By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Once upon a time, Lisa Marie Varon had aspirations of becoming a doctor.
She was a biology major at UCLA and also studied medicine, and later went to work at the Inland Eye and Tissue Bank in her native California. Among her responsibilities was working with organ donation.
Funny thing about life: It doesn’t always go in the direction you intend.
Varon thought she was following the path to her goal. She didn’t realize that path would take a sharp detour.
Things she saw while working at the tissue bank wound up changing her life.
“I got addicted to working out while I was there,” she said in a recent phone interview. “I saw people who were obese and having heart attacks, and I became addicted to working out.”
It was her commitment to staying fit that led to Varon’s life taking a turn she never expected.
Today, professional wrestling fans know her better as Tara, the Knockouts Division champion for Total Nonstop Action. Her fitness and athleticism will be on display tonight when she and many other TNA Impact Wrestling stars make their return to the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
Opening bell time will be 7:30 p.m. TNA has appeared in Beckley every February since 2011.
The Beckley stop is one of three in West Virginia for TNA. The circuit was in Huntington Friday and will be in Morgantown Sunday. It’s all part of the Lockdown Tour that builds up to the Lockdown pay-per-view on Sunday, March 10. Each night will be highlighted by steel cage matches.
It’s been one successful ride for Tara, a former All-America cheerleader who once performed at the Pro Bowl. Everything started when she was — of course — training. Tara was a personal trainer when she met former World Wrestling Entertainment star Chyna, who encouraged her to become a pro wrestler.
It was a career path she had never entertained.
“Oh God, no,” she said. “I wanted to be a doctor.”
She also became friends with Torrie Wilson, a former star with World Championship Wrestling, through her career as a trainer. It probably became apparent which way her life was headed.
“I told my mom that I would give it three months,” Tara said. “Thirteen years later, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Tara took Chyna up on her suggestion. She trained with the likes of Dave “Fit” Finlay, and went through the independent circuits and developmental territories and eventually had a brief stint with WWE in 2000.
She went back to further develop her skills before returning to WWE in 2002 under the name Victoria. Victoria won two WWE Women’s Championships, and Varon’s career has skyrocketed since.
She left WWE for TNA Wrestling in 2009 under the name Tara and has won the promotion’s Knockouts title a record five times. Her current reign started Oct. 14 when she beat her former tag team partner, Miss Tessmacher, at the Bound For Glory pay-per-view.
Tara won’t be in a cage as part of Lockdown, but she will be defending her title against Velvet Sky.
Other stars billed to appear include Austin Aries, “The Charismatic Enigma” Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray, Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Hernandez.
Tickets are still available for the show. They start at $15, and fans who purchase a $75 ticket will be able to participate in an early entry autograph session with all TNA Superstars at 5:30 p.m.
Go to www.beckleyconventioncenter.com to order tickets, or call 304-252-7361.
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