Kimber Lee Talks Training At CZW, Accuses Owner DJ Hyde Of Misogynistic Behavior

After decades of shady practices, bad business, and various physical and emotional trauma, professional wrestling has finally started to change for the better. A lot of that has to do with many people adopting the "leaving it better than I found it" mindset. But unfortunately, that wasn't always the case for female wrestlers, which former WWE and Impact Wrestling star Kimber Lee experienced first-hand during her days in CZW.


While she was known as "The Princess Who Saves Herself," Lee was fortunate enough to have people to watch her back and save her when she needed it at the very beginning of her career. During an interview with Piers Austin, she recalled her experience as the first female graduate of the Combat Zone Wrestling Academy under the tutelage of Drew Gulak. 

The former WWE Cruiserweight Champion — who also trained a number of wrestlers over the years, including "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ahead of his WrestleMania comeback – put the students through the wringer and Lee emerged with a solid foundation of in-ring ability and cherished memories from that period of time.

However, it was after her graduation from the academy that things began to go downhill. That's when the alleged inappropriate behavior of CZW promoter DJ Hyde started to become more prominent. Lee confirmed that Hyde would frequently say, as chronicled during the Speaking Out movement, that he wouldn't hire anyone he wouldn't have sex with.


"It was something that was said to all of us and it's terrible," she said. "At the time, I was a 19-year-old girl that didn't know how to react to that and I was the only girl. There was no one to stand up for me, so I got very protective of some of the girls that came afterwards."

Slaying the Dragon

Fortunately, Kimber Lee wasn't completely alone all the time in the early days of her wrestling journey. During her time as the first female competitor to tour Europe with CZW, Hyde assigned her to room with him at the hotels they booked in each country, but she went on to appreciatively acknowledge the male wrestlers who were around.


"It was me and a bunch of dudes for two-and-a-half, three weeks in other countries," she recollected. "DJ would purposely book me in a room with him and I would never stay in that room. I would find somewhere else to go. Thankfully, different people who were on the tour that are like brothers to me, [like] Gulak ... They would come in the room and stay in there too. They would stay in the bed with DJ and ... I would be in the cot by myself. There were people there that were protecting me, but there were also people there that were trying not to. This is unfortunately a reality that a lot of females have had to go through in wrestling. It is changing, but it's still got a long way to go."

The road of "a long way to go" has gotten a little shorter as it does feel like the industry has taken positive steps and made some progress. While it may not always happen, more people are held accountable and face consequences for their actions in wrestling today. 


One example is what happened to CHIKARA. After reports emerged about misconduct from Mike Quackenbush and other trainers from their wrestling school of the fan-favorite promotion where Lee held the Grand Championship, the doors were shuttered and many of those involved moved on to prominent positions in other companies

Changing of the Guard

Another aspect of the changes in wrestling that Kimber Lee discussed is the dethroning of CZW from its top-tier spot on the indie scene as a result of DJ Hyde's leadership. While they do still run shows like the annual "Tournament of Death" and "Best of the Best" tournaments, they're nowhere near as prominent as they once were back in the days when they were the young guns stepping into the void left by the closure of ECW


Instead, the next generation of up-and-coming wrestling companies have stepped up and Lee feels they're doing things the right way.

"Right when I started [in CZW] is when DJ Hyde took over the company, which was 2009. In 2010, you just see it decline from that point," said Lee. "It's sad because CZW is the uncensored and the over-the-top [promotion]. It held that niche for so long. I was sad to see it go, but that's not to say that there aren't places that are holding up that standard now. GCW is the one that comes to mind now and they're f**king fabulous, so let them take the reins and run with it."

Lee has stepped foot into a GCW ring once, wrestling in a three-way elimination match back in 2016. Now that she's on track to return to wrestling full-time after taking time to heal from nagging injuries and a number of recent emotional traumas, maybe that will be one potential destination for her in the future.