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blog by S.J. Velasquez  • 

The last time Beth Phoenix returned home to Buffalo, she left the Queen City “in heartbreak.”

Having lost her match at the former HSBC Arena, Phoenix—born Elizabeth Kocianski—knew that the next trip home had to be different. Phoenix wants to prove to her crushed hometown fans that she’s still “championship material,” and that’s exactly what she plans to do when she enters the ring at First Niagara Center on Sunday for the WWE Night of Champions.

“I’m going rewrite history for myself,” a determined Phoenix said.

Phoenix will battle nemesis Kelly Kelly, a model-turned-wrestler who Phoenix describes as “sweet like candy—but candy rots your teeth.”

One of the WWE “Divas of Doom”—along with co-wrestler and real-life friend Natalya—Phoenix has a reputation of being a hardass, a villainess, a “heel” as they say in the wrestling scene. But as much as it may surprise wrestling fanatics who are familiar with Phoenix’s tough-girl persona, she’s actually, well, your typical friendly, gracious Buffalonian who decided to follow her dreams—childhood dreams that led her to wrestling stardom.

Phoenix grew up in Western New York, and she fell in love with pro wrestling when she won a kids’ coloring contest, according to a Sabres.com story. Just 11 years old at the time, Phoenix won tickets to see Undertaker vs. Jeff Jarrett in Binghamton, and she was hooked. She later joined the wrestling team at Notre Dame High School in Elmira, where she became the school’s first female on the varsity squad.

Phoenix stuck with wrestling even when critics told her she wasn’t the right mold, that professional wrestling wasn’t in the cards. She decided to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and communication studies at Canisius College while moonlighting in the ring. She recalls her four years at Canisius fondly, explaining that she met her best friend at freshman orientation. “You know those weird games you play at orientation? I noticed her because everyone was half-assing, and this one girl was busting it out, killing it,” Phoenix said of her to-be bestie Janet. “Who the heck is this girl doing full-out sprints at freshman orientation?”

The girls, still in their late teens at the time, bonded over a mutual competitive edge, opting to room together in Frisch Hall, and they remained roommates until graduating. Phoenix said that her college friends continue to play an important role in her life, and when she returns to Western New York, she “drops by” college friends’ homes, visits family, hits the gym and goes on a Mighty run—hey, you can take the girl out of Buffalo, but you can’t take the Buffalo out of the girl.

Buffalo, Phoenix said, helped develop her into the success story she is today. “I think the winters are what make Buffalonians the toughest people in the entire planet,” she said decidedly, recalling her little Geo Prizm that often got lodged in snow banks, rendering her wheel-less. “Because winters are so harsh, you have to be creative and band together to be entertained and to take care of each other.”

Phoenix, known also my her nickname “the Glamazon,”  has overcome her fair share of rough patches when the Buffalo can-do attitude came in handy. Having positive female role models in her life—she specifically mentioned her mother, ring partner Natalya, and wrestling icons Sensational Sherri and Fabulous Moolah—also helps. She cited the period of time after she tore her ACL as a trying experience, but an eye-opener as well.

“Sometimes it builds up in your head that you’re invincible,” she said. “I felt vulnerable.” It was a tough time for her, but she channeled her phoenix moniker and bounced back on her feet and back into the ring.

In true Phoenix fashion, she intends to rise from the ashes this weekend.

“I feel like last time I let Buffalo down,” she said. “I want to fix that and walk out a champion.”

For more information about Beth Phoenix, check out her official WWE profile or follow her on Twitter. On Twitter, she said, “you might find out things about me you didn’t know.” Phoenix is also promoting an anti-bullying campaign called Be a STAR (“STAR” being an acronym for “Show Tolerance And Respect”).

For tickets to WWE Night of Champions, visit the First Niagara Center website. Or to watch from the comfort of your own home, get on the pay-per-view option.

TAGGED: beth phoenix, first niagara center, glamazon, night of champions, wrestling, wwe

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