Oh Brother Where Art Thou?: Hulk Hogan vs Gawker

At times it took giants, and at times it took 8-on-2 steel cage matches, but under cover of his legacy as the perpetually outgunned but never outmatched American hero, Hulk Hogan has been able to basically rule over wrestling as a feudal lord. At costs incalculable, Hogan has effectively quelled any real consequence for a career rife with bullying, blackmail, and pathological egomania. Because he’s never been named the bully that he is.

Now he’s suing Gawker for $100 Million—a prize that if attained could devastate Gawker and all online journalism in suit—for posting highlights of a sex tape between him and his best friend’s ex-wife.

This could be the greatest spectacle of Hogan jobbing out the odds. The scope of Gawker’s influence, and the consequence of their defeat, is beyond measure.

Gawker is not in the right. In a perfect world, we would destroy sex tapes on site and call out the leakers as fucklemons. No one should profit from a woman’s sex life without her consent and participation.  Full stop.

Gawker deserves to be held accountable.

It still remains, however bold a foot you put down, that in a world where the system of justice is purposely imperfect so as to not be relied upon to disrupt systems of power, the tools and mediums of propagating rape culture are also used to expose and challenge it.

Surveilling male celebrities, especially athletes and entertainers, is the most reliable means to hold them accountable for their transgressions. Without the momentum of a public reaction to seeing an athlete assaulting his partner,  the legal apparatus often find no reason to submit to the hassle of dragging themselves through the media circus of celebrity trials.

So where would a judgment in Hogan’s favor draw the line? What about social media personal messages? Will celebrities like Hogan, whose purported sexual proclivities are at the core of their public persona, be allowed to leverage their fame and power to entice, or pressure, young women into sex without fear of scrutiny from the press?

Will an underage girl have to rely on showing her Instagram account to the police to get any sort of accountability from someone with a net worth in the millions? In a time where police officers body slam teenage girls in swimsuits and are repeatedly revealed to be stalkers and rapists with no societal reprimand of their professions?

To fit all of the wrestlers accused of sexual and intimate partner violence into one battle royal, you would bankrupt yourself just trying to order enough rings to hold them all. Even the federal government lack the strength and resources to rein in the industry and all its excesses.  The business is getting better at dealing with their issues—substance dependency, bullying—but to challenge a man’s ego is beyond clandestine payouts and mock courts. To display evidence of a man’s sexual prowess, or absence thereof, for public consumption requires the legitimacy of a trial.

But this line of thinking, where we must interrogate every sexual encounter as Schroedinger’s rape, leads to needlessly invading the privacy and integrity of women’s lives, judging and ultimately punishing them for their needs and desires.

Gawker is not and must never be, even in the light of this trial, viewed as arbiters of discretion. They, and we who operate within an industry they influence, are the natural born enemies to privacy. Even as some of us fight to preserve that privacy. We are all “the good cops” of our mind’s eye.

But this isn’t privacy. Hulk Hogan is able to sue Gawker for $100 Million because this isn’t about privacy. Where was Paris Hilton’s “privacy” when a court threw out her lawsuit for $30 Million against Kahatani, Ltd., and instead facilitated the company paying Paris Hilton a portion of the profits they made selling a video of her having sex?

Where was the privacy of the countless women victimized by Hunter Moore’s site Is Anyone Up?, allowed to run for two years before law enforcement could find a way to argue that distributing women’s personal information for the purposes of harassment was against the law?

If a man hosts a site where your phone number and naked photos of you are given out, the state will collect $500,00 from him. But if you post a video of a man having sex, that man will sue you for $100 Million.

Gawker has already paid double Hunter Moore’s court-ordered fine in fighting the lawsuit. This isn’t about privacy.

The Hulkster is relying on a mutual societal assumption that sites like Gawker are sleazy, underhanded, and long alienated from the concept of a moral compass. Hogan’s professional reputation as someone almost addicted to betrayal offers him insight into the mind of the media consumer. We feed in godless frenzies over the inane bullshit sites like Gawker provide, not even pausing to swallow our food before we turn around and rant on how they are the bane of all society.  We castigate our own consumption, as if this end our complicity, or at least let it leave the room and re-enter the room under a mask.

If changes are to be demanded of celebrity journalism, it must come from us, the consumers and the purveyors. We must hold Gawker accountable for the lives that it has marred that are not Hulk Hogan’s. We must insist on our refusal to participate in tar-and-feathering of those who have more visibility but less power.

Hulk Hogan taking $100 Million from Gawker will not hold the industry accountable, just as fining a few offenders from a multi-national corporation does not hold those business accountable.

If a lawsuit this big should succeed in a space that public in a court that swayed by public opinion, people will lose their jobs. A lot of people. And not necessarily editors named Josh or Chad who give a voracious green light to stories about what prescription drugs some woman in a TV show is on. It will be reporters and critics and alternative media sites that lack the financial foundation of Gawker had before Hogan lazily leg dropped them for the biggest payday of all.

Hogan winning establishes the precedent that a man’s ego is worth more than anyone else’s privacy.

It allows for Heather Clem, the woman in the tape and also a victim of invasion, to be set up by the media as an obsessive fan who tricked one of the most media-savvy performers of our time into ruining his reputation and his marriage.

Hogan’s fame and status allow him to have sex with beautiful women. And now he’s hoping he can collect a $100 Million payday for it.

He is embarrassed. He is a victim. But Hulk Hogan is not the underdog. And he is not, as he has so boasted over the years, fighting for the rights of every man.

He’s fighting for his right to demand a higher standard of recompense than  the women victimized by celebrity journalism, including the women in his own life affected by our desire to see if his work rate outside the ring matches his claims.

We wrestling fans who grew into reporters are now become Kevin Sullivan: it was you, Hogan, who created us. Your decades of tyranny over wrestling have finally manifested into a reality none of us ever thought would be possible. We used to scream, we used to boo, we would get as close to the ring or TV as we could to tell you that you suck, that you’re ruining wrestling, that we hate you.

And now you’ve hopped out the ring to come into the crowd and show us what’s what.

What are you gonna do, when the bitter ruins of Hulkamania collapse around you?

 

“I’d Be Okay Punching A Jigglypuff”: An Interview with Su Yung

In the wake of social media, where we are all our own independent news sources, the needs and yields of the interview are shifting. Information is abundant. I could ask any wrestler their favorite cocktail; I could also open up their twitter and Control-F “Appletini”.  The value of the information we glean from interviews—which may already exist in Facebook posts and Instagram comments—is contextualized by the vulnerability and emotional intimacy shared between subject/reporter. It is something that interviews offer that social media does not automatically guarantee: a captive, compassionate audience.

That vulnerability can be transformative, and more profound than “the scoop”.  It can only be cultivated organically—like in dating,  you can’t treat people like vending machines that dispense [gratification/resource] in return for kindness.

I don’t know yet if sharing space with Su Yung’s fearless enthusiasm and emotional bareness will make me a better writer or a more respected “reporter/blogger'”. I do know the warmth and courage inspired by her excitable yarn-spinning will linger within me for a while. The way she talked up everyone else she knew—and even people she doesn’t know but just inspired her—heartens the hardened muckraker I like to imagine myself to be.

She is why people fall in this line of work, and stick with it even when it sucks. If every friend in whatever field you’re reporting on could be as charming and affirming as her, you’d be on the fast track to a Pulitzer or a Webby or a Buzzfeed listicle of your quotes.

But I bear no belabored delusions of timidity: Su Yung could probably find more ways to kill me than three years of Remedial College Algebra could allow me to count.

I feel we’re in an emotionally incongruous time in wrestling. On the one hand, we have CHIKARA and PWG and Lucha Underground; wrestling is enjoying itself, and it’s cool to like a product that aims to be fun. But it’s still so rare to see someone in the business having fun, or say that wrestling is fun—even in shoots. Is wrestling still fun for you like it was when you were a fan and in the same ways? Or does the relationship with that enjoyment or satisfaction evolve?

I think I actually get more satisfaction out of wrestling than some other girls because I’ve loved wrestling ever since I was young. Once I started getting into wrestling, and understanding it more, and I really took initiative and applied myself to understand the psychological depth through it, it gave me a little more satisfied feeling whenever I wrestled because I feel like I’m accomplishing something though something I love, versus there are people who love it as a fan, that love as a wrestler, etc—there’s a bigger love when you become obsessed with it. It is an obsession; it’s all I do or talk about.

Photo Credit Headlocks and Headshots
Photo Credit Headlocks and Headshots

Has that love ever been tempered by the historic marginalization of women to support roles?

Women’s wrestling, is very motivational and very inspiring, especially watching Lita, Trish, and even Sable. A Sable Bomb on Marc Mero was one of the craziest things I saw as a kid. Chyna battling men was awesome—it kind of opened my eyes more towards the product as a whole because I didn’t just love women’s wrestling; as a kid I actually loved men’s wrestling more than women’s.

I don’t know how to explain it, but I will forever have a special place in my heart for Scott Steiner.

It feels taboo to be talking like this with other people. This is kind of who I am. My first wrestling show was Wrestlemania XIX —my dad bought me a Freakzilla shirt because that was the shirt I wanted out of all of them. I still have it to this day and I wear it randomly.

It wasn’t like later on I fell in love with women’s wrestling more. When Trish Stratus came out with the Stratusfaction, it just made me look at women’s wrestling in another light. I’ve always looked at women’s wrestling in another light from watching, you know, different matches and stuff.

Sometimes, when you’re a kid, you don’t really see anything but what’s put in front of you. It is what it is, you know what I’m saying? You react to it. That’s the truth.

How did you develop your move set? Does it reflect your identity, as either a character or in the context of your background?

To be honest, if I do a wrestling move in a match it’s because I feel like it’s needed there, or I feel like it goes with my character at the time. There are certain moves that I do over and over again, but the only reason I do those moves is because it’s really fun. I know it sounds weird, but I only want to do stuff that’s fun to me.

If we all just wrestled for fun I think that a lot of people would be more invested in it. That’s kind of my motive for a lot of things‑if I’m not inclined, why am I doing this?

National brands are shot and produced in such a way that they present a very homogenized wrestling culture—I sense this doesn’t exist, but lack the context of traveling the country.

The Memphis crowd—those people love wrestling to no end. They’re die-hard wrestling fans. And the area is very known for that, but there’s not many shows that run around because it’s very difficult to get that kind of group of people together. They’re huge lovers of the past, so you have to appease to everybody in your niche.

California has a great fan base there—they’re very polite, they’re very cool, they’re very awesome. In Memphis, the fans believe it so much. When I come out they chant “two dollar ho” to me. That’s them, they’re real about it. They’re in your face about it. A California crowd will be in your face in a different way.

Photo Credit to Modern Myth
Photo Credit to Modern Myth

It’s kind of like accents, wherever you go, there’s different accents, and some places you’re like “I’m attracted to that sound.”

My favourite venue to go to is the Mohawk in Texas, that’s where Anarchy Champion Wrestling is. We recently had a Wrestling Prom and people would show up in dresses and stuff for whatever they wanted. And one of the guys there dressed up as a furry! I didn’t know how to—I was just so happy. I’ve actually tweeted out to him recently. I was like “Can you please dress up as Pikachu at this Queen of Queens tournament?” I think that’s a pretty good story. You don’t see that very often at a wrestling show.

So, first I want to say “Thank you for how acknowledging how polite we Californian crowds are, we try. Second, if you could wrestle a Pokemon

A fan online said Jessica Havok was like Snorlax. If I could wrestle Jessica Havok dressed as a Snorlax that would be awesome.

But my real answer would be I would want to wrestle a jigglypuff. I would be okay punching a Jigglypuff in the face. I would punch a jigglypuff in the face, especially if they tried to sing me to sleep because ain’t nobody singin’ me to sleep.

That might be the most heel thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.

I know. I love Jigglypuff, but sometimes Jigglypuff needs to sit down.

It feels, within the last few years, there’s been a big burst of diversity in women’s wrestling—there are exponentially more women of colour wrestling than there were through all my youth combined. What would you describe as the impetuous for what has allowed for this resurgence in inclusivity of women of colour in wrestling?

It’s because basically, you know, I feel like within the history of women’s wrestling we’ve been looked at as taboo. But now it’s not really as taboo, and people actually like that women are investing in wrestling. And it’s the passion behind it. If you have that passion behind if you’re going to make it to good places.

Photo Credit to Modern Myth
Photo Credit to Modern Myth

Have you ever felt sort of pressured by bookers or the community to try and incorporate more of an “Asian influence” to your wrestling or character?

I always have people encouraging me to do that type of style, or be a certain “way” when wrestling, You’re always going to experience that, wherever you go. There’s always going to be someone pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do, or don’t want to be like. And, you know, you’ve just got to understand as a person you can say no. You can say no, because you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

Why break yourself for something that’s not going to break for you? If you’re not gonna be yourself, why would you want to do something and make yourself someone you don’t even know anymore?

As it is as an art form, you have to understand that you can lose yourself in this, and once you do, that’s when you start losing everything.

Wrestling, like every fandom, has that sort of “this house is clean, nothing to see here” reactive denialism to these topics.

No one’s gonna know anything’s wrong unless it’s yourself. Everything that I do, everything that I experience in life, I want to do it for myself. If I ‘m gonna do something, and I want to take on a challenge, it’s because I want to and not because someone’s making me. And there’s no reason anyone should feel forced to do anything.

Where does selling fit into that “doing it for myself” philosophy? Can selling be an indulgence in and of itself?

I feel like within selling, you’re gonna do what’s best for the time. For me, there’s no ego behind it. If someone punches me in the face, I’m always going to react the same no matter who’s punching me.

It’s on you to do your job. As far as selling, it’s up to that person if they want to have a really good match or not. Do you really want to see two people not doing anything in the ring, and not making you feel like you’re part of the action? Or do you want to feel what they’re feeling? It’s all upon how they project that, and that’s just really what it comes down to.

That, for me, has always been one of the most compelling aspects of pro wrestling. There’s always someone pulling their hair at a football or baseball game, screaming “you should’ve made this play, how could you not have made that play, why am I here and not there doing your job for you?” With wrestling, when I saw Pentagon Jr put Sexy Star in that modified surfboard my one thought was “fuck, better her than me, I’d probably die.” It’s the emotional release of a finish—knowing you wouldn’t have fared better.

Exactly. I totally am with you on that. That’s amazing. And I think that’s part of the access of fun. You see them having fun doing it because it looks fun but it also looks scary. That’s the thrill. It’s an amazing roller coaster ride that never ends.

What is a fun move to take?

To take?

Yeah.

Screencap from Shine Wrestling via WWNLive.com
Screencap from Shine Wrestling via WWNLive.com

The RKO is always fun, even if you’re just in a swimming pool. I love stunners. I think those are really fun. I’m a sick person. I like anything really dangerous. I’m down for danger. I really like high risk stuff. But there’s not a lot of people that are willing to do stuff like that.

If you can take a tilt-a-whirl headscissors into a pool, it’s so much fun.

I like it when a girl can do a handstand in the corner and then turn it to a hurricanrana.

People don’t realize how high you are up there when you’re on the top rope. It’s really scary. But once you’re getting comfortable with your surroundings it’s amazing. It hurts though. It really does hurt. But I’m weird.

How do you feel about crowds now? With Botchamania and Twitter, crowds are getting very smart. And they’re making chants that are in jokes, and they’re holding up signs that are very clever; do you feel like that’s a good thing for crowds to be in on the joke of wrestling? Or is it better when crowds just cheer when they’re supposed to?

It’s a very hard question to answer; I do love crowds, but there are times when they’re very spoiled and ungrateful. “If we don’t see what we want to see, we’re mad”. There are a lot of people putting their bodies on the line for your entertainment, or your interest, whatever you want to call it.

Wrestling’s a market—it could be anything. There are some people that honestly invest in professional wrestling because they love the innuendos and sexual parts of it. There’s a lot of different niches in this and it’s hard to go “Well, everybody’s gonna likes this” because there are some crowds that are way cooler than others.

Photo Credit Travis Brogen Photography
Photo Credit Travis Brogen Photography

I’m not gonna lie: I’ve seen many different crowds where they’ve been unforgivable and they just wanted to hate everything. But there have also been crowds where they just love the people and are just happy to be there. Normally, those are the ones I like, the ones who are ready for anything, versus expecting something. When you expect something you’re always let down.

You can’t go in and are like “I need to see this”. That’s very mainstream visual/thinking. Whenever people go to a WWE show they’re like “I wanna see John Cena, he better FU somebody tonight.

One of the things that I feel made the indie scene so popular now, and so viable, is that the matches were so unpredictable and non-formulaic—and in turn that’s become the indie formula, you know, when people describe Cena vs Owens as “Cena doing an indie match”.

Everything’s formulated in a way, it’s just not always a 1+1=2. It’s okay to have a 1+1=2 because sometimes that’s what’s needed to be done.

There’s nothing behind passion that can be stopped. If you have the passion and drive for something you will succeed no matter what. You may not succeed in what you expect, but there is gonna be success there. It’s a positive lifestyle thinking, you know?

We respect people who are cynical and jaded and don’t like stuff.

A big person who is positive in this industry is Serena Deeb, She’s a very good positive person who reaches out to the soul. It’s really nice. And Saraya Knight, she is a definite positive person that’s really cool. I enjoy people like that more than people who feel like they are owed things.

You can’t expect things. You’ve got to be happy.

Did you get a chance to play, when you were a kid, the WCW Nitro playstation game?

Yes!

Remember how you could unlock the weird arenas? The disco club and the North Pole?

I wish they still had stuff like that on the video games sometimes nowadays. Those were so fun.

If you could set up a wrestling ring in some weird locale, what would you want it to be?

If I could put up a wrestling ring in any location I would actually want to put a wrestling ring in the water at the beach. I would want to find a way to make a wrestling ring that is okay to be halfway in the water, halfway out of the water. That would be a phenomenal thing to me.

Can you imagine how sick it would be if someone had a jet ski and they tied someone to it and just dragged them through the ocean like that? That is sadistic, and scary.

You could have one of your matches be interrupted by a giant sea monster.

Like a Cthulu underneath the ring? Oh snap.

And then you’d need to get all your wrestlers out to fight the evil sea monster.

Yes. I think they did that in California, recently. I remember there were a couple of my buddies that went over there and they wrestled a Cthulu monster from under the ring at a show.

I think it’d be crazier if it was a beach show, though.

How do you define success for you as a performer? You had talked about going through the developmental process at WWE—I imagine it can feel like when you do the indies that you’re just doing a lot of the same, and without that national coverage it can feel like there’s not a forward progression. But how do you define success? Is it the pops that you get from a crowd? Is it personal development?

Photo Credit Headlocks and Headshots
Photo Credit Headlocks and Headshots

Success in wrestling for me is if I can walk away smiling and I don’t have any worries in my life. I’m grateful for everything I have. That’s successful to me, because there are some people out there, and I’ve been one of those people before, where you had to just scrape by, and you didn’t really have much, and you’re on that struggle life. You didn’t even know if you could make it to the show because you didn’t know if you had enough gas money. And by some miracle you got to the show, even though you’re not getting paid what you thought you were getting paid.

Sometimes I would walk away with nothing—I would get screwed over. They just didn’t think they would have to pay me. There are sometimes that happens and it sucks. It’s real. That’s real life. It’s a big struggle on the independent scene. And girls struggle, but guys struggle worse because they have to work harder, and they have to work better because there’s always going to be someone there competition wise.

There’s going to be 100 guys to one girl in the world of pro wrestling. It’s a bigger market. There may be stigmas of how people view women in wrestling, but there are girls out there that bust their bodies to the ground, just like the guys do, because they’re trying to make it to where one day they can wrestle on a great grand stage‑maybe the grandest of them all.

You can’t let things change you, and that’s the success in my books. If I don’t sell my soul to the devil, I’m good.

Are you familiar with crowd funding? Video games and comics and vloggers are using it to support content hat would otherwise be difficult to be paid for through traditional means. I feel like the PPV is an antiquated model and there’s a dozen independent wrestling shirt companies which aren’t transparent about whether or not wrestlers are paid for their likenesses. How do you feel about wrestling companies and independent wrestlers crowdfunding their content on a site like Patreon?

I feel like if people can give you money, they will give you money. If you need help, there’s people who love you that through hard times will help you, but you don’t need to ask a stranger for something because you don’t know what that stranger is going to ask for in return.

If you want to do a GoFundMe, go ahead. That’s on you though. I don’t do that because I know there’s people out there who work hard for their money, like I do.

I’m not downing anyone who does it, because honestly if people need to be on that hustle, I got you, I understand. For me, myself personally, I don’t want to be on that hustle game because I know that there’s consequences that sometimes come with that hustle game. And I have people who love me and care about me, that tell me “If you need anything, let me know.” Those are people who have my back. That’s my heart and my soul right there; I don’t want to let those people down.

There’s a lot of people who struggle out there and go through job upon job just to even try and make it in this business. And for you to go out and get a GoFundMe that’s just like them getting a job. There’s no difference there, because you are both getting money, it’s how you’re doing it.

It’s just like if someone wanted to be a stripper or a porn star while they’re wrestling, or they wanted to sell wrestling DVDs; there’s no difference there, you’re still making money.

There are people who are like “I’ll never understand that”, but you’re lucky because you don’t have to understand that. That’s the difference.

If you were to form a stable —we’ll say a Trios stable, and maybe you could go to King of Trios or the Lucha Libre World Cup, who would you want? Who do you have that you respect that love for as colleagues that you would want to be part of a bad girl trio?

On my right side I would have Jessica Havok. A lot of people look at me and Jessica Havok as a feud. She and I are kinda Undertaker and Kane. That’s how I think about it. That kind of destruction is amazing.

I would want, on my other side—this is a tough one because there’s so many good girls out there. I would probably want somebody who isn’t afraid of risk, and somebody who isn’t afraid to show who they really are out there. I think it would be really cool to have Athena. I really do appreciate her work. And I think that she does show a lot of passion through it. That would be my team.

From ‘Flaming Fag’ to Lesbian Stalkers: Wrestling’s sordid affair with Queer Identities

Last night, WWE aired the first episode of its new season of reality TV show Tough Enough – in which contestants who aren’t professional wrestlers compete for the chance to win a $250,000 contract from the company and join developmental. Prior to this episode, they aired a ‘competition special’ to introduce the audience to potential competitors- one of which was Daria Berenato. Daria is an MMA fighter and, seemingly unplanned, came out as a lesbian on WWE programming. It’s an interesting turn of events when they are handed someone who is gay, and they are aware of it prior to hiring them. This is obviously not the only determining factor on whether or not Daria lands a career with the WWE, but it’s definitely something to watch for.

There is a storied history of how professional wrestling views the LGBTQ+ community, and there has been a push as of late to turn over a new page, so to say. It’s a rough gamble when there are these crossed wires. Currently, the NXT superstars are tweeting in support of GLAAD in a campaign called #WWEqual, while simultaneously housing storylines in which Diva Paige uses transphobic jokes to gain crowd support, and a whole other slew of homophobic bigotry in the past few years. As of the 2015 Money in the Bank PPV, WWE now has its first openly gay male tag team champion in Darren Young. Yet, on commentary from RAW they can be heard saying “…and Darren Young, we know his story, he’s a tremendous role model as well.” He’s gay. His story is that he’s gay. Say this were an injury, or anything else pertinent to the viewer, there wouldn’t be a moment in which the broadcast team would gleam over the finer details. But this isn’t the first time they’ve skirted around mentioning anything with regards to non heteronormative sexual identities on broadcast- in the original broadcast of the ’96 IC Feud between Goldust and Razor Ramon the moment when Lawler asked if Goldust was ‘queer’ was bleeped out. At the same time, there was no issue in the King using slurs in a directed manner during a promo.

These are not the only instances of gay wrestlers in the main stream, although a lot of them haven’t been out during the height of their careers: for instance Pat Patterson and Chris Kanyon- who claimed one of the reasons for his WWE release was his homosexuality (the statement was later revealed to be a publicity stunt, but his fears of homophobia were well founded and rooted in truth), and Sandy Parker from AJW.

For the fraction of sports entertainment that is heavily focused on the theatrical mockery of masculinity, it’s curious to see such blowback against legitimately queer performers yet support for gay panic gimmicks. There have been a multitude of straight performers playing gay dating as far back as the original Gorgeous George- an act that was an allusion as it was never uttered aloud on broadcast. Adrian Street, regarded as the spiritual successor to George, sported makeup and a garish wardrobe in order to elicit heat from the crowd and make fun of this over aggressive machismo. Heck, even Macho Man Randy Savage was billed as this savage manly man… yet came out in glittery robes to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance.

Turn it to the women, and lesbian story lines are utilized to elicit titillation from the male audience and fear from the women. One of the more notable moments being with Mickie James’ ‘obsession’ with Trish Stratus. Not only does this venture into the territory of poking fun at those with any mental illness, but feeds into our good old friend Gay Panic.

In the world of Lucha Libre, there is the tradition of Exoticos- men who wrestle in drag. Unlike in mainstream American pro wrestling where these men in a dress matches are used as a form of humiliation, Exoticos- although often viewed as rudos and not tecnicos – are well respected. It’s not common for exoticos to be gay, but Cassandro is one, and his career has been a fruitful and open one.

The indies aren’t too far off from mainstream pro wrestling when it comes to this lack of representation. There are a lot of homosexual advances in the ring utilized in order to gain cheap heat or a pop from the crowd, and the bullying that makes its way into the locker rooms. Thankfully, despite this permeating culture there are openly queer positive performers and leagues that come out from behind all of this such as the League of Lady Wrestlers or Go Deep! Lube Wrestling put on by Red Hot Burlesque in Oakland, California.

There is absolutely room for multiple openly gay performers in all facets of pro wrestling. So, seeing how Daria fares on Tough Enough may open doors for more people to been seen and represented on TV. Wrestling needs to continue to make strides towards being and open and inclusive safe space for all involved: from those shown in the ring to the fan sitting in the front row whose story isn’t known. This needs to come at the cost of men fretting over how they’ll be received in “kiss me arse” matches and punches to the face if someone is alluded to be queer in a promo. We’re not your insult, we’re not your punchline, but we are people who would love wrestling even more if you eased off the slurs and just got to the bodyslams already.

Confronting Anti-Blackness In Wrestling

Outside interference! This was originally a cross-post on DoubleCakes’ personal site. You can support her on Patreon here

In the wake of the fragments of anti-black violence that make national news, like the atrocity in Charleston that cut short 9 lives, white writers and public figures like myself do our little turn on the catwalk to castigate racism. It’s bad! It hurts people! Like, really hurts them! We should stop!

Black activists wrote the book and we get a standing ovation for reading the opening paragraph.

It’s exploitative, shoves black voices back into the margins, and may haps worst of all: it doesn’t actually do anything. We treat racism like it’s Monsanto or Procter & Gamble: a faceless entity beyond our scope that we can debate over all the live long day without fear of tangible repercussion.

We can look as long and hard within our hearts as we want. We won’t gain the clairvoyance needed to undo or prevent the deaths caused by white supremacy and anti-blackness, operating under cover of us tapping our chins going “how could we allow this in a civilized society?”

Racism is a concept. It has no direct agents. White supremacy has movements, behaviors, and means that are well understood by those who opposite it—and it can be opposed because there exists agency. A white person who commits violent acts against people of color does not identify themselves a subordinate to racism; they are doing what they feel they must for the prosperity of the white race.

Sometimes this violence is carried out by people who don’t identify with that ideology, committed seemingly ignorant of its advancement of whiteness. We in a white-dominated society are made passive agents. Not every victory for white supremacy requires the fire department. In fact, we “well meaning” whites who go about our days not questioning why we say certain things and why we have certain reactions towards certain power are their most reliable source of labor.

To disrupt this agenda we must, as those who strive to be allies, call out anti-blackness wherever we see it. This includes subcultures, niches, and “nerd pursuits”.

30 years ago—within many fan’s lifetimes—a wrestler named Col. DeBeers went on AWA Television flashing the flag of Apartheid, disparaging “the black people” and refusing to get in the ring with non-whites.

Ed Wiskoski might not identify as a white supremacist (though his previous run as a terrorist Indian guru doesn’t speak to his defense on the account), but he and the promoters he wrestled for profited from the indiscriminate murder and incarceration of black South Africans by his “real life” counterparts, the same anti-black political force that mass murderer Dylan Roof idolized and sought to emulate.

We can all agree the angle was “controversial” or even inappropriate—but that alone is not enough to hold the industry and community accountable. To accept that people take offense to something is, as we would say in roleplaying games, a “free action”. It’s a well-laid path without resistance. Yup, a guy did a thing and it made some people upset. Case closed.

How did this angle, and the exploitation of a brutal government’s violence towards marginalized people, alienate black fans?

How did Colonel DeBeers attacking a black referee at a UWF show remind any black fans in the crowd of the violence they have experienced from white people, verbal and physical, while doing the degrading service jobs they or their parents were confined to performing under a white supremacist socio-economic system?

DeBeers counted on the bleeding of those visceral wounds left by history every time he performed. And there has been no accountability, for him, his promoters, our the fans who paid tickets or tuned in their televisions to watch African politics spill out into our sports arenas.

Wrestling is an endless feudal warfare. When promotions fold, their history and that of their performers fold with them, scavenged at the whim of the companies that muscled them out.

WWE will tell you that black wrestlers were often not permitted to wrestle white wrestlers, and that black fans had to sit in separate sections of the venue in the 50’s, and that there was this territory ran by Verne Gangne called AWA, it seems to escape them and their fan base how the history of that racial enmity created the demand of a character of Col. DeBeers.

Permitting white people to profit from capitalizing on the spectacle of anti-black violence is white supremacy.

Wrestling fans are notoriously defensive about claims of racism, or homophobia. There is a pride there, a manufactured notion that muscle-bound men in tights acting out characters drawn up by professional writers, improvising complex facsimiles of combat and posing when their appropriate music comes on is somehow a “simple man’s” interest that need not be subject to criticism like other art forms.

We’re possessive and we’re guilty. Every one of us who laughed at D-X doing blackface, who bought a ticket to boo black wrestlers win on a 2 count because of “Affirmative Action” at Smokey Mountain Wrestling, who popped at John Cena’s rapping when so many black performers failed to get over with the same gimmick—we have all been complicit in the anti-blackness of professional wrestling.

A black wrestler has never won the Money in the Bank. 15% of MitB competitors have been black; they made up 50% of the competitors in the 2009 match. Of 29 Royal Rumbles, only one has been won by a black performer: The Rock, whose blackness was immediately downplayed once we left The Nation of Domination (a heel stable intended to evoke fears of a militant black uprising) and turned face. Conversely, black performers have featured in the main event of WrestleMania 12 of 32 times. The labor is there, and utilized. It’s just never allowed to prosper.

At the last Money in the Bank PPV, The Prime Time Players challenged New Day for the tag team titles. The last time a tag team title match was contested between two all-black teams on television was in 2012. This is with a year-long schedule, with multiple weekly TV viewings, and at least 12 monthly Pay Per Views a year.

Because we’re focusing a little too much on WWE: There has been one recognized black NWA World Champion, Ron Killings; Bobo Brazil’s 73 day reign was overturned by the board and credited back to defending champion Buddy Rogers. A black wrestler never main-evented Starrcade. Of 31 title reigns, a black wrestler was TNA World champ once, for 24 days. Of 63 WCW Title Reigns (including storyline vacancies) black performers have claim to 8 of those reigns. The famous five time holder of that title, Booker T, started his career with a “plantation slave” gimmick, complete with chains and a man dressed in white named “The Colonel.”

Anti-blackness by the numbers.

It would not be enough for me to point out that Kamala The Ugandan Giant, a suspicious savage who lost because he couldn’t remember how to pin his opponents despite wrestling for decades, or Mark Henry beating his chest and screaming, is a racist pantomime of colonialist attitudes towards black folk. Or that Kurt Angle forcing himself on a black woman and telling her he’ll own her reflects white rapist’s attitudes and motivations toward women of color.

Wrestling is resplendent in radicalized violence. It’s not hard to find, and easily dismissed as it is found. “It’s wrestling, it doesn’t hurt anybody, it’s fun.”

For who, though?

Who is relied upon to find blackface, rape threats, and accusations that black women are actually men fun?

And what message does our uncritical consumption say to those who come to wrestling for entertainment or even respite from a cruel and uncaring world, only to find a glib mirror of their injustice?

And how many times did you sing along to the line “I fight for the rights of every man?”

It is imperative—to fight for what’s right, to aid others fighting for their lives—that we call out white supremacy in our sport. Whether it’s on a WWE hashtag or in an email to an indie promotion that performed for 35 people. Share the content of wrestling fans of color, whether it’s live tweeting an event or reviewing an old one. If we have podcasts and blogs, we must make space for non-white voices to speak up on the sport. Especially if they aren’t hardcore fans who can list every iteration of the 4 Horsemen.

We, as white fans, cannot be trusted to overturn anti-blackness in our community alone. After publishing this, I hope to exit through the crowd, or be a lumberjack—insert your wrestling inside joke here. I am not an expert. I am not a leader. I put this forth in the hopes that other white wrestling writers who share my politics will recognize the racism in this thing we love and burn it to death with X-Pac Heat.

I’m trying to reach you here. I’m really, really trying.

The confrontation must ultimately be led and centered around black voices and actions. Sometimes this means once-outsiders need to come into our fandom, whether it’s wrestling or video games or comics, and call out the ways in which our community and our commodity do them lasting, systemic harm. In doing so, by holding our art accountable for the violence it has propagated, it will make it better, and bigger.

Wrestling is for everyone.

It is time to bury the anti-blackness in wrestling. It is time to give The Colonel his demerits.

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Be A Star, #WWEqual, #GotYourBack and wrestling’s viral equality facade

Pride week is upon us as summer begins and it’s that time of year when corporations come out in droves supporting the “LGBT” community, never mind the Q, I, 2S, A, and so on. Do they really? Sports has always been an iffy field when it comes to equality and I’m going to put wrestling, as an industry, pretty damn low on the list of those who actually make an effort.

That being said, WWE likes to make the appearance that they are all about equality, but there is transparent hypocrisy right down to the very core. Today, #WWEqual is a hashtag that’s popped up in conjunction with wrestlers tweeting about GLAAD’s #GotYourBack campaign. Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.57.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.58.02 PMThis has caught our attention and I’m coloured quite curious right now as to what’s stirring this, other than an opportune moment to get attention. Now, I truly believe the ‘superstars’ who are tweeting as part of this campaign do have the best of intentions; but it’s hard to take anything seriously from a company that has an openly homophobic main eventer, hires transphobic fighters to appear on PPVs and just plain has little respect for women.

This isn’t the first time we’re seeing GLAAD and WWE pairing up, they’ve partnered with Darren Young shortly after TMZ outed him, they’ve reached out to talk to them when John Cena made disparaging remarks in regards to trans people, and there is no shortage of damage control in regards to maintaining their image. It’s an odd image to try and maintain though, since despite these efforts we’re left feeling unsafe and unwelcome in the wrestling community.

Combat sports as a whole, however, are taking huge steps forward with regards to inclusion. We have Fallon Fox fighting with UFC and our first ever openly gay Tag Team Champion in the WWE with the Prime Time Players (Darren Young).

So, how can these efforts to better themselves coexist alongside storylines in which Paige calls Tamina a man and mentions that she’s in the wrong division? Sooner or later these campaigns against bullying need to be effective internally as well as just what they’re spouting out to their fans.

Personally, I really hope that our voices are finally getting through to the big wigs and efforts are being made, but I’ve been burned before. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this hashtag to see if there’s any legitimate partnership or if this is just another bandwagon hop.

Sasha Banks: A champion we can bank on changing women’s wrestling

They say that the best heels are the ones who are fundamentally in the right. So when the ring general of NXT and current women’s champion Sasha Banks makes a claim that she will match and surpass legends like the Fabulous Moolah as the greatest women’s wrestler in history well… there’s evidence that points to Banks becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The phrase “Sasha Banks is the rock of NXT’s women’s division,” can be read as a metaphor or an allusion and still be a true statement. Banks is the foundation of the success of the division, inside her toolbox of wrestling abilities there’s a fix for every opponent in her way, and her adaptability means a high rate of must-watch matches. She can match Becky Lynch’s innovative submissions, be as athletic as Charlotte and go blow for pummelling blow with Bayley. Most of all, Banks has the personality to go with all of that- she is a distinguishable presence who not only talks smack but backs it up. And like The Rock, Banks comes with her own catchphrases, nicknames, and unique personal style. In short: Sasha Banks is the total package.

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Banks among those leading the charge for women’s wrestling in NXT means the opportunities we have been seeing to match quality and character development are only going to continue so long as she has anything to do with it. Growing up as a young wrestling fan Banks loved the legendary Eddie Guerrero, but was unable to really get behind the Divas. Banks’ formative years as a fan were days where bra and panties matches and pillow fights were a hefty fraction of WWE’s women’s content, that and the infamous Trish Stratus and Bradshaw vs. Jackie Gayda and Chris Nowinski match. Banks knew, even at ten years old, that women in wrestling deserved better. She knew that if she was going to make it to WWE, she was going to perform above and beyond the notion of Divas that was offered up to her in the 2000s.

banks breezeSo far, Banks’ performance in NXT is not only backing up the argument that women in wrestling deserve better, fans are clamouring for more good women’s wrestling in WWE. The existence of women like Banks who – as cliche as it sounds – live, breathe, eat, sleep wrestling and therefore have a mind for the business are beneficial on a more mainstream level, because more fans will see a standard of wrestling that women deserve and ultimately demand it.

It doesn’t seem like it’s been all that long since there has been a women’s wrestler in the greater WWE-sphere that has received such unanimous praise from all parts of the fandom, but Banks has managed to maintain support where other well loved Divas have faltered. Part of this is attributable to her workrate, and part due to her openness on social media.

Banks is one of the few WWE related personalities who openly uses Tumblr. Through it fans can relate to her not just as a hard working, badass character (which often comes out in kayfabe reblogs of her rivals with heelish comments), but her nerdy side which includes but is not limited to Sailor Moon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, comic book characters and 90s nostalgia in general. Banks is also a fervent admirer of joshi and along with reblogging the greats of AJW, will post some of the weirder moments in puroresu like Kota Ibushi flashing his bum, Kenny Omega in DDT and even Don Frye. All this amidst a torrent of pictures of Victoria’s Secret models and beauty inspiration.

Banks’ social media presence is so important because it affirms that women don’t need to other themselves and stress they’re “not like most girls,” they can be their authentic self and embrace all sides of the outdated girly girl/tomboy spectrum without tearing anyone apart for their interests. And you can be respected as a woman in your craft doing it.

It also teaches us you can be one of the best wrestlers in WWE and still get a kick out of headcanons, photoshopped images of you with other wrestlers and every now and again ask your following to convince Hideo Itami or Finn Balor to get a picture with you. sasha kentaTo put it bluntly, Sasha Banks looks into the depths of her tag on tumblr and doesn’t flinch, no matter what’s in there. that’s bravery.

So Banks has something for everyone: a developed character, marketability, an inspirational journey and a hint of fangirling, oh and she’s put on some of the best matches this year to boot. It won’t be long until we see Banks wowing crowds at much larger scales and proving that women’s wrestling is awesome.

You never forget your first time: a trip to the fun, fantastical world of Chikara.

Chikara has always been a promotion that’s interested, but eluded me. I’m not sure exactly why I held off getting into it for so long. Perhaps I was intimidated by its history, the longevity of it, and the incredible span of characters/performers to follow.  I honestly never knew where to start with Chikara, especially with it being so different from other promotions. Like anything else, so many people sung it’s praises to me that I started to feel guilty for not getting it. Thus, when I read that Chikara was returning to Chicago I immediately realized this was my chance to finally understand what so many of my friends have told me about, and see why it was so popular, yet in a way, still unknown to so many.

Had I heard of Chikara before buying my ticket to the show? Absolutely. Many of my favorite wrestlers had stints in Chikara years ago, so I had seen clips and matches here and there. A few others (Chuck Taylor, Drew Gulak, etc.) are currently on the roster, so when something involving them would pop up, I’d take a look. I think many of us have stumbled upon ‘funny Chikara moment’ videos in our related list on Youtube. For the most part however I knew of Chikara, not about Chikara.

Where do I begin? I received almost instantaneous answers. People who weren’t even following me were stepping forward with suggestions. Chikara fans were retweeting me, sending me matches to check out, specific people, and entire playlists of things on YouTube. It has to be said that the Chikara fanbase is one of the kindest I’ve come across, and also the one that wants so much to help new fans. I started watching what I could when I had the time, letting my friends fill in the blanks on the history as I go along. The internet is such a phenomenal resource in terms of wrestling history, and a quick poke around brought me to the backstories of those I was most interested in. It’s hard for me to sit and enjoy a show without knowing the basics first. Who’s the top guy around here? Why does this group hate that one? What do we cheer for certain people? What’s the payoff to this person winning? Having that small basis helps to understand the current situation, and really helps build the excitement for any event. After watched a few shows and things here and there, I finally felt that I was at least well versed enough to navigate myself through a live show.

Continue reading You never forget your first time: a trip to the fun, fantastical world of Chikara.

Becky Lynch: Charming us into Submission

Of NXT’s “Four Horsewomen” leading the charge in changing women’s wrestling in WWE, it’s Ireland’s Becky Lynch we’ve seen NXT_266_Photo_11-3362264059_0the least of. If you tally up the amount of matches each woman has had on NXT television, Lynch has a mere 18, that’s half of Charlotte’s total (36) and a smaller fraction of Bayley and Sasha Banks’ (40 and 48 respectively). And in those 18 matches, not including appearances in backstage segments or accompanying her BAE-partner Sasha, Lynch has not stayed with one fixed character or look for long. She has seen her fair share of hopping (and skipping, and jigging) around things that may or may not have worked. In spite of her character soul-searching on air, there is so much more to Lynch than meets the eye and her depth means we’re going to see even more great things from the emerald of the women’s division.

NXT commentary has reminded fans time and time again about Lynch’s 15 year-old wrestling beginnings. At 18 and 19 years old Lynch was already traveling the world, completing tours in Japan, across Europe and North America. One of the highlights of Lynch’s (then-Knox’s) early years was a 2-out-of-3 falls match in Shimmer against Daizee Haze.

The near half-hour bout was filled with submission maneuvers, mat work and counters. Those technical skills never left her even as a career-threatening injury forced Lynch to take time off wrestling and try out pastures new, none of which could ever replace wrestling.

Over Lynch’s time in NXT she’s had the opportunity to not only regain in-ring confidence and enhance her abilities on the

W0tQ7Rdmicrophone, but bring out her own personality in the face of “reel”-y questionable character traits. Even being a redheaded rocker or backstabbing Bayley to align with Sasha Banks had a vague sense of deja vu. But Lynch has an endearing personality and quite the sense of humour. Lynch is also an esteemed wordsworth, going on warpaths of puns while livetweeting WWE RAW and other events.

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But no piece on Becky Lynch could ever go without mentioning (and grovelling through words) her biggest break yet: the NXT women’s championship match against Sasha Banks at May’s NXT Takeover Special. Lynch introduced the NXT audience to her submission specialties, her holds and suplexes and her attention to detail. The psychology in the match has been applauded by many a fan, calling back to the match structures of decades gone by and ultimately supplying yet another easy addition to the Match of the Year short list.

 

It is all these things that earn Lynch outpours of appreciation from her peers around social media, including a shout-out from the late American Dream in one of his final tweets. Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 1.36.03 PMWe can hope that one day Lynch may have more lengthy holds and counters heavy chain wrestling bonanzas, or that she will have more time to let her naturally comical side out. But with so much to offer, you might as well sit back, grab a pint and enjoy the future for Becky Lynch.

Kanellis & Gallows return to NJPW, in non-wrestling roles

Maria Kanellis and Amber Gallows are scheduled to appear at the NJPW DOMINION event on July 5th, as well as the “road to” house shows beforehand in late June and early July. As of now they’re featured in the match graphics, but not as competitors. That doesn’t mean they won’t get involved as the storylines between The Kingdom and Bullet Club unfold.

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To complicate matters (and also make them more exciting), The Kingdom has officially joined forces with CHAOS, one of the main factions in NJPW, forming The Kingdom of CHAOS. As a result of this, the multi-person tags now feature CHAOS talent like RPG Vice and Kazuchika Okada as well as Matt Taven and Mike Bennett.

 

A return to manager-shenanigans for Amber & Maria on this tour doesn’t mean NJPW is abandoning the idea of women wrestling at its events, but I think if they do move forward in this area, it will be rare and involve women the company is already invested in, like Maria and Amber. It’s possible that they could bring more women in, but I don’t see them ever creating a new division specifically for the purpose of showcasing women wrestlers. NJPW booking women to actually wrestle on their shows to advance established storylines is always welcome, though. I will, as ever, keep you posted!

 

“I’m Actually Pretty Great At Sleeper Holds”: An Interview with Bake And Destroy’s Natalie Slater.

In childhood, I played the odd game of touch football without an audience, held together by the numbers–points, winning streaks and personal bests. A captive audience buzzing with capital make for interesting stakes, but few if any athlete will be invited into his respective hall of fame on the grounds that, though he never won any championships, he had a really good grasp of the “psychology of the fans”.

Being a wrestling fan is not a passive state. When you look into a painting, your gaze gives that work of art meaning. In art, we call this “funding and fusion”. The ball can float through the basket whether its watched by one or one thousand people. But the botched grace of a Pollock is not empirical. Likewise: the things we love about wrestling–the sell, the hope spot, the “let me tell you something, Mean Gene”–require not only our witnessing, but our reciprocation. Hulk Hogan did not attain immortality; it was thrust upon him by throngs of fans who saw him deplete the nemeses of America with the white hot fire of a Rock N’ Roll Jesus.

The fan-created art, blogs, zines, and non-name brand merch that sprout from wrestling fandom are not just the pop culture carbon footprint of wrestling, but necessary infrastructure; we are building gods and warriors and whatever they’re doing with Sandow out of otherwise “common people”.

In curating a culture for wrestling to thrive in, wrestling fans have a lot on their plate.

And Bake And Destroy’s Natalie Slater wants to fill that plate with delicious vegan food that will kick the shit out of you if you think for a second about making a “well I’ll just eat double the cows hurr hurr hurr”.

Her book has been given high marks by Colt Cabana and Lita. Like, I mean scores. Not John Cena tripping on LSD wrapped in bows.

How much of the aggression in your aesthetic is a counterpoint to the notion of veganism as passive or detrimentally pacifist? Vegans are so angry because they’re always starving”.

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Honky Tonk French Toast

Well, I’m an aggressive person to start with, so regardless of what I was or wasn’t eating, I have always been aggressive, and confrontational. Having something that I feel really passionate about, like veganism, like ethical veganism, just gives me more ammo. I just sort of enjoy arguing no matter what it’s about.

So your wrestler archetype would be Roddy Piper circa ‘84-’85.

Oh, you nailed it! If I could be anyone I would be for sure Roddy Piper.

What would go into a Rock N’ Wrestling era Roddy Piper themed cupcake?

Whatever it is, it’s gotta be something that can be used as a weapon. I feel like a good cream filled pie would be excellent. It would only make sense if it were coconut–a coconut cream pie that he could smash in anyone’s face would probably be perfect.

That is the moment I became attracted to men When I saw that happen and I was like “Whoa, that was cool, that guy’s kinda hot. Wait a minute, I think I like dudes.”

Roddy Piper was absolutely my first crush, and still remains… he still looks good.

Seeing that happen was a big part of my childhood.

Piper I was born after that segment aired. Maybe that’s why I’m a lesbian.

You know, it could’ve gone either way for me. It’s not too late still.

Wrestling is pretty much the one constant of my life. I get older, I change—no matter who I grow into, wrestling is a core part of that person’s identity. I’d definitely change my sexual orientation before I quit wrestling.

 When I was a child, I was afraid I’d be stuck living in Europe forever and never get to watch wrestling because I bought into this idea that everyone hated America’s freedoms and so Germany wouldn’t let the WWF in their country because Hacksaw Jim Duggan would try to get the crowds to chant “USA” and start an international incident. Before I ever kissed a girl, I was tits deep in the realpolitik of the ring.

Pro wrestling really, at it’s best, holds up a comical mirror to society. There’s always the guy going “USA USA”–there’s always the character, his opponent, who stands for whoever in the current news is viewed as trying to take away our freedom in some way, or challenging the American dream in some way. If you’re in on the joke, as a fan, you know you’re kind of making fun of yourself, and America is making fun of itself. You appreciate it, because you’re in on it, and it’s funny.

But I know that for a lot of people who maybe didn’t necessarily get into it when they were young–it can be a lot harder as an adult to appreciate the complexity of it and not just see it as buffoonery.

Deep Fried Cream Corn Balls
Deep Fried Cream Corn Balls

My husband did not grow up a wrestling fan, at all. He was a skateboarder, is a skateboarder, was always outside, never watched TV, wasn’t interested. He grew up a defiant little kid; everybody watched wrestling, all the people that he wasn’t interested in being friends with.

For him, as an adult, trying to appreciate something that means so much to me, it is a struggle for him, as a 43-year-old man trying to understand wrestling for the first time in his life.

So it is something very uniquely tied to your upbringing Some people do get into it as adults, and more power to them. For most people I know, it is tied to whatever it gave you as a kid, whatever feeling of unity or release or escape or whatever.

When people ask me “Why do you think we can achieve [insert goal of the “social justice agenda” here] in our lifetime” I go “look: when I was a kid, I believed John Nord was a Viking somehow resuscitated to fight the undead.

Those were magical days.

When I was a child, my parents told me that chicken wasn’t made of chicken, that it was just a vegetable that we called chicken. Until I was about 9 or 10 and had seen a farm slaughter firsthand, I had believed I was a vegetarian. It was like learning wrestling was fake—not wanting to turn around and see the steps you’d taken, able only to keep walking like nothing had ever happened. Can you remember, and do you want to share, when the pieces began to click and you realized wrestling was a work?

It wasn’t so much something that I did, or realized; it was a tide shift in wrestling itself that sort of made me willing to suspend my disbelief. In the mid to late 90s, I would say probably 1994/95, is really when Steve Austin really started booming. And by 1997, he was the biggest name in professional wrestling. And his entire gimmick was sort of gimmickless in a way.

It was certainly and exaggeration of his personality, but instead of saying “Oh, I’m a professional model and I’m gonna spray you with my essence”, instead of these cartoonish characters, he was like just a bad ass dude–you could kind of picture him being your friends’ dad or a cool uncle or whatever.

Well, I don’t know how cool he was with his jean shorts, but you know what I mean.

When wrestling started taking that shift, from that caricature to Degeneration X, where it was more just cool and every day guys, it made me, as a teenager at that point, go “oh, all that stuff before like Doink the Clown were these silly things, I accept that”.

Now everybody is just sort of like a realistic badass. There aren’t as many fanciful characters anymore.

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Banana Bread French Toast Cupcakes

Honestly, that’s kind of when I quit paying attention for a long time. I didn’t want that, I wasn’t interested in that as much as I was interested in all the weirdos–demented clowns and repo men. For a while they were all just kind of this dad guy.

I wonder if that magic can co-exist with social media. Every WWE show, it’s “livetweet this match! The Bellas have been busy on Instagram! Look, we made Kane and Sheamus read your insulting tweets!

That’s a good point. There’s not that barrier between us, as fans, and the stars anymore. It’s sort of removed some of that magic and mystery.

When you think of baseball, there are foods you associate with that. Hot dog, cracker jacks, a warm beer. Though other sports don’t have quite that culinary identity, there is a food/party culture to sports: tailgate parties, popcorn, $8 beer, etc. Would you break vegan for a Superstars Ice Cream Bar, and if given necessary leverage, what would you make the “official food” of wrestling? 

Would I trade in my vegan card for the day for an ice cream bar? I have to say no. As excited as I would be to see that, it would really need to be something truly delicious that would ever tempt me away from this path that I am passionate about.

I have very clear memories of that ice cream being super icy and artificially vanilla.

Amy
Lita & The Hurricane would make for a good indie band name.

I would for sure instagram it and be super excited that it existed—but I don’t think it would be worth it for me to actually eat it.

If it were up to me, I would say since no other sporting event has ever truly claimed nachos as their own, I would like to claim that, on behalf of wrestling. And really make something of it! I love nachos–that’s probably my favourite food.

But that is really interesting that there has never been food associated with other sports—you can get a soft pretzel and peanuts at any sporting event. I wonder if it’s because wrestling events are always indoors and there’s not that picnicking aspect to it that you kind of get at a baseball game.

I was also gonna say whatever the food was, it would have to be cheap enough that you didn’t feel upset when a wrestler knocked it out of your hand and called you a piece of shit because you got too close to the guard rail.

That’s a good point!

As a non-vegan, I really love vegan baking. The ethical and moral shit aside—we’ll save that for the PPV blowoff–there are genuine objective advantages to vegan baking.

foodfightFor one thing, just right off the bat, if you’re the kind of person who likes to eat cookie dough or taste cake batter if you cook, vegan baking is the way to go. You’re not at risk for all of the food borne illnesses that you’re at risk for if you’re consuming things like raw eggs in your batter. From a purely snacking while you cook perspective, it’s awesome.

Another thing that drove me nuts, as a conventional baker, was the constant need for ingredients that I wasn’t necessarily using for anything else. Nobody in my family eats eggs. My kid doesn’t like them, nobody likes them–if I had a recipe and I needed two eggs, I’d have to get an entire dozen to make this one stupid recipe.

The same with milk! We’re not big milk drinkers, I mean being vegan, obviously now we’re not, but we never were. There were just a lot of things that I had to keep around in order to bake, that now that I don’t have to; the substitutions are simple and cheap, and they’re real food substitutions.

I can use bananas instead of eggs. I can use baking soda and vinegar as an awesome leavener. I can use flax seeds ground up and mixed with a little bit of water as a binder. There’s all these things that I can use, that are super simple, that are already in my house, really inexpensive and are actual, nutritious, food.

Once you know the tricks, it’s really not that complicated anymore. And I think it does trip people up—they’re so used to butter, milk, eggs as being the baking staples. But honestly, there’s a handful of tricks and they’re easy.

A vegan diet is a cholesterol free diet. If you stick to real foods, it improves your digestion.

There are a million health reasons associated with it too– it’s also just a purely simple and inexpensive way of cooking and baking.

What was the litmus of your suspense of disbelief? For me, I knew wrestling was real when Jake “The Snake” Roberts tied Macho Man into the ropes and had Damien bite him. Looking back, I realize that doesn’t speak well for the “magic” of wrestling. It’s athletic improvisational theatre with complicated but engaging rituals—and when that doesn’t work we have this live animal in a sack!

I remember my little sister and I being genuinely terrified of the Undertaker.

I remember him putting Ultimate Warrior in a coffin and slamming it shut. We literally cried, the two of us cried, because we thought he was dead. That was shocking, and terrifying, and we really thought we saw someone die. It couldn’t have been more real than that very moment.

A runner up for me, of moments that “wrestling is so terrifying it transcends the question of ‘real’” would be Royal Rumble ’94 where you see the Undertaker inside of the casket and then he becomes smoke and ascends to the TitanTron. That is probably why I am legitimately afraid of being buried alive, as an adult.

Those matches were really scary. It’s funny; I’ve brought my iece to quite a few wrestling events, and she cries every time Kane comes to the ring, because the fire and everything else. It’s scary, and he’s scary. I guess in a way it’s nice that some of those really supernatural and weird characters did manage to live on to keep scaring little kids the way they should.

I have always loved a good heel. But I didn’t hate Undertaker; he just scared me. It wasn’t until I was older when I appreciated that, really.

Even as a kid I, always liked Jake the Snake, I always liked the Million Dollar Man. I liked those guys because they were funnier and more fun to match. There was something about the Undertaker, though; he wasn’t a straight heel. He was something else. He wasn’t good, he wasn’t bad, he was just kind of evil and that was frightening.

He’s kind of like the Borg in Star Trek. He’s this inhuman force that can’t be reasoned with.

Right, yeah. That’s totally it. You picture yourself somehow encountering these people. If you met Hulk Hogan, he would ruffle your hair and tell you to say your prayers and take your vitamins. If you met the Million Dollar Man, he would call you a peasant, and you might be able to kiss his ass and carry his briefcase for him and maybe he would let you hang out with him. You kind of know how to handle them as a human.

The Undertaker, there was no interaction that you could picture with him because he was so cold and dead. And really, maybe the most interesting character.

Would you have taken your niece to an Attitude era show?

fraaaandsWell. it’s interesting because the biggest reason why my niece is interested is because my family is very close with Phil Brooks, formerly known as CM Punk–he and I have known each other for 20 years. He definitely crashed our house quite a bit as a teenager.

At the height of his popularity in the WWE was like right when my niece kind of hit the age where kids in her class were really into wrestling–she was second or third, he was all over the place, everybody was talking about the “Pipe Bomb” and she was really interested. My sister was like “you know, he’s a friend of ours. And auntie can take us to matches.” We would always sit ringside and it was exciting for her. A big part of why she was even interested was kind of the access that she was able to have because just of his friendship with my family.

I don’t know if there was anything going on during the Attitude Era that would have caused as much of a buzz in third grade as Punk kind of breaking that wall and really airing his grievances.

I feel like older kids were more interested in the Attitude Era—even adult men were really into Steve Austin and the whole whoop-ass and all that. DX and all their groin grabbing–that was kind of for older kids and grown ups. So, I don’t know. I really don’t know.

I feel like I should mention this now, in case you ever Google me, but I used to be a super, super, super intense critic of CM Punk

That’s fine. Let me tell you: being friends with him for 20 years, you definitely have to have a thick skin about people’s criticisms of him. People were critical of him before he was anything, when he was working in a comic book store. It’s nothing new.

I’ve warmed up to him in the past few years, because I’m an adult now. The Attitude Era was fun for what it was. And ECW was fun for what it was. But wrestling cannot be that anymore. Wrestling needs to be accessible to children. I came to really appreciate the work he’s was doing to make wrestling accessible to kids. So if you’re ever wanna tell him “I talked to this girl who used to hate you, but now she doesn’t”—well, I’m sure he hears that a hundred times a day.

Hahaha, yeah.

Do you prefer the blue waffle-style cage or the chain link fence?

I think maybe the chain link just for no reason, I just picked one that I’m like “I like that better.”

When people talk about wrestling, they frame it as a sport/jock culture. But wrestling is not a jock culture; it is very firmly a nerd culture. I hear people argue with such lengths about which cage is better. And in fact, I know some wrestling writers who hate steel cage matches, and it’s not because they don’t like the gimmick of it, but because they find a face having to escape a situation to win thematically inappropriate.

beth
Has a more pretentious statement ever preceded the splendor of Beth Phoenix?

I’m with you. For me, wrestling was definitely a nerd thing. A nerdy thing to like, and all the jocks and the people who liked quote unquote real sports were not interested in it because it was fake.

But my husband grew up in Flint, Michigan and all his cousins were from South Carolina. Flint is very urban, but most of the people he was with on a regular basis were a little bit more rural and they all loved Ric Flair. He was their hero, and to him, wrestling was more of a jock thing to be into, because he was a skateboarder and a punk rocker in Flint, Michigan in the eighties, and very much an outcast. The kids who were more socially acceptable and popular all loved wrestling, and loved Ric Flair. It’s really interesting how your surroundings can completely make wrestling culturally acceptable or unacceptable.

I live in Chicago, Punk lives in Chicago too, and it’s been pretty easy for him to have some degree of privacy here. In the city of Chicago, people are very image concerned, it’s very “hip”, and wrestling is not really considered hip. And so he, for the most part, can kind of do this thing and not get a lot of hassle. But when he leaves and goes to the suburbs, or to another city, he gets hassled a lot more by wrestling fans. It’s weird– a lot of it is to do with your surroundings.

If you were gonna make cupcakes of 90s Sting and The Crow era Sting

Oh my gosh!

What would be in them?

90s Sting was so excellent. I loved him, and had a giant crush on him, even though my cousins referred to him as generic Ultimate Warrior.

They were tag team partners. So, not far off? 

It would definitely have to be neon in every way, like maybe a version of a funfetti cake. Lots of colours in there. And it would need to be filled with something fluorescent and custardy. Lots of really artificial food dyes would be in play. Maybe one of those tiedye cakes that are all over pinterest.

For the Crow era: I think you’d have to go really dark–like a dutch chocolate, and then fill it with some kind of red berry jam and ganache. And then you could use white chocolate to do a reverse corpse paint thing on top of it.

They would be two completely different taste buds. One would be a much more kid friendly overly sugary sweet and the other one would definitely be a more bitter and dark chocolate.

And what would your finisher be?

This is not based in fantasy. It might not be as fanciful as an answer as you would hope for. I’m actually pretty great at sleeper holds. I sometimes just throw them on my husband for fun—he’s tapped out on a few occasions.

Considering my love of sweatpants, maybe I would just call it the Comfy Sweatpants. And when I put it on my opponent, they would instantly feel like they were in a comfy pair of sweatpants and they would be unable to resist.

That’s great, that’s better than anything I could’ve hoped for in terms of an answer.

Excellent.

I scream, you scream: ‘Where’s my WWF Ice Cream?’

To get you in the mood for this post, I’ve got the background music of choice for you. That was almost my entrance theme for Doughnut Messaround as part of the League of Lady Wrestlers, but I felt that the Mr. Softee motif may have been lost on the Canadian crowds.

jimmy hartSo here I am, sitting at home eating an ice cream sandwich and wondering how much happier I would be if one of my favourite wrestlers was imprinted on it, just for novelties sake. There are days when I describe silly facts like that about myself and am met with the response of “it’s your aesthetic” and no one is surprised. But alas, this ice cream sandwich does not have that magic value that I so desire.

If you weren’t around to revel in the joy of the Good Humour branded treats, you weren’t missing much. They had a bizarre almost slushy like texture, probably caused by freezer burn, but I would still chase the truck down the street to get one if they were around today. Maybe with the current resurgence of wrestling in the forefront of pop culture, WWE and Good Humor will humour us and listen to CM Punks many demands and bring ’em back for a final go. Where in the hell are my WWE ice cream bars?

Back in 2008, WWE magazine even had a DIY page on how to make your own bars in time for SummerSlam. Vanilla ice cream, cookies, chocolate shell and a popsicle stick? Maybe we’ll have to test this out this summer and make LOLW branded ones for our own promotion and see how those fly off the shelves.

2011-07-15-ice-cream
Comic from BotchedSpot.com

 

I am totally on board with ice cream being the official wrestling food, especially in the heat of the summer. So let’s take a look back at the glorious promos all surrounding these not so tasty but memorable treats:

Painted for beyond the grave

When you think of important figures in the history of pro-wrestling, it would be impossible to build a list without the Undertaker. The man has had an almost untouchable streak in sports history, and let’s face it, everyone who has seen an Undertaker entrance has quivered at one point or another. I’ve been lucky enough to watch the Undertaker perform at two Wrestlemania’s, and there are few feelings in the world that compare with the awe and spine-tingling joy one feels when the gong echoes through an arena.

the_undertaker4

The Undertaker is also one of the most interesting characters in wrestling history, fashion wise. His look stays familiar while still changing and evolving with the times. His black and purple motif is a signifier for him, and that’s what I decided to play with here.
I wanted this to be something fun, dramatic and dark, without being too ‘costume’ looking. I wanted to use the colors and drama of the Undertaker without it seeming too gothic or undead looking, and I think it worked pretty well!

To start this look, as always, moisturize your face and find the foundation you want to use. I knew I wanted to look pale for this and lucky for me, I’m super pale already. I used Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse in Porcelain Ivory as my foundation and applied it with my fingers, as I feel like with this product it applies much more smoothly this way. Once I had done that, I moved onto the eye since that is the focal point of this look. I started with using the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk across my lids as a base, blending it out with my ring finger. I gave it a few seconds to set and began applying the eyeshadow.

Before applying the shadow, I first filled in my eyebrows. This is a pretty simple step. I used the ELF cream liner in black and an angled liner brush and follow the curve of my eyebrows, drawing in the outline. Then I used what was left on the brush to fill them in a bit before using a flat eyeshadow brush to collect some of the black shadow in the Sleek Ultra Mattes V2 palate and filling in the spaces I missed.

undertaker makeup palette with noFor the colours you’ll need both the palate I mentioned before as well as Sleek’s i Divine palette in Snapshot. In terms of style, I started this as a cut-crease eyeshadow look. This is a little harder to explain, but YouTube has tons of great tutorials on how to do this. I also extended the look and because I was making it a lot darker heavier than one would normally use for a cut crease look, it sort of morphed into a smoky eye toward the ends.
I started out with the darkest purple here [1] and drew in a line following the crease of my eye with a firm dome brush. I blended that out just a bit and then worked on building up the other colors around it. I then blended in some other purple shades, [2] & [3], starting right above where I had placed the first color. The point here was to create an effect where the lightest part of the eye ends up being the lid and just under the eyebrow, the darkest part in the shadows of the crease and then blending the richer colors upward. I used a soft blending brush to apply and blend these colors upward until I thought they were dramatic enough.

Finally I went in with the last color, the lightest purple shade [4] and packed that onto the lid. Wiping off the same blending brush, I blended it into the crease just a bit so the line between the two wasn’t obnoxious. The last step was to take some of the white shadow [5] and place it just underneath the brow bone and blend downwards. This brightens everything up and adds even more to the drama of the look.

Once I was happy with the general eyeshadow look, I applied eyeliner. For this I used the ELF cream liner and angled liner brush again, first lining the top as close to the lash line as possible. Then I ran this under my eyes across the waterline as well, also picking up a little of the second purple shade just to add a pop of color. For the dramatic lines for my inner eye, I continued using the same product and brush. The easiest way to do this is to draw a line from where your top liner ends to the point you want. You can go as far in or out as you choose. Then you draw another line from that point to the water line of your bottom lashes and fill it in. This takes a steady hand and a lot of practice, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right the first time!

After the liner is complete, the last thing I did was take a large fluffy brush and run it under my eyes, wiping away any eyeshadow that may have dropped down. I then took a concealer brush and my concealer, the MAC NW20 and ran some under my eyes and also across my lips to make them look as colorless as possible.
That’s it! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions about the look or the products, and send me photos (@ChicagosCRose) if you try to recreate this or put your own spin on it!

Charlotte does it with Flair

When her entrance music hits, the sampling of Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra gives you all you need to know about her esteemed wrestling lineage. When she defeats her opponents in the ring, the same sampling sends her off. In a way it’s a sign that her familiar entrance theme is the first and last thing Charlotte wants to hear about being “Ric Flair’s daughter” and luckily she has given wrestling fans plenty of reason to see her as her own woman.

In a showcase of the benefits of the WWE Performance Center, the company would be blind not to feature Charlotte front and centre. She has combined her athletic background with wrestling training that has come exclusively from the facility and in turn put together impressive performances that have allowed her to strut her way onto many Match of the Year lists. Charlotte is evidence that the approach to developing women’s wrestling in NXT is working, provided women are allowed the opportunity to put in the time and the work, and it’s clear Charlotte has put in tremendous work.

It has been incredible to see Charlotte’s growth over the duration of NXT, beginning as the new girl in the BFFs to taking the opportunity to become the next face of the NXT women’s division. Her big break was at NXT Takeover to determine the new Women’s Champion against Natalya.

The match was largely a ground game/submission match, a style that showcased Charlotte’s grit and determination to take her place as the Queen of NXT. It was also a sign that women had a place in the WWE environment to take their time and develop more detailed, psychological matches.

nxt-takeover-natalya-charlotte

From there, her in-ring acumen has seen her embrace new styles and moves, enhanced by the talents of those she shares the ring with. From exciting matches with Sasha Banks to more emotionally charged bouts with Bayley, to the stunning performance of all three plus Becky Lynch in the fatal four way, Charlotte has a bounty of opportunity to keep getting better and better, and potentially develop a richer character.

Charlotte’s progress was enough to allow her a chance to grace the main product at the end of 2014 in another match against Natalya, but as many could see something was off. The two women work well together but the current environment of women’s wrestling in WWE proper is not conducive to what Charlotte, and with many other talent are meant to accomplish.

Whatever comes of the state of women’s wrestling in WWE, the work Charlotte has done in her short time becoming a wrestler does justice to her family name.

 

Meet the women of Skin Tight Bitch Fight

This weekend I got to partake in my first ever “game jam” with DMG Toronto. A game jam is where you have an finite period of time in which to create a video game, and this was my first time ever setting foot near video games. The theme was “GYM JAM” so Femmezuigiri through our hat in and decided to collaborate with some fellow members of Dames Making Games and create a wrestling game.

The game is still in the beginning development stages but will be playable on Femmezuigiri once it’s complete.

Skin Tight Bitch Fight is a visual novel in which you take over for the league booker who has come down with a nasty case of Hulkamania — the most serious of ailments. Navigating through a sea of pun laden wrestling promos you select your fighter match ups and a few of their moves cooperatively with a partner in an effort to please the crowd. But be careful, if the crowd isn’t happy then they won’t buy tickets to your next show and the promotion will go under. Support the fighters and do your best job booking and agenting these matches so the women can afford to continue on with their wrestling careers.

I’ve decided to give you a sneak peek and introduction to the ladies who make up the roster of Skin Tight Bitch Fight.