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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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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Tara and Jessie come out on the stage and make their way to the ring. Their love relationship continues. Gail Kim’s music plays and she meets up with them in the ring. ODB is in the ring refereeing this match. Mickie James’ music plays and she gets in the ring and taunts from the corner. Velvet Sky comes out with the Knockout Title over her shoulder. She gets right in the ring.

Tara and Gail Kim vs. Mickie James and Velvet Sky

Mickie and Gail start the match. Gail was talking to Tara, but Mickie turns her around and starts punching her in the face. She whips her in the ropes and continues the attack. Gail is able to whip Mickie in the ropes. As Mickie bounces off, Jessie trips her. Gail goes right after Mickie. She tags Tara. She enters and they both lift Mickie up and drop her back first on the mat. Tara then pounds Mickie’s face into the mat. She gets her up and has her upside down in the corner. Tara runs and does a baseball slide into Mickie’s face. She then does a little kiss session with Jessie. Gail tags in and she goes after Mickie. She continues with punches and elbows to the face. Mickie is in the corner and Gail does a splash. Gail turns around and it gives Mickie time to fight back. She punches Gail and then does a big kick to knock Gail down. Both crawl to their corner. Both tag their partners. Sky goes right after Tara. She hits her with clotheslines and then a mid-section kick and a kick to the face. She bounces off the ropes and knocks Tara right down. She covers but Tara kicks out. Gail enters. Sky attacks her and then tosses her right into Jessie as he was on the apron. Tara gets up and is worried about Jessie. She turns around and Sky kicks her in the gut and does the In Yo Face! She pins and wins.
Winners: Velvet Sky and Mickie James

Gail gets in the ring and starts yelling at Tara. Tara gets up and is too banged up to even know what is going on. She goes to walk away, but Gail grabs the arm of Tara, pulls her forward and does a huge clothesline. She drags her to the corner and does the figure four to the steel post. ODB comes to the aid and Gail breaks it.

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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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TNA Blog with Madison Rayne posted Madison Rayne’s new Knockout Blog in which Madison has the following to say about Tara and the other Knockouts.

So I bet you think this blog is going to be about me being pregnant, sitting at home happily waiting for the arrival of my little angel with the love of my life and “baby daddy”, well, while all of this is true and you will get baby updates from your resident Knockout Queen Bee… you are soooo WRONG!!!

I am shocked at what has been happening in the Knockout’s locker room and on Impact Wrestling while I have been at home, … and I have a thing or two to say about it!

First of all, while all the Knockouts are happily going about their business and moving on without me, ahem Gail Kim, they are seriously forgetting that I know things. I know things they would NEVER want anyone to know. Walls are thin, people talk and I have friends on the inside that no one knows about. So “girls” might want to think about what comes out of their mouths and who they are buddying up with, ahem, Gail Kim… BFF.

Secondly on that note, Tara, please don’t forget that I personally handed you your job back in this company (you’re welcome, by the way!) So taking my best friend is probably the stupidest thing you could do to someone like me when the dirt I have on you would RUIN you. And ps, your gear is on the fashion “don’t” list. The ’80’s called, and they want their g-string booty shorts back! Ugh!

Thirdly, Christy Hemme, I understand you put this photo shoot together with all of the girls. Not surprising since you’re sooo over the top with your “super snuggly, happy, all the girls should be besties and have sleepovers” crap, however, you’re missing the most important and gorgeous Knockout to ever set foot into the division, me! And while the “sweet spring” photos are really sexy and all, this is wrestling! I really don’t think wearing tiny bikinis screams “Knockouts Division” (even though I could rock a bikini better than half those girls, baby bump and all! Have you SEEN my bikini competition pictures?!)

This blog is a “friendly” warning. A warning to the entire Knockout locker room, that I am ready to spill every dirty, hidden, behind the scenes secret on all of you and position myself for the comeback of a life time… Madison Rayne will NEVER be forgotten!

But until then, I will continue to gather and release information on a weekly basis. I will also be an official correspondent for Impact Wrestling, tweeting as the show happens. So follow me at @MRayneTNA . I would love to hear your perspective, tweet with you and include you in my blog as well,… I will be your voice, tell me what you think!
PS. for all of you who have been continuing to reach out and show your support for the Queen Bee via Twitter and fan mail, thank you. I’m doing absolutley wonderful! More than halfway to mommyhood and I couldn’t be more excited! We’ve got a Knockout in the making coming this fall and she’s already got a mean dropkick working! Lucky me!!! :)

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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.
Twitter @pang

The Squared Circle
2418 N. Ashland Ave.; 773-904-8170
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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Gail Kim and Tara (w/Jessie) defeated Velvet Sky and Taryn Terrell with Joey Ryan as special referee. Ryan had several sleazy moments gawking at the girls. Gail flirted with Joey and he fast counted a rollup on Taryn to give the heel team the win. After the match, Velvet distracted Joey and Taryn delivered a low blow.

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Taryn Terrell pops out of the women’s locker room to tell the Mystery Cameraman that she’s excited to be making her debut as a Knockout. She knows what she’s going to wear, and she also has a good idea who she’s going to call out.

We look back at last week when Brooke Hogan fired Taryn Terrell as a referee before rehiring her as a Knockout, and then Terrell comes out to the ring to tell us how excited she is to have her first official night as a Knockout. Brooke said she can get physical with whoever she wants, and since it’s Open Fight Night, there’s a girl who has ridiculed her, physically assaulted her, and cost her her job as a referee. No secret here, she’s calling out Gail Kim. Gail comes out looking as if she’s not taking this too seriously, takes a microphone from the back of So Cal Val’s head, and tells Terrell that she’s making a rookie mistake by calling out the greatest female wrestler who ever lived. She doesn’t think Terrell wants to embarrass herself like that on national television, but she’s not the only one Terrell has rubbed the wrong way. There’s someone else who wanted to call Terrell night, someone who happens to be a former Knockouts Champion, and she asks Tara to come down to the ring. Gail suckerpunches Terrell during Tara’s entrance, and the two of them lay a beating on Terrell until Velvet Sky’s music hits and she runs out with her Bruiser Brody boots on to make the save. Tara and Gail backpedal and yell angrily at Velvet and Terrell on their way out.

Velvet and Taryn Terrell are backstage and talking about what just happened out in the ring, but Terrell sees Gail and Tara walking by and attacks them, tossing them a beating until Velvet drags her off. Taz asks if she’s got anger problems or something.

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A two-time Women’s Champion who stomped icons like Trish Stratus and Lita in brutal Hardcore Matches, Victoria broke ground in the Divas division with her take-no-prisoners style and Widow’s Peak finishing maneuver.

Full Profile

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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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The following contains spoilers for the upcoming Knockouts Pay Per View, Knockouts Knockdown. The pay per view is apparently being shown sometime in May.

– Tara w/Jessie Godderz defeated Mia Yim via Widow’s Peak.

– Battle Royal. Rules were wrestlers entered every two minutes. Over the rope eliminations but the final two face off in a match. Gail Kim won the match to become the “Queen of the Knockouts.”

1) Hannah Blossom
2) Gail Kim
3) Lei’d Tapa
4) Tara
5) Mickie James
6) Brooke Tessmacher
7) Jackie Moore
8) ODB
9) Velvet Sky

1) Hannah Blossom
2) Lei’d Tapa
3) Jackie
4) ODB
5) Velvet
6) Tessmacher
7) Tara
When it came down to Gail and Mickie, Gail faked an injury and rolled up Mickie for the win. Winner, Gail Kim. Madison Rayne then came out to the ring with a crown and put it on Gail’s head. Gail forced Madison to leave the ring and posed for the crowd. Norah’s interviewed her after the match.

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Pro Wrestler Tara Opens Pizza & Burger Joint Updated 3 hrs ago
By Paul Biasco,, March 15, 2013 7:45am

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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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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We look back at this past Sunday when Taryn Terrell “accidentally” cost Gail Kim the Knockouts Title match by attacking her, then we get comments from Gail Kim from earlier tonight. Her heart goes out to Brooke Hogan, but she made the right decision by putting Taryn Terrell on probation and tells Terrell she better not ever put her hands on her again.

Knockouts Champion Velvet Sky & Mickie James vs Tara & Gail Kim

Gail and Velvet start us off and trade takedowns, Velvet snaps Gail to the mat by the hair and nearly drags her over to Tara by accident before realizing her error and dragging her completely back across the ring to Mickie. Micie comes in and goes to town on Gail with punches and kicks, hits an enzigiuri, and covers for 2 as we go to commercial.

We’re back as a very patriotically-attired Tara is working Mickie over and tying her up in the ropes with a tarantula. Tara stops to argue with Taryn Terrell while Gail dishes out punishment on the DL, then Tara covers for 2. Gail and Tara hit a double slingshot suplex on Mickie and Gail covers for 2. Gail gets in Terrell’s face again, but wastes too much time on that side work and takes a flying headscissors from Mickie. Gail and Mickie wipe each other out with a double clothesline and make simultaneous tags, then Velvet starts running Tara over with clotheslines before jabbing a boot at Gail on the floor. Gail breaks a cover at 2, then goes back to arguing with Terrell and dares Terrell to hit her. Terrell doesn’t, so Gail piefaces her and shoves her down to the mat. Terrell really should disqualify her for that, but instead she opts to slap her, stunning her long enough for Mickie to hit a flying crotch off the top rope. Tara swoops in and hits Mickie with the Widow’s Peak, but Velvet comes in and hits In Your Face for the win.

Winners: Velvet Sky & Mickie James

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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: 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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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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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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