BY KENNY HERZOG – DEC 16, 2019
It’s uncharacteristically cold outside on an early November afternoon in Astoria, Queens, and it’s not much warmer inside the 1,000-plus-capacity Melrose Ballroom, which is still hours away from filling seats and dimming lights for that evening’s Impact Wrestling TV taping.
Former WWE cruiserweight Rich Swann is keeping warm by taking practice bumps in the ring, and Knockouts champion Taya Valkyrie is running frantically in search of her Postmates lunch delivery. Play-by-play announcer Josh Mathews arrives appropriately bundled in a waist-length winter coat and scarf, while nearly 300-pound slab of human Rhino defies the frigid conditions, sauntering in from a nearby bodega in a T-shirt and shorts. As with any traveling wrestling show, they are a motley bunch—half restless crew members and half colorful performers, most of the latter stereotypically larger than life. But sitting quietly in a folding chair by the side-wall-spanning bar, outfitted in a biceps-hugging sky-blue top and black stretch pants and hunched just enough to shrink her 5-foot-5 frame into an even more inconspicuous posture, is Impact’s biggest star: Tessa Blanchard.
At only 24 years old, Blanchard is inviting comparisons to greats from other sports. As Women of Wrestling and L.A. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss suggests in an email, “She is the LeBron James of the wrestling industry.” Her burgeoning career has inspired the kind of buzz that comes along once in a generation, the type of noise Ronda Rousey caused among MMA fans en route to crossover cultural celebrity. Though given Blanchard’s family history, it’s more like once every generation. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native is the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer and NWA legend—and original Four Horsemen member—Tully Blanchard, whose father, Joe, was a noted territorial-era grappler and promoter… Read More HERE