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Wrestling Diva Hopefuls Grapple for Glory

WWW- Today, 28 women in bikinis will appear on the Spike TV channel.


They might wrestle each other?

OK, so it’s going to be a typical evening at the dude-friendly network, but to two South Florida model/actresses it means a shot at becoming professional wrestling’s newest trash-talking chick.

World Wrestling Entertainment auditioned thousands of women from across the nation for its Diva contest and selected 28, including a former NFL cheerleader and several Playboy playmates. After today, 10 will remain, all vying for a $250,000 prize.

Hoping to be among them is Jessie Camacho, a Fort Lauderdale 29-year-old soon to be seen in Modelo beer advertisements and a locally made film called Crossbones.

A former Orlando cop who gave up law enforcement for the much tougher life of a model-actress, Camacho said her competition was tough. But, she impressed the judges with her response to a critical question.

”How do you feel about cat fights, they asked me,”’ she recalled.

“I said, `Cat fights are for [wussies]. I punch.”

The ability to scratch and slap could be important attributes in a Diva.

”Of course, she will probably wrestle,” said WWE spokesman Neil Lawi of the Diva’s job duties. But most of all, she has to adopt a persona much like the organization’s oiled-up trash-talking hunks and carry along the soap-opera story lines that have made the WWE a billion-dollar business.

Some of the WWE’s plots are love triangles. A popular one involves brunette bombshell Lita, who is pregnant in a who’s-the-daddy saga involving two wrestlers.

Under the impression she would host a Diva show, not actually become a wrestler, Miami Beach model Tracie Wright said she is willing to meet whatever challenges the job presents if it means getting closer to her career goal: becoming “the next Oprah, only younger.”

After the 23-year-old Wright completed the ”clubwear” and swimsuit portions of the tryout, the judges asked her how she felt about catcalls.

”It’s not as if people don’t already do that to you everywhere else,” she said.

Never a company to embrace subtlety, the WWE has been criticized for its unenlightened treatment of women. In a memorable 2002 interview, WWE founder Vince McMahon nearly came to blows with a much smaller Bob Costas when pressed on the organization’s misogynistic themes.

Thirty-one-year-old Sean Samuels of Coconut Creek, a fan of WWE RAW, the Monday night showdown that will feature the chosen Diva, said that in the past year the story lines have tamed.

”It used to be like triple X,” he said, “I think the women got tired of that. But, you know, it’s supposed to be fun, entertainment.”

The Diva contest isn’t any more exploitative of women than the Miss America pageant, Wright contends. Miss America may not have to host a pay-per-view show from a hottub, as WWE’s women recently did, “But it’s about an image.”

Today’s judges will be big-name wrestlers Triple H, Randy Ortin, Chris Jericho and Edge. After the cut to 10 survivors, viewers will vote a la American Idol until the finale Sept. 13.

Camacho hopes becoming the Diva will give a boost to her acting career. She has a long resumé that conveys tireless hustle from hosting Spanish-language shows to appearing on Survivor Africa, though she was booted early from the show.

Whether fame will follow Diva-dom is, if the past is any indication, highly questionable. Although male stars such as Hulk Hogan and The Rock have had enormous mainstream entertainment success, the only female wrestler to benefit similarly was Chyna. And even she is a VH1 Where Are They Now? candidate.


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