With efforts to discriminate growing amid an unprecedented level of anti-transgender hate spreading all around the world, Outsports is stepping-up in a brand new way. Although we typically announce awards in December, when the year winds to a close, every day for the rest of this month we are announcing a new winner of a new award.
The Outsports Triumph Awards, in partnership with NCLR, celebrate a wide range of transgender athletes, coaches and other people working in the interest of trans competitors. Some names you know; others are only now making a name for themselves in LGBTQ sports.
Today: The trans pro wrestling community.
February 12, 2020 is a date etched in pro wrestling history. With a spine-shaking Beast Bomb, Nyla Rose captured the All Elite Wrestling Women’s World title, becoming the first out trans woman to win a championship in a major American wrestling promotion.
The impact of seeing Rose pose with the championship that night reverberated through an industry experiencing a cultural shift. LGBTQ voices were growing louder in their calls for respect and opportunity within a medium that historically othered their identities. For many, Rose represented a boisterous line in the sand, giving trans populations a figure to rally behind within the larger LGBTQ pro wrestling movement.
But the truth is that Rose’s title win was just the latest in a recent trans legacy in pro wrestling that continues to expand. In one of Rose’s final matches before joining AEW in 2019, she stood across the ring from Mariah Moreno.
To Rose, Moreno was an inspiration before she came out publicly, Moreno is recognized as one of, if not the first, out trans pro wrestler in the U.S., and her mere presence within the industry stood as a beacon for other trans people who wanted to find their place in the ring.
Having the chance to face and become friends with Moreno holds a special place in Rose’s heart. “To have that match with not just a friend but someone who I looked up to in a way, it meant everything in the world to me and I’m forever grateful I was afforded that opportunity,” Rose told Outsports.
Much like Moreno’s relationship to Rose, out trans pro wrestler Dark Sheik is a major influence for the growing population of trans pro wrestlers. Dark Sheik spent more than a decade building the epitome of pro wrestling counter-culture in Oakland’s Hoodslam promotion, leaning hard into the joy and absurdity of pro wrestling.
Hoodslam’s success and her accomplished in-ring career could easily define Dark Sheik, as could the strength and vulnerability she showed when she came out as trans in the ring at a Hoodslam event. But her commitment to those that look up to her is just as important.
Proudly trans wrestlers Edith Surreal and The Great Bambina hold Dark Sheik in the same light as Rose does Moreno: an inspirational figure whose friendship ranks as highly as her co-sign. And like Dark Sheik, Surreal and Bambina have made empowerment a major goal themselves as their careers have thrust trans identities into the view of pro wrestling audiences on the east coast and Pacific northwest respectively.
But increased trans visibility and accomplishment isn’t reserved to any specific region. “The Broken Doll” Roxy has showcased her talents and won championships in the southeast U.S. for years. Lavender Skye continues to build their profile and championship collection in the midwest.
Estrella Divina wows audiences as one of the most prolific trans Mexican luchadoras. Wrestling producers like Butch vs. Gore lead with their commitment to trans and LGBTQ identities.
Jamie Senegal creates both technical and deathmatch spectacles across America. Candy Lee is one of the most decorated wrestlers in all of New Zealand. Veny continues to blaze trails throughout Japan, even notching an AEW appearance. The Boston League of Wicked Wrestlers (BLOWW) showcases trans, non-binary and queer identities up and down its cards, including Rat King, one of the very few out trans men to have ever stepped into a wrestling ring.
All of these figures are building individual and collective legacies that keep trans identities moving upward with new heights emerging with every three-count. And the next generation of trans pro wrestlers are taking notice. Coco Mousse, Lola Starr, Amber Jo, Kota Holliday and so many more are ready to carry that baton.
Rose’s climb to the top of AEW last year may be the most visible moment to date, but it is just a slice of the moment truly worth celebrating. Place your flowers at the collective feet of those that continue pushing for trans acceptance and visibility while they keep climbing.
Follow all of these Ringleaders on social media: Nyla Rose, Dark Sheik, Mariah Moreno, Edith Surreal, The Great Bambina, “The Broken Doll” Roxy, Lavender Skye, Estrella Divina, Jamie Senegal, Candy Lee, Veny, Rat King, Coco Mousse, Amber Jo, Lola Starr, Kota Holliday, Gabbi Tuft, BLOWW, Butch vs. Gore, Aubrey St John
Click here to read more about the awards, this year’s winners and other trans sports icons we are celebrating.
Outsports will announce another recipient of a Triumph Award tomorrow and every day this month, including on the Trans Day of Visibility on March 31.