This week, Outsports joined SB Nation in celebrating as well as deriding the sports jerseys, uniforms and kits that have made us proud, embarrassed and given us reasons to wonder, “what on earth were you thinking?” Today, contributor Brian Bell takes us into the ring.
Few sectors of the sports and entertainment world place as much significance on creative and defining looks as pro wrestling. Solid gear can make a wrestler stand out amongst the crowd, with the potential to make the most talented athlete that much more memorable. And what is gear but pro wrestling’s form of jersey.
Unlike other sports where athletes have little to no control over their in-game looks, pro wrestlers can infuse their gear with much more personality and self-affirmation. They can be a living canvas reflecting key aspects of themselves, build personal brands and communicate visually with an audience.
The LGBTQ pro wrestling sphere has been one of the best at effectively utilizing in-ring gear to build community. By incorporating LGBTQ Pride designs into their looks, a number of LGBTQ wrestlers have pushed messages of inclusion within an evolving industry. From subtle nods (MV Young’s rainbow armband, Ashley Vox’s rainbow kneepad) to draping oneself in the colors of various Pride flags like Billy Dixon and Jordan Blade, the message continues to spread. And we’re here to celebrate some of the best LGBTQ Pride looks to grace the ring.
Still Life with Apricots & Pears
Speaking of living canvases, there’s no better place to start than with pro wrestling’s most museum worthy work of art. The former Chikara Young Lions Cup holder has set themself apart visually in the ring since day one, but their gear incorporating the colors of the non-binary flag stands as Still Life’s greatest artistic expression. Through some much needed non-binary representation, Still Life continues to leave an impression in every ring they enter.
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Rosser made history when he came out as gay in 2013 and hasn’t looked back, using his wrestling career to advocate for LGBTQ populations through his “Block The Hate” campaign. While he has regularly incorporated the rainbow flag into his in-ring presentation, Rosser makes the list for his Block The Hate championship title. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate a title representing the fight against discrimination that includes rainbow accents?
Like Rosser, Parrow periodically includes hints of rainbow in his regular black and red look as he continues to redefine LGBTQ characterization within the ring. Everyone loves a good rainbow, but the All Japan Pro Wrestling regular deserves highlight for another aspect of his gear. The Orlando resident incorporates the number 49 into his gear as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.
The Pansexual Phenonmenon lit up audiences across the pond for years before being forced to retire in 2019. Sexsmith made it a point to highlight all facets of the LGBTQ community in rings throughout Europe in that time. His colorful gear helped accomplish that, regularly donning symbols celebrating same-sex relationships while giving pansexual fans a much-needed voice.
Few have seen their star rise within the industry as quickly as Monroe’s. The 21-year-old wrestler administers a shot of adrenaline to any ring he enters, and he does so while regularly sporting rainbow-trimmed gear that exudes pride and “Black Sexcellence.”
The current AEW Women’s World champion has blazed a trail all her own over the better part of a decade. Rose’s in-ring character isn’t defined by her gender identity or sexuality but that hasn’t stopped her from being vocal about LGBTQ acceptance within the industry. And also hasn’t precluded her from celebrating the community either as evidenced by the rainbow-clad look she sported alongside fellow AEW wrestler Sonny Kiss during RISE’s Pride and Joy event in 2019.
On the other side of the major American wrestling promotion spectrum, Deville made history herself as WWE’s first out lesbian wrestler. She cemented that point during her WrestleMania debut at 2018’s WrestleMania 34 when she entered the women’s battle royal donning a vivid rainbow and white fit. It was a statement of LGBTQ Pride on pro wrestling’s largest stage that stood out in the best way, even if WWE still feels uncomfortable addressing its LGBTQ roster members during broadcasts.
Before she took TikTok by storm, the Samoan sweetheart made a name for herself in New Zealand’s independent scene. She impressed so much that RISE brought her over for her U.S. debut at 2019’s Pride and Joy, and Lee took the opportunity to sport gear celebrating her trans identity. Clad in the colors of the trans flag, Lee carved out a spot in fans’ hearts while showing just what a diva is capable of.
Atlas is quickly making an impact in WWE after becoming one of the most exciting, sought after names on the independent scene for years prior. His current focus may be the interim NXT Cruiserweight title, but empowering LGBTQ wrestling and its fans remains a foundational passion. He hasn’t sported a rainbow-laden look in a WWE ring yet, but he regularly did so during his pre-WWE rise.
The Pride of Riptide Wrestling, the UK-based grappler’s personality and in-ring style is defined by a single word: neon. That regularly extends to his gear, going above and beyond to be the most colorful aspect of any show he is on. The rainbow-tassled knee-highs he showed off at 2019’s A Matter of Pride Divamania were the perfect companion to his pink and green trunks, completing one of the best looks on a show bubbling over with ring gear realness.
Tell us your favorite pro wrestling looks brimming with LGBTQ Pride in the comments below.