My name is Harley Harris, I'm a female wrestler based in Derby, UK.
How long have you been in the business and what made you want to become a professional wrestler?
I have my cousin to thank for my love of wrestling. He was a big fan when he was younger and would watch WWF when we'd visit each other at weekends. I got into into it during the Attitude Era, and I would be fascinated by it, especially Lita and the Hardyz. Unfortunately when my cousin moved abroad I stopped watching. It wasn't until I moved to Derby for university and met my (now) husband that I got back into wrestling. He was looking for a school to continue his training and he discovered Stixx and the House of Pain academy over in Nottingham. Every week I'd go along and watch him train, and every week Stixx would ask if I was going to join in. I have a history in jujitsu, but never considered getting in the ring myself. Eventually I gave in and did it just to stop him asking. I loved it, and the rest as they say is history. I debuted in November 2014.
What would you consider the hardest part about being professional female athlete in a male dominated sport?
When I was training and got to the point where I was "show ready," I was one of only two females at House of Pain. Unfortunately the other was inconsistent in her training due to other commitments, which lead to me having no choice but to wrestle the guys. Intergender wrestling for the most part is still considered to be a taboo subject. At the time I'd find that the guys were reluctant to fight me, and I'd often end up having comedy matches rather than actually wrestling. Luckily we now have a fantastic women's division, but I find that we are not always given the opportunity to shine. As is the case with a lot of UK promotions, women are usually just given one match on the card. We usually get thrown into multi-person (6/8/10) tag matches, which doesn't give us a lot of in-ring time in front of the fans to showcase what we can do. We are having to work harder to try and stand out.
What are some of your career highlights and what companies do you currently wrestle in?
I currently wrestle for House of Pain (Nottingham, run by Stixx), Elevation (Leicester, run by Joseph Connors) and Aspire (Derby, run by Paul Malen). I have wrestled for other promotions but these are the three I am frequently at, and it's an honour to perform on shows being run by three of the top trainers in the UK. Although I haven't acquired any gold (yet), I am proud to say that I have been a part of some pretty important matches for these promotions; first women's singles match, first all female tag, first all female gauntlet...
I've also been fortunate enough to perform on shows alongside some incredible UK names, such as James Mason & El Ligero who are a wealth of knowledge and offered invaluable feedback.
I also had a best of three series against my husband, concluding in a submission match where we broke the ring. That was pretty fun and I still consider those matches to be amongst some of my best.
If you can name 3 wrestlers who influence your style, who would they be?
As a larger woman, I'm more like a Nia Jax than a Charlotte Flair or Sasha Banks. I'd say I have the take no shit attitude and brawling style of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the powerhouse style of Beth Phoenix and the fire of Edge.
Who would you put on the Mount Rushmore of WOMEN’S Wrestling?
Mae Young, for being a pioneer. Chyna for breaking the mould. And Lita & Trish Stratus for setting the bar.
Who would you say is/are the next breakthrough female star(s) in Wrestling?
There's so much incredible talent at the moment, and the Mae Young classic was a testament to that. Toni Storm is making waves wherever she goes. Viper and Kay Lee Ray both held their own in the tournament and are doing well in Shimmer; I would love to see them both go further.
Who was your favourite female wrestler when you were younger? / Who did you look up to the most?
Lita, without a doubt. She was what got me hooked on wrestling. She was different from your typical female that was around at the time. The red hair, the baggy trousers and skate shoes; she was just like me. When I first got into wrestling, she was valeting for the Hardy Boyz and I was more interesting in watching her doing moonsaults than what Matt & Jeff were doing. Watching her grow from just accompanying them and Essa Rios to becoming a wrestler in her own right was inspiring. She had some incredible matches with Trish and together they proved that women in WWE were more than just eye-candy.
Who are your favourite, and who would be your dream opponents, to face?
I would love an opportunity to wrestle Jayde again. I wasn't happy with our match but feel I have grown as a performer since then and would be grateful for the chance to face her again. Dream opponents would be Saraya Knight (even though she terrifies me), Nikki Cross, Viper and Rhia O'Rielly, to name but a few.
What do you think of the current state of women’s wrestling?
Womens wrestling is bigger than it's ever been and it's fantastic to see. WWE and NXT have expanded their women's divisions and with events such as the Mae Young Classic and the women's Royal Rumble, eyes are on womens wrestling now more than ever. GLOW on Netflix aired at the perfect time and helped create even more of a buzz. We're also starting to see womens only promotions - Shimmer, Shine and Pro Wrestling EVE have been around for some time but moree are starting to follow in their footsteps, such as British Bombshells and Bellatrix. A lot of all female shows are starting to pop up at existing promotions also. What more could we ask for, really?
How does it make you feel when people discriminate women’s wrestling and what should be done about it?
Pretty infuriated to be honest. This is 2018, everyone should be treated equal and to believe any different nowadays is a very dated opinion. Luckily I haven't faced a lot of discrimination on a personal basis, but I admit am very quick to defend women's wrestling. In fact, just today I got into an argument with someone who said that "two womens matches on one show is more than enough." I was fuming. If a wrestler is good enough to be on a show, and can put on an entertaining and engaging match, then they should be on the show regardless of their gender. Take a look at Lucha Underground for example, they don't even bother with a seperate women's division. If a woman is just as capable of putting on a good match, then why shouldn't she do it?
The same person also said that WWE increased their exposure on womens wrestling as a "result of PR stunts," and so that they can call themselves a "diverse company." I reminded that individual that women have been a part of the WWF/E for years, it's hardly something new. It's just that they moved on from being there purely to give the guys something to drool over, and started using women that can actually wrestle.
Do you believe women can, let's say, one day main event a show like WWE's Wrestlemania?
I'd love to say yes, but when attitudes like those above exist, then I feel we still have a long way to go. We've come a long way, but still have work to do to reach that level. There are a lot of old school fans that are stuck in their ways and don't even attempt to embrace the change. However with all female companies such as Eve, Shimmer and Shine putting on some incredible matches, we are definitely giving the men a run for their money. And with WWE running tournaments such as the Mae Young Classic and the women's Royal Rumble... Then perhaps, one day.
What championships do you currently hold / what championships have you won or are about to challenge for?
Nothing at the moment unfortunately. Elevation have recently introduced a women's title and held a women's gauntlet match to crown the first champion, in which Shauna Shay snatched the victory from me. She knows I have my eyes on her prize. There have also been murmurings of a women's title being introduced at House of Pain. When the time comes I'll ensure no-one stands in my way.
Have you got any future dates/projects or anything else that you want to plug?
I work full time as a manager in retail, and originally started wrestling as a hobby which I never intended to take further. However last year I started to branch out a little more and debuted for a number of different promotions, which I'd love to return to. I'd like to continue to work for as many different companies as possible and will welcome any and all opportunities that are offered to me. British Bombshells is just starting to take off again, and they have a regular spot on PW4U in Stoke, my hometown, so it would be great to be a part of that. I also enjoy the work of Bellatrix and Pro Wrestling EVE and would relish the opportunity to work for them. And, it's just a pipedream, but Shimmer and NXT were I to ever to achieve that level.
Are there any people or organisations you’d like to give a special thank you / shout out to?
Special thanks to Stixx for training me, believing in me and helping me become the wrestler I am today. Additional thanks to all the companies I have worked for in the past and continue to work for today. A final thank you to PWW for interviewing me today and to YOU for taking the time to read it.