Gail Kim learned the hard way that Impact Wrestling is where she belongs.
It didn't take Kim long to realize she had made a big mistake when leaving in 2008 for a more lucrative offer from WWE. When finally freed from her WWE contract after requesting a release in August, Kim re-signed with Impact Wrestling last month and quickly regained her spot as one of the company's top female performers.
Kim already has won the Knockouts division's tag-team championship with Madison Rayne and will be challenging Velvet Sky for that division's singles title Sunday night on the "Turning Point" pay-per-view show emanating from Orlando, Fla.
"It's almost like no time has passed," Kim said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "Someone asked me how the reaction was (backstage) when I came back. Everyone was just like, 'Hey Gail.' I'm looking at my time away like it was a long vacation.
"The words everyone has used are, 'Welcome home.' This definitely feels like home."
Kim's return is a major boost for the troop of femme fatales that she led to prominence four years ago when Impact, then known as TNA Wrestling, initially began pushing women's grappling. Kim's feud with Awesome Kong (real name Kia Stevens) was so successful that they enjoyed the rare distinction of being female main-event performers for a major wrestling company. Kim even got a tattoo to symbolize how much she was enjoying her time and co-workers in Impact.
"What was so special is that there was literally no women's division in Impact," said Kim, who made her Impact debut in 2005 as the manager of Jeff Jarrett and America's Most Wanted (James Storm and Bobby Roode). "I don't think people expected to see what happened with us. We were literally an overnight success. Everyone involved worked so hard and gave all their heart to make it succeed. It was almost like we were on top of the wrestling world."
Unfortunately for the company, Impact management failed to fully capitalize on a troop of female performers who were drawing higher television ratings than their male counterparts and superior to the women's wrestlers being pushed in WWE. When her contract expired, Kim accepted a WWE offer that Impact declined to match.
"That decision was a business decision," Kim said. "I had to take my heart out of it. I talked with everyone in the (Impact) office about it and why I had to do it. They understood, but it was still very emotional and heartbreaking for me."
Kim first came to national prominence in WWE in 2002 -- even enjoying the rare distinction of winning the company's women's championship in her television debut -- before her surprising release in 2005. Her second WWE stint wasn't nearly as successful. Kim felt personally and professionally unfulfilled as WWE didn't place the same emphasis on its women's division as her former company.
"I try to look back at some of the positives," Kim said. "I made some good friendships there and had some good matches. But all I can say is that expression, 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,' was pretty much the result. I know I'll never go back there."
Now in her 11th year as a pro wrestler, the 34-year-old is focused on trying to help the Knockouts division recapture its old magic. Kim, though, considers herself a contributor rather than a savior on what she believes is already a strong crew of her peers.
"A few people have told me, 'Thank God you're back to save the Knockouts,' " said Kim. "I've told them: This is not about one person. All of us can definitely contribute to Impact as a whole.
"No other company in the world has such a great group of girls. I always say: Don't compare us to the past. We're going to create something new and it's going to be big. I think right now is just the beginning and I want to be a big part of it."
Jarrett vs. Jeff Hardy, Mexican America vs. Ink Inc and Crimson vs. Matt Morgan are the other top matches at "Turning Point." For more information, visit www.impactwrestling.com.