It was more than 20 years ago that Lilian Garcia began as ring announcer for WWE. She remembers those "Attitude Era" days when she was the only woman on the broadcast team. Times have changed since then with more female voices being heard on pro wrestling television.
"I love it. It is such an honor to see the women really become part of the broadcast team and create such an impact," she said. "The fact at one point it was just myself and Tony Chimmel and Howard Finkel and Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler and JR, that was it mostly. Now to see how it has expanded to what it is today. I'm very proud of the women. I'm proud of the entire broadcast team and how much the fans have embraced it."
Those early days are not lost on Garcia. She admittedly struggled at first before finding her way to become one of the most beloved faces on the shows each week.
"I didn't know what I was doing. I was learning on the job. Then I got the opportunity through the WWE. Them giving me the time and patience to learn on the job and evolve when I left," Garcia said. "I think the same thing is happening here. I can see there is a lot of passion now. I can see there is a want to always be better. They all have a really good attitude. To me, that is all a part of a winning formula."
Garcia is in a new phase and challenge of her career, breaking more barriers as the first female cage ring announcer for the Professional Fighters League. She went in thinking it would be similar to WWE, but came out in surprise about how different it was.
"There is a difference why you do hold a card in MMA versus in WWE, where we memorized everything," she said. "That's because there is so much more information to give for the fighters. The fighter's information changes every single time they get into the cage. With WWE, the same weight and town is the same usually. The only thing that would change was what kind of match it would be. There is a formula that stays the same.
"With MMA, it's constantly evolving. Given that, there is an art to both. I'm just really excited that I got to do MMA, and that the MMA fans have welcomed me into their world as well as they have. Even the critics, they've written some beautiful pieces on me and the way I've been able to transition. That's also because I got from the PFL to win. They helped me so much. I think without that I would have been a little more lost. It's fun now to have a whole new perspective and world of the MMA fighters."
The experience has given her a renewed appreciation for MMA. This has been helped along by getting to know many of the fighters and their backstories.
"I knew how WWE superstars were backstage. They are very humble, very sweet, down-to-earth. I always wondered that about an MMA fighter because they are so fierce in the ring. They are just truly intense where in WWE it's more entertainment," Garcia said
"When I got to know the fighters and know them as people. Then doing research on them so I can have them on my 'Chasing Glory' podcast. Man, it was just unreal to also see the human side of them. To see how nice, genuine they are. How they see it as a sport. The more I watch it cageside, the more a sport I see it is."
Along with her announcing duties, Garcia remains busy with the "Chasing Glory" podcast she hosts. The show has provided a comfortable and safe place for guests to open up about their lives like perhaps never before. Garcia felt the powerful and incredibly candid Mickie James interview set the tone for what she wanted the show to be.
"I think it was within the first five or ten minutes of that interview where she talked about how she had been molested through eight years of her life. I wasn't going to bring that up. I didn't even know that about her. I was floored because I worked with her for so many years. I didn't know this side of her," she said. "I saw this sadness within her, but I didn't know why. I thought she was just being hard on herself because she wanted to do better. I didn't know the sadness came from what she had endured in her life and because she was keeping it a secret for so many years.
"She chose to come on my show and be so open and vulnerable. She said she was so tired of hiding and acting like this was her fault. That if she can talk about it and hopefully help someone who is going through the same thing, then that is what I want to do. From that, I feel like it opened up. I opened up the way I do an interview and the other superstars who thought there is actually strength in this. That's what it has turned into, which is a huge blessing."
Garcia not only puts a lot of time and care into each guest, but also when the interview takes place. She believes timing is everything where the host wants each installment getting lost in the shuffle.
"I think there are people I want to interview early on and they ask me to. There are times I tell them that it's not that I don't want them to be part of my show. I do. I know you have an amazing story.' But I don't think it's time yet. Trust me on this.' All of sudden I think it's time. Sure enough we do the interview and the interview airs. Then they all of a sudden start really doing things in WWE.
"Rhea Ripley is a perfect example. We had wanted to do that interview a long time before. Even when we did do the interview we held it for a few more weeks. I kept saying not yet to my team. Then we put it out, and it was right when she was getting the push. Then the fans heard her story that she had never talked about. She never talked about the fact she was a cutter earlier in life, why she was a cutter and what she learned from that, how she celebrates her scars. The fans were amazed to hear about their favorite superstar and see her climb. It just gives you something to root for."
On who is left on her "Chasing Glory" bucket list, Garcia is aiming high. At the top of the list is a reunion and conversation with The Rock.
"Maybe I should reach out because maybe he has some more time on his hands," she said [laughs]. "I would love to hear Roman Reigns and everything he has struggled with. Coming out, fighting leukemia. Even now, he had to give up WrestleMania because of his immune system. I would love to have a conversation with him when the time is right for that.
"Even Ronda Rousey. I would love to have a conversation with her. There are a few when it comes to WWE guests. In the outside world there are many. Everyone has a story. It's fascinating when you get to hear it."
The accomplished singer is also hoping to get back into the studio. For Garcia, who in the past has released albums in English and Spanish, music has always been a part of her life. Much like a wrestler returning from injury, it has been a process getting back on the proverbial stage.
"For many years I struggled vocally because I lived in a house with high levels of mold," she revealed candidly. "I got mold poisoning. That affected my lungs, which then affects my singing voice. I struggled every time I tried to sing and went into the studio. I just wasn't able to reach those notes I did before. Mentally it started to play with me. Recently when I found the vocal coach I had on the show, he had been able to find my voice again and work past all those problems I had with the mold. And also I moved from the place with the mold. I did that in the last year.
"So, during that process I got to work with Josiah Williams at NXT. We did a duet together. One of the songs is called 'Now' that is out already. We've recorded some stuff that we are finalizing. I've been putting out some covers. Kind of baby-stepping back into it. I put out a cover of "Let it Be" and 'Hallelujah' at this time to help people. I'm going to be doing more of that like singing "America the Beautiful' when WWE called me. My voice is getting much stronger again. I have definitely thought that it is time to start writing again and seeing what all happens with everything that can come from this."
Lilian's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.