The Rise of Women in Independent Wrestling

Many of the greatest stars from the ranks of independent wrestling have passed into the clutches of the WWE in the past few years. But, it is still apparent to me that the indies are in a period of explosive growth. There are so many reasons for this that I can’t do justice to such a broad topic in such a short piece. That being said, I have identified one key factor which has had an undeniable impact on the growth curve of wrestling. Inclusion of women in all aspects of professional wrestling has had and will continue to have a significant impact on the growth and future viability of the industry.

Now it may seem odd that an old man with 4 sons is touting the importance of women in the wrestling business. Historically, female performers have often been ignored, underused, and abused. Any attempt to condone or excuse the sexism of the past is not acceptable. Women have always worked hard in this industry. But they have had to exist in a male dominated culture. This is the root of the abuses and this has to change. Women must be fully integrated and accepted into all aspects of the wrestling community.

Looking to the future, women are absolutely essential to the growth and survival of pro wrestling. We need them in order to be successful. We need their intelligence, energy, athleticism and devotion. They have great communication and leadership skills. Their economic resources, their opinions, and their creativity are hugely significant. And, we can’t just have part of it . We need it all. This entails bringing women in at every level and in every role. They need to be owners, wrestlers, announcers, commentators, and referees. Moreover, we need more female writers, trainers, merchandisers, and managers. They need and deserve a more expansive role as bookers, podcasters, tweeters, and all the rest. And, not least of all, the industry must embrace this change.

My hope is that I will not be branded as a social crusader, but rather as a realist. I am not so much a feminist as I am person who believes that each and every human being has unique value that enhances the community as whole. To the extent that everyone is included, we all flourish. There can be no justification or rational explanation for limiting or hindering the participation of more than half of the population in an industry that must grow in order to survive.

In my own life I have benefited immensely from the strength and intelligence of women. Sadly, some of it has been at the expense of their own sacrifices and societal constraints. As an older man, I was taught in public school by a group of remarkably talented women. In today’s world many of them would be at the highest levels of industry, academia, and public service. I never forget what they taught me and the sacrifices they made.

Over the past two years I have joyously wandered the country watching wrestling in dozens of different cities and venues. As a lifelong wrestling fan I am actually living my dream. Constantly seeking new adventures and making towns at an astounding clip has kept me out of trouble and away from depression. In spite of some health problems I have been able to continue on my odyssey. In many ways, wrestling has saved my life. I desperately want to see it grow and flourish so others after me can experience the joy and love that I have felt.

Quite by accident women have seized my attention in my quest for wrestling excellence. Wrestling cards I have attended over the past 60 years have all to often relegated women to poor positions or left them out entirely. Frankly, they were not on my graps radar when I began my odyssey a few years ago. However, they quickly won me over as I moved from town to town in search of wrestling nirvana. In and out of the ring they earned my respect, trust, and admiration. Not just the wrestlers. But the female fans, announcers, writers, podcasters, bookers and indie wrestling supporters. I began to realize the essential role women have in this industry. I saw it first hand. As a result I recognized that they are a driving force in the growth of the product.

My appreciation for their efforts and contributions may stem from my own perception that professional wrestling is essentially performance art. Of course, it requires athleticism and extensive training. The physical demands are undeniable. But it all comes down to story telling for me. I like big spots as much as any fan but I am always searching for a story and a connection to the performers in the ring.  I crave ebb and flow and the most memorable moments have deep emotional impact.  This puts women and men on an equal playing field.

Now I am not sure of the exact moment that I realized how important women were in independent wrestling. Heidi Lovelace, Su Yung, Candace LaRae, Rachael Ellering, Taeler Hendrix, Jordynne Grace, Britt Baker, Kennadi Brink, Chelsea Green, Priscilla Kelly, and so many others blew me away with their performances in the ring. As a result of my own positive experiences, I see the value and importance of women in the independent wrestling scene. I encourage everyone to attend shows and watch the best female wrestlers in their local promotions. Moreover, these women are becoming such excellent performers it has become well worth the effort and expense to travel to see the top stars.

There is bad women’s wrestling. I don’t like it and I don’t support it. There is plenty of bad men’s wrestling out there as well. I don’t support that either. Great wrestling is not gender specific. But a dubious past and limited opportunities have proved to be daunting obstacles for women. I want to see women and men succeed as performers. The sacrifice and commitment required is beyond what most of us can imagine.

The impact of women on indie wrestling certainly goes far beyond in ring performance. Females have a significant role as announcers, commentators, writers, podcasters, bookers, and social media experts. These women are intelligent and passionate about this industry. They often have to overcome sexism and gender attacks. People need to be evaluated on the basis of performance, never on their gender. I can say, without reservation, that there are fantastic examples of excellence by both men and women in all domains related to indie wrestling. Therefore, I encourage everyone to seek out what is good and support it.

Perhaps the single most important impact of women in wrestling is as fans. Pro wrestling does not occur in a vacuum. It exists for fans and is shaped by their responses. Independent wrestling is currently experiencing an upswing in interest among females. They regularly attend shows and support their favorites. So many of them buy merchandise and tout this industry on social media. Sadly, more women would come to shows if we promoted and insured a more inclusive atmosphere.  Wrestling fans have an obligation to call out and oppose racism, sexism, and other forms of hate. We all need to support respect and inclusion.

Through their own hard fought efforts women have won me over. Therefore, I seek their matches and their opinions. It has greatly enriched my wrestling experience. My busy schedule includes visits to Shimmer and Rise this summer. I am always looking for matches with top females on cards that I attend. And I am always looking for new women fans and friends. In conclusion, the future of independent wrestling depends on female participation at every level. I know it. But, more importantly, they know it.

 

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