"I remember the first time I ever saw Abigail sitting in that chair," Bray Wyatt recalled on the February 23, 2015 edition of WWE Monday Night RAW. "She was so beautiful. Not just in her appearance, but in the things she said, and the way she spoke."
And there she was, oddly, just as Wyatt described all those years ago on RAW. She had long, sun-kissed brown hair, a bright smile with bee-stung lips, and a radiant, golden complexion. She wore a black dress, black high heels, and chunky silver jewelry. She looked more like a model than a horror flick antagonist, more focused femme fatale than disturbed cult member.
"Has anyone ever told you that you are far too attractive to be Sister Abigail?" I asked.
"Yes! And I tell them to take a hike before I haunt their dreams with nightmares!" she laughed. "Abigail is like watching your favorite horror film with the most beautiful background music supporting it."
I suggested that perhaps my own assumptions about Sister Abigail led me to believe that the person behind the persona would be completely different from what I was seeing.
"Yeah, people always attach themselves to a preconceived notion based on their ideas or thoughts of what they believe to be true," she explained. "Sister Abigail is not the girl from The Ring, nor is she crazy. Abigail is an intelligent, calculated, and grounded being."
At that moment, I realized I had to do away with all of my preconceived notions about the Sister Abigail character, the professional wrestler who filed for the Sister Abigail trademark, and even the interesting trademark situation that brought me down this road to begin with. In this search for Sister Abigail, I had to open my mind and make no judgments. But who is Sister Abigail? To understand this, we must take a look at the young woman at the center of it all.
Tatevik Hunanyan, also known as Tatevik The Gamer, is a Lee Strasberg Film Institute graduate and Los Angeles, California native. The daughter of a classical musician, and granddaughter of a famed painter, Hunanyan grew up more familiar with acclaimed writer William Saroyan than renowned professional wrestler Ricky Steamboat.
"No, I wasn't a fan growing up because I wasn't exposed to the professional wrestling world as a child. It didn't exists in my home. I come from an artistic family." Hunanyan recalled, "I joined the wrestling business somewhat keeping the details a secret from my family."
While studying at Lee Strasberg Film Institute, Hunanyan began taking martial arts instruction from the legendary Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez.
"During my time there, I met Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez, not knowing who he was," Hunanyan remembered. "I was part of his film fighting class at the school. I had no prior martial arts training and I loved the action so much that I wanted to learn real fighting. I thought to myself, 'if I can learn how to really fight, I can make it look a lot better on camera.' But then, after joining Benny's legit class, I made a whole new discovery about myself: not only was I a good fighter, but I was a good storyteller, so I kept going, knowing I was being led somewhere special."
An artist and creator by birth, but also a second-degree black belt, Hunanyan had a unique entry into professional wrestling, as she began her professional wrestling training in preparation for a role on WOW Superheroes.
"Acting started it all, but I fell in love with the professional wrestling business the first time I ever took a bump. It was at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles where I started training to wrestle with WOW. My first bump woke everything up." Hunanyan added, "it was as if I had been asleep for 23 years and I was back."
Sister Abigail first appeared on Hunanyan's radar when her manager, Steve Stasiak, asked Hunanyan if she would be interested in portraying Abigail.
"My manager, Steve Stasiak, was the first person to ever ask if I would be interested in Abigail. I was on my first ever trip out of California and I was staying with Vivian St. John at the time." Hunanyan continued, "I don't know why, but I said, 'yes,' but that was 2013 and the idea for Abigail rested in my head for a few years."
In 2016, Hunanyan began getting work as a WWE extra. Apparently, seeing the Wyatt Compound burn to the ground thereafter got Hunanyan's creative juices flowing. Hunanyan began vociferously researching and writing for the Sister Abigail character.
"The magic was activated after seeing the compound burn," Hunanyan claimed. "When I witnessed that, I said, 'oh my God, I know why this is happening and I know what to do.' I became very excited and my objective was to start dissecting as much information about Abigail as I possibly could. I read all these books while taking notes of anything interesting that sparked a connection to Sister Abigail. But aside from the books I had read, I began exploring the spiritual side of the character, the practices, the darker power. And instead of judging her, I kept an open mind to it, understanding her intentions, motivations, her love for life, and how, in death, she was reborn. I lived and embraced some of the characteristics of the character to be in perfect alignment with her and with Bray."
In September 2017, Hunanyan painstakingly created her own promo video or sizzle reel for WWE. In the teaser video entitled 'The Resurrection Of Sister Abigail', as seen above, Hunanyan sought to provide a storyline explanation for Sister Abigail's whereabouts as well as showing WWE what she could do as Sister Abigail. This is not the original video she submitted to WWE, rather one she created more recently to show what she's capable of doing with the Sister Abigail character.
"I had a director friend who helped me film it," Hunanyan shared. "I rented professional cameras and lighting. I had a photographer on set, another friend helped with the fog machine, and a makeup artist. The entire video was filmed in the Marilyn Monroe Theater at the Lee Strasberg Institute."
Also, a lot of time and money went into producing Hunayan's Sister Abigail ring gear.
"Yeah, I actually have a costume designer friend whom I called and ended up meeting with," Hunanyan stated. "I explained to him that I have this idea for a more serious character with a darker tone. We spent hours talking, and, as I explained more of the story, he would be drawing as I was speaking. And, of course, I made some changes to it towards the end, but we came up with a cool red and black two-piece, but over it, I would have an identical one-piece. But I wasn't done there because I wanted to add all the details and finishing touches of every single stone on my own, so I purchased a glue gun and hot-fixed the stones myself to my liking."
As such, Hunanyan described giving life to Sister Abigail as a "labor of love".
"Oh, it really has been a labor of love," Hunanyan smiled. "From every stone on her outfit, to every word of research, every dream I've had, every WWE extra call, I don't think I've been more excited on my own birthday!"
When Hunanyan was called in to be an extra on the September 11, 2017 episode of RAW, she also delivered her Sister Abigail sizzle reel and look book to WWE Talent Relations.
"When I gave everything away to Talent Relations, I felt like I gave away my child and would never see her again," Hunanyan laughed. "I was stripped of my routine of creating her life, but the process of creation from my end was complete. Years of my work, and months of putting it all together, were destroyed within a matter of weeks."
In spite of these initial fears and how things would play out for Hunanyan, she received generally favorable responses for her efforts with Sister Abigail.
"WWE insisted on giving me a bonus that day and I really appreciated it," Hunanyan thought back. "And that's when WWE started booking me consecutively for like three weeks in a row."
Although no promises were made, Hunanyan began to be called the would-be Sister Abigail behind-the-scenes.
"Yeah, but only to people within Talent Relations," Hunanyan clarified. "But after a while I was starting to feel like more people knew."
Hunanyan continued to make pitches periodically to WWE Talent Relations about Sister Abigail as the Wyatt Family's storylines ebbed and flowed on WWE programming every week; however, WWE went radio silent on Hunanyan for a span of several months.
"I started having doubts when I realized that it had been about six months and I was not getting any answers." Hunanyan said, "I kind of just felt like I was just writing for myself with hopes that something was going to happen between then and The Ultimate Deletion. I had come up with so many angles and scenarios by then that there was nothing left."
With WWE sitting on a stockpile of Hunanyan's ideas for Sister Abigail, and rumors swirling around the professional wrestling industry that perhaps Nikki Cross or Rosemary would be WWE's Sister Abigail, Hunanyan realized that she needed an insurance policy of sorts.
"People from within WWE said that I wasn't the only one who approached them about Sister Abigail," Hunanyan professed. "There were enough rumors going around about Sister Abigail and anyone could have easily gotten their hands on it and ran with it."
At the suggestion of WWE Hall Of Famer Road Warrior Animal, Hunanyan applied to trademark Sister Abigail.
"Now, Animal loved the entire idea, story, footage. Yes, Animal was first to say, 'trademark, trademark, trademark!' It's the proper advice to give to a young, inexperienced talent going into a territory like WWE," Hunanyan divulged. "Animal was booked doing a signing here in L.A. and I was helping him get around town. We had lunch and talked about what I had been up to. I was more or less looking for advice. I was completely comfortable with where I was with the situation. He thought the idea was great and that it would really help Bray evolve as well."
Kevin Nash is another WWE Hall Of Famer who Hunanyan credits for helping her decide to trademark Sister Abigail.
"I did a signing with Kevin in North Dakota and that's when I spilled my beans. Kevin already knew my situation, but we didn't get into detail till then. A month following the event, I filed for the trademark. I was through with the mind games." Hunanyan continued, "I already knew I was going to trademark it at some point. Kev was confirmation."
In Summer 2018, Hunanyan successfully applied to trademark Sister Abigail. Hunanyan explained her rationale for trademarking Sister Abigail as protecting her intellectual property.
"I'd taken enough risks in my life to get as far as I did, but not trademarking my work would say that I'm an amateur and that Sister Abigail didn't have value," Hunanyan averred. "I put a lot of great work into it, so it would be foolish not to seek out some form of protection. The worst case scenario in my mind was WWE not being interested in bringing Abigail to life. I thought, in that case, they wouldn't mind the trademark."
WWE finally broke its silence with respect to Hunanyan when the powerhouse promotion filed an extension to oppose Hunanyan's Sister Abigail trademark after missing the original deadline to oppose the filing.
"To be honest, I was excited when they filed for an extension!" Hunanyan joked, "I was like, 'yay, they broke the silence!'"
Hunanyan holds no grudges for WWE filing its extension to oppose her trademark over the Christmas holidays and tries to find humor in the otherwise uncomfortable situation.
"I didn't take it personally at all. I still wished my contact at WWE Talent Relations a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It's business and I get it. They're not happy with how things turned out, I'm sure, but imagine how I feel, how Bray must feel." Hunanyan added, "as much as this is about me, it's also not, so instead of pointing fingers, I want to come up with more solutions and change the narrative around the situation. It doesn't help if I get angry. I have to look at the bright side and find the humor in the situation."
On the trademark front, Hunanyan could argue that filing first gives her priority access to the intellectual property at issue. Conversely, WWE could contend that first commercial use of the trademark gives the professional wrestling promotion the inside track to the trademark. Regardless, Hunanyan likes her chances of securing the trademark.
"Yeah, I'm pretty confident because I'm honest. I have nothing to hide and I didn't make up any stories to support my evidence." Hunanyan quipped, "if anything, they have to come up with a loophole. The truth is, if I didn't apply for the trademark, someone less qualified would have. I looked into the trademark, but because I was in the early stages with Abigail and the WWE, I felt like I wanted to give the WWE a chance to make this work. I trust the process - I don't trust the silence."
Despite all of the miscommunication, stress, and uncertainty, Hunanyan still hopes to work things out with WWE and bring Sister Abigail to the WWE Universe. This is principally the reason why we have not seen Sister Abigail on the independent scene or elsewhere as of yet.
"I had no intention of running away with the name," Hunanyan admitted. "My best case scenario would to be pick up where we left off and make it work this time. I think my lack of involvement was the main reason the idea didn't get over the way that it was meant to. I'm hoping that I still have a chance to change that."
In February 2019, Hunanyan even participated in a WWE casting in Los Angeles, California. Naturally, I asked whether she would be open to portraying a character other than Sister Abigail in WWE.
"I'll never let go of Abigail," Hunanyan declared. "Even if I was to play a different character, I'd probably keep her somewhat alive in another form."
Then, I asked Hunanyan whether she would swap her trademark for a WWE developmental contract akin to Ron Price, a professional wrestler who gave WWE his trademarked ring name in exchange for a developmental contract only to be released shortly thereafter.
"I think WWE knows I'm smart enough not fall into a trap like that!" Hunanyan laughed. "I'm open to making a deal, but not a Ron Price one!"
With that said, Hunanyan, who is currently pursuing a Bachelor Of Arts degree in Business Leadership at Ashford University, indicated that she would be willing to take Sister Abigail outside of WWE if she receives a clear indication from WWE that the company and Wyatt himself have no intention of using her work product. Perhaps then we will see Sister Abigail terrorize the indie scene or lead a stable of outcasts in AEW.
"I can tap into her and allow the creative process to pick up whenever I'd like, but I've kind of put her into hibernation mode," Hunanyan stated. "Absolutely, the ideas for her in WWE are endless. And yes, absolutely, you can't have a way in without a way out. No one, but me deletes Sister Abigail."
Coming into this story, all I knew was that Tatevik Hunanyan was an independent professional wrestler who applied to trademark Sister Abigail, seemingly right from under the proverbial nose of WWE. What I have come to learn is that Hunanyan is a dedicated artist who invested over four years of her life into Sister Abigail. She put all of herself, as well as her time and resources, into this character in the hopes that WWE would match her passion with its own. Now, WWE has until March 20, 2019 to oppose Hunanyan's trademark and the rest of us will continue to observe with bated breath as this story continues to unfold.
At WWE RAW 25 Years, Jerry 'The King' Lawler said, "I still have a feeling that one day Bray Wyatt will let us find out and let us actually meet Sister Abigail. I think it's a real person." Until Sister Abigail is finally revealed on WWE television, the WWE Universe will always wonder, the mystery will live on, and we will continue searching for Sister Abigail.