UPDATE, Jan. 29: EFFY posted a video via Twitter Friday afternoon addressing the removal of the original sponsor of Allie Kat’s Real Hot Girl Shit block of GCW Fight Forever after his ties to the Proud Boys were revealed earlier this week.

“Upon the discovery that [the sponsor] was tied in any way to the Proud Boys, we rejected the money entirely,” EFFY said. EFFY also stated that he himself, through his recently launched apparel brand Wrestling is Gay, stepped in as the block sponsor. “Just wanted to clear that up. I love you all,” he added.

ORIGINAL STORY: Game Changer Wrestling is set to live up to its name when its 24-hour pro wrestling event Fight Forever gets underway Friday night, Jan. 29. In what feels like an extension of its annual pro wrestling festival The Collective, GCW will bring together prominent independent promotions from across the country for a pro wrestling marathon unlike anything the industry has seen.

Also like The Collective, the company is allotting blocks to specific wrestlers from marginalized communities to showcase the talents of their respective communities. AJ Gray’s For The Culture block and out wrestler Allie Kat’s Real Hot Girl Shit block will feature some of the best Black and female talents the industry has to offer.

And the LGBTQ community is coming to the pro wrestling sleepover as well with the follow-up to EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch: EFFY’s Big Gay Block. The Big Gay Brunch served as a landmark among landmarks for LGBTQ pro wrestling in 2020, bringing a wide array of LGBTQ pro wrestlers to a large stage and displaying the inherent diversity within LGBTQ pro wrestling.

But the Brunch was just the first step. Out pro wrestler EFFY is making sure the journey doesn’t end there. “When I put the show together in my head, I wanted two things that the Big Gay Brunch had a little bit of which was I want new talent people don’t know about yet. I want good matches for talent people do know about and I want stories interwoven. I want there to be something that people can cling to,” EFFY told Outsports.

“When you’ve got 24 hours of wrestling, it is a lot of exhibition matches, which I love. And there are a lot of storylines coming in which I love. But how can we as the gay soldiers come in and weave a little drama for your Saturday morning in the middle of everything? I think what I’ve thrown together is going to be kind of outrageous,” he added.

Creating a platform for LGBTQ pro wrestling within companies with the profile of GCW is a key motivation for EFFY. But just as important for him is creating a space where LGBTQ pro wrestlers stay true to themselves and their abilities despite perceived environmental pressures to succumb to long-held stereotypes of how LGBTQ people should act inside the ring.

“It’s the same speech, I gave the talent the Big Gay Brunch: If you’re here, I booked you on purpose to be you. So don’t try to be any of these other wrestlers that you’ve seen here. Don’t try to be anybody else. Be yourself, but be yourself at 100,” EFFY said. “I want to bring that same energy. Yes, this is hosted by GCW. This is a GCW show, but we fit in with the GCW narrative because we’re creating the GCW narrative. Whatever you do that’s crazy, that’s you, it’s going to be a part of GCW now.”

Being part of the GCW and overall pro wrestling narrative is exactly why spotlighting marginalized talent holds so much importance. The company has been the subject of criticism for its lack of diversity and reticence to fully acknowledge cultural missteps, including changing the sponsor of Allie Kat’s Real Hot Girl Shit block after fans uncovered the original sponsor’s ties to the Proud Boys without explicitly addressing the issue.

EFFY is confident that continuing to expose LGBTQ pro wrestlers to the GCW audience and locker room alike will be a positive force. “I think there’s going to be more integration of that and less like, ‘Oh, well, it’s EFFY’s gay show. Of course we’ll see gay people.’ More bringing in these LGBTQ talents in regular GCW shows and giving them those opportunities,” EFFY said. “I want to introduce some of these people into that GCW world as well because there is a very different vibe to a GCW locker room… It’s not like we’re competing against each other, we’re competing with each other to make the show better.”

“It gets a little wild in that atmosphere. I hope they embrace that because I know the fans at home will be ready for anything and I know they’re ready for a crazy show,” He added.

That fan readiness is easily seen with a glancing look at Fight Forever’s IndieGoGo campaign. Sponsoring independent promotions, events and individual wrestlers has become less opaque in recent years, allowing fans and businesses better avenues to provide financial support. Fight Forever’s crowdfunding campaign puts the power to pay the wrestlers directly in its audience’s hands. At the time of publishing, the campaign has raised over $30,000 that goes directly to the wrestlers appearing on Fight Forever.

This evolution isn’t lost on EFFY, who has been very vocal about seizing the means of production in an industry that plays extremely loose with the definition of independent contractor. “If we start to really open this door up, we could kind of be in control of our own future. When I look at what I do as a performer, I want to make sure I get the most out of it. I only have so many bumps in my life and, when I look at the payroll expense and I look at where these other places are getting, they have figured out the system to pay the person who actually does the wrestling as little as possible comparatively,” EFFY said.

“I want to put it back in our hands without their necessity. It’s going to take a lot of work. But when I see things like this when I see that hey in a week, two weeks or whatever it is we can get wrestlers paid, It opens up my ideas to say why use the middleman anymore? When at an independent level we can get the same distribution with the internet, we can get people on it and it’s our responsibility to get it.”

GCW Fight Forever will stream live for free on GCW’s YouTube channel and FiteTV Jan. 29 at 8 p.m. EST, with EFFY’s Big Gay Block beginning Saturday, Jan. 30 at 10 a.m. EST.