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Out In The Ring documentary connects LGBTQ pro wrestling’s present with its history

‘People in the know about wrestling know about this movement, these people and these stories. But what they don’t know is the history that goes back to the 1940s.’

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Sonny Kiss
All Elite Wrestling’s Sonny Kiss
Jahlen Barnes/Out In The Ring

LGBTQ pro wrestling’s spotlight has never been brighter following a year full of stellar LGBTQ-led events and a record number of industry figures living out and proud. But the success of events like Butch vs. Gore and EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch are only hallmarks because of a decades-long journey that brought LGBTQ identites to pro wrestling prominence.

The forthcoming documentary “Out In The Ring” aims to tell both stories and showcase the links between pro wrestling’s historic LGBTQ presence and its influence on the present and future heights of LGBTQ pro wrestling. The film’s first trailer dropped last Thursday and gave audiences a small taste of the power in store.

“People in the know about wrestling know about this movement, these people and these stories. But what they don’t know is the history that goes back to the 1940s,” Out In The Ring director/producer Ryan Bruce Levey told the Outsports. “This is the right time to tell this story and expose the rest of the world to these amazing talents and these amazing stories and the risks still to this day that these performers are taking.”

Timing is something Levey knows all too well when it comes to this project. The first-time director and lifelong wrestling fan has been working on the project for the better part of four years, compiling interviews with current day stars (EFFY, Kiera Hogan, Billy Dixon, Sonny Kiss, Dark Sheik, Parrow) and longtime fixtures in the industry (Susan Green, Sgt. Dickson, Wade Keller).

The film’s production experienced delays in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the unearthing of sexual assault allegations against A Matter of Pride Wrestling co-founder Rick Cataldo and the deluge of abuse allegations against pro wrestling figures thanks to the SpeakingOut movement.

“The pandemic and SpeakingOut were big hurdles to get past. But what the pandemic has allotted me the opportunity to do was to go back and open the film and expand on our discussions and interview more people,” Levey said.

“We’re seeing this explosion of trans and non-binary workers, and gender fluidity… my goal with this film is to try to bring the past together with the present, tell this history, inform those today about those who paved the way. But also let the entire world know that there’s this huge movement, because for many people outside of pro wrestling, and even within pro wrestling, they’re still not aware of how much LGBTQ representation there is,” Levey added. “They’re not looking at the little rainbow flags and reading how people identify... I notice it, you notice it, because we’re looking for it. We’re looking for a community. And when you go looking for a community, you unearth this thing.”

Susan Green
Longtime out wrestler Susan Green
Michael Galinsky/Out In The Ring

Levey expects Out In The Ring to be completed and ready for film festivals by May 2021 and is currently crowdfunding the film’s final round of production. Audience interaction and engagement with the film at all levels is vital to Levey, pointing to it as one of the key reasons he is holding the film’s release until he expects people can view the film in-person rather than from their living room.

“I don’t want people to see the film on a laptop initially. I want these performers to be able to stand in front of an audience and have their moment. That importance of standing in front of a crowd and an audience and that interaction at a public venue in a public space is so important. It’s bringing communities together,” Levey said. “It’s why people go to live wrestling; the opportunity to share your story and then have somebody walk up to you and say, ‘thank you for being here, thank you for being up on the screen, and thank you for showing my child or my partner that there is an opportunity for them, that there is a space for them.’”

Learn more about Out In The Ring at facebook.com/outinthering, @outinthering on Twitter and @outintheringdoc on Instagram. Listen to the full interview with Ryan Bruce Levey on this coming Thursday’s edition of Outsports’ LGBT In The Ring podcast.

Shelby Weldon