Chapter 8: Represent
Since the last edition of Notorious Notes, your humble author had two vastly different experiences that I am very grateful to have. When mapping out what I wanted the theme for the day to be between these two experiences, I kind of ran into a brick wall. There’s really only one theme that stuck out to me — I hate wrestling fans. Err..well, maybe that’s a little bit too negative. How about “I really enjoy the external perspective of pro wrestling”? As in, I enjoy the unapologetic passion and fun that comes with performing in front of a crowd of non-wrestling fans. I don’t want this to turn into a “wrestling fans are entitled” rant or anything like that, since everyone has a right to appreciate the thing that they’re into in their own way (unless that includes gatekeeping or something of the like) so I’ll focus on the positive and not represent the negative.
My friend group in college was full of non-wrestling fans and I was often even mocked and asked: “Do you like NASCAR and monster trucks too?” Insinuating the fandoms are related due to the implication that they are both lowbrow forms of entertainment. But one of my favorite activities would be to capitalize on my curiosity and share it with every single member of my friend group by showing everyone the type of wrestling that I knew they would appreciate individually. My fellow cheerleaders were won over by the ties to dance, my goofy friends loved the silliness of CHIKARA and Kaiju Big Battel, and my anime/JRPG-fan friends immediately fell in love with NJPW. One by one, I “turned” my friends and got them to watch clips, listen to stories, and come together for big shows. The pureness of the outside perspective helped keep me grounded in my own fandom, allowing me to not take things so seriously and acknowledge the problematic nature inherent in the art form. This is a small example of representation playing a strong role in media. Each of my friends were able to find things that they connected within the wrestling that I showed them, inherently endearing them more to the content and characters.
Fast forward to modern-day — this past weekend I had the opportunity to go visit my old college stomping grounds and spend time with my old college roommate in Ashland, Oregon through a booking. But not my own booking, mind you — but something a little irregular. An all-women’s motorcycle rally, called DreamRoll, held deep in the mountains near Ashland wanted to put on an all-women’s wrestling show as one of the attractions for the weekend and local female wrestler Izzy McQueen, was among those booked. I simply tagged along on the trip (obviously not to the actual show) and we crashed at my old college roommate’s place for the weekend.
Upon meeting back up with Izzy after the show, we got to chat with some of the other wrestlers booked at the event and at that point they were regaled with tales about how excited the crowd was just to see “badass women doing badass wrestling.” These women were non-wrestling fans, just bikers out for a good time, and were so unapologetically stoked just to see women wrestlers exist, which is a perfect example of how important representation is. That’s what I’m talking about — loving wrestling just for existing.
Bouncing off of that, I’ll take you back to the previous weekend, where Portland-based wrestling company WrestleSport also ran some wrestling shows for non-wrestling fans at the annual PDX Hot Sauce Expo. Pulling off six shows in two days is not an easy feat, but WrestleSport does it year after year (and takes the best care of their wrestlers). These six shows were some of the most fun I’ve had in a long time because we, the wrestlers, were given more freedom than usual to do what we felt was best and like with DreamRoll, the audience was just a bunch of non-wrestling fans who were stoked just to be around wrestling. I can tell you first-hand that the audience appreciated the art form they were witnessing, got the jokes, and played along — even appreciating the subtle undertones that certain wrestlers brought to the dance and represent.
All this is to say, there is still so much more to wrestling than the chanting crowds, “clubs,” and streamers of more popular indie shows. The summer is ripe with fair shows and weird one-offs that will never be heard from again. The Academy didn’t get a chance to make our presence felt at this year’s Agrifair up in Abbotsford, BC but we still had the chance to perform in front of the crazy people who ingest hot sauce until they vomit at the PDX Hot Sauce Festival, and I got to experience a women’s biker rally secondhand through the stories of wrestlers who lived it. These are the things I live for in wrestling. And I’ll leave you with a final note that relates back to the DreamRoll experience — after meeting up with the wrestlers who worked the show and heading home with my old roommate, the first thing she told her wife and family about and the thing that meant the most to her as a trans woman were the trans women wrestlers she met that night. Her night was made because she met someone like her doing something that she didn’t expect someone like her to be able to do and represent.
I’ll say it again louder for the people in the back – REPRESENTATION MATTERS and wrestling is for everybody! Love what you love help to make that thing as accessible as possible. Find the flavor of ice cream that you enjoy and let others enjoy their own flavor to represent.
- September 6: 321 Battle – Seattle, WA
- September 7: Reign Pro Wrestling – Tacoma, WA
- September 8: WCWC – Salem, ORRepresent