James Dixon: Having debuted in the WWF as the valet of aerial sensation Essa Rios, Amy ‘Lita’ Dumas quickly gained a cult following due to her unique grungy look and high-octane involvement in her charge’s matches. It didn’t hurt that she was pretty hot either. Outgrowing Rios, Lita was teamed up with the Hardy Boyz to form Team Xtreme, and she was a perfect fit, with her look and style proving to be the missing piece of the puzzle for Matt and Jeff. Lita was a trailblazer in the women’s division, and while she was pretty appalling in the ring at times, her popularity, especially amongst teenage girls, was never in question. Well, that is until she became a filthy two-timing ho-bag and copped off with one of her boyfriend’s (Matt Hardy) best friends (Edge). But that was all later, and when this tape was released, Lita was still over as the cool alternative chick that the girls wanted to be and the guys wanted to bang.
Stephanie McMahon, looking all gangsta in her leather hat, opens the tape by calling Lita “sexy”. We get further talking head intros from JR, an uninterested Jeff Hardy, Trish and Matt Hardy. Matt refers to her as a pioneer, which she probably is. Essa Rios turns up to offer a few words! “She is something marvellous” he says in subtitled Spanish. Well, yeah, she got you over! Lita talks about her style and says she has added her own elements to standard wrestling formula. By elements does she mean the ability to make all of her moves look like she is falling uncontrollably from a height, only to recover at the last moment and bust out a flip? She is the only worker in the world whose style I would describe as “baggy”. She is to wrestling moves what super loose fitting clothes are to fashion. Almost on cue, we get lots and lots of footage of her rana and moonsault, done on various people. They are her only two moves…
Next, Lita talks about the trials of the road: “we are a strange breed” she admits. Lita then claims to be living the dream and says she can’t think of anything else she would rather be doing… expect being in a band, I guess
Back we go to her childhood, which is a feature of these tapes that I find incredibly dull. At least it is brief before we move on to her athletic background, which WWF loves of course, and it’s revealed that she trained in muay thai kickboxing and judo. If she had come along a decade or so later, she might have ended up doing MMA and throwing down with the likes of Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate in the UFC, rather than as a sports entertainer. But as it is, she says she got hooked on wrestling after watching, get this, SUPER ASTROS (the WWF’s attempt to crack the Hispanic market by featuring Mexican wrestling stars in self-contained within the program storylines), which only actually first started airing in 1998, two years before her company debut. Her excessively subtitled book Lita: A Less Travelled R.O.A.D – The Reality of Amy Dumas actually contradicts that somewhat, with her claiming to have been a fan of Rey Misterio Jr. and deciding to train after seeing him work. Either way, Lita had her mind set on becoming a wrestler so in a bold move she upped and left for Mexico to seek training. She talks about how she fell in love with the culture in the country and embraced it, and that she loves new experiences. Whether that includes her time spent as a club dancer to pay for her bills, is not mentioned…
We go to her kitchen at home and see her vast mask collection, with her pointing out the likes of La Parka, Rey Misterio Jr, Psicosis and Aguila -mentioning that he became Essa Rios, which I am pretty sure the WWF didn’t mention when the character debuted- as well as outing Val Venis as having worked under a hood across the border in a pre-porn star life (as Steele). I didn’t realise she was such a super geek, but I kind of like her for more knowing that she is. It is interesting that all of her influences and heroes were guys that had at this point made their name in America with WCW, and the WWF having recently bought out the company are only just willing to show brief snippets of footage from the group.
After a spell in Mexico working for EMLL, next up for Dumas was a return to America. She tells the tale that she turned up at an ECW show and got talking to Tommy Dreamer, asking him for a chance to work out with some of the guys and just generally hang around. She ended up talking to Tajiri and Super Crazy, who she knew from Mexico, and worked out in the ring with Tajiri a bit, which got her on the evening’s card. She had a run as Miss Congeniality, but it was hardly a memorable one, truth be told. It wasn’t the ECW run that got her in the WWF but rather her training at Dory Funk Jr’s Funkin’ Conservatory, with the immortal Hoss having got her a spot in the company after going to bat for her. For whatever reason, the WWF decides to ignore this and skips right over it. Talk about gratitude. Lita says that for her meeting with the WWF, she wore a suit for the first time in her life. Despite going against her roots and natural instincts, she was still hired because JR saw her potential (and had obviously seen Dory’s tapes) and liked her positivity.
The Lita character was introduced alongside the former Mr. Aguila and Papi Chulo, the artist now known as Essa Rios. The two fiery characters were a perfect fit for one another, and as the accompanying footage shows; they were an explosive and exciting doubles act. We see Lita’s company debut alongside Essa on Heat where Rios defeated Gillberg to win the presumed abandoned WWF Light Heavyweight Title, a belt that Rios competed for but never won while under the hood as Aguila years previous. An amusing piece of commentary crops up here, with Kevin Kelly saying of Gillberg: “He is yesterday’s news, he is so 90s”. Lita was a breath of fresh air to a stagnant women’s talent pool, and at times she really WAS great in her first few months. Watching the duo at the time, you could feel the swell of support for them, and for Lita in particular, as they started to get over more and more. They were explosive and used their precious TV minutes well. Lita’s gimmick was mimicking Essa’s moves, and it worked a treat, but the WWF couldn’t help themselves and split them up after just a few months. They had bigger plans for Lita.
Enter: The Hardy Boyz. The split takes place after Essa first annoys Lita by having sexy time with the Godfather’s hos, so she shoves him off the ropes during a subsequent match and causes him to lose. Then in a bout against Matt Hardy, Essa uses Lita as a human shield, and she gets bumped during the contest. Post match after he loses, a frustrated Rios powerbombs Lita, and mid-move her peachy little bottom gets exposed to the world. Before selling the considerable viciousness of the move, Lita first stops off to pull her trousers back up, rather lessening the impact somewhat. I guess this was a lesson to her about the perils of not wearing underwear, because in later years she became famous for having her thongs pulled high above her trouser line. Rios follows up the powerbomb with a beautiful moonsault, and that brings out the Hardys to save Lita. And thus, a union was formed. It was a shame for Essa, who I really enjoyed, but he is reflective about it, and says how happy he is for her subsequent success.
It turns out that Lita knew the Hardys before their WWF grouping, having trained in their OMEGA promotion and became good friends with them. We see home shot video of the Hardys, Lita, Shannon Moore and Shane Helms having a good time, as Jeff says they taught her “how to jump off buildings”, which would be about right. Matt then kayfabes their storyline relationship and plays it off like it was real, describing their first onscreen kiss in far too much detail. Urgh, he is like a friggin lovesick Disney puppy. “I think of them as big brothers” says Lita. SICK.
We break from the storyline for Lita to tell an amusing story about her entrance, which she says was unplanned and she just went with the flow, because when she was told from behind the curtain: “Go! NOW!” she didn’t have much time to think about it. She adds that she enjoys the walk to the ring and reading the signs that the crowd bring, because it is like instant feedback.
To WrestleMania X-7, the greatest WrestleMania ever. Lita talks us through the full week’s worth of festivities that occur before the event itself and we get exclusive footage of the building the night before the show when it was empty, which is pretty cool. Lita counts the experience of being on the card as the greatest of her career, but hindsight rather ruins it thanks to this unintentional humdinger on commentary from JR: “By God, Lita’s here, jerking Edge off!”. Given what occurs between them in a few years time, that is a belter.
The problem with Matt’s earlier kayfabing is that when Lita then marks out over being beaten up by Steve Austin on RAW in a vicious chair assault, it just makes her seem like a sadomasochistic mental case. She says how thrilled she was to have been trusted enough to be involved in the main event, and with someone like Austin. It didn’t do a great deal for the Hardys mind you…
Back in time eight months to the feud with Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley over the WWF Women’s Title, which Steph-Diddy calls “a challenge”, because Lita’s high flying moves are apparently hard to take. They are not really, you just lie there for the moonsault and all you have to do on the rana is stand solid and catch it, then go with the flow. If you can’t wrestle, Steph, then why were you the Women’s Champion in the first place, you silly cow?! “She paraded around like she was the Women’s Champion” says Lita. Erm… she was the Women’s Champion.
Extended highlights air (without music, thankfully) of the main event title match from RAW on August 21, 2000, with Steph accompanied to the ring by Kurt Angle and Triple H, which worries the challenger. Fortunately WWF Champion the Rock is the guest referee, giving her some protection. To her credit, Steph does at least give it the good old college try, and she had clearly worked hard to be up to a semi reasonable standard, but parading around as Women’s Champion rankled with me. I guess it is sports entertainment and she is no worse than most of the Divas anyway, it’s just the sheer unabashed nepotism that pisses me off. Triple H helps out Steph by tripping Lita, so the Hardys come out and belt him one. Steph hits a pretty decent looking DDT, but only gets two off it, and Rock has to keep her in line when she gets all pissy about the count. The finish to the match is spectacular, with Rock preventing Angle from interfering with the title belt, and then beating the piss out of him for trying. Triple H “nearly decapitates” (JR) Rock with a punch, then almost makes a bollocks of the planned spot that follows, where Angle accidentally clobbers him with the title belt. Rock needed to be standing so that Angle could charge him from behind, but Hunter went for the Pedigree by kicking Rock in the gut, which would have make Angle look like a complete fool flying in from behind and swinging at a bent over Rock, only to then shift and go high to hit Trips. Fortunately, Rock realises this and stands up and then ducks instantly, in a piece of perfect timing that shows what a true ring master he was. “Oh shit” says Kurt as he decks Hunter, before eating a Rock Bottom from the champ. Steph motions to nail Rock with the belt, but Rock catches her with a spinebuster and tells Lita to go up top as the crowd explodes. She hits her moonsault and covers for the win and the title, as the place goes crazy. It’s women’s wrestling in the Attitude Era at its absolute best and most dramatic, even if it did involved SMH.
We skip Lita losing the belt to Ivory in a four-way match on SmackDown! and go to the rematch at Survivor Series 2000. Of note is that Lita gets busted open in the match when an errant boot catches her in the face during an innocuous spot. In a shoot interview with Kayfabe Commentaries, Ivory later referred to Lita as “like wrestling Gumby” (the claymation character), because you never knew if she was going to just suddenly fall out of the ring, land awkwardly off something innocuous or cut herself open hardway from seemingly nothing, as she did here. The match doest even come close to the Steph battle on RAW, and barely scrapes onto the snowflake scale. After highlights of the match set to techno dance shite, which Lita lost, she calls her mom to tell her she is okay. Cute. That segues into Lita’s relationship with her mom, who she claims to be closer to now she never sees her, and basically calls her a mark. We meet Lita’s dog, and also see a little more of her house. She has no furniture at all! Not even a couch! Maybe she had just moved in. What happens to the dog when she is on the road?
The feud with Trish comes next, even though the matches featured took place months before the prior footage (and there it is, my old Coliseum Video continuity migraine has returned), set to more repetitive techno music and some sound bites from Michael Cole. It’s the perfect marriage of horrid and horrible. Trish puts Lita over big, then we see more from RAW is Techno as Lita teams with Rock to take on Trish and Triple H, all of this prior to the Steph match. Before her association with Edge, Lita was previously rubbing shoulders with the top of the card because of how over she was. I can’t concentrate for the mind altering music, but I do catch JR putting over H’s decapitating clothesline again…
Chyna next, who comes out for her match with Lita at Judgment Day 2001 (almost a year after the previous bout) looking like a cross between a peacock and a Vegas drag queen. “Is there any way I can get out of this?” said Lita of the bout. Chyna smashed through her, just like she did all the other women on the roster, then they have a hug and a smile immediately afterwards. Wins and losses don’t matter; this is the WWF!
Next, Lita gets sexy in a program with Dean Malenko. I didn’t like this at all. Malenko was just too good a technician to be reduced to stupid angles. I have to muster all my resolve to refrain from making any wildly inappropriate and tasteless comments when Chris Benoit interjects himself into the feud and puts a Crossface on Lita…
“It’s hard to piss me off” says Lita, who professes to be mellow. We go to a Diva shoot on a beach, which is apparently not typically clichéd according to our gal, because she had never done it before. Yeah, it might not be clichéd for you, but the whole practice sure is. But hey, they released those cut and paste identikit Diva tapes year after year, so obviously people were buying them. Dirty people, who you would never borrow a tube sock from…
Talk moves on to her tattoo which she says was unplanned (no kidding) and that it represents her spontaneity from when she was in Amsterdam. Her stupidity more like; it’s horrid. Apparently her thong look came about when she bought one and showed it to EDGE, saying of her pants that she “pulled them down for him… but not in that way!” in order to show him how it looked. Wow, this shit writes itself.
Then, yet another photo shoot, because nothing screams excitement like watching someone take pictures. We get lots and lots of talk from Lita about her fans, and I tell you what she has some very odd people who like her, some of whom are probably stalkers for sure. She gets all manner of crap sent to her from people with too much time on their hands, from poems to letters to oil paintings and pictures, even scrapbooks of her STORYLINES. My God, I would love to meet some of these people to hear their take on some of the WWF’s glaring inconsistencies over the years. I can only assume that any WCW fans who attempted something similar gave up and threw themselves in front of a train out of sheer frustration and desperation.
“Lita, like Chyna, has done a lot of stuff with some of the guys”. Thanks Steph, that will round us off nicely…
Summary: I came into this with preconceptions and expected it to be a wholly uninteresting and insufferable experience. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Lita came across exactly as she was portrayed at the time; as a cool girl you would want to hang out with, but who you would also want to do lewd things with given the chance. As well as opportunities to grab an eyeful now and again, there is also a lot of genuinely good content on here. The stuff with the masks is pretty neat, some of the footage is unique and rare and a lot of the action is quite exciting too. Lita was not a good wrestler by any means, and when she started working longer matches she was rather exposed. But with either smoke and mirrors or in the role of a corner person, she was made to look pretty great. I am a fan of Lita from this era, and this tape is a very good representation of what was one of the most fun times in her career. A must have for any fans of hers, and a pretty damn good watch for everyone else too. To my huge surprise, this comes recommended.