Sarah Stock grateful to contribute to ‘limitless’ potential of Women’s division
When Sarah Stock first traveled to Mexico in 2003, she arrived eager to learn all she could about the unique art of lucha libre, even though she spoke no Spanish and had barely a year of ring experience to lean on.
The native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, knew she wanted to pattern her career after the paths laid out by her heroes, fellow Canadians like Chris Jericho and Owen Hart, which meant first establishing herself in her home country and then traveling abroad to expand her skill set in faraway places.
What she didn’t realize then was that her sojourn to Mexico, which was supposed to last only three months, would take on a life of its own.
By the time Stock finally left, to accept a coaching position at the WWE Performance Center, 12 years had passed, and the luchadora once known as “The Dark Angel” had evolved into one of the most internationally acclaimed female wrestlers.
She learned Spanish, sure, but she also toured Japan and the United States, capturing titles wherever she went, all while maintaining a home base in Mexico, where the opportunities to perform were plentiful.
Along the way, she notched historic milestones, too, such as becoming the first female wrestler to force an opponent to unmask inside Arena Mexico, the country’s oldest venue. Now looking to instill perseverance and mental toughness — “the two things you need to be a survivor in this industry” — in NXT’s recruits, Stock said the transition from competitor to coach has been more fulfilling than she ever imagined.
“When you’re in the ring, you think there can’t be anything more rewarding than an entire arena cheering for you,” she said. “Then you help somebody understand something about wrestling in the ring, or you see a lightbulb go off for somebody who’s new, and it’s even more rewarding.”
After acing a series of guest-coaching stints, Stock officially joined the Performance Center staff in October 2015, just as the Divas-turned-Women’s Revolution was truly taking hold in WWE. With a primary focus of instructing the female Superstars of tomorrow, Stock has quickly proven herself a valuable member of the team.
“It’s been really cool to have a second female opinion, because the girls get another chance, a different viewpoint, but still somebody who’s relatable for them,” Assistant Head Coach Sara Amato said. “She’s been a much-needed addition.”
Head Coach Matt Bloom agrees that Stock has been an invaluable asset to the Performance Center, especially at a time when NXT’s roster of female athletes, and the opportunities afforded them, is rapidly expanding. “Sara Amato is world-traveled, she’s done it all, so she knows her style and she does it very well,” he said.
“Then you bring in someone like Sarah Stock, who made her name in Mexico, and now you have a whole different type of artistic style, and now the women are getting a taste of each of them, which is only going to make their overall character better-rounded.”
At first, Stock fell into wrestling as a way to avoid spending her life in a laboratory. Having graduated the University of Manitoba with a chemistry degree, she briefly entertained going into the field of medicine, but soon realized she had little passion for it.
Rather, she wanted to put her Muay Thai kickboxing experience to work by transitioning into a new sport, perhaps even professionally. Enter wrestling. After only a couple of months of haphazard training with local wrestlers, Stock accepted a chance opportunity to participate on a seven-week tour of Canada promoted by independent group Can-Am Wrestling.
Another wrestler was injured, and though Stock had, by her own admission, no right to be in the ring at that point, she gladly signed on to substitute on short notice. The tour was an unglamorous introduction to sports-entertainment, but also a fateful one.
“I really fell in love with the nomadic lifestyle and just being around like-minded people, seeing places, being in the ring, expressing myself creatively, being physical,” Stock told WWE.com. “All of it just defined who I was. It was the first place in my life where I felt like I really fit in.”
Not only that, but the road trip allowed Stock to glean tips from respected veterans on the tour, such as WWE alum Phil Lafon, who she cites as one of her early influences. It was an immersive trial-by-fire, similar to what she experienced upon arriving in Mexico.
Fearless ambition has been a hallmark of Stock’s career. “I learned from my experiences in life that the best way to do something is to go for it, travel and just learn as you go,” Stock said. It’s that all-or-nothing attitude that she continues to preach as an instructor, according to those who train under her today.
“She’s one of those coaches that firmly believes you practice how you play,” NXT recruit Daria Berenato, who was a member of the 2015 Tough Enough reality series, said. “She doesn’t believe in going slow-mo through something.
Doing things match-speed really helps you perfect the moves before competing in the ring, and it really solidifies what you’re learning.” Stock’s hope of imparting perseverance is paying dividends, as well.
Take, for example, Carmella, who credits Stock with helping her step out of her comfort zone. “The most important lesson is to never get comfortable, always come up with new ideas; learn something new, try something new,” Carmella said.
“It’s OK if you fail a few times. Just keep getting back up until you nail it.” Stock didn’t have any formal experience as a coach prior to joining the Performance Center, but she always considered ring training one of her favorite activities.
In Mexico, she fell in love with the emphasis on mat wrestling, reversals and footwork; in the dojos of Japan, she was challenged by the extreme style of physical conditioning, an exhaustive approach that no doubt influenced the warmup drills she leads today and which Berenato categorized as “wicked.”
Yet, had it not been for the precedent set by Amato — who has been hailed by everybody from Triple H to Charlotte as a key engineer behind the growth of NXT’s Women’s division — Stock might never have made it to the Performance Center at all.
“Without the work that she has done with females, I really wouldn’t have a spot here,” Stock said. “She stepped in and was the person to give voice to the female wrestlers, and I’m very grateful she had that initiative and pride in her own work to open the doors for someone else like me to be in the position as a coach.”
Thanks to the groundwork laid by Amato, the onetime Dark Angel is excited to contribute to the Women’s division, even if it’s not as a competitor. She anticipates more of what made the group stand out in the first place, including physicality on par with male Superstars.
Unity, too, will be a key factor in the division’s success, with everybody working toward a common goal. The future looks bright, and she’s not the least bit surprised.
“The evolution of females in WWE, to me, is not unexpected, because I know the quality of women who are out there and who have been out there since the 1900s, the 1930s,” she said with a slight laugh.
“There’s no lack of talent or quality; it’s just the time is right and the women are taking advantage. There is no limit to what the division will bring.” Stock may have never guessed that it would be an opportunity to train others that would entice her to leave Mexico, but she doesn’t mean she misses being an active competitor.
Much like the young woman who first discovered a sense of belonging while touring Canada years ago, Stock feels like she’s exactly where she needs to be. “I’ve had opportunities already to see different parts of the world, to be at WrestleMania, to travel to China,” she said. “I feel grateful every day.”