When one thinks of legends of IMPACT Wrestling’s Knockouts division, first thoughts often turn to ODB.
A four-time Knockouts Champion, and a staple of the IMPACT Wrestling roster since 2007, it is hard to think of a time when the Nashville-based production didn’t have ODB causing havoc on the show on a weekly basis.
But ODB has been conspicuous by her absence over the last year. A lot has changed since her last run with the company ended in January 2020.
Not that ODB hasn’t been busy. There’s a business still to run. Her food truck, ODB’s Meat & Greet.
“Oh my God, it was my best year ever!” She smiles. “I tripled my sales from the year before. I worked my ass off! There was a moment where three weeks went by and I realised I hadn’t given myself a day off. But I kept going because we didn’t know when that was going to end.
“I’m usually in Minnesota but now I’m in Florida for the winter, and I’ve just been getting my food truck around. I went to the north, to the south, and I’ll make my way back to Minnesota when the snow melts.”
ODB is talking exclusively with Cultaholic on her ‘day off’, although it is a day off that still includes extensive, important work to ensure her food enterprise continues running.
“I’ve been working on my food truck schedule. I’ve got to go and rub some pork butts in a bit…”
It’s a different way of life to the one that made ODB a household name across the world over the last 15 years, but wrestling - specifically, IMPACT Wrestling - keeps pulling her back into the game.
Three weeks ago, ODB stepped back into the ring for the first time in over a year, saving Jazz and Jordynne Grace from a three-on-two attack by Deonna Purrazzo, Susan and Kimber Lee. A return match with Kimber Lee followed on IMPACT, before a six-person tag-team match at No Surrender last Saturday.
In a division stacked with talent, getting the call to come back to IMPACT Wrestling was an honour for ODB. Being kept in mind shows just how important she has been to that division - that company - during its history.
This third run with the company is only part-time. ODB is adamant on that. But there is no denying that the wrestling bug has bitten her again.
“It does feel good,” she considers. “I’ve never knocked on anyone’s door and that was the best thing for me, that I’ve never begged for a job anywhere. TNA and IMPACT have always been my home and my family, and every time they call I answer the phone! They just want to keep having me back! And, honestly, I don’t mind,
“Honestly, I wouldn’t mind being a full-timer right now. When I got back in the ring, it felt pretty good. My body feels good. I’ve actually been working out even harder, even before I got the phone-call, so I was actually ready. I normally don’t like watching myself on TV but I watched back and I was like ‘Damn! Okay yeah I still got it!’.”
A major difference compared to the last time ODB stepped into the ring is the lack of fans in the building. Any major return is usually met with a pop from the live audience. The surprise of seeing ODB back in IMPACT Wrestling once again would have certainly garnered a worthy reaction.
The difference that live crowd makes was explained by ODB, who knew the importance of putting on a performance for the audience watching on television.
“It really was a little different. Normally I’m hearing the fans and they’re chanting ‘ODB’, but this time I’m like ‘Is anyone out here?’
“When you’re in the match, and you’re getting out of breath and you don’t have that crowd behind you, it’s way different. So you really have to focus on your breathing in the matches.
“Some of the guys said before: ‘it is a little different out there, you’ll experience it’. But back in our indie days, I was used to wrestling in front of five or ten people, so I was feeling it, even with no crowd.
“It was a little different but it still felt good. I know there are millions of people watching at home so, even though there was an empty arena, it still felt good and I still felt it.”
Of the five women ODB has shared the ring with in the last couple of weeks, two stick out. Current Knockouts Champion Deonna Purrazzo has caught her eye. As has teammate Jordynne Grace.
IMPACT fans will get to see ODB and Purrazzo lock up in the near future, according to the woman herself.
“I got to get in the ring with her [Deonna], so you’ll see that match coming up soon,” ODB revealed. “Our chemistry was just awesome. We’ve never worked with each other and we’re so different, but she brought stuff out of me that you probably haven’t seen in a while. She’s kind of like my Gail Kim from back in the day.
“Jordayne Grace has a lot of potential, and every time I see her she gets even better and more intense. She’s kind of like a mini-Rhyno.”
ODB’s lasting affection for the wrestling industry, for IMPACT Wrestling, is evident from the start of the interview. But that passion is taken to a whole new level when the conversation turns to the dynamic between experienced, veteran wrestlers, and the new kids on the block.
Fans of the business have heard the stories of wisdom shared on the road, in long car journeys between towns, in hotel bars between shows. In her role as one of IMPACT Wrestling’s longstanding stars, ODB expects her ear to be chewed off by younger talent seeking advice, asking questions, looking for stories.
To her concern, there’s been a shift away from that culture.
“That’s the one thing that’s missing,” she exclaims. “I notice that actually a lot, in any promotion. That’s the one thing, because when I was a younger person I was hanging out with Hulk Hogan. I was hanging out with the Steiners, The Nasty Boys, Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, and I was having drinks with them and listening to them and having fun.
“That is missing today. All these young people have so much knowledge in front of them and they’re not using it, and it pays off. If it wasn’t for a lot of those guys then I wouldn’t be in the position where I’m at right now. And that’s what these younger guys need to realise. Go and have a beer with someone after the show. Don’t just go to your room. Even with the sh*tshow we’ve got going on in the world right now, you can still hang out.
“When I was there the last couple of weeks, there was a group of us that hung out in the hotel lobby, and whoever wanted to hang out could come hang out and have some beers and chit-chat and just catch up in life.
“You need that in wrestling, especially when you’re on the road and away from your family. It’s good to have. A lot of my best friends are in the wrestling business. We’ll sit there and people will come in, and I’ll be like: ‘hey guys, want to come over?’
“I do get it, if you’re the newbie and you’re not experienced, but I think people need to get out of their comfort zone.”
Away from the hotel lobbies and back in the current home of IMPACT Wrestling, Skyway Studios, ODB sees a bright future for the promotion.
The ‘forbidden door’ has well and truly been kicked in, wrestlers are crossing promotions like never before and, in her own words, wrestling is fun again.
“Honestly, right now, they’re in a great spot! A lot of the office guys and backstage people are great. You’ve got D-Lo there, and Scott D’Amore. It’s good to see a lot of the boys from the past are coming back, because that means a lot and that shows that the company is good.
“This is the best time to be tuning into IMPACT, because you never know who is turning up! It’s so cool to see Matt [Cardona] and Brian [Myers] come back, and The Good Brothers, and AEW as well. It’s just cool to see all that. It makes wrestling fun again.”
And could the famous food truck even make an appearance?
“That’s interesting. Well, Nashville, Tennessee is on my way home so…”
With thanks to IMPACT UK & Ireland for facilitating the interview. Fans in the UK & Ireland can watch IMPACT! every Wednesday on IMPACT Plus for free, with the show repeated on 5Star on Friday evenings. Catch all IMPACT PPVs via IMPACT Plus and Fite TV worldwide.