Former WWE, IMPACT star Lisa Marie Varon going out on her own terms
By Mike Pankow
August 23, 2019
As the clock ticks down on her wrestling career, Lisa Marie Varon is enjoying her final year in the business, working for selected independent companies and making appearances at pop culture events.
Varon, better known as Victoria in WWE and Tara in IMPACT Wrestling, returned to one of her former hometowns for this weekend’s Wizard World Chicago at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
Varon, 48, a self-proclaimed nerd, visits comic cons around the country, not only as a celebrity guest but as a pop culture fan.
“They’re getting bigger and bigger,” Varon said Friday. “I’m walking around and seeing the celebrities here, like ‘Oh my God.’ John Travolta will be (Saturday). I’m so excited about that. I hope I don’t pass out.
“I’m trying not to walk around and I don’t want to shop. I spend too much money on these things. People who dress up in their favorite cosplay are the superstars instead of us being here signing autographs. It’s pretty cool.”
Varon will appear Saturday and Sunday as the convention continues this weekend.
Varon’s occupational goal took a sharp right turn while she was in her 20s as she studied pre-med and had designs on a medical career.
“I was good at science and math, maybe not anymore,” Varon said. “I used to work for the organ and tissue bank. My goal was to get into med school, but this is where the crazy transition was.”
Varon’s parents encountered some health difficulties and that inspired her to begin furiously working out and looking out for her own health.
“I got so obsessed, I started competing in fitness,” she said. “The rest is history. I met Torrie (Wilson), who help introduce me to wrestling. I met Chyna at a health club and she goes ‘You have a good look for wrestling. Have you ever thought about that?’
“I told my parents, ‘It will be three months and then I’ll get bored.’ Twenty years later, I’m still doing it.”
Varon won seven women’s world championships, including two in WWE and five in IMPACT Wrestling. Varon said that she experienced so many “highlights” during her career and mentioned the first time she won the WWE Women’s Championship as one of her best moments. That came at Survivor Series 2002 during her rookie year on the WWE main roster with a victory over WWE Hall of Famer and seven-time champion Trish Stratus.
“It’s a special moment, because (it means) you’re doing a good job, you deserve to be champion,” Varon said. “It’s a pat on your back a little bit.”
One of the most memorable matches of Varon’s career came at WrestleMania XX where she successfully defended the championship (during her second title reign in WWE) against Molly Holly at Madison Square Garden in New York in a hair-versus-title match.
“Molly Holly shaved her head,” she said. She’s so awesome. She pitched that idea. I have to thank for her for giving me that match. It was amazing.”
Later in her wrestling career, Varon moved to Chicago for a few years and opened the popular Squared Circle restaurant in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The eatery became a hub for Chicago-area fans with Varon greeting guests and commiserating with them about wrestling. The establishment would host viewing parties for WWE and UFC pay-per-views.
It was the best restaurant ever,” said Varon, emphasizing ‘ever.’ “My ex-husband (Lee) was the chef and he was an amazing cook. I could never duplicate his cooking. My job was bringing people in and all the wrestlers came to visit to come and hang out. And I got to hang out with all you guys and watch wrestling with my fellow fans. It was just so much fun. I don’t think there will ever be another restaurant like that. I’m going to toot my own horn. It was amazing.”
The Squared Circle featured an variety of stuffed burgers, pizzas and the very-tasty pizza wontons that were served as an appetizer. The restaurant closed in 2017 after a four-year run.
Even though she moved back to Southern California recently, Varon still holds Chicago close to her heart and still avidly cheers for her beloved Cubs.
“They’re coming to San Diego in September and I got tickets for then,” she said excitedly.
After nearly a two-decade in-ring career, Varon announced at the beginning of the year that 2019 would be her final year in wrestling. During her farewell tour, Varon returned to the Chicago area earlier this year when she wrestled IMPACT Wrestling star Jordynne Grace at Warrior Wrestling 4 in March. She also is making an appearance on Oct. 26 in Cedarburg, Wis., about two hours North of Chicago, for Great Lakes Championship Wrestling, and that will be one of her final shows.
“I was wrestling in some independents and I took quite a few big bumps,” Varon said. “The next day, my neck was crunching. I couldn’t get comfortable on a plane. I’m 48. I’ve been doing it 20 years. My body hurts, so I was like ‘You know what, I’m good with retiring this year.’ I’m OK with it. I’m not sad about it at all. I’ll still do signings at Comic Cons, because I’m a nerd and I love it. But it’s time. I want to go out on top while I’m still good in the ring. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me.”
Check out the interview video with Lisa below, plus a special bonus interview with WOW star Katie Forbes: