By Ryan K. Boman, Editor in Chief
The day Barbi Hayden was supposed to debut in professional wrestling, things didn’t go well at all.
In fact, it went tragically.
Hayden, the 27-year-old, bodyslamming bombshell, spoke with TheGorillaPosition.com as she was taking a break from a modeling shoot for apparel company, Ghostletics (@Ghostletics) , earlier this week.
She recounted that fateful day, as she was about to make her first pro appearance as a valet, when her phone rang.
“I got a call right before I’m getting ready to leave for the show from my sister,” she recalled. “She said that I needed to come to the hospital, because something had happened to our Dad.”
Hayden’s father died that day.
“It really showed me that you never know when you’re going to have your last day. You never know what life is going to give you,” she said. “So, I just decided to dive head first into this wrestling thing from there. I would make the drive and keep training even harder to make it.”
She says the shocking loss motivated her even further.
“My father was the only one who approved of me wrestling at the time, and I promised him that I was going to travel the world and make a success of it.”
She has done just that. Since making her in-ring debut in 2010, Hayden has competed in SHINE, several of the NWA-affiliated promotions and appeared at TNA One Night Only: Knockouts Knockdown 2016.
She’s also carried the gold: Hayden captured the NWA World Women’s title in 2014, and held the title for over a year.
“It feels like I’ve been everywhere,” she laughed. “But, I think everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve connected well with the fans, because I’m genuine. I’m not trying to be something I’m not.”
“I remember being a fan. I remember watching the wrestlers and just hoping they would notice me. I always thought that I wanted to give that back to the fans who come to see me. To let them know that they are really the most important reason for us being there.”
Already possessing a lot of in-ring experience at such a young age, Hayden is frequently mentioned among a handful of female competitors who are ready to make the jump to a national promotion.
With WWE’s women’s division seemingly always expanding and the launch of a ladies title in Ring of Honor, it doesn’t seem long before the Texas native will be appearing on your television screens. She’s had a tryout with World Wrestling Entertainment, but for now, remains unsigned.
Hayden stated that although she prefers to work in the ring, she’s also open to a career as a manager, valet or announcer, if it means a chance to take her game to the next level.
“Just to be part of anything in professional wrestling is the dream,” she said. “To me, it’s such an amazing production, and everyone plays such an important role in wrestling.
“There are some announcers, or managers, or valets, that sometimes make the wrestler. It’s not always about the physicality in the ring, necessarily. Being a competitor doesn’t have to be the pivotal role you play. But for right now, it’s the primary role I play.”
Starting out, she had dreams the size of the Lone Star State, but her family had her slated for college. When she decided to quit and pursue wrestling, she didn’t receive a lot of initial support.
“I felt like I was disowned by everybody,” she remembered. “Because everyone thought I was crazy for quitting school to go into pro wrestling. I mean, who does that, right?”
“But, it was really just my Dad’s approval that I wanted… Out of everyone’s”
Hayden says while her two older sisters were cheerleaders, she was a tomboy.
“Me, and my Dad, and my little brother, we were a clique,” she said. “So, I always hung out with the boys. And, my Dad taught me all the stuff he taught my brother. It seemed like the three of us were always together.”
One day, Hayden’s father told her that at 52 years old, he had regretted that he never seen all the things that he wanted to see— nor experienced all the things he wanted to experience. He believed professional wrestling might give his daughter a chance that he once passed up.
Then, he said she should pursue the sport; with his blessing and one caveat: when you become a famous wrestler, I’m going to travel the world with you.
“Of course, I just broke down in tears,” Hayden said. “I was so happy.”
Her father gave her a gift, a stuffed lion, and along with it, his eternal support.
“He gave it to me that year on Valentine’s Day; he always did things like that for us,” Hayden said, as her voice softened. “He said he wanted me to have that and told me that it was because I had the heart of a lion.”
She named the plush toy, ‘Roary’, and it has become a steady reminder of her promises to her Dad.
Sadly, Barbi Hayden’s father never got the chance to see her wrestle, but he instilled in her a will to succeed and a drive for adventure. She carries that same stuffed lion, a gift of encouragement, as she travels around the world today.
And somewhere… her father goes along with her.