Photo by: SLAM! Wrestling
Behind the Byline with Kari Williams, writer for VFW Magazine and pro wrestling freelancer
Written by Sarah Scott
Plenty of Americans grow up watching pro wrestling. Only a small percentage grow up to cover the pro wrestling world as journalists. An even smaller number of those pro wrestling journalists are female. We’d venture to guess that Kari Williams is one of the only female, pro wrestling freelancers who started covering the circuit while in high school.
Williams sat down to discuss wrestling, writing, journalism and more with Behind the Byline hosts Evan Blackwell, CJE, and Jenica Hallman. You can listen to their conversation at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
More than Wrestling
Williams covers pro wrestling as a side hustle, and frequently gets the opportunity to interview big stars, such as “Big E” from World Wrestling Entertainment (seen above). But her journalism background is extensive. She was on the staff of her high school newspaper in St. Louis, was editor of the student newspaper at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Illinois, and earned her master’s degree. Her thesis was on the intersection of politics, punk music and international affairs. She currently works as an associate editor for VFW Magazine.
“I’ve always really enjoyed writing. I would do essay contests and things like that in elementary school,” Williams said.
As a freshman at Mehlville High School in St. Louis, Missouri, she first became interested in journalism. She joined her school’s newspaper staff as a sophomore. In college, she started out covering student government. After graduation, Williams’ first reporting job was covering local government for a community newspaper.
“Hard news is not my favorite thing in the world. I tend to enjoy feature writing and in-depth features more so than hard news, but it’s something that I think everybody – regardless of what their ultimate goals are – should have to do on some level, whether that’s student government or working the county beat at your local newspaper. Just because it’s a really good way for you to deal with very different personalities. Some people are going to love you, some people are going to hate you, some people will never even respond to you,” Williams said. “It’s a really good place to get your feet wet and learn to work with a lot of people in different capacities.”
From Fan to Freelancer
Williams grew up watching pro wrestling; her parents were fans of the sport. As a teenager, she started going to local wrestling shows in St. Louis. She learned that Larry Matysik, a professional wrestling commentator and promotor, had written a book and would be promoting it at a local wrestling shop, so Williams convinced her high school newspaper editor to let her cover it for a story. While at the store covering the book signing, she was invited by a local promotor to interview some local wrestlers.
That experience got Williams hooked on covering the local wrestling scene. When she saw a call for journalists to cover wrestling in the Midwest, she responded. She was hired (despite still being in high school) and wrote match recaps and other wrestling stories for a regional wrestling publication.
Eventually Matysik was inducted into a hall of fame in Waterloo, Iowa. Williams covered the event, where she met an employee of SLAM! Wrestling, a well-known wrestling coverage website. That person asked Williams to cover the banquet that evening for SLAM!, so she jumped at the chance to have her byline in an article on the website.
“And I’ve been writing for them ever since,” Williams said.
Williams continues to cover wrestling as a side gig, but her day job is at VFW magazine, where she writes articles for and about military veterans. There is significant overlap between the wrestling community and the veteran and active military community. Williams has been able to write about that intersection.
“I think it’s important for you, personally, to have a passion project,” Williams said. “I enjoy writing about veterans and the work I do at VFW, but that’s not my true passion.”
She enjoys her work for VFW Magazine, and recognizes the importance of sharing veterans’ stories. She’s also glad to have an outlet in her wrestling writing, because it’s something she’s loved for years.
Listen to the Interview
You can find Williams’ episode of Behind the Byline, “Kari Williams loves pro wrestling, so she made it her side hustle,” at walsworthyearbooks.com/podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.