Tuesday, July 16, 2024

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Women wrestlers speak out about intergender wrestling

Intergender wrestling, wrestling that occurs when a male and female wrestler compete against each other, has been a hot topic since wrestling’s birth.

Every few years, the debate comes full-circle, and we see discussion on intergender wrestling pop up on television, the internet, and in print. In like any debate, clear battle lines are drawn, and strong opinions exist on each side.

Recently, the dialogue was given extra kindle to burn, when Nia Jax took out R-Truth, and replaced him in the men’s WWE Royal Rumble match. After eliminating Mustafa Ali, Jax found herself competing in ring against Rey Mysterio, Dolph Ziggler, and Randy Orton, all of which treated Jax no differently because of her gender, and intergender wrestling took a very public stage in a popular WWE pay-per-view.

Credit: WWE/YouTube

The match sparked controversy for multiple reasons, but intergender wrestling once again received the spotlight, drawing powerful thoughts and beliefs from fans and critics, alike. Diva Dirt’s mission is to support women’s wrestling, in every aspect of the industry. In order to give the women a voice, Editor-in-Chief Kristen Ashly collected thoughts of women wrestlers who compete in intergender wrestling, asking the women what they would say to critics of the idea.

Perhaps one of the biggest supporters of intergender wrestling is LuFisto. The French Canadian wrestler has been around since 1997 and fought male wrestlers like Kevin Owens and Nick Gage. In 2002, LuFisto was set to compete against hardcore wrestler Bloody Bill Skullion for a Blood, Sweat, ‘N’ Ears (BSE) event. The Ontario Athletics Commission stopped the fight, threatening to remove BSE’s license, citing a regulation preventing women and men competing against each other. With the help of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, LuFisto was able to convince the OAC to drop the regulation.

“I took them down because not allowing women to fight men is DISCRIMINATORY. A combat environment has NOTHING to do with domestic violence. Women who step in the ring are not victims; they are fighters who have the right to be seen as an equal to any opponent that stands in front of them. As powerful women, it is their choice to do so,” LuFisto said regarding the issues with the OAC.

LuFisto vs. Necro Butcher 10/29/06

LuFisto talks about how important intergender wrestling is to her career, and how viewers should remember that wrestling is a form of entertainment, putting emphasis on the differences between wrestling and domestic violence.

“Promoters were telling me to be a manager, but all I ever wanted was to be a wrestler. When I mentioned that I wanted to wrestle men, I was laughed at, bullied and told I was cocky for believing I could do such a thing. Even the girlfriends of wrestlers were against me because they thought I was there to “touch and steal their men”. All I wanted to do was wrestle, fight against more experienced wrestlers so I could learn and better myself. I needed to prove that my gender didn’t mean anything, that I could have good matches, too.

You cannot allow and accept that actors/actresses and stuntmen/ stuntwomen are fighting each other on movie sets or during live performances, but that it is not okay for male and female wrestlers. You cannot even argue that movies and comics are not real. The people involved are real, they made the choice to be there, and they are playing a character…just as wrestlers.

Every time someone compares domestic violence to intergender wrestling, this story comes to my mind. Two willing participants are facing each other in a wrestling match. With a victim of domestic violence, man or woman, there is no choice. It is against their will. You can’t compare the two.”

Impact Knockouts Champion Taya Valkyrie wrestled the likes of Fenix and Brian Cage, experiencing intergender wrestling the most during her time at Lucha Underground and the Mexican independent circuits. Valkyrie also places strong emphasis on the fact that wrestling is meant to be entertainment.

Taya Valkyrie confronts Brian Cage at Lucha Underground

“I personally don’t understand why fans have a problem with it. Intergender wrestling has been going on in Lucha Libre for years and years. This is why Lucha Underground showed it the way it did. When, done properly with a great story, I feel there is nothing wrong with it. This is sports entertainment, key word ‘entertainment’. If you enjoy watching Catwoman take on Batman, or the Avengers going at it, then you should have no problem with a Machine taking on la Wera Loca!”

Women wrestlers who have intergender wrestling under their belts often compare the situation to comic books and movies. Erica Porter, known in Women of Wrestling as Jungle Grrrl, has fought men in the ring since her debut in 2000, and doesn’t think it should be as taboo as it is. Porter even cites a fight between Tessa Blanchard and Ricochet at Beyond Wrestling as a perfect example of what intergender wrestling can accomplish.

Erica Porter aka Jungle Grrrl

Session Moth Martina has made intergender wrestling a mainstay in her career, fighting various male wrestlers like Colt Cabana, Joey Ryan and Peter Avalon for promotions like OTT Wrestling and Bar Wrestling. Martina remarks on how important the concept is for her job.

“Intergender wrestling has been a part of my wrestling career for my entire eight years. I was the only girl training, so if I didn’t lock up with the boys I wouldn’t be where I am now. And even since, the majority of my matches are intergender, because, why not? It fits with my character to wrestle both men and women, and I’m so thankful for the guys in my training treating me as an equal from day one, or I never would have learned how to wrestle.

Anyone that’s against it has to have the same opinion when it comes to superhero movies. Why is it okay for Catwoman to beat up the bad guys on TV, but in wrestling it’s considered bad taste? Men and women are trained to do the same thing, so why should my gender stop me facing the best, be it a man or a woman?”

Charli Evans, too, has built quite the career around intergender wrestling, taking part in the Four Nations stable, and notably taking part in an 8-way match against Pete Dunne, Eddie Dennis, Jordan Devlin, Martina, Millie McKenzie, Jack Sexsmith, and Lee Hunter in Fight Club: Pro. Evans agrees that wrestlers should be treated equally, regardless of gender.

“My dream would be for it to been seen as just wrestling. All wrestlers have to train, work hard, workout, eat well, put in all their effort. So to have someone tell me that I can’t wrestle someone because I am a different gender is a bit ridiculous. At the end of the day, all wrestlers know how to wrestle and tell a story, and I think everyone should be able to do that, regardless of gender.”

Kylie Rae, one of the newest signees for All Elite Wrestling, has fought GPA and Pat Monix at promotions like Freelance Wrestling. Rae makes the argument that intergender wrestling can be done well, especially if wrestler size is comparable.

Kylie Rae

Fans were excited to see a snippet of intergender wrestling make a comeback with this year’s Royal Rumble, but the excitement was short lived, when WWE canceled a match featuring Nia Jax vs. Dean Ambrose at a live event. Though WWE is touch-and-go when it comes to allowing intergender wrestling, there’s still hope to see it hit mainstream. Brandi Rhodes, CBO of All Elite Wrestling, explains how it’s not out of the question for AEW.

Brandie Rhodes, CBO of All Elite Wrestling

There’s arguments to be made for either side of the controversy, but women wrestlers argue it isn’t a controversy at all. Wrestling still has a long ways to go to form an even playing field, and the women’s evolution is really only beginning. We hope that promoters and companies listen to their female talent when considering intergender wrestling, and remember that it’s only a matter of time before the women come for what is rightfully their’s: equal opportunity.

Do you think intergender wrestling should be mainstream? What are your thoughts on the debate?

*Please credit Diva Dirt for any quotes or transcription taken from this article.

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