Uncrowned No Longer: Tessa Blanchard and the Journey to Becoming Knockouts Champion

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Tessa Blanchard
Credit: IMPACT Wrestling

A few weeks ago on a media conference call, Tessa Blanchard made her position in IMPACT Wrestling very clear, saying, “My main goal in IMPACT Wrestling is the Knockouts Championship because having that championship means you are the best. I am confident I am the uncrowned champion because I am the best women’s wrestler in IMPACT Wrestling.”

During that same week, a few days later at a TV taping at Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto (the episode aired last night on POP TV), the 23-year-old Tessa Blanchard proved the truth behind her words as she took on Su Yung and Allie in a triple threat for the Knockouts title. At the end of the match, it was Blanchard’s hand that was raised. Uncrowned champion no more, Blanchard held the title high and proclaimed to her competition, “I want everyone in the Knockouts locker room to take notice. I am now the measuring stick and if any of you want to see how tough a diamond really is, be my guest.”

As Tessa Blanchard told reporters on the conference call, “I’m next level, I’m a different breed…Mark my words, On Sunday, the landscape of everything is going to change.”

Currently a champion in an astonishing seven different promotions, Blanchard’s journey into professional wrestling began in 2012 when she attended the WWE Hall of Fame for her father’s induction as a member of the Four Horsemen. Hearing of how Ric Flair‘s daughter and Tessa’s friend, Charlotte, was getting ready to pursue a career in the family business, a passion awakened in Blanchard, who for the first time in her life, discovered that is what she wanted as well.

A third generation wrestler, a rare distinction for a female, Tessa Blanchard began training shortly after the Hall of Fame, doing so without telling her father Tully Blanchard or stepfather Magnum T.A. (her grandfather Joe Blanchard, who ran a largely successful territory, trained Dusty Rhodes and is a member of the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, had since passed) until almost eight months later. Despite having the last name she does, it was important to Blanchard to start her journey on her own and not rely on her lineage, much as she respects and admires who she is and where she comes from. When she finally told her fathers of her decision to pursue professional wrestling and follow in their footsteps, Blanchard said both were incredibly supportive if not realistic.

“It’s not a job it’s a lifestyle, it’s seven days a week,” she said, recounting some of the advice her fathers gave her. “They were both very supportive and they made sure that I knew that this was going to be a hard journey and that if this is something that I wanted to do that I’m going to have to put absolutely everything that I have into it.”

And put everything into it, she did.

Tessa Blanchard began training with George South alongside guys including current WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Cedric Alexander. As South told the Charlotte Observer in 2015, “I wish my guys were as tough as she is.” South also praised Blanchard’s progress as after just a year or so training, the third generation standout was already turning heads around the industry, something that to South was an amazing feat.

Just 19, Blanchard had her very first match not at a bingo hall or high school gymnasium as most independent talents do, but rather in Greensboro Coliseum, in front of thousands of people, for a WWE dark match. It was the same building where decades prior, Tully Blanchard and Magnum T.A. faced each other in an “I Quit” match. In that moment, Blanchard felt the history and the gravity of what she was about to embark on. Shortly after, Blanchard received a tryout, something she felt confident about. However, the company didn’t sign her and while Blanchard was “heartbroken” then, it gave her the chance to work the independent circuit and really hone her craft. By the end of her first full year on the indies, Blanchard had won two titles, first for the inactive Exodus Wrestling Alliance where she was their world champion and second for East Coast Wrestling Association, where she won the Super 8 ChickFight tournament to become the promotion’s third-ever women’s champion.

“I always think it is because God had a plan for me,” Blanchard told Busted Open Radio earlier this year. “If I had gone and they (WWE) would have signed me right away, I don’t think that I would have had the life experiences, and that I wouldn’t have been able to have traveled where I went and became the pro wrestler that I became, that I am today, or the woman I am today, if I had been signed back then.”

After her rookie year, Tessa Blanchard continued to expand her presence on the indies in year two. From 17 matches to 71, Blanchard became a fixture at all of the top female promotions, including Queens of Combat, SHIMMER, Women Superstars Uncensored, SHINE Wrestling and Girl Fight. She also wrestled in Big Time Wrestling, Absolute Intense Wrestling and Premiere Wrestling Experience, where she took on Cedric Alexander, who she credits with helping her development during their time in South’s training school, in the X 16 tournament.

In 2016, Blanchard made her first tour of World Wonder Ring Stardom, an experience that helped her develop discipline and mental toughness. She took part in the 5STAR Grand Prix, facing the likes of Momo Watanabe, Kris Wolf and Io Shirai. Blanchard also returned to WWE to work a few matches in NXT, debuted for Lucha Underground and began to showcase her intergender skills in matches against Donovan Dijak (WWE’s Dominik Dijakovic) and then-boyfriend Ricochet. Blanchard developed a love for the style and a reputation as well. In the coming years, she’d go on to have singles classics with Brian Cage, David Starr, Scorpio Sky, AR Fox and guys like MJF, Will Ospreay, Flip Gordon, Joey Ryan, Dave Crist, Leo Rush, Myron Reed, Matt Riddle and more in multi-man matches.

In 2017, Tessa Blanchard returned to WWE as one of the 32 women to take part in the inaugural Mae Young Classic. She lost in the first round to Kairi Sane, someone Blanchard was familiar with from her second tour of Stardom the same year, even though the two never got a chance to lock up overseas.

Following the MYC, Blanchard continued to build her resume. In 2018, she was the only woman who took part in Combat Zone Wrestling‘s Best of the Best 17 where she lost to David Starr in the semifinals. Blanchard also began working for RISE and most notably, IMPACT Wrestling, the promotion she currently calls home.

According to Blanchard, choosing to sign with IMPACT was “a gut feeling,” and one she doesn’t regret. “I’m very grateful to be in IMPACT,” Blanchard said on the media call. “It’s such a fun place to work, I enjoy it so much, can’t stress that enough. I love working at IMPACT.”

Blanchard added that winning the Knockouts Championship was always a goal of hers and one stop along the road of her journey through professional wrestling. “On thing I’ve always wanted to do is do absolutely everything in wrestling, go everywhere,” Blanchard said.

For Tessa Blanchard, who will be spending her Saturday wrestling a showcase match in front of 10,000 people at All In, that dream and goal of winning the Knockouts title is now a reality. And that goal of doing everything in wrestling? It seems Blanchard is well on her way. She’s wrestled in Japan, Mexico, Canada and more. She took part in the Mae Young Classic. She’ll be All In. She’s shared a ring with some of the best in the business, gender not exclusive. And most impressively, she’s won 14 titles in her short career, seven of which –  PCW Ultra Women’s Championship, Zelo Pro Women’s Championship, WrestleCircus Lady of the Ring Championship, The Crash Femenil Championship, Phoenix of RISE Championship, Women Superstars Uncensored World Championship and IMPACT Knockouts Championship – she still holds. No woman has ever held that many titles at once.

The crowned jewel of women’s wrestling, Tessa Blanchard is indeed undeniable and by winning the Knockouts title, she proved something that she has been saying all along. That when it comes to the IMPACT locker room and when it comes to the landscape of women’s professional wrestling, “no one is a diamond. No one is Tessa Blanchard.”

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