looking forward to visiting?
Hardy: I’m so excited to be back at the Crown. I’ve had some great matches there, and it’s always nice to be 30 minutes from home. My career is busier now with TNA, but I’m home a lot more than I would be otherwise, and that’s really important to me now that I have a 2-year-old. TNA understands the importance of family, and I love Cameron.

Weekender: Tara, what are the challenges of being a female wrestler in a world that’s male-dominated?
Tara: It’s a tough industry, and I’m not complaining. It just takes a certain person to handle this life. You don’t cry. Ever. There’s no crying in wrestling. You don’t cry over broken nails. We want to be respected by the guys, our co-workers and the boss. If you hurt yourself, you walk it off, and we also have to look sexy all the time. You have to look the part, eat right, get rest, look hot and still punch each other in the face. It’s tough.
Hardy: It’s always great to see the Knockouts. They beat each other up worse than the guys do. Hands down, they’re vicious.
Tara: That’s true.

Weekender: What’s the best part of your job?
Tara: I get to fight and entertain in sexy clothes. I get to travel the world and meet the most amazing people who become your family – because you don’t get to see your real family that much.
Hardy: Wrestling has opened up a lot of doors, creatively, for me. I have my photography, my art, my music. Wrestling’s allowed me to live so many dreams.

Weekender: What’s next for you?
Tara: I’m opening the Squared Circle Pizzeria & Burgers restaurant in Chicago. I’m taking part in a new documentary called “Tarafied” by director Matt Goldberg, and I’m thinking about taking an improv class.
Hardy: I’m loving fatherhood right now. I also recently went to Nashville and recorded three more songs for my band (Peroxwhy?gen). I don’t just sing in the basement now – I’m learning so much about breathing and singing, and it’s just amazing. I’m crazy excited to share my music.

TNA IMPACT
When: Saturday, Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Crown Arena
Tickets: $8 to $75. Early-entry autograph session is at 5:30 p.m. for fans who buy $75 tickets.
Information: atthecrown.com

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