Mia Yim returned to Impact Wrestling with a fresh outlook on her in-ring career. This comes after an often frustrating run at WWE came to an end earlier this year. The former Knockouts champion is now out to remind fans what she is capable of when the opportunity arises.
One such event will be Slammiversary as she joins Deonna Purrazzo, Chelsea Green, Jordynne Grace, and champ Tasha Steelz in the first-ever “Queen of the Mountain” match. The field represents a truly diverse locker room. Here Yim, who is half African-American and half Korean, reflects on making history, the importance of representation in the business, and why she decided to sign back on with Impact.
We’re currently in Asian Pacific American Heritage Month; how far do you think women’s wrestling has come in terms of diversity?
Mia Yim: When I first started I was the only Asian in the locker room. We were still the minority. I think now people are looking past race and ethnicity and finally looking at us as wrestlers before whatever race we are, especially in the Impact locker room. It’s cool sharing a locker room with Gail Kim, and I’m not the only Korean anymore. Even with Gisele [Shaw] and the production team. It was rare to see an Asian person or black person in the locker room when I first started in 2009 to now where it’s the norm and you don’t look at race anymore. It has definitely flourished.
It does feel like the women in Impact have a good amount of freedom.
What I love the most about Impact is they do give the women the time and do allow us to do our thing instead of just, “Hey, you can’t do this move because a guy is doing this.” They’ve done a good job keeping things equal and not cutting our time. I think we are in the right direction. There is more to do.
You mentioned Gail. In 2015, you and Gail were the first two Asian North American female wrestlers to compete against one another in a televised match.
I didn’t even know that until people were talking about it. It’s so cool to be part of history. Even before I started, I always looked up to Gail because I related to her. I’m hoping that we were able to be what younger women look up to and let them know this is normal. Showing they can do it too. That it’s common ground.
Who did you identify with growing up?
I gravitated toward Chyna and Lita. Then it was Gail. She was the first Korean I saw on TV. Even though I’m mixed, it’s really cool. Watching Jazz and Gail, knowing I don’t have to eliminate myself because I’m not blonde or blue-eyed or a size 0. It blows my mind looking back at my career that people I looked up to I’ve spent time in the ring with. I created a special bond with Gail.
At Impact, you have names like Gail Kim, Madison Rayne, and Christy Hemme having a seat at the proverbial table in creative and as producers. How important is it to have that backstage?
It’s the best feeling in the world that women are running the women’s side of wrestling at Impact. If I have an issue that I’m uncomfortable going to, say, [EVP] Scott D’Amore, I know I can go to Gail or Christy or Madison and know that I’m not going to be judged for it. That they are going to listen to my concerns and work to help me. They will make sure we are comfortable. It goes a long way to have a point of contact where you don’t have to walk on eggshells or word something in a specific way so you don’t make someone angry. You can be like, “I don’t like this.” They will go, “Well, let’s see how we can fix it.” It goes a long way to have women’s aspect of wrestling.
Was it an easy decision to come back to Impact?
When I was first in Impact, it was a good experience. At the same time, when I first started wrestling I made a checklist for myself that I wanted to accomplish. Now that I’ve done it, real-life happened as far as getting married, buying a house, and moving. After Keith [Lee] and I got married, he went to work right away. I thought, “Let me take some time off not only to figure out what else I want to do in this business but also to take care of stuff off the road.” It was a lot of mental blocks and obstacles.
People remember the last thing I did, and it wasn’t something I was proud of. Priorities change. Now that I’m married this family is number one. I had to recollect myself. When I decided to go to another company Gail said, “You know how I feel about them, but I want you to experience it for yourself. I’m not going to tell you not to go.” She was supportive of whatever decision. She has been my rock. I wanted to go to Impact because of Gail. The company has always treated me right, and the locker room is great. I felt more comfortable going there because I know that I will be taken care of. I won’t have to deal with more BS than I dealt with the last couple of years. It was a no-brainer of going to Impact.
You freshened up your presentation when you returned in early May. Tell me about the inspiration behind the entrance.
I had gotten really deep into video games several years ago. I always wanted to do a Cyberpunk/Watch Dogs character. As a gamer, I loved the ascetic vibe. It’s an evening coming into one. It’s similar to the HBIC [Head Baddie In Charge] I was doing, but with a whole new twist. More me. Kind of geeky, nerdy, and futuristic but still urban and street. I wanted to incorporate my Korean heritage into this where my mom wrote my Korean name for my video intro on the screen. The futuristic masks, the city lights; I had all this control I haven’t had in so long. My best friend made my entrance song. Overall, it honestly came from games and that I’m a nerd.
Coming up at Slammiversary there is the first-ever “Queen of the Mountain” ladder match. What’s your mindset going into your first big pay-per-view appearance for Impact in years?
I’m definitely nervous. Everyone knows my reputation with ladder matches. All the women are different but all incredibly talented. I’ve wrestled all of them in the independents, except for Tasha. I know how hard these girls can go. I know we’re going to have a banger of a match because we all want the same thing, which is to put on the match of the night. We’re going kill each other. It’s going to be great.
Impact Wrestling, Thursdays, 8/7c, AXS TV
Slammiversary, June 19, 8/7c, Pay-Per-View and FITE TV