I had the chance to speak with Knockouts Champion Taryn Terrell this week about her record breaking title reign, and TNA showcasing her division on this Friday’s Impact. Terrell, who started out as a WWE Diva Search contestant, later became a GM, before ending up as a TNA Knockouts ref. Now she’s the longest reigning Knockouts champion of all-time, passing lengthy reigns by Gail Kim and her opponent tonight, Awesome Kong.

You’re 8 years into the business, but it seems like yesterday you were in the WWE Diva Search. How has that transformation been for you?

“I look back at where my career was, and I was just a baby. I was finding out who I was as a person. I started out in the diva search, and that was a very surreal experience, and it was done very differently the year I did it. It wasn’t even a part of the show. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2008 that I was able to get my feet wet with wrestling. It’s been a journey and I’m so grateful. Whether it’s been up or it’s been down it led me to where I am today as Knockouts champion. It honestly a dream come true. You work for 8 years and hope to become champion and it doesn’t happen, but when it does it’s like “is this real?” I have a chalkboard in my house that says #ThisBetterBeRealLife.”

How has TNA changed since you started?

“The biggest thing that’s changed is we’re now with Destination America. We’re a priority, and that’s really cool. It’s nice to be on a network that really believes in us, because we’ve believed ourselves all along. Before I got there, TNA was already a great company. Destination America says we’re not just programming, we have something to give people that they can be very excited for. TNA is in a place that’s a more intimate work environment as far as the locker room goes.”

How important is it to have a network behind you? You didn’t seem to get the same support from Spike.

“It’s so important. You want to feel like you’re important and doing something. We know we’re important and putting out an amazing product. To have a network to say they know it too gives everyone an excitement and an energy and creates an even better product. It really gives us a platform to put on better TV than before. We had a great show before, but it gives everyone on the roster new life, breath. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of TNA Wrestling.”

This Friday’s Impact has a world title match with Kurt Angle and Eric Young, but is mainly about the Knockouts division. How does it feel to have them put that much stock into you?

“It’s insane. Kind of like Destination America believing in us gives us life, TNA’s belief in this division does the same. It’s to the point where they believe in what we do and they dedicate an entire show to us. That doesn’t happen in wrestling, as far as TV wrestling goes. It’s an amazing opportunity and I’m grateful that I’m wrestling in a time that values women’s wrestling. There are times it gets buried under other stories, so I think it’s so cool that I’m a part of this, and I’m main eventing. I did it as champion, it’s a dream come true. This is a highlight of my wrestling career. “

We mentioned the Knockouts show this Friday that you’re main eventing, how do you prepare for someone like Awesome Kong, both as a performer mentally and an athlete physically?

“It’s interesting when you get in there with someone whose wrestling style is completely different. I think the stunt work that I do really helps me mentally and physically prepare for a different style. I don’t really get stuck in a rut. I wrestle, then I go have to do a fight in a movie. I’m having to change what I do physically. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s another challenge for me to find out how to work differently. It’s an accomplishment to figure out something like how to wrestle Kong. Same with Gail Kim, those are some of the most physical matches I’ve ever had. I think matches like that help me prepare for Kong.”

The “give divas a chance” movement and hashtag was geared more towards WWE, but do you think TNA took note of that, too?

“I think that without that hashtag, TNA was already going in that direction. They believe in us, and have given us so many cool opportunities. The match that Gail and I had at Slammiversary and the ladder match on TV, those kinds of matches don’t happen in other companies. I know that they really are behind us and this week’s show is another chance they’re giving us. I truly don’t think they needed influence from anyone else to know what we can do and can accomplish. “

You started out as a TNA Knockouts ref. Was that a long term plan, or was the idea for you to move back into wrestling?

“If that was the plan, they didn’t tell me. I’m super happy to be back on TV. I wanted to be, I knew that I wanted to wrestle. I remember talking to them, telling them “I want to wrestle, I know that it’s been two years.” I traveled myself to OVW and spent a couple of weeks there getting comfortable in the ring, and I really hammered it in to them. I don’t know if that was the plan anyway, or me aggravating them allowed me to be a wrestler. I was very happy to be a referee, but that job was really hard. I have a newfound respect for referees, because that is not an easy job. “

You went from not knowing if you’d wrestle again to the point where you’re now the longest reigning TNA Knockouts Champion of all time. How does that feel, and is it something you expected?

“Well it’s a dream come true. There’s no way to describe it besides you work so hard for something and you don’t know if it’s ever going to happen. You hit so many speed bumps along the way. You keep going, keep trying, and finally it happens, and it’s surreal. Oh, okay, this is happening, this is real life. I’m champion and I’m main eventing Night of Knockouts. I feel I have definitely earned this title. I’ve worked my butt off to get here and I truly feel I’ve earned it, and that’s the only way that I would want to be champion. I want to deserve to be champion and feel like I’ve earned it. “

I want to thank you for taking the time to join us. Where can the fans follow you on social media?

“Follow me on Twitter at @TarynTerrell. I also have an Instagram, I’m new to it but it’s my new favorite thing, that’s at Taryn_Terrell. I love it, I read all my tweets and comments on Instagram. Reach back to me, and I try to reply back to people. I love seeing people’s feedback.”