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A killer dish
Whether in the ring or restaurant, wrestling diva turns heads

By Angie Fenton - The Courier-Journal, Jan 2006



      Whichever persona she assumes, que bella restaurateur or gorgeous grappler, Lisa Marie Varon aims to pack a powerful punch -- and bust a gut or two.

      In the wrestling ring, Varon's signature move is a real killer. As Victoria, a World Wrestling Entertainment diva, she delivers a back-busting, body-contorting punishment called the Widow's Peak that you have to see to believe.

      As the owner of Fat Tony's Pizzeria in Plainview, Varon's signature dish is a killer too. She serves up piping hot calzones oozing with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and an array of handpicked toppings wrapped in a flaky, chewy crust.

      "I want to be looked at as one of the best wrestlers," said Varon, 34. And she's well on her way, having captured two championship titles in the WWE since her debut in June 2000.

      Varon studied bio-med at the University of California at Los Angeles and Loma Linda University with her sights set on being a doctor. Instead, she found satisfaction working at an organ and tissue donation bank in California.

      "That was feel-good work," she recalled.

      Happy with her blossoming career, Varon took up bodybuilding and quickly walked away with ESPN's Fitness America Series championship title in 1997.

      In 2000, she met now-retired pro-wrestler Chyna in Los Angeles. The legendary lady of VH1's "The Surreal Life" fame told Varon she "had a good look. You should send it in" to the WWE. One thing led to another, and Varon soon made her on-screen debut as mere eye candy to the macho male wrestlers. But that didn't last.

      Instead, Varon proved herself at a wrestling training camp in Memphis, Tenn., before being transferred to Ohio Valley Wrestling in Louisville. The "black ear" -- akin to a black eye -- she'd recently recovered from after a blood vessel burst when she was kicked in the head during a match was nothing compared to what she went through as a rookie.

      Rough start Varon smiled but stopped her continuous buzz of movement as she recalled the teasing and the pain of her first day. "I couldn't move my neck." But somehow Varon made it back the next day, and she has no intention of leaving any time soon.

      "You have to have a passion to do this. It's not a glamorous life: You sleep in a hotel, go to the gym, eat at Denny's because that's the only thing that's open," she said.

      Yet, Varon loves what wrestling has to offer. "We're one big support family. … Plus, it's like fitness combined with having to get your butt kicked every weekend."

      Still, Varon doesn't make any bones about the fickleness of her sport. One minute you're at the top of the heap, and the next you've become a has-been who promoters eventually bury in the storyline by turning fans against you.

      So, Varon opened her Plainview eatery -- named after a great uncle -- on June 20 because she fell in love with Louisville and "wanted to do something for the future." She also wants to be known as having the best pizza place in the city. The lofty goal is in reach, said patron Chris Landers, 43.

      The Memphis resident travels to Louisville often for business and said he eats at Fat Tony's "at least four times a week. I just love it. Fast foods are more convenient, and the one thing that I have enjoyed about this (pizzeria) is the flavor, the texture and the great people."

      Just a joke

      What is also enjoyable about Fat Tony's is Varon's obvious sense of humor. Photographs of the most notorious mobsters hang on the walls, each with a message touting the pizzeria that she forged herself with a black Sharpie. For example, infamous mob boss Carlo Gambino's photo reads, "Your calzones always make me smile."

      "People get a kick out of them," Varon said, giggling, which can be a bit disarming considering her alter ego gets more of a kick out of, well, kicking butt than wiggling it like her counterparts. (The "Vicky Shake" being an obvious exception. Varon "incorporated my junk in the trunk" with that move.)

      "I'm not just T&A," Varon said. "When I'm out there, I can really kick some tail."

      But when Varon is seated across the table from you, she oozes all sugar and spice and everything nice. Seriously nice.

      "People tell me that all the time," Varon said, giggling again before dropping her chin a bit as if she were suddenly shy. "But I'm a better bad guy. It must be therapy for me."

      At 5 feet, 8 inches and 150 pounds, Varon said she is "a big girl" in comparison to the other female wrestlers, although in person she appears more sinewy than sturdy, beautiful, not brutish.

      "I can usually take the little girls," Varon said. She gives the fellas a run for their money too. On Dec. 26, she gave the crazily coifed Carlos Colón Jr. (aka Carlito in the ring) everything she had in a Beat the Clock match.

      Despite enduring a few below-the-belt tricks by her opponent, Varon wound up losing after 2 minutes, 26 seconds -- much to her fans' delight, as evidenced by their online postings on various sites.

      "The fans really get you into it," Varon said. "I listen to the fans."

      In turn, the fans adore Varon.

      Starstruck



      Seated at one of the corner tables in her pizzeria, Varon's lithe body and endearing smile caught the eyes of first-time customer Justin Rice, 29.

      The WWE fan stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed as he realized that one of his favorite wrestlers was seated just yards away. He soon learned she also lived in his city.

      "This is phenomenal," Rice said, shaking his head. Varon and the current crop of divas "have taken female wrestling and they've raised the bar."

      Varon posed for photos with Rice, who walked half-dazed to the counter to order lunch. "My friend will never believe this," he said of a fellow WWE fan.

      "Wrestling is cutthroat -- you live, breathe and sleep it. It's not a rock 'n' roll lifestyle," Varon said.

      "But the other side of it is this," she said, gesturing toward Rice. "It's nice to give back."


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