Nyla Rose is a woman of many names. She wears her Oneida heritage with pride in the U.S. under the moniker the Native Beast. Japanese wrestling fans recognize her as the American Kaiju. Fans of Tofu Pro Wrestling recognize her as Debbie Kong. Viewers of Canada’s OutTV might even know her as Su from the trans-focused sitcom “The Switch.”
But in February 2019 Rose earned her most historic title to date: full-time member of the All Elite Wrestling roster.
The move made Rose the first out transgender woman to ever sign a full-time deal with a major American wrestling promotion.
Rose isn’t the only out trans wrestler plying their craft between the ropes, but her signing stands as the next step in LGBTQ acceptance in an industry that is only recently softening its attitudes toward LGBTQ competitors and fans.
LGBTQ activity within pro wrestling is currently booming thanks to the rising profile of out LGBTQ participants, notable allies and progressive storylines. Wrestlers like Fred Rosser, the first out gay male wrestler in WWE history, and Jake Atlas, are showing that out wrestlers don’t have to be outlandish effeminate caricatures to succeed.
At the same time, Rose’s AEW counterpart, Sonny Kiss, is redefining that stereotypical image, mixing twerking and camp with impressive athleticism.
All Elite Wrestling took this wave of inclusivity to heart and aligned themselves alongside by signing Rose. That commitment grew when AEW chief brand officer Brandi Rhodes defended Rose and the company in the face of transphobic online harassment after announcing Rose’s first match.
A safe, inclusive, respectful and very cool environment will be central to everything we do at AEW. Be who you are, and come as you are. Because we're all going to come together as a community to change the world. #AEW (2/2)— Brandi Rhodes (@TheBrandiRhodes) February 13, 2019
It’s great to see the company defending their inclusive stance, but Rose hasn’t let detractors knock her off course, even during her pre-AEW career. She was already a multi-year ring veteran before transitioning, and returning to the ring afterward was her greatest hurdle.
“Oh absolutely! I didn’t think I would have another match [to be honest]. But wrestling has been shockingly supportive!” Rose replied when asked if she worried about how others in the industry would treat her post-transition during a March 2019 Reddit AMA. “I cried after my first match back, I couldn’t believe how accepting everyone was.”
That acceptance empowered Rose to a career competing and capturing championships in various promotions, mainly along the east coast, until she caught the eye of famed Japanese Joshi legend Chigusa Nagayo.
“The amazing Nagayo Chigusa was holding a tryout in [New York] a few years back. so naturally an opportunity like this, I had to be there. At the tryout I was invited to be on her show the next day. I must have done something right because [when] I left the arena I was invited to Japan by Nagayo -San herself,” Rose recalled.
Rose’s time in Japan wrestling for Nagayo’s Marvelous promotion and Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling was her favorite in the industry. It also put her on the radar of one of AEW’s main female talent scouts, former IWGP heavyweight champion Kenny Omega. Omega has been a prominent LGBTQ ally within pro wrestling, while also taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to his own sexuality, during his rise to international super stardom. But Rose’s gender identity wasn’t why she was set to make history.
She’s there because she’s that damn good.
But that doesn’t mean that she shies away from being an example of transgender achievement. Her presence has brought trans wrestling fans out of the woodwork, even inspiring some to aspire to their own in-ring careers. “Thank you for doing what you do. As a trans girl who loves wrestling, it’s great to see you out there doing what you do,” one Reddit user gushed.
Rose’s roles as advocate and American Kaiju collided on April 4 when she took on fellow trans wrestler Marriah Moreno at A Matter Of Pride Wrestling’s Divamania event. It was both historic and sentimental. Rose cites Moreno as an inspiration as she debated reentering the squared circle post-transition.
#TransIsBeautiful— A Matter Of Pride Wrestling ️ (@LGBTQwrestling) April 6, 2019
Never before has the trans community been represented like this, we continue to strive to break down more barriers!
Thank you @NylaRoseBeast
Thank you @MarriahMoreno
Thank you Aubrey #AMatterofPride #Divamania
Presented by @FoamHammerGames & @NYWCWRESTLING pic.twitter.com/LeCMwoaXJn
The match ended with Rose exiting to chants of “AEW” from the predominantly LGBTQ audience. Rose now carries that support into the AEW ring, standing now as the goal in an evolving industry she once thought might not accept her.
When she took on Dr. Britt Baker and Kylie Rae at Double or Nothing on May 25, Nyla Rose came full circle to be the inspiration she once found in Moreno and Nagayo. All that was left is to sit-out powerbomb the glass ceiling for trans women even more.
“Let’s be real: we are going to face certain difficulties, certain discriminations. It has happened to me. I’ve been very fortunate in regards that no one has outright done it to my face. But for other trans wrestlers that I know, a lot of them are going through that same first step that I went through. Is this a place for me? Am I going to be welcomed? How is the world going to receive me,” said Rose in a 2017 interview on YouTube series Wrestling With Wregret.
“But I think wholeheartedly, of the women that I know, most are doing well for themselves. It’s going to be scary... recognize that fear but don’t let that fear control you. Just recognize it, put it aside and take that leap.”