Shooting Tessa Blanchard
Tessa Blanchard at Queens of Combat
While filming Queens of Combat in Charlotte, North Carolina, I was able to do a quick photo session with Tessa Blanchard. Tessa was at Queens of Combat, a new Highspots production, making her in-ring debut in Independent Wrestling. She faced off against Miss Rachel, international women's wrestler managed by Zane Riley of the Handsome Boy Modeling School.
Miss Rachel is a powerhouse among female wrestlers. She wrestled two matches in a row, confidently accepting the second challenge. Although she is a young talent, you can see that Tessa trains hard. She wrestled tenaciously and with confidence against the more experienced and stronger Miss Rachel, who Zane Riley describes as "the only true Queen of Combat" among QOC's roster. I hope that both women will continue to wrestle in ongoing Queens of Combat events.
You can see Queens of Combat live in Charlotte, North Carolina and on video through Highspots DVD and digital downloads.
Who is Tessa Blanchard?
Tessa Blanchard may be new to the ring, but she is far from new to wrestling. She's the daughter of legendary pro wrestler Tully Blanchard, one of the original Four Horsemen. In addition to her father being an icon in the sport, her step-father is none other than Magnum TA, another legendary great of wrestling.
Having two living icons for fathers might seem like a lot of pressure, but there is more to it than that for young Tessa. Tully Blanchard was himself, a second generation wrestler, son of AWA star Joe Blanchard. Tessa is a third generation legacy.
Though Tessa's in-ring debut was quite recent, she has been distinguishing herself in the business as a manager and valet for quite some time. As a valet Tessa is pretty, bubbly, and engaging. She's there to encourage the crowd's cheers, support the wrestlers and collect their gear for them. Not all ringside valets are women, but it is easy to stereotype them as the "ring girl". Wrestling valet is not at all like the eye-candy fluff job performed by "ring girls" in professional boxing and MMA. Tessa navigates the maze of flying wrestlers, camera crew, foreign objects, and screaming fans with a constant smile and makes it look easy.
As a manager Miss Blanchard is all business. When Tessa has her business suit and heels on you don't want to get in her way. She is tough, aggressive, angry, and downright fiery supporting her athletes. She doesn't hesitate to get involved in the action. Tessa is tiny compared to the opponents some of her clients face off with, but she'll get in the middle of things to give her athlete the edge.
Tessa is one of the nicest, most charming people I've met in wrestling, but don't turn your back on her when she is in manager mode. She just might slap a sleeper hold or an arm lock on you. She may be young, but she's a Mother Wolf with her athletes.
Tessa Blanchard at Fire Star Pro Wrestling
One wrestling federation that I provide much of the video and photo content for is Fire Star Pro Wrestling (FSPW). Tessa will join Fire Star in September 2014, as a manager for wrestler Drew Myers. FSPW management are fans at heart. Along with our fans in Greensboro, North Carolina and the Triad we hope to grow a roster of female athletes to compete in our regular events. Hopefully, her experience managing her client for Fire Star will entice Miss Blanchard to step into the ring.
Drew Myers, known as "Mr. Elite" is an Olympic quality wrestler, proven by his record as a champion. Tall and handsome with refined good looks, Myers' cocky attitude is backed up by his skill in the ring. Like wrestlers with a similar physique, such as Ring of Honor and NXT star Chris Hero, Myers has that "Chewbacca Strength" that comes from being lanky and strong without bulging muscles. Though he is a gifted athlete, Myers' bad attitude has definitely held him back at FSPW.
Myers is a former champion, and is both powerful and talented. His swagger and pompous behavior is well deserved. Mr. Elite doesn't hesitate to blast the crowd with his belief that they are beneath him in every way. Engaging the crowd with his mocks and insults has cost him the victory many times. Myers doesn't over-heckle the crowd in a cartoonish way the way some wrestlers do, he is tactically wise. He just lets his genuine disdain for those who lack his elite status of wealth and skill distract him at times. He baits the crowd to make sure they are watching when he delivers the win.
Tessa Blanchard is the perfect person to get Myers under control. Even Mr. Elite Drew Myers can't talk down to Tessa. She has seen the best. She has been raised by the best. Nothing he has, not his money, his looks, his expensive sunglasses and fancy clothes, even a shiny title belt won't impress Tessa Blanchard, just check marks in the win column.
Will the Horsemen Ride Again?
Tessa has her entire wrestling career stretched out before her, she's barely stepped out her own front door on her road to greatness. There is no telling where that path will take her. One thing is certain, Tessa takes her future in the sport and business of wrestling very seriously. She fights like a wild predator, and when she does lose, her face shows deeply felt sadness like she has let down her legacy, the world, and herself. It is almost heart wrenching to see.
Tessa often flashes the four-finger hand sign of The Four Horsemen. It is clear from her fierceness in and around the ring, but also her attitude in all aspects of the business, and her charming way with fans that she holds an absolute reverence for The Horsemen. It's a family name to her. Tessa's gear even features the same TB logo that her father Tully Blanchard wore on his trunks.
Is Tessa Blanchard the second coming of The Horsemen? I don't think she's saying that. I think her use of the Four Horseman hand sign is a token of respect to the men who are her forefathers; they're quite literally her family.
Someone ought to say it and it may as well be me. I'd love to see Tessa at the lead of a new generation of Horsemen. Or Horsewomen. Even a mixed team. It's 2014, I don't see any reason why there can't be women in The Horsemen.
Preparation is Everything
I shot these pictures and more in about 15 minutes. Altogether the photos will be used for two different wrestling promotions, some portfolio shots for Tessa, and for one of my charities. That's a good day's work for 15 minutes.
Of course, I'm joking. Tessa was already dressed and made up for her match that night. I spend hours loading camera equipment and backdrops and other materials into my car. Wrestlers and crew work very hard and prepare for hours to make a moment that people never forget.
Posing for these pictures is the only time I've ever seen Tessa stand still. She's always pitching in on something that needs doing. Wrestlers are physically talented people, but when I photograph most men and women in wrestling I have to give very specific directions. "Turn your head like this, look here, follow me, touch your face, tuck your chin, make a fist, turn this way." Tessa needed no direction. She just did her thing and I took photos. I went quickly so she could get back to getting ready for her match.
The fact that Tessa could quickly and easily pose for me with minimal direction and look so good doing it is proof that she practices posing, probably in front of a mirror. You'd be surprised how many wrestlers train hard to excel in the ring, but never think to spend any time mugging in front of a mirror. Looking good is part of the business, and being able to quickly jump into a photogenic pose at a fan or promoter's request is a skill.
Tessa puts a ton of work into every aspect of the business, and it shows. She will soon be making her in-ring debut with PWX Wrestling, which plays live and on TV's CW network in Charlotte, North Carolina and the greater area.
Follow these links to learn more...
See Queens of Combat and PWX Wrestling Live in Charlotte, NC at club Hush
© 2014 Joe Capristo