This past Friday night, Kris Wolf’s active wrestling career was brought to an end. On her terms. A career spanning less than five years would usually be handwaved away. “Ah, they got nowhere and gave up”, “it wasn’t for them”, or “their heart wasn’t in it”. If you’ve ever seen Kris Wolf, none of those are the case.
Originally making her debut in August 2014, Wolf started out in Stardom in Japan, originally working on the undercards before she became a part of Oedo Tai in a run that saw her win Stardom’s High Speed championship. I’ll hold my hand up here and admit to not having seen any of this, so rather than pretend to be an expert, I’ll just say that Stardom was, to pardon the animalistic pun, where Kris cut her teeth in the world of wrestling. Having taken it up while travelling in Japan, Kris quickly got the character work down – and when she made her European debut in May 2017, it was perhaps apt that one of the first promotions she appeared at was Pro Wrestling EVE. Coming a day after she debuted at Fight Club: Pro (in a rather odd match against Kay Lee Ray which saw the future EVE champion get some assistance from a familiar friend), Kris may have lost in the EVE title tournament, but it would prove to be the start of a beautiful relationship with the promotion.
That first foray into Europe also saw an appearance for OTT in Ireland, as well as Spain’s RCW, before Wolf collected a pair of wins for ROH… but it was back to Stardom in the summer of 2017, losing the High Speed title to Shanna before a rather unsuccessful campaign in that year’s 5Star Grand Prix, with her only win in the round robin tournament being against Viper.
Outside of tags with Oedo Tai though, Wolf’s run in Stardom started to stutter, and in March 2018 it was announced that Wolf had left the promotion – being the final original member of the group to leave. Seeking a new challenge, Kris would go on to travel the world – stopping by a familiar set of promotions to boot. EVE, Fight Club Pro and OTT would be seemingly be regular haunts in Europe (shadowing DASH Chisako on this run), in between stopovers with RISE and SHIMMER in the States. After having appeared in a confusing draw with Jetta at WrestleQueendom (which’d see Kris instantly join a Money in the Bank-style ladder match), Kris would go globe trotting again: another appearance in OTT (in what’d turn out to be her final there, in a losing effort to LJ Cleary and Tyler Bate in an odd, but comedic three-way), along with appearances in England for NORTH Wrestling, Fight Club Pro and Kamikaze. Another swing in the States would follow before Kris settled down somewhat, basing herself for the second half of 2018 in Germany.
The tour with wXw may not have been overly fruitful from a wins and losses perspective (although wins against Killer Kelly, Millie McKenzie and Dirty Dragan would be notable for various reasons), it was with EVE once again where her star would rise. Having built up a record that saw her only lose against leading lights such as Sammii Jayne and Kay Lee Ray, Kris was a bit of an outside bet for last year’s SHE-1 tournament… and would end up being a losing finalist, having been pinned by Jamie Hayter, who’d in turn stolen the win as Toni Storm’d piledriven our favourite non-masked wolf through a table. It was as painful as it sounded.
In EVE, Hayter’s mini-feud with Kris was tied up when the SHE-1 winner’s team won in a SHEvivor Series elimination match – even if Jamie’s side had quite the upper hand when it came to experience. One week after that, Kris’d wrap up her wXw dates with another loss to Kellyanne, before taking a somewhat extended break from wrestling, not appearing in the ring again until February 2019 in an eight-person tag match alongside Joey Ryan, Allie Kat and Kikutaro.
If you thought 2019 would be the year where Kris’d settle down with a group of promotions, then just days after that match, news would break that’d shatter things. Announcing it on a “Wolf Wednesday” YouTube stream (ironically on a Monday), the news that Kris was planning to step away from the ring was a shock for her fans. Revealing that she’d had “shitty symptoms” from concussions, including blackouts and memory issues, now was perhaps the time to “peace out” from wrestling. With a tour that culminated in the bonkers show at the Resistance Gallery last Friday: “We’re All Gonna Die! The Frantic Scramble In Search For Meaning Through A Mess Of Meaty Interactions aka “The Kris Wolf Retirement Show””. A show put together by Kris, featuring a retelling of her life story, from, erm, conception, to puberty, to wrestling in Japan… all the way to her farewell: a 13-leg gauntlet match against some of EVE’s best, which included the crowd singing Slipknot acapella, Rhia O’Reilly doing her own Ballad of Chasey Lain, a surprise appearance from Act Yasukawa and… “Fearful” Jetta Morgan. All before Kris crowd surfed into the night… ending a truly bonkers night which we are going to try our damndest to recap in the very near future.
So, that’s the “what happened when” part of Kris’ career… so, just how did someone who stepped into wrestling, seemingly on a whim, build such a connection so quickly?
Professional wrestling is an art form that can be approached so many ways: such as from the pure sport side of things… or as an art form… or as a comedy. No matter what your tastes, there’s always something for everyone, and it’s usually those who can cross the streams that manage to leave a mark. You don’t need to be as technically adept as a Zack Sabre Jr… as aerial as a Ricochet… but having a character always helps: Kris was just that. Making her appearance on shows like a bundle of energy, Wolf’s entrances were infectious – be it the obligatory howls, you know, because wolf, or the spur of the moment things that caught you off guard (thanks to Olaf and the folks at Headlock.de for catching this entrance at Femmes Fatales last year)
After a few shows in the UK, just the announcement of her name being on a line-up meant that you were in for a good time whenever wrestling’s non-evil wolf was around. Myself nor Jen (who does pretty much all of our photos you see on the site and Flickr) aren’t ones for selfies or chatting with wrestlers. During last year’s World Tag Team League weekend, we were fortunate enough to have a brief chat with Kris during the Shotgun tapings, followed up a couple of times at EVE… including after the show on Friday where emotions were understandably high. From a personal perspective, this one hits a little close to home. Those who’ve known me for a while will probably remember the old Ringside/Ringside Live podcasts that came to an end about a decade ago following the passing of my friend, Adam Firestorm. Since then, anything to do with head injuries and concussions have been something that have I’ve been rather sensitive to, especially when the issue is brought up for one reason or another. In the decade since, the general awareness of head injuries has improved massively, to the point where people are being wise around head injuries, and not fighting through for the sake of it.
As painful as it is as a fan to lose a favourite, it’s also heartening to see that Kris able to leave on her own terms – even if those were expedited by injury. It goes without saying that we wish Kris all the best in both the post-wrestling and newly-married lives, and while saying “thank you Kris” feels a little shallow for all of the joy and entertainment that was spread, there’s not really much more you can say.
We all know in wrestling that you “never say never”, particularly around retirements… and while there is no telling the future, you can be sure that no matter what, there’ll always a place to call home wherever EVE runs. Just make sure Tito comes for the ride too!