SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Sept. 24, 2002 – Just by looking at her, you would have no idea that Lita had major spinal surgery in May. The former Women’s Champion is no longer wearing a neck brace, and she seems to move her head around normally and naturally. But unfortunately, we’ll still have to wait about eight months before she can return to the ring. In her time off, she has been volunteering at animal shelters near her hometown in North Carolina. In fact, recently, she donated her time to sign autographs to help raise money for the San-Lee Humane Society, a no-kill shelter which was forced to shut down due to lack of funding.
This week, she’s been traveling with the SmackDown! crew. At the SmackDown! taping Tuesday, WWE.com caught up with Lita before doors opened. As she leaned against the ring guardrail, she discussed a variety of topics, including her condition, Matt Hardy’s birthday and character, the women’s division and more.
WWE.com: What brings you out to California?
Lita: I cashed in some frequent flier miles to hang out with Matt this weekend for his birthday, and because we’re in California and there was only one flight – in and out. We could drive the rest of the way, otherwise I’d have to use all my frequent flier miles for one trip.
WWE.com: What did you do for his birthday?
Lita: Obviously, being on the road for your birthday, you can’t get all that creative in celebrating. But we were able to have a late lunch before the show and it was just going to be a regular late lunch. But then the people at the table behind us had an anniversary and the waiters sang the “Happy Anniversary” song and gave them cake. Shannon Moore was with us, and we were all talking about how embarrassing that was. So then I went to our waiter and Matt got the “Happy Birthday” song. We’ve done it to other people as a joke –it when it really wasn’t anyone’s birthday. But that’s the first time I’ve actually gotten anybody. Matt said he saw them lighting the candle around the corner, and he knew he’d been gotten.
WWE.com: How are you doing physically?
Lita: I went to the doctor last Tuesday. He told me everything is going well. I was hoping I could do more stuff, but he still has me under the same restrictions, up until six months, saying that the fusion itself is a little soft under after six months. It was three separate bones – my sixth vertebra, my hip bone and then my seventh vertebra – and the plate over it with the screws in there. They’ll all fuse into one bone. For it to be a hard, solid bone, it takes six months. He said if I look straight up too quickly, potentially the screws can strip themselves right out of your neck. I think they might tell you those things just to scare you. (Laughs)
WWE.com: Yeah, because you look so natural. You’re moving your head around so naturally.
Lita: Yeah. But he still just told me not to move my head more than I need to – not to try to stretch it or anything like that.
WWE.com: Fans seem to have really taken to Matt Hardy’s new character on SmackDown! What do you think about it?
Lita: I think it’s so fun to watch. The fans are quick to attach to him because they have something new to attach to, but yet they already feel comfortable because they know him. I think he has an advantage. Some people may say a brand new person has an advantage because they have a clean slate. But I think people know who is he, and for him to add a new twist to his character, it makes a clean slate, but yet a familiar face at the same time. I think it’s definitely a positive thing for him.
WWE.com: This is Rey Mysterio’s hometown. Aren’t you a fan of Rey’s?
Lita: Yeah. I just met his little daughter.
WWE.com: I know you were excited when he debuted in WWE. How do you think he’s doing?
Lita: I don’t think he could be doing any better. He’s definitely one of the standout babyfaces on SmackDown!
WWE.com: Which show is better, RAW or SmackDown!?
Lita: I think SmackDown! is definitely better – definitely better, by far. And I don’t think it’s the talent on the show. It’s hard to say what it is, it’s just my opinion. I just think SmackDown! is better.
WWE.com: There’s been some talk recently about the women’s division after Eric Bischoff said “nobody cares about women’s wrestling” on a recent RAW. What do you think about women’s wrestling in WWE?
Lita: I do think women’s wrestling is lacking in the people caring about it right now. It’s definitely not the quality of the actual wrestling because that’s gotten 10-fold better. I feel that one of those reasons is that the last storyline I remember is Jazz and Trish. That stuff was really good. That showed a lot of promise, and then Jazz got taken out of the equation and I got taken out of the equation. And I think the women work best integrated with the men. I’m not saying mixed tags constantly. But really involved with the men because the men’s characters are so much more developed than the women’s. If a male character integrated with each – and I’m not saying character always has to be jealous of the other person’s boyfriend either – you have more variables to have misunderstands or to expand the storyline. In my opinion, that’s the best formula that’s tried and true that the fans care about.
WWE.com: Molly Holly said on a recent Byte This! That she thinks WWE needs more female competitors. Do you agree?
Lita: No. Not that they don’t need more, but they don’t use the ones they have efficiently. I feel the same way about the guys. It’s not that they need to find more people to wrestle, it’s that they need to efficiently use the talent that they have. And I don’t feel as though they are being utilized.
WWE.com: How did the autograph session go the other day?
Lita: The turnout was really, really good for the event, especially the first half of the line – a lot of people did end up seeing it advertised on the Web site because they were from really, really far away. One girl took a 17-hour bus ride from Albany. There were people from Virginia, Baltimore, South Carolina. Anyway, it went really well. But right as I got there, and right as the animals got there, it started pouring down rain. Pouring, pouring, pouring down rain. It was from 11 to 1, and I signed until 2:30. So a full three-and-a-half hours worth of people showed up, and we raised over $5,000. But I hated that the people were drenched – soaking, soaking wet – coming through the line, and that I feel as though we could have raised even more. As many troopers as there were out there, I’m sure more people would have stayed had it been a nice day. And of course it stopped raining as soon as we were done.
WWE.com: So maybe you’ll do another one?
Lita: Yeah. Maybe even something more, like a festival, more geared toward animals, where I happen to be doing an autograph session, as opposed to an autograph session where they happen to be trying to feed some information to people on animals.
WWE.com: Did any animals get adopted there? Lita: Five animals got adopted, yeah. Which is much more that would have gotten adopted on a regular Saturday afternoon. So that was really good.
WWE.com: So is the animal shelter going to be able to reopen?
Lita: There are still so many more steps that they’re going to have to take to officially reopen, but it was definitely a great first step. They’re still a long way off and still in need of a lot more donations, but it was a great first step in getting the awareness out there that that’s what we’re trying to do. The support of the community was really, really good too, which was nice. Like people I would see in the gym came out there and spent their $15, even though they could have just gotten my autograph in the gym. Stuff like that was nice.