When I mentioned that I started watching wrestling on The Tone Podcast last year, my co-host immediately conjured the image of the stereotypical wrestling fan: male, weird, unkempt. To be clear, wrestling has earned its reputation given its history of having racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and xenophobic storylines popularized by the WWE and beyond. All this being said, the face of the average wrestling fan is slowly changing into something more progressive.
At an EVOLVE wrestling event, I believe that wrestler Zack Sabre, Jr. said it best: “Pro wrestling is for everyone. We welcome everyone. We do not discriminate...the Earth is for everyone and professional wrestling is for everyone.”
It’s important to celebrate professional wrestlers and promotions who are using their platform to create inclusive environments—wrestlers like the aforementioned Sabre, Joey Ryan and Candice LeRae, Jack Sexsmith, among others. One of the biggest independent promotions in the world, Progress Wrestling, even sells t-shirts celebrating LGBTQIA+ inclusivity.
But, beyond the progress that the wrestlers and promotions are pushing for, the responsibility of inclusion also falls on the shoulders of its fans, as I would argue that they’re even more obligated to be ambassadors for this form of entertainment.
I’ve been racking my mind on how to write a guidebook on how to get into wrestling as an outsider, but it’s such an inscrutable world for outsiders, and if that world doesn’t seem inviting to start with, I don’t know if there’s any amount of definition or explanation I could provide to sell the appeal of professional wrestling.
Instead of talking about my favorite wrestlers, which is a lengthy blog post for another day, I want to highlight the communities that are creating inclusive environments in the world of wrestling. This by no means is a conclusive list, as I am sure that there are far more communities and organizations beyond the ones I know about—if that’s the case, please leave a comment and I’ll be more than happy to add them to this post and credit you for the h/t.
Going to wrestling events can be a lot like going to a punk or metal show. The crowds can get rowdy, in some cases, they can get violent. Given wrestling’s more conservative history, it crowds can sometimes be unfriendly toward women, the queer community, or people of color, to name a few of the marginalized groups that have tended to be on the outside of wrestling’s fringes. That’s where PWGrrrlGang comes in.
While #PWGrrrlGang initially started as a Twitter hashtag in 2016, it has grown into a community that works to look out for its marginalized fans, providing hosting services so that marginalized fans can feel safe and not alone at wrestling shows. Beyond that, to further encapsulate their "wrestling is for everyone" attitude, they raise funds so that marginalized fans can safely attend shows they cannot afford.
Tights and Fights Podcast
Being a fan of pro wrestling also means talking about it. In order for the image of the modern wrestling fan to progress, we also need to change the way we talk about wrestling. Danielle Redford, Hal Lublin, Open Mike Eagle, and Lindsey Kelk talk about wrestling on a weekly basis with the “hilarity and sincerity” that it deserves.
Aside from the podcast, Tights and Fights has also given me a community of like-minded people who approach wrestling with a more critical eye. Our discussions range from debating the use of Roman Reigns to calling out problematic behaviors or past and current wrestling personnel. It has been comforting to be a part of a community that is able to draw the parallels between wrestling and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
YouTube: Nobodies Watching Wrestling
Speaking of the parallels between wrestling and drag, how about a couple drag queens talking about wrestling? Ariel Italic & Lady Bearica Andrews are joined by DJ Accident Report to dish out the hottest takes on wrestling. Always insightful and always funny, The Nobodies are required viewing for today’s modern wrestling fan.
Graphic designer Kate Foray has made waves in the wrestling fan community for fearlessly confronting WWE’s Womens’ Revolution and showing just how much time that WWE has actually devoted to its female roster on television and during its pay-per-view events. She has done this with a style uniquely her own, to the extent that her style has been imitated and ripped off—not only has she taken a stand for WWE’s women, but also for the rights and representation of graphic designers who have gotten ripped off by larger entities.
Her enamel pins celebrating the friendship between wrestlers Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have been recognized by the wrestlers themselves, and her iconic “Smark Tears” coffee mug was hilariously seen with the much-maligned wrestler Roman Reigns during a photo-op. Also, keep an eye out for her zine highlighting the experiences of marginalized wrestling fans titled Girl Wrestling Fan, Will You Marry Me?
GIFs are the universal language of the internet, and TDE never fails to deliver GIFs from all corners of wrestling ranging from WWE to New Japan to Stardom and beyond. In showcasing everything that wrestling has to offer, they highlight the best moments while also showing the diversity and inclusion in the world of wrestling.
Not Your Demographic
Not Your Demographic is a feminist wrestling podcast hosted by Stella and Erin. Every week, the duo puts on their best wrestling fan gear and approaches all the ridiculousness that has happened in the world of wrestling. Beyond wrestling, they also tackle politics, dating, and John Cena's Tapout Body Spray scents. They're well worth the listen, especially in a landscape where wrestling podcasts tend to be a bunch of dudes yelling in to microphones.
(h/t to Joe Zantek for the recommendation!)
The following are some assorted links to resources that also encapsulate the spirit of inclusive wrestling, but I’m not able to provide a neat summary of how they do it—basically, they talk about wrestling in an enriching way and make Wrestling Twitter a bearable place for discussion:
There are so many more people out there who are fighting to ensure that the wrestling fan community is an inclusive space, but it all starts with the individual. Wrestling doesn’t have to be a scary weird place. I’ve got so much respect for the people who work hard to show the best that this world has to offer. So, if you’re interested in seeing what wrestling is all about, be sure to keep an eye out for these good folks.
UPDATES & CORRECTIONS
- CORRECTION on Feb 11: PWGRRRLGANG was previously reported to provide scholarships for women to attend wrestling schools due to my own error. This entry has since been corrected to reflect that they raise funds so that marginalized wrestling fans can safely attend shows that they cannot afford. (Thanks, Lady J!)
- UPDATE on Feb 11: Not Your Demographic podcast added, per recommendation by Joe Zantek; Links RSS feeds added for podcast entries; Patreon links added for Kate Foray, The Nobodies; Store link added for PWGRRRLGANG