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Lita's More Than Lovely - female wrestler

By Thomas Chamberlin - Wrestling Digest, April, 2001

      Amy Dumas quickly moonsaults herself all the way to fan-favorite status in the WWF

      DORY FUNK JR. WASN'T FULLY awake when he heard something stirring at the foot of his bed. Though the head of the Funking Conservatory is used to early mornings, 4:30 this particular morning seemed to come really early, and he didn't exactly want to be bothered.

      "I looked over, and my wife, Marti, was up getting ready," Funk recalls. "I asked what she was doing and why she was doing it so early. She told me Amy had a 5 a.m. photo shoot she needed to get ready for. That's all I needed to know."

      The early-morning photo session was between Marti Funk and Amy Dumas, a new student at the Ocala, Fla., wrestling academy. After the short conversation with his wife, Funk wondered why the two were getting together so early. When the 24 campers showed up for training at 8:30 that morning, Funk got his answer.

      "Amy told me that was the only time she could do it and still get her training in," Funk says. "I knew she was a good athlete when we got her. It was that kind of dedication that made me know we had a star."

      Dedication pays off

      That morning was in August 1999. Since then, Dumas has gone from ECW's "Miss Congeniality" to the WWF's "Lita." Along the way, she created the image of a new kind of female wrestling performer. It's one who, though sexy, doesn't have to rely on physical beauty to get a crowd reaction. Along with the Hardy Boyz, Dumas gets WWF audiences going with a wide array of acrobatics and an in-ring ability that few recent female performers have demonstrated.

      "Sometimes we'll be sitting around thinking about new things to do," says Matt Hardy, who, along with his brother, Jeff, travels to shows with Dumas and has been training with her for several years. "And she'll be sitting there going, `Yeah, I might try that. I can do that.' We used to look at her kind of strange, but we don't do that anymore. If she says she can do something in the ring, she'll either do it or work at it until she gets it done."

      One of the most visually appealing moves Lita has perfected on WWF television is the moonsault--a back flip off the top rope that is completed when the airborne performer lands on an opponent.

      As the WWF continues to move away from beauty for beauty's sake in its women's division by stressing work in the ting, Dumas figures to be the center piece. Al just more than 5'6", she isn't the overpowering and intimidating presence Chyna is. Putting Dumas in the -ting to conduct a believable match with another woman is much easier than having Chyna, also a reputable in-ring worker, wrestle someone 10 inches shorter and 60 pounds lighter.

      Dumas' recent feud with Jacqueline for the WWF women's title has focused attention on the entire women's division. Women's matches are now regular features on "Raw" and "SmackDown!" The newfound interest allows the WWF to bring back several female performers whose primary occupational attribute is workrate.

      Underused in ECW

      Because Dumas spent only a few months of 1999 performing in FCW, and since she was used mostly as a valet, many ECW fans didn't realize she had the potential to be a high-flying performer.

      A swimmer and gymnast in high school, Dumas, now 25, trained in North Carolina with the Hardy brothers in her late teens and early 20s. When Paul Heyman signed her to an ECW deal in early 1999, he paired her with Danny Doting. Heyman made it clear, however, that he wanted her to perform only as a valet. Though she got involved in some matches with female ECW performer Jazz, the extent of her involvement didn't satisfy Dumas or those who knew what she was capable of in the ring.

      A chance meeting with the Funks helped bring that ability to the surface. The Funks were at an ECW show in early 1999 to watch Rob Van Dam, who is a close friend, when Van Dam introduced the couple to Dumas. A conversation began, and after several minutes Funk saw something he liked. He offered Dumas an invitation to his training camp, and she quickly accepted.

      "She had just gone to work for [ECW]," Funk says. "I could tell she had a super personality. She just talked to us about the business, and the conversation finally got around to us. I told her what we did, what kind of people we knew and asked her if she wanted to come [to the camp in Florida]."

      At the camp, which had 23 men and Dumas, Funk says he treated her no differently than any of the other men--at her request. During the weeklong camp in August 1999, Dumas honed her gymnastics skills and polished her interview skills. Funk, who has trained the WWF's Val Venis, Edge, Christian and Kurt Angle, among others, says Dumas also gained something else that turned out to be much more valuable.

      "All the guys knew she had athletic ability," Funk says. "But by working as hard as they did and doing everything they did, she gained their respect. Having respect with the boys is so important, and Amy gained that pretty quickly with these boys."

      Successful graduate

      Armed with what they knew was a star, the Funks wanted to see Dumas get her shot at performing on a large stage as a wrestler, not just a valet. The couple began compiling videos and photos, many from the early morning shoot. Funk sent them one place: WWF Talent Relations.

      "We had done something like this before with the WWF, so we knew where to go," Funk says. "We knew she was special, and we thought [the WWF] would think so as well."

      The WWF did. As a result of the package, the WWF offered Dumas a contract without even watching her in a tryout match.

      Dumas accepted, and in early 2000 she was on her way to becoming a featured attraction. Even though she accompanies the Hardys to the ring, Dumas--known as Lita--has become a fan favorite on her own. She has the right combination of ability, sex appeal, and charisma. And the tattoo on her shoulder--which she got in Paris and means nothing more, Dumas maintains, than a reminder of a romantic, spontaneous moment--adds that hint of intrigue.

      "Amy has the kind of personality that is magnetic," Funk says. "She is a very straight, often blunt, person. We've had her back several times to talk to our kids. We're happy for her success."

      Even if it did cause for one, very early morning.

      The Line on Lita

      Since the summer of 1999, Amy Dumas has gradually become a high-profile performer in professional wrestling. This timeline highlights her progress from ECW to the WWF.

      July 18, 1999: Amy Dumas, known then as Angelica, gained her first high-profile exposure at ECW's Heat Wave pay-per-view. Danny Doring, with tag-team partner Roadkill looking on, "proposed" to her in the ring.

      August 1999: She graduated from The Funking Conservatory, and as Miss Congeniality, she continued to perform as Doring's valet in ECW.

      September 19, 1999: in her second and final ECW pay-per-view appearance, she briefly faced Jazz at Anarchy Rulz.

      April 30, 2000: After debuting on WWF television in the spring of 2000 as a valet for Essa Rios, Lita made her WWF pay-per-view debut as Eddy Guerrero beat Rios,

      June 25, 2000: In a WWF tag-team title match involving Edge and Christian, T&A, Too Coot, and the Hardy Boyz at King of the Ring, Lita involved herself by countering Trish Stratus' interference and performing a huracanrana on Test.

      July 23, 2000: In a mixed tag-team match featuring the Hardy Boyz and Lita versus T&A and Trish Stratus at Fully Loaded, Lira performed a moonsault on Stratus that led to her team's victory.

      August 21, 2000: On "Raw," Lita beat Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley for the WWF women's title.

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