Back in February 2014, I had the enjoyable opportunity of meeting Lisa Marie Varon — also known by her WWE ring name Victoria — at her restaurant, The Squared Circle in Chicago, Illinois. We talked a range of topics from her hardcore match against Trish Stratus at Survivor Series 2002, the current atmosphere in the WWE locker room, CM Punk, and more.
Lisa Marie Varon – Life After WWE
Upon arrival at The Squared Circle, I found myself transfixed by the memorabilia on the walls, lifting my eyes every so often to watch the SummerSlam 2000 action, which was playing out on the TVs spread across the restaurant.
Signed pictures and old ring gear from the likes of Sting, Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle, Chavo Guerrero, Lita, Michelle McCool, and the phenom himself, the Undertaker, graced the walls. There was even a wall adorning the signatures of wrestlers who had visited the restaurant in the past, including scribbles by Rhino, DDP, Mark Henry, and Kevin Nash, just to name a few. I felt like a kid, feeling no shame walking around the restaurant’s patrons trying to get a closer look at the various items on display.
After finding a seat, a friend and I discussed the Right to Censor (Steven Richards, Bull Buchanan, and PG-friendly The Goodfather) match against Too Cool (Scotty 2 Hotty, Grandmaster Sexay, Rikishi, with Victoria by their side), which was playing out on the big screens.
Just as the match finished, in walked Lisa.
Lisa made a point to say hello to everyone in the restaurant. Having just seen her on television and now having a chat with her in person was a wonderfully surreal experience. She was down to earth and made everyone in there feel like old friends. She settled in at a table while my friend and I enjoyed a few beers and bacon bleu and cheddar pulled pork fries.
About a half-hour later, Lisa got up and asked everyone, “Do you want to see a hardcore match?”
The obvious answer ensued, so she went to the back to put on her Survivor Series 2002 match against Trish Stratus.
The Hardcore Match Between Victoria and Trish Stratus at Survivor Series 2002 Was The First-Ever Match of its Kind in WWE
As the Trish Stratus and Victoria hardcore match played out on the television screens, Lisa gave a step-by-step commentary, breaking down everything that was happening in the ring.
As soon as the match began, one patron proudly told her, “This was when the women’s division was worth watching!”
Of course, at the time, this was before the revitalized women’s division led by Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch (to name a few) was underway. Everyone in the restaurant agreed, and Lisa responded with a, “Oh that’s too sweet, thank you very much!”
Not long later, Lisa Marie Varon herself was breaking down some commentary on her match against Trish Stratus at Survivor Series 2002. Follow along with the video below!
On hitting Trish with a chair shot (1:47 in the video):
“I held the chair upside down and backward! It was my first time giving a chair shot, and ended up holding the chair totally wrong! Trish got in trouble for not putting her hands up for protection.”
On her entrance (2:15):
“I got a bit excited and almost broke the monitor entrance doors as they were opening! They were not happy about that when I got to the back!”
On the broom flip move (3:58):
“Fit Finlay taught us how to do that.”
On breaking her nose in the match (6:17):
“This is where I broke my nose! I knew immediately that it was broken as I could feel and hear a loud snap. Trish kept asking, ‘Are you okay, are you okay?’”
At 6:37 in the video:
“This is where I told the ref to tell Trish to stall a bit. After the hit, all I could see was red, but I quickly recovered!”
On women bleeding:
“Vince did not want the girls to blade, even in hardcore matches, as it would take away from the appeal of beauty.”
On her weapons of choice during the match:
(While laughing) “A broom and an ironing board – no gender stereotypes here!”
On being hit with a kendo stick (7:22):
“Those shots really stung!”
On taking a fall from the top rope onto the apron and floor (7:59):
(After I asked, “How does one practice a bump like that?”) “You don’t practice bumps like those. I told Trish, ‘Give me the hit, I’ll take care of the rest!’”
On seeing her broken nose for the first time after picking up the mirror during the match (8:36):
“This is where I realized how bad my nose really was!”
“Sorry, that wasn’t too womanly of me!” (after being seen spitting blood out onto the floor during the match).
“Better there than in Trish’s face!”
On a botched spot (8:57):
“We both called ‘Duck!’”
On the botched ending of the match and how she quickly recovered (from 9:36):
“I was supposed to use this mirror as part of the finish, but having seen that it was already broken, I had to improvise. So I went under the ring to see what I could grab and found the fire extinguisher. At first attempt, the pin was in, so it didn’t go off! But I was able to get the pin out and got it to work out in the end.”
On her feelings of winning the WWE Women’s Championship for the first time:
“It was really exciting, but I was afraid to get to the back as I knew I would be in trouble!”
On Trish Stratus:
“What people don’t often realize is how tiny she really is! In real life, Trish and I are friends. I went to her wedding.”
While Lisa didn’t get into whether or not she got in trouble for the botched ending or for almost breaking the doors during her entrance, it was quite a unique and enjoyable experience hearing her take on the match while sitting alongside watching with her.
Lisa Marie Varon on Her Wrestling-Themed Restaurant, Her Thoughts on the Current WWE Locker Room, and CM Punk
When the match was over, Lisa Marie Varon and I talked for an additional few minutes about a variety of topics about the business and personal life, which I will paraphrase below.
Lisa Marie Varon On Opening a Wrestling-Themed Restaurant in Chicago:
“My husband is from here. He’s the one in the green shirt in the kitchen. I absolutely love the people here in Chicago. They don’t think you’re strange when you say hello to them on the streets! In California, where I’m from, you would just get very strange looks for doing that!”
Lisa Marie Varon On the Atmosphere in the WWE Locker Room (2015):
“I was just talking with Mark Henry about this when he came by to the restaurant a few months ago. When I used to be in WWE, if I were watching a match from the curtain, I’d be afraid someone would come up to me from behind and pull my pants down! People were always ribbing and playing jokes on each other. It was a fun atmosphere. Nowadays, there isn’t much ribbing going on. Everyone seems to be on eggshells and afraid to mess up or get in trouble. When I was talking to Mark, he told me, ‘You have no idea how different it is these days!’
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing everyone in the back, but currently, I get much more enjoyment watching the show from the seats with guests from my restaurant than hanging out in the back during the show.”
Lisa Marie Varon on the Current Product:
“I enjoy watching as a fan, but I always find myself being critical of the girl’s matches. I try to stop myself whenever I am. It’s just something I can’t help but do! I only do this with the girls, though, never the guys.”
Lisa Marie Varon On CM Punk Walking Away from WWE:
(This was a few weeks after CM Punk walked away from WWE, prior to his announcing that he would be fighting for UFC):
“I would like to think the CM Punk situation is scripted, but I’m not for sure. I don’t ask about anything behind the scenes as I don’t want to be known as the one who calls only when they want to hear backstage gossip!”
On whether or not CM Punk has dropped into her restaurant yet:
“I would love to see CM Punk in here, but it would never happen. He’s a bit anti-social like that, and this isn’t his scene.”
The Closure of The Squared Circle Restaurant in Chicago
In January 2015, Lisa moved to California and mentioned on Twitter that her former husband, Lee Varon, and a friend would remain on board to run The Squared Circle in her absence.
In March 2015, the restaurant was put up for sale. A week later, a gunman entered the restaurant, and Lee Varon was able to incapacitate the man until the police arrived. Days after this incident, Lisa Marie Varon announced her intention to close the establishment and that she would no longer support the business or encourage fellow wrestlers to make promotional appearances there.
On April 10, 2017, the restaurant closed for good, just two years after the gunman incident. That said, Lisa Marie Varon left the door open on social media for a comeback at a new location in the future.
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