The pro wrestling world carried the same unease that permeated most of society in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic response. Independent pro wrestling came to a standstill while WWE and the City of Tampa kept fans, wrestlers and promoters suspended in limbo while dragging their feet to the inevitable conclusion that Wrestlemania and its surrounding festivities would be drastically shifted.

But a few weeks prior, a movement planted its first boisterous, significant flag in the pro wrestling landscape. A capacity crowd in Washington, D.C.’s DC Brau Brewery and a collection of the best in LGBTQ pro wrestling beamed into homes through IWTV with one purpose: make a statement. This was Butch vs. Gore.

What one-half of the creative mind behind the event, Billy Dixon, described as “Queer Starrcade” stood as a celebration as much as it was that aforementioned statement. It trended higher than many events IWTV broadcasted on social media and drew the attention of LGBTQ fans that didn’t know there was a place for them within the industry. It was off the wall and full of poise all at once.

“I knew it was going to be great,” out wrestler Erica Leigh said during an appearance on the Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring. “Even though I knew it would be special, it blew me away. Seeing all the people there, all the fans and other talent, it was such an incredible night. People still talk about it with such glowing review … Billy [Dixon] can book one hell of a show.”

Now, just a few weeks removed from its birthday, Butch vs. Gore made its return Sunday night. Now separated from the defunct Prime Time Pro Wrestling and centered as a brand unto itself, Butch vs. Gore is carrying the spirit of its debut event into Sunday night’s Cassandro Cup event.

Many of the names from the original show make their return. Leigh, Edith Surreal, AC Mack, Jared Evans, Ashton Starr, Killian McMurphy and Butch vs. Gore newcomer Molly McCoy are set to compete in the Cassandro Cup tournament.

The tournament honors lucha libre legend and LGBTQ activist Cassandro, but it also guarantees the winner an IWTV Independent Wrestling championship match against current champion Lee Moriarty at IWTV’s Family Reunion event during April’s Wrestlemania weekend.

Butch vs. Gore also partnered with NEPA Rainbow Alliance, a Northeastern Pennsylvania-based advocacy organization committed to LGBTQ equality. A portion of the proceeds from the broadcast and merchandise sales from the Cassandro Cup event will be donated to the organization.

“This tournament will uplift LGBTQ+ athletes, dismantle harmful stereotypes, and provide a nationwide platform to celebrate a gay icon of the past while embracing current and future talent that proudly identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said NEPA Rainbow Alliance Board of Directors chair Anthony Melf.

Edith Surreal

That spirit of honoring the history of the movement while carving paths into the larger ecosystem of independent pro wrestling is paramount to what Butch vs. Gore has grown to represent. Many of the wrestlers that appeared on the inaugural event have found themselves in prominent positions in other, non-LGBTQ focused promotions over the past year and Butch vs. Gore’s heads Dixon and Lo McGrath have been vocal about working with promotions that want to better reach out to LGBTQ audiences and performers.

But that doesn’t mean the focus on providing an explicitly queer space for queer wrestlers and fans to become engrossed in queer stories has wavered. MV Young and Devon Monroe’s battle of “Butch vs. Gore’s sexiest” and the carryover of Russell Rogue’s Britney Spears beef into Sunday night’s Britney Spears Open Invitational speak to cultural touchstones within the LGBTQ community.

Not to mention the fact that The Kings of the District (Jordan Blade and Eel O’Neal) are facing the tag team of EFFY and Allie Kat who go by the name Bussy.

Dixon and Darius Carter are also out to leave a mark after their titanic clash at Paris Is Bumping where Dixon invoked the name of Marsha P. Johnson to vanquish his foe. The stakes will be higher as Dixon’s F1ght Club Pro Wrestling Chocolate City championship will be on the line.

“It’s a show with something for everybody,” out wrestler AC Mack told Outsports. “It isn’t just wrestle, wrestle, wrestle. You have entertainment, pageantry and great commentary … it’s going to be a ki, as we say.”

The Cassandro Cup also embodies the perseverance of the LGBTQ pro wrestling movement and the continued push to better pro wrestling as a whole as accountability takes a higher priority. The Butch vs. Gore brand emerged after the controversial demise of Prime Time Pro Wrestling last summer.

The brand also held itself to the continued push to oust abusers from pro wrestling last week when out wrestler Joshua Wavra was removed from the Cassandro Cup tournament after accusations of them perpetuating racism, bi-erasure and emotional abuse surfaced on Friday.

Butch vs. Gore already made history once, but history is ripe for repetition, growth and topping what came before. Sunday night’s Cassandro Cup aims for just that, and there surely is more to come.