On this Saturday’s Hard to Kill Live Countdown that took place the hour before the historic show, Madison Rayne announced her retirement from IMPACT Wrestling. After 12 years of dedication to her craft, as well as loyalty to the vision of IMPACT through its highs and lows, Rayne has officially decided that it is time for her to move on and focus on her family commitments. In her farewell message, she also wished the best to the current crop of talent, such as Jordynne Grace, Fire and Flava, and the current Knockouts Champion Deonna Purrazzo.
.@MadisonRayne has announced her retirement from IMPACT Wrestling.
5-time Knockouts Champion. 2-time Knockouts Tag Team Champion. A Knockouts legend. #ThankYouMadison pic.twitter.com/rF9LhqKmQE
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) January 17, 2021
However, while this news is sad, Rayne leaves behind a decorated and respectable wrestling legacy. Whether she is wrestling as the top champion of her company or analyzing matches as a commentator, here is an ode to the career of “The Queen Bee” Madison Rayne.
The Early Years of Madison Rayne
Ashley Nichole Simmons began training in 2005 with Ohio Championship Wrestling, opting to put her athletic background to use rather than pursue a career in radiology. She dropped out of school and trained in her home state of Ohio before debuting in her first match on March 13th, 2005. She would become the first-ever OCW Women’s Champion as well as feud with eventual IMPACT star Havok. Wrestling under various alias’ such as Lexi Lane and Ashley Lane, she debuted for SHIMMER under the latter name in 2007. There, she became one-half of the inaugural SHIMMER Tag Team champions with Nevaeh, another IMPACT alum. She would later return to SHIMMER for brief appearances in later years, most notably feuding with her former partner Neveah in 2011 and challenging once again for the tag team championships with Deonna Purrazzo in 2017.
SHIMMER’s partnership with ROH allowed Lane to make appearances with their company starting in April of 2008 until signing with TNA (IMPACT) in 2009. She returned to ROH in 2017, defeating Purrazzo to become an entrant in the Women of Honor Championship tournament to crown the first-ever champion. However, she lost in the first round to Mandy Leon, and was unsuccessful in title matches against Sumie Sakai and Kelly Klein. She signed a one-year deal with ROH in 2018 and decided against resigning in 2019 in favor of a return to IMPACT Wrestling, a common theme throughout her career.
5-Time Knockouts Champion and 2-Time Knockouts Tag Team Champion
Lane spent the majority of her storied career wrestling under the moniker Madison Rayne in Total Nonstop Action (later renamed IMPACT Wrestling), starting in 2009. She became a member of the all-women’s faction The Beautiful People, a heel group that was akin to the snobbish behaviors and antics of a character from Mean Girls. It was as a member of this team with Lacey Von Erich and Velvet Sky that she gained her first championship with the company, winning the Knockouts Tag Team Titles and defending them under Freebird rules.
It was also as a member of The Beautiful People that Rayne won her first of many Knockouts Championships, after pinning then-champion Angelina Love at Lockdown 2010 to become the first-ever woman to hold both the Knockouts and Knockouts Tag Team Championships at the same time.
After splitting with her stablemates in July of 2010, Rayne hired Tara (known in WWE as Victoria), beginning a storyline that would see Rayne turn into the vindictive, power-hungry, and self-obsessed character that became her signature. She won the Knockouts Championship 2 more times between 2010 and 2011, at one point even forcing her “friend” Tara (who at the time was champion) to lay down for her in the middle of the ring. In this run of her TNA career, she also won the Knockouts Championship briefly at Hardcore Justice 2012, using her “crush” Earl Hebner to help her win against Brooke Tessmacher.
She aligned with Gail Kim to win the Knockouts Tag Team Championship for the second time in October 2012. This would begin a years-long rivalry/friendship between the two women, who are both considered within the greatest Knockouts of all time. She would go on maternity leave in 2013 and take a brief hiatus from IMPACT before returning later that year. She would defeat Kim at 2014’s Genesis to win the Knockouts Championship for the 5th time, the third most reigns in the title’s history.
The Creative Influence and Commentary of Madison Rayne
She sporadically wrestled for TNA between 2014 and 2017, but what was most notable during this time was her brief tenure as a member of the company’s creative team, replacing Christy Hemme. It was also during this time that she first began doing commentary for women’s matches, which would lead to her becoming a permanent color commentator along-side husband Josh Matthews when she returned once again between 2019 and 2021. She often worked as the heel voice as well as the women’s advocate on commentary. She also hosted her own interview segments and wrestled occasionally, becoming the self-proclaimed “locker room leader”. Her last match took place on October 11th, 2020, when she teamed with Tenille Dashwood in a losing effort against Havok and Neveah (former partners/rivals of her past) in the first round of the Knockouts Tag Team Championship Tournament.
The Mae Young Classic and All In
During a brief time away from IMPACT in 2017, Rayne attended tryouts at the WWE Performance Center, and in 2018 debuted for the company as a competitor in the second Mae Young Classic under her old moniker Ashley Rayne. However, she would lose in the first round to Mercedes Martinez, and would not appear for WWE again. She also wrestled at pre-AEW supershow All In in a 4 corner survival match, losing to Tessa Blanchard.
From being the top villain on the female roster as the resident “Mean Girl”, to locker room leader, to endearing commentator, Madison Rayne has more than proven to be one of the most influential women in IMPACT/TNA’s history. No matter who dominates the Knockouts division throughout the years to come, Madison will always “Rayne” supreme as the company’s undisputed “Queen Bee”.
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