We talk to Rebecca Quinn who's about to go global on the wrestling scene
At 5ft 6in and weighing a slender 140lbs, Rebecca Quin doesn't quite fit the stereotype of a wrestling star who gets herself involved in grappling-type techniques such as clinch fighting, throws, takedowns, joint locks and pins.
The Dublin woman has recently signed a three-year contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), previously known as WWF. This involved a move two weeks ago to Orlando, Florida, for the 26-year-old to pursue her dream.
The Baldoyle native first became interested in the sport when she would sit with her brother for hours enthralled, watching
battles in the ring on their television screen late into the night. It was only when a wrestling club opened in north county Wicklow that she began the process of training, and became a professional wrestler in 2002 at the age of only 15.
"As a young teenager, I was ridiculously unfit. I even failed PE. I didn't know that was possible," she says.
"I have been watching WWE for as long as I can remember, so I was always interested in it, but it was never something I thought I could take up, mostly because there were no training schools in Ireland at the time. But when I found out that there was a wrestling school opening up in Bray, I was down there from the first day. Automatically, I was hooked."
It was a slow start for Rebecca, but she was determined to get better and practised the combat sport at every opportunity.
"I was absolutely appalling when I began and I'm pretty sure I had my trainers' hearts broken with how bad I was," she says.
Within a few months, a passion had developed and Rebecca went to a wrestling camp in England.
"It was seven days straight of wrestling for about nine hours a day. I loved the intensity and being able to wrestle all day every day for a week. I couldn't imagine a better way to spend my summer holidays," she says.
Wrestling every minute outside of secondary school hours meant sparring with partners, all in preparation for the big day when she would need to maintain that all-important superior position in the ring.
"I would train every Sunday in Bray and then any holiday from school I would go over to England with my brother for either a wrestling camp or a tour," says Rebecca.
"When I finished my Leaving Cert, originally I went to UCD to study history, philosophy and politics, but decided it wasn't for me after a few months so I dropped out and moved off to Canada without really knowing anyone, because I thought it would have a better wrestling scene. That's when it all took off for me, really.
"Wrestling never seemed like a viable career option. It seemed almost like a pipe dream to want to do it full-time. And the WWE certainly seemed like it was on another planet.
"After a match I had in Kildare, where I teamed up with my brother when I was 17 years of age, I realised that there was nothing else I wanted to do more than this. I thought I'd do anything I could to make it a reality, and if I failed, I failed, but there was no way I wasn't going to try."
WWE discovered Rebecca after she was lucky enough to be chosen from a three-day try-out in Birmingham where she was tested with intense wrestling and fitness drills and consequently secured a three-year development deal based in Florida.
"It's only the start now, and I can only imagine it will involve a lot of hard work and an enduring training schedule. I absolutely cannot wait for my matches to begin," she says.
Now set to tackle some of the biggest names in world wrestling having signed her contract with WWE, there are no signs of nerves for the champion fighter who previously fought under the name of Rebecca Knox when she was on the independent circuit and is currently cultivating a new pseudonym.
"I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. It is literally a dream come true. I've written journals all my life, and reading back on them and seeing how much I've wanted this for so many years, it is just unbelievable to think I'm getting a chance," she says.
"I feel determined to give it my all and work as hard as I possibly can. I want to make the absolute most of this opportunity."
Rebecca has won many titles in Ireland and worldwide to date, including the Queen of Chaos title in France, the Elite Canadian Championship Wrestling Women's title in Canada and the IWGP (International Women's Grand Prix) title in Japan.
All of this success has come as a result of a very strict and diligent training regime.
"I train six days a week. Sometimes I'll train a few times a day, doing cardio in one session and weights, conditioning or wrestling/martial arts in another session," she says.
"I vary my training constantly, and will try out any sport or activity that I can. I train at Raw Condition gym in Portobello. It's the best gym for me to train the way I do.
"I like to keep my training as functional and as dynamic as possible, and they have a huge range of equipment to facilitate that, like monkey bars, prowlers, tyres and climbing ropes among other things. So you kind of feel like a giant kid in a playground sometimes; it's just fun.
"Also, there's a great supportive atmosphere and there will always be someone to train with or spot you or push you that little bit further."
Rebecca has done a lot of experimenting with her diet to keep herself in shape as poor nutrition will only hamper her performance on the mat, something she does not want to happen. What works best for her is to eat relatively low carbohydrate food, taking lots of vegetables, eggs, meat, a small amount of fruit and half-a-cup of oats every day.
"I stay away from processed foods as much as possible, but I'm constantly making healthy alternatives to everything. I love baking and cooking, so I'm always experimenting with different recipes to keep it interesting," says Rebecca.
"I eat every few hours and I can eat a lot. That's why I stick to as many vegetables as possible."
Close friends with Irish professional wrestler and three-times world champion Stephen Farrelly – who fights under the stage name Sheamus O'Shaunessy and styles himself as a Celtic warrior in the same ilk as Cúchulainn, with his distinctive head of red hair – Rebecca has been following his career with interest.
"I know Stephen from when we were both working on the independent circuit in Ireland," she says. "He was always extremely hard-working, respectful and dedicated. He worked so hard to get where he is today and it's a complete inspiration to watch him. He deserves every bit of success."
Many will consider wrestling a dangerous sport, but Rebecca counts herself lucky not to have suffered many injuries to date.
"Like every sport, there are always risks, especially at a high level. Ireland has some of the fastest field sports around, like Gaelic and hurling, but we're a hardy breed," she says.
"Proper training in wrestling is absolutely essential. You know you're putting your body on the line every time you compete, but the organisations have the best safeguards in place and you're in good hands."
We're sure to hear a lot more about this wrestling star on her way to the top.