To say that 2020 was a year defined by challenge and upheaval would be an understatement. We’re reminded of it every time we leave our homes double-checking that we brought a mask. The evidence is written on our streets with murals, street art and asphalt memorializing those we lost and spurring the continued fight for racial equity. We couldn’t escape the sound of it as protests shouting “George Floyd” and “Breonna Taylor” rivaled the jubilance of those celebrating President-Elect Joe Biden in decibel level.
But those constructs penetrated our culture much deeper than expected, especially within the world of athletics. And pro wrestling was not exempt. In a year where independent pro wrestling fought for its financial life, marginalized groups within pro wrestling thrived unlike any other time in this industry.
Events like For The Culture and Black Wrestlers Matter honored and showcased Black wrestlers in the wake of “Black Lives Matter” chants. Mission Pro Wrestling joined SHIMMER in providing a stage for women to prove their mettle. Intergender wrestling kept growing in legitimacy worldwide.
When it comes to historic moments, though, 2020 will be remembered as the year of LGBTQ pro wrestling. From Nyla Rose’s AEW Women’s World championship victory to Billy Dixon invoking Marsha P. Johnson’s name before vanquishing Darius Carter at Paris Is Bumping, images LGBTQ people only hoped would materialize when they discovered pro wrestling became tangible.
Butch vs. Gore, EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch and MV Young’s Polyam Cult Party proved to wide audiences that LGBTQ pro wrestlers were more than novelties. Paris Is Bumping, Uncanny Attractions and Pride Championship Wrestling showed that LGBTQ culture belongs in the wrestling industry. And new companies like Pride Pro Wrestling and the revamped Butch vs. Gore brand are ready to help carry those messages into 2021 and beyond.
These advancements wouldn’t be possible without the wrestlers themselves, which is exactly why Queer Wrestling Index (QWI) 100 exists. Inspired by the Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) 500 list highlighting the top 500 wrestlers in the world annually, the QWI list began in 2019 on the Outsports podcast, LGBT In The Ring, with an unranked list of 25 LGBTQ wrestlers.
But this year’s QWI represents an answer to another challenge posed to me last December by Billy Dixon. That challenge was to expand the QWI list of the top LGBTQ pro wrestlers from 25 to 100. Just as a year-end list celebrating LGBTQ pro wrestling was long overdue last year, limiting the QWI to only 25 honorees didn’t fully encapsulate the rising presence and reach of LGBTQ identities within pro wrestling worldwide.
The difficulty found in the QWI’s expansion wasn’t in finding enough LGBTQ competitors to fill it out: it was in paring it down to only 100. It is a beautiful, empowering and still sometimes bewildering problem to have, and one I look forward to dealing with every annual QWI 100 list going forward.
But the lasting message this list sends isn’t in its construction. What this list says to the wrestling world is that LGBTQ pro wrestling is growing to a level where ignoring their presence isn’t an option anymore. There are no more excuses.
With that, here is the 2020 QWI 100 listed in alphabetical order.
1. AC Mack
Atlanta’s resident loudmouth carried his 2019 dominant streak into 2020. He carried both the ACTION Wrestling and SUP Bonestorm championships for most of the year and added the Pride of Prime Time honor to his collection at Butch vs. Gore. No matter what belt(s) he has, Mack made sure they’re held higher than high.
2. Alex Ocean
Ocean put his “Ocean Can’t Die” moniker to the test this year as a regular in deathmatch promotions like No Peace Underground and ICW No Holds Barred. Though we didn’t get to see what he and Jamie Senegal had planned for WrestleMania week, Ocean continued to cement himself as a deathmatch mainstay, including an appearance at The Collective.
3. Allie Kat
When you open your year with a match as stellarly brutal as Allie Kat’s clash with Nick Gage, you know it’s going to be a good one. Wrestling’s favorite kitty wrapped her first full year since coming out as pansexual with victories over Mance Warner, EFFY and AEW-signee Max Caster, all capped by winning No Peace Underground’s Body Count Battle.
4. Amber Jo
And now your looking at the Next generation and it's Notorious pic.twitter.com/sjtLtn0QVm— The Notorious Angel (Amber Jo) (@TheAmberJoPW) June 20, 2020
2020 was full of historic moments for LGBTQ pro wrestling, and not just in North America. Across the pond, “The Notorious Angel” Amber Jo did such while still in the midst of training with her appearance in January’s Revolution Pro Contenders Revolution Rumble. The Portsmouth-native became the first trans woman to compete under the Revolution Pro banner.
5. Angelus Layne
Layne made her return to the ring after a year-plus absence due to a broken neck right at the beginning of the year at St. Louis Anarchy and Atlanta Wrestling Entertainment. The community welcomed her back with hard-hitting bouts against fellow LGBTQ wrestlers Killian McMurphy and O’Shay Edwards, but nothing tops her clash with Nolan Edward in ACTION Wrestling.
6. Anthony Bowens
“The 5-Tool Player’s” 2020 came up golden in many ways. Bowens successfully defended his Battle Club Pro Franchise and WrestlePro Gold championships in multiple promotions. That put him on AEW’s radar, culminating in him signing with the company and forming the tag team The Acclaimed with Max Caster.
7. Anthony Gaines
The self-proclaimed “None of a Kind” kept up his path to prominence in the New York independent scene before the pandemic put everything on pause. Gaines was able to step back into the ring before the end of the year, making his debut with New Jersey-based promotion Synergy Wrestling.
8. Ashley Vox
Vox made waves this year in singles competition and alongside her sister and fellow Sea Star Delmi Exo. The duo became the inaugural Battle Club Pro tag team champions, adding to their SHIMMER tag team titles, and made their IMPACT Wrestling debut in the Knockouts tag team title tournament. Vox herself made appearances with the NWA and challenged Anthony Greene for the Limitless Wrestling world title.
9. Ashton Starr
“The Prince of Petty” saw his star(r) rise this year in a series of well-deserved title matches. He captured the Southern Honor title and pushed Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Wrestling champion Trish Adora to the limit at Butch vs. Gore. That translated to Starr making his AEW debut later in the year and creating one of the most giffed moments at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch.
10. Benjamin Harland
Harland is yet another member of Britain’s incoming class of LGBTQ pro wrestlers. “The Sweet Prince’s” pre-pandemic appearances featured him defending his Barracks Academy championship multiple times. He’s now in his second year holding that championship.
11. Billy Dixon
Looking simply at Dixon’s in-ring 2020 would be enough to make this list. He rarely lost, defending his F1ght Club Chocolate City championship against Erica Leigh and Jared Evans. His rivalry with O’Shay Edwards is ripe for a big blowoff match. But Dixon did so much more as a key mind behind multiple major LGBTQ events Butch vs. Gore and Paris Is Bumping. The Butch vs. Gore brand is hot heading into 2021 thanks to “The Mother of the House of No Bullshit.”
12. Byron Anthos
Anthos has built himself into a prime name in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in recent years, becoming the first DFW All Pro champion in the process. Wrestling’s best jester put his year on hold due to Covid after only a few months, but he’s taken his time away to lend his voice to cultural movements within the industry. “The King of Fools” did make it to Texas-based Pride Championship Wrestling’s Wrestle Empire 4 before shutting his year down.
13. Bobbi Diamond
Fighting out of Belfast, Northern Ireland, “The Queen of Mean” opened 2020 by continuing his heated rivalry with Skye James in Titanic Wrestling. And he did so while dousing himself in his namesake every step of the way.
14. Brad Slayer
Slayer remains a prominent LGBTQ fixture in British pro wrestling. He followed up his historic challenge for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight title in 2019 with a series of challenges for the WAW crown and appearances in Revolution Pro. He closed out the year as one of the first signees to Pride Pro Wrestling, a new British LGBTQ promotion set to debut in 2021.
15. Brittany Wonder
Hoodslam’s favorite superheroine has been a key part of the promotion’s heart for the better part of a decade. The California-based “Ultragirl” translated that into appearances throughout the west coast, but Hoodslam remains home. It’s hiatus cut her year short, but Wonder is ready to make her opponents fear the rear once activities resume.
16. Brooke Valentine
The reigning ZOWA Women’s champion and “Queen Bee” of the ring spent the year looking to add to her championship collection. Though her challenges for the Zelo Pro and Impact Pro Women’s titles didn’t go her way, she made a statement more powerful than winning any championship as part of the first annual Black Wrestlers Matter event.
17. Calvin Couture
Pro wrestling’s top fashionista stayed busy during the pandemic alongside his Runway compatriot Tyler Klein. The duo dressed down multiple promotions’ tag team divisions throughout the northeast and rust belt. Couture stood tall alongside Klein and EFFY at MV Young’s Polyam Cult Party 2 and gladfully succumbed to Parrow’s bearish ways at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch.
18. Candy Lee
Wrestling Twitter’s top subject to stan and the pride of New Zealand competed in both her home country and Australia, defending her IPW New Zealand Women’s championship. But Lee made headlines for another in-ring activity, gathering a collection of femme queens and producing Paris Is Bumping’s intoxicating vogue segment.
2020 marked the 32nd year in the fabled career of the leyenda de lucha libre. But that didn’t mean that Cassandro took it easy. Cassandro main evented EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch in a stiff battle with Sonny Kiss and returned later the same day to compete in the Clusterfuck match at Joey Janela’s Spring Break 4. There is also currently a Cassandro biopic in the works.
OMG @Y2jimbob has always captured the most bad ass shots of me PLUS, as a bonus, he is super nice & a pleasure to work with.— Cassius The Neon Explosion (@NeonCassius) December 1, 2020
Good luck in everything you do, i know it will be fire pic.twitter.com/CRinwEGm7x
The current holder of Riptide Wrestling’s Pride of Brighton title fits the honor’s qualifier to a tee. Cassius continued his climb within the Britwres ranks by successfully defending his title and appearing for multiple promotions earlier in the year. “The Neon Explosion” is set for a busy 2021 as well after becoming the first member of the Pride Pro Wrestling roster.
Come back tomorrow for #21-40!