A favorite in the Women of Honor Championship Tournament, Kelly Klein reveals her many talents, record-breaking workouts in Japan, and plans to break faces (and hearts) toward becoming WOH Champion!
1. If you weren't a pro wrestler, what would you be doing for a living?
I have a background and education in music. I love to sing and perform as well as compose. I also love to teach. If I ever move on from breaking faces in the ring, it wouldn’t be farfetched to find me playing music games with kindergarteners. Kindergarten is brutal, but through wrestling, I have a lot of experience in high stress situations. I think wrestling has really prepared me to handle the under 10 set.
2. Do you have a hidden talent or talents that would surprise fans?
Some people know that I can sing. I also make most of my own wrestling gear. Design and construction is something I have taught myself over the years. I also had the opportunity to work as a costume builder for a theater in St. Louis several years ago. In fact, I even made my own prom dress. It was a gold toga. I didn’t take a date. And I had a blast.
3. What's a subject you'd like to know more about?
I love to learn. Any time I have a question about something, I can’t wait to start doing some research to find the answers. It drives me crazy when people say they don’t know how to do something. The resources are all around us. People are literally posting on social media, but can’t be bothered to use the wealth of information the internet makes available. There are libraries all over the place. And there are people you can connect with and learn from. Something I am always curious about is culture and history. I know that is a broad topic. But I think it’s so fascinating and very important. I think it’s important to understand how history reaches us through the bias of whoever has recorded it. Sometimes things aren’t well known because the knowledge could empower certain people. And there is always a silent battle going on there. This is especially important to me as a woman in what is seen as a man’s world. Though, it can sort of feel like the entire world is a man’s world. But it’s not. Because there are women all over the place and all throughout history pushing forward and making things happen. And all of those past voices and all of the voices now and in the future need to be heard and shared so that we can keep empowering each other and our young people.
4. Can you put into words what it would mean for you to become the first Women of Honor Champion?
To be the first Women of Honor Champion would be an incredible accomplishment. It would go down in history and no matter what happens, there will always and forever be only one first. Things are changing for women in wrestling and in the entire world. I take it very seriously to be part of that, and to be able to lead the charge in Women of Honor is something I am ready for. I know that I embody the qualities of strength, courage, drive, and much more that the first Women of Honor Champion should absolutely possess. To be recognized for that on a larger scale would be a huge milestone and the beginning of something even greater.
5. Who is someone not in the wrestling business that you consider a role model and why?
Someone I have recently started to follow more closely and admire more and more is RuPaul Charles. He amazes me in so many ways. The fact that he was able to succeed in a niche market, and then supersede that to become a recognizable name to the general public is incredible. I see a lot of parallels between drag and professional wrestling. Maybe that’s why I am so drawn to him. We are both in industries that are often misunderstood and even disregarded and dismissed or looked down on. There is the opportunity to go beyond the industry as RuPaul has done and in wrestling we have seen Hulk Hogan and The Rock and Maria Kanellis go beyond our little circle. We are in industries that have the potential to have so much power and joy and such a positive impact on the people involved and the people who enjoy it. I love that RuPaul has a great grasp of energy and positivity and how that can transcend the negative toxicity that can sometimes surround us. And of course, the thing that many people totally miss about drag and wrestling is that we are telling stories and asking questions. We are holding up a mirror. Sometimes it is tongue in cheek. And sometimes it is uncomfortable. But it makes people think and it makes people feel something. When you can do that beautifully and make it look effortless, that is real art.
6. What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given in the wrestling business and who gave it to you?
The best advice I have ever received in wrestling came from Maria Kanellis. It’s something that has been said in different ways by different people. But she said it in a way and from a place that resonated with me. She told me that I didn’t need to try to be the same as the other girls. That I needed to find who I am and be that. As a woman, this is significant. We, more than the men, are expected to fit into a certain mold. I understand where it comes from, but it is outdated and narrow and it has caused a lot of damage to a lot of people. When Maria told me this, it was different than when I had heard similar things because I know she has faced the same expectations and struggles and understands it in a way that other people may not. The more I tried to be someone else, the further I got from the best me. And I could never be successful that way. It is still a challenge. And I know I am not the only person who deals with this. But she helped empower me to stay strong in who I am and stop comparing myself to anyone else. I often remind myself of her words and her amazing support. I will always be grateful for that.
7. What's your favorite thing about Japan?
I have many favorite things about Japan. Anytime my only responsibilities are to eat, train, workout, and repeat, I’m pretty happy. I have never worked with a personal trainer before, so working with Tsuyoshi Mitogawa-san at MidBreath was an amazing experience. He pushed me to accomplish things I didn’t even know I was aiming for! One day at the end of my workout, he told me to get on the rowing machine. He pointed out the leader-board and said he would be timing me for 2000 meter rows. I had just completed an entire workout and had no idea I was going to be competing for a record that day, or any day! With his encouragement and my fiercely competitive nature, I was able to not only destroy the number one spot on the women’s board, but also beat the time of the number ten spot on the men’s board. That is definitely one of my favorite memories. Another great thing about being in and around Tokyo were the many public parks. I could walk and pass through so many beautiful spaces. With such a demanding training schedule, it was wonderful to have those little spaces for respite. I would often arrange my schedule so that I could stop for a few minutes at Italy Park on my way from the MidBreath gym to the training dojo. I can’t wait to go back.
8. Officially, you've never been pinned or forced to submit in ROH, but you did tap out to Deonna Purrazzo's Fujiwara Armbar last year when the referee was incapacitated. What would you say to those who think your streak should come with an asterisk?
The rules are very clear. Yes, she uses a very effective and often successful submission. That’s why so many people use it. But she made a mistake. And I won. Asterisk or not, my dominance is very clear.
9. How do you feel about competitors who shake hands and embrace after matches against one another?
When competitors are hugging and holding hands after a match, it tells me a few things. It tells me that they aren’t focused on their singular goal. Emotion and relationships get in the way of that. It tells me that they didn’t take seriously enough what had come before. The best thing I’ve ever witnessed in a Ring of Honor ring was Sumie Sakai crying on the turn buckle after a loss. THAT is exactly right. After a loss, you should be sad or mad or both. And if you aren’t, then what were you even there for? These other women who don’t have that are telling me that if I need to, I can get to them by using their emotions or waiting for their focus to falter. Pretty faces don’t win matches. Big words don’t win matches. Hugs and high fives don’t win matches.
10. If the other remaining competitors in the WOH Title Tournament are reading this, what message do you have for them?
I care about you. I care about your thoughts and your feelings. Your dreams and your fears. Your goals and your struggles. And I am going to use all of that to absolutely break you.