In today’s hard-hitting world of professional wrestling, it’s unique to be billed as “third-generation.”
Within National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) athlete Samantha Starr’s personal family tree, it displays a plethora of branches that supersedes others that fit that category.
“I was born into wrestling and it’s in my blood,” said Starr, who will be competing at the “NWA 75” two-night showcase held this weekend at the Khorassan Ballroom at the Sonesta Chase Park Plaza. “At an early age, I learned to set-up the merchandise table, the chairs, and the ring. I also learned how to work with promoters and accommodate fans.”
The lineage runs deep for the ten-year pro. Her mother is recognized by fans as “The Perfect 10” Baby Doll, who is considered the most-prolific valet within the NWA during the 1980’s, whether it be ringside in the corner of either Tully Blanchard, Dusty Rhodes or Ric Flair. Her father, Sam Houston, was a popular fan favorite during that same time stretch.
Her uncle, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, is a WWE Hall of Famer while her aunt, Rockin’ Robin, held the WWF Women’s Championship for two years in the late-1980’s.
Adding to that legacy, her grandfather Grizzly Smith, was one-half of The Kentuckians tag-team that held regional titles while maternal grandmother Lorraine Johnson was one-half of the Women’s Tag Team Champions alongside Penny Banner in the late-1950s and early ‘60s. Johnson’s husband, Nick “Wildman” Roberts, was a Texan-based wrestler and promoter.
The family’s squared-circled path made it seem that Starr, 31, would one day be destined to be an active participant of the sport.
“I started wrestling when I was 14 years old,” said Starr. “I was at an event in Columbia, South Carolina and my mom asked me if I would like to get in the ring and learn to start taking bumps and I was like, ‘Heck, Yeah!’ And from that young age, just something clicked. Being born into such a crazy family, I didn’t have any hesitation.”
Making her 2013 in-ring debut at age 21, fast-tracking one decade that honed her skill set, and now one year deep into her current NWA tenure, Starr finds herself being featured at the promotion’s event this weekend in a city and venue that is synonymous with its “Wrestling at the Chase” heyday.
“It’s such a prestigious company and the longest professional company in the entire world,” she said. “To be celebrating my one-year anniversary with the NWA and the 75th anniversary of this company is just out-of-this world insane. And to bring it all back to the Chase in St. Louis is just such perfect timing. It’s how the world goes full-circle.”
This weekend marks the third successive year that the franchise, helmed by Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan, celebrates its birthday at the Khorassan. Starr’s NWA debut took place in the ballroom last August.
“For the NWA to have that mindset to say, ‘This is where this event needs to take place’ and to be able to be a part of that is so special to me,” she said. “The venue is insane! I felt (last year) like I was committing a crime punching people in the face in that venue.”
At the first night of action this Saturday, Starr competes in the multi-entrant Burke Invitational Gauntlet, where the winner receives a World Women’s Championship title shot the next night. It’s the same type of match where she made her NWA debut.
Self-admittedly, Starr felt nervous in her inaugural go-around twelve months ago didn’t go quite as well as she would have liked.
“I’ll be honest, I was not impressed with my performance,” she chuckled. “I was a newcomer to the NWA and didn’t know what to expect. I had no idea what fight I was preparing for. I was confident and thought that I was going to go in and clean house, but it did shake a couple of screws loose for me.”
Despite early elimination, Starr still found positive light that night as her biggest supporter, the aforementioned Baby Doll, cheered ringside while slapping the canvas, just as she had done so many times during the 1980’s.
“Those are always the best moments for me,” she reflected. “She is my world, so when I get a chance to experience that with her, I get to say that she is my best friend.”
Overcoming the early obstacle, Starr proceeded to make herself a permanent fixture of the NWA’s complexion over the next twelve months thanks to sweat equity. By competing against skilled athletes such as Kamille – the promotion current Women’s World champion – Natalia Markova, KiLynn King and Angelina Love, her personal stock rose rapidly.
“I have to give 100% credit to the women’s locker room for my growth and development over the past year,” she assessed. “On the independent scene, I knew I was the veteran. But when I joined the NWA roster, I knew I had to hang with the big dogs. I had to ask myself that if really wanted to do this, I would have to bust my ass and work for it. I had to do it.
“In February, I had a heart-to-heart with (WWE Hall of Famer and current NWA producer) Medusa, and she was like, ‘Hey, we see something in you. You need to see it in yourself.’ And I took that and ran with it.”
And that upward trajectory has been noticed by those that will also be competing at Saturday’s Burke Invitational gauntlet.
“She’s a great competitor,” said NWA wrestler Ruthie Jay. “She would pick me up like I was nothing, so she’s really strong.”
Named after Mildred Burke – a queen of the ring from the 1930’s that held the aforementioned title for nearly two decades – the gauntlet’s entry list contains Jay as well as former champion Alysin Kay, CJ, Heather Monroe, Taylor Rising, MJ Perkins, Sierra, The WOAD and one other yet-to-be named participant.
If Starr survives Saturday and then captures the women’s title at Sunday’s follow-up, new benchmarks in an ever-evolving professional and personal portfolio will be achieved.
“To be able to write my name in the history books as the NWA Women’s Champion would be the highlight of my career,” she said. “That is something that I am chasing. That is something that I want. To go back to my family and say that I am the NWA Women’s Champion would be a monumental moment for not only me but for my family.”
Tickets for each night of “NWA 75” at the Khorassan Ballroom are scarce but one can watch online via fite.tv, either in a separate night order or a two-night bundle.
By trade, he is a six-time, regional Emmy Award-winning news videographer/editor for KTVI/KPLR-TV. By hobby, he is a writer for Arch City Media, dating back to February 2014. Emphasis is on featuring and promoting local women's sports, but will cover anything that is not reported by traditional media outlets. Also a contributor to local concert reviews.