Mia Yim discusses wrestling, volleyball & the future

Mia Yim is among the most talented and exciting female wrestlers in the world. An eight-year pro, Yim continues to defy the odds and injury to show just how talented she is, all over the world.

This proud Korean-Ameican talent continues to work each and every match with the hope of getting better each time, aspiring for greatness along the way. Her effort is evident, in her matches outside the United States and the ones she has had as part of IMPACT, and WWE’s Mae Young Classic.

One of the most remarkable in-ring qualities she possesses is; an incredible range of moves, including an array of strikes and punches that make up her hybrid style of combat. In addition, her exciting collection of high-flying moves showcases what she is willing to do in the ring.

Her future is bright, as she has engaged in many storylines in different places that have helped to further her character. She has recently recovered from an injury and is making up for the time lost because of it.

In this interview, she discusses how she has learned to adjust to her environment regardless of where she is in the world, her passion for wrestling and the lasting relationships she has built along the way. A world-traveled competitor, she has learned from those experiences and applies them to her craft. 

Mia Yim
[Photo: Cageside Seats]

What initially drove Mia Yim to pursue wrestling as a career, and have injuries ever forced you to consider other career paths?

Mia Yim: Growing up I’ve always been a tomboy. I grew up in California on this block, and we would play street hockey and football. Watching wrestling back in the day when it was The Rock, Stone Cold, Lita, Chyna, we would watch as a family. My dad and my sister grew out of it, but I continued to watch it.

Then, when I saw Lita and Chyna especially wrestling with the guys, that’s when I knew. I couldn’t play football with the guys, but if I could wrestle with guys I am totally down with that.

So, I continued watching and I told my parents that was what I wanted to do, and of course, they did not approve. Once I turned 18, I signed myself up for a training school and kept up with it.

Knock on wood, I’ve been lucky in that I have only had the recent leg injury that took me out of action for several months. I needed surgery, but it’s been my first serious injury in my whole life. So, I have never broken a bone before. I played collegiate volleyball so it’s been minor stuff here and there, but nothing too crazy.

However, even in volleyball, when I had to sit out a game or something. It was more I needed to get better, so I can get back in. The mentality was the same in wrestling, where once it happened I knew something was wrong. I always thought the hard part was getting through the surgery and focusing on recovery. I didn’t know the mental challenges of staying sane and not going crazy.

Thankfully, my roommates Shayna (Baszler) and Jessamyn Duke would check on me every day, just to make sure everything was alright. My roommates would keep me sane and kept me watching wrestling, so I could remain fueled and passionate and still come back motivated and even stronger.

Thankfully, it didn’t ever cause me to think of quitting or say ‘This isn’t for me.’ It was a matter of, I need to come back and I need to get stronger and I need people to realize that I am not going anywhere.

Share if you could your early training and how it’s changed throughout the years. What did you Mia Yim walk away with from each experience?

Mia Yim: When I first started training in wrestling I was already conditioned because I played volleyball in college. So conditioning wise I was fine, I was used to running and doing blow up drills. I started training in a small school in Virginia. Then I got picked up by another promotion, and Ring of Honor at the same time.

I lived in D.C and I would commute about an hour and a half to two hours every day to the Philadelphia area. So, it was Monday and Wednesday, for example, with Ring of Honor and Tuesday and Thursday with CZW. Every day it would be quite the drive.

I got quite the experience from being in both places because ROH was a lot more based on fundamentals and wrestling 101, while CZW was also a lot of fundamentals, but was a lot more of ‘What would you like to work on, what do you want to do? Let’s try this, let’s try that.’

I got two different sides learning from both schools at the same time. My style now is more of a hybrid. So, I am learning and all these different styles. Whether it is Lucha, Joshi, American, British Wrestling, and it all started from going to two different wrestling schools. It was all about learning two different styles, and then combining it and being diverse.

With going to University on a Volleyball scholarship, was there ever any desire to see if that would turn into something else?

Mia Yim: I did get a scholarship for volleyball. I played it in high school for all four years. I got a full ride to Virginia Union for two years and then I transferred to Marymount University for a partial. Then I wanted to pursue volleyball for the Olympics, and that’s what my dad wanted me to do.

I realize I am 5’7 and probably one of the smallest girls playing volleyball. So, I knew if I was going to join the Olympics, one, I would have to be really really good, and two, would need to get a really high vertical.

I already had it in my head that there wasn’t really a possibility of making the Olympic team. Then, when I started training for wrestling, that’s when I knew I wanted to full-on pursue wrestling. I love volleyball, I still play volleyball, but once I started training, wrestling was my passion. I would play offside hitter when I was a player.

SHINE, SHIMMER, & IMPACT Wrestling were all different promotions you’ve had the opportunity to work with. How was each experience different, and what can you say you still carry with you today?

Mia Yim: In SHIMMER I learned a lot because it was a large group of different women from all over the world, all from different generations, all working together. So, I have been able to pick everyone’s brains along with getting feedback.

Whether it was from an Alison Danger or a Lexie Fyfe, the women there that are watching our matches that I can go and get honest critiques from. On Impact, I learned about TV wrestling. I never knew that TV wrestling and regular indy wrestling were anything different until I started wrestling for Impact.

Thankfully Pat (Kenney, AKA Simon Diamond) and Gail (Kim) all helped me through that, from looking at hard cams and facials and things I never thought about doing say if I was wrestling for, say, other companies. In Japan everything there is different.

In Japan, I wrestled for a company that brought in Mexican wrestlers, so I was able to learn Lucha as well as Joshi. Of course, there is the UK, wrestling for Southside there on the West Coast. With every company, I try, I am still learning to this day. I try to learn from every opponent and every company, just because I want to be able to know everything.

Of everyone you have faced, which matches would Mia Yim say flies under the radar as one fans should see, and why?

Mia Yim: There is one, and I think I know why. I wrestled at Shimmer recently against Aja Kong, which was my #1 dream match. She was who I was watching when I first started wrestling. I finally got to wrestle her and the people there were talking about it. The reason people aren’t talking about it now is that it isn’t on DVD yet.

Another one would be me and Greg Excellent. Our feud will always be held near and dear to my heart. I know everybody still talks about it to this day. I feel that he is the one that deserves all the credit. He made me in that match! He made me! I constantly want to tell the world that Greg Excellent is a star and in our feud, he is the one that needs all the attention.

With Aja, I don’t really cry unless it has something to do with wrestling. So after that match, I cried, just because it was a real dream come true. People often say don’t ever meet your idols just because you never know. With her, it was not like that at all. She was ready to work, she wanted to do stuff.

The story was there. It was everything I imagined it would be when I first started watching her. Then, with Greg, it was that I always wanted to be looked at as an equal. It was not as a female wrestler, and he made sure that I was an equal. He didn’t treat me any special or different. So, I enjoyed the fact that I wasn’t being treated as just like a girl.

The key to success is often being able to adapt. Who have you faced in the past where the match progressively got better even if you were initially unfamiliar with one another?

Mia Yim: That happens regularly in Japan, just because of the language barriers. You have an idea of what the match is going to become and then you get involved in it and it’s not what you thought it was going to be. So, you have to change up some things, and then it gets better than what you thought it would be. That regularly happens in Japan in my opinion at least.

Anyone that follows you on Twitter will notice a unique friendship with Shelton Benjamin. Share your history with one another and how did these exchanges begin.

Mia Yim: Oh God. (laughs) I was going to say I love Shelton, but I know he’s going to hold that against me forever (laughs). I have known Shelton since I want to say 2011. So almost 7-8 years now. We met at this show in the New England area, it was called I believe NEW or something like that. I never really remember how I met people because I have a horrible memory. But, I remember meeting him because I think I have told this story before.

I was eating chicken wings and he comes up and he starts eating chicken wings. So, and we started eating chicken wings together. From the jump, we were just on each other. We were bantering together back and forth from the jump.

I’ve always looked at him like an older brother. He always took care of me. He always made sure to have my back. Even when we don’t see each other for long periods of time. We still talk to each other just about every day, just keeping up with our lives and joking around.

He is the reason why I am not fat. I was getting fat and he was pointing it out. So, he’s the reason why I am jacked and in shape. I do the same for him; if I notice he is gaining some pounds I am sure to point that out.

That is how we keep each other prepared for life. After one of my relationships, the domestic violence one, he was there throughout the entire thing. He was there if I needed a place to hideaway. He would make sure that I would have a place and would come to get me if anything were to happen.

So even though we banter and we go back and forth, it’s all full of love. We have each other’s back. He is someone I would keep in my life even after wrestling. He’s still a piece of sh** though. (laughs)

Many argue against intergender wrestling. As someone that has actively faced both men and women. What are your thoughts?

Mia Yim: Everybody has their own opinion. If people don’t like it, that’s fine, it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and that’s fine. What gets under my skin is when they say ‘Oh you are a DV advocate, why are you wrestling men?’

My main argument is that it’s all about consent. If I consent to a match, whether it’s with a male or female, then it’s fine. So, it is all about that. I just want to be looked at as an equal, a performer, and as a wrestler. If you don’t like it that’s fine. Just don’t talk garbage about me because I do it. There are a lot of people that do.

To me, this is what I enjoy, and I’ve gotten to wrestle people that years ago I couldn’t even imagine wrestling just because it was taboo to wrestle guys. Like today, I was wrestling Matt Riddle and it was a dream match of mine to have. It was a great experience just to finally get to wrestle him.

He treated me like a wrestler and not as a female. Regardless of whether you hate it or not, I enjoy it and I love intergender wrestling, and other female wrestlers that are involved in it, keep doing it. Don’t let anyone stop you.

Keith Lee publicly stated he wanted to work with you. How did your match against Keith Lee all come about? What were moments within the match was Mia Yim most fond of?

Mia Yim: It was one of those things where, he was another person I always wanted to wrestle, but I just never thought that I would. When Beyond (Wrestling) contacted me and told me that Keith wanted me to be his last match, I was honored and flattered.

Of course, I was going to say yes. We were already friends, so it was easy talking over things. I was overcoming an injury, so I was still having a mental block about doing things. Whether they were high flying moves, suicide dives, things like that.

But I knew with Keith I could do whatever. I knew that because he would protect me, he will make sure to keep me safe. So, it was a mental challenge for me to get back to what I was doing before the injury, to say that I can do this now, I don’t need to be scared anymore, and he took care of me.

I hold that match dear to my heart just because it was his last before going to who knows where? (smiles and shrugs shoulders) But it was awesome, I loved that match. I had a lot of fun, he had a lot of fun. It was everything he had hoped it would be. Which was my thing, this was his last match so we will do whatever you want, just go balls to the wall.

Whatever you want, as long as you’re happy with it I am happy with it. And, I don’t know if I should say this or not, but he was supposed to win that match. He stayed down for that roll-up. I thought I had messed up, but I realized what he did. It was your last match and you did that for me? (pauses and smiles) That was flattering. That was nice.

I didn’t know he did intergender matches, and then I saw he wrestled Angela Slain and someone else. But he wrestled another female. So, I was like ‘Oh, you do wrestle females?’ I just thought that guys of that caliber like a Matt Riddle or a Keith Lee, that they didn’t wrestle females, I thought they really didn’t care for intergender because they were doing so much with the other guys.

As a female, it’s like ‘Will I ever get to that level where they will ever want to wrestle me?’ So it was an honor to know that he wanted to wrestle me just as much as I wanted to wrestle him.

A lot is made about the women’s revolution. Why do you think it took promotions so long to identify that women’s wrestling is more than capable of succeeding?

Mia Yim: Women were always looked at as a sideshow. So once women were able to have an opportunity to show what we can really do (at companies like shimmer for example) we made sure to be loud and clear that we are ATHLETES and not just pretty girls in costumes rolling around. The momentum just grew from there I think.

The strength and resilience you showed in speaking up against domestic violence is well documented. If anyone feels hopeless about their situation, what could Mia Yim say to help them change that, especially in light of the #metoo movement?

Mia Yim: I always tell everybody that safety is first, especially in a DV situation because it is so complicated. It is such a manipulation mind game and you think that you are trapped and that is exactly what they want you to feel. But there are people out there that will listen to you and they will help you whether you want their help or not.

I always try to make that a point that you are not alone. Even though it may feel like it, there is light at the end of the tunnel as long as you are able to reach out and get help. People are always going to give help to you. You just have to be safe.

With my situation, how do I put it, I was concerned for my safety, but I knew that there was an out and I could get out. Whereas some people, if they were even to try to get away, then their safety would be jeopardized. So as long as you have a plan in place where to go and you are not alone, if you speak up and if you think about it and you ask for help, there will be help.

As we approach the midway point of 2018, what does the balance of the year and beyond have in store for Mia Yim?

Mia Yim: I have done everything I always wanted to, even though I thought I never could. Being on TV with Impact, being a champion, and traveling the world. I did the Mae Young last year. My main goal right now is that I want to be a full-timer with WWE.

Coming off my injury, I already missed out on 3-4 months of the year. So, I am just saying this everywhere, I am just trying to reclaim my time. I have got to build my momentum up and make sure people know that I am not gone, and I am not going away. I am just going to keep pushing and having good matches. And showing the world that I am better than I was before.