For all the athletic feats and resonant fables that draw audiences to pro wrestling, the artform’s ability to lean into absurdity remains a key factor in how it humorously pushes against its own boundaries. “Serious” pro wrestlers have shared the ring with aliens, ants and invisible opponents over the years, and new, fertile ground was waiting on the other side of that pocket of the pro wrestling advent calendar.
But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The absurd often enhances the ability for emotional connection by cleverly opening vulnerabilities and subverting audience expectations. The final result is a total package of emotional connection that endears someone to an audience.
Few embody this concept more than pro wrestler Still Life with Apricots & Pears. The uniqueness of this trans non-binary wrestler’s name instantly evokes something different. Still Life is a living, breathing and grappling work of art. They don’t have a height and weight; they have an appraisal value. And they have been one of independent pro wrestling’s rising stars over the past three years.
Still Life’s presence within the industry embodies the strength of the synergy between the concrete and avant-garde, and not just for those that enjoy watching them in the ring. Wrestling provided them the canvas to flesh out a stirring self-portrait at a time when they made the decision to openly embrace their trans/non-binary identity.
“It really wasn’t until I started wrestling where I had this new confidence in myself. I got to explore this new persona in Still Life on stage in front of people and be well received,” Still Life said on the Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring. “The combination of having these amazing friends, community and support, having the confidence that I never had of just being myself and putting myself out there, all of that made me feel like now is the right time.”
That embrace endeared Still Life to audiences and empowered them to speak on how wrestling promoters and trainers can better welcome and interact with trans and non-binary populations, such as normalizing asking about pronouns and locker room accommodations for trans and non-binary performers, as the industry becomes more diverse.
It also produced ample opportunities for them in-ring as well, especially during the difficulties of 2020, marked by their appearances on Butch vs. Gore, Camp Leapfrog, MV Young’s Polyam Cult Party and arguably the best match at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch against close friend and fellow trans wrestler Dark Sheik.
Still Life embodies what the “sum of all parts” approach to pro wrestling accomplishes and they are far from stopping the push for an inclusive pro wrestling industry. “I hope that gets normalized,” Still Life said. “There is no reason why it can’t be.”