If 2021 has shown us anything, it’s that Pride month pro wrestling events come in many different flavors. The newly created promotion Combat Fights Unlimited (CFU) is set to add to that menagerie Thursday night, with its debut event Shoot to Thrill.
CFU Shoot to Thrill is an all-women shoot-style pro wrestling event, blending the worlds of MMA and pro wrestling and throwing the mixture into a ropeless ring surrounded by a steel cage. While the show itself isn’t explicitly flying the rainbow banner, it does feature notable LGBTQ pro wrestlers stepping into the role of fighter up and down the card.
“The Anklebreaker” Jordan Blade will compete in the event’s headlining eight-woman tournament for the Shoot to Thrill trophy. Noted technician Edith Surreal will face off against former NWA Women’s Worlds champion Allyson Kay in a non-tournament super fight, while powerhouse Jessie “Bonesaw” Brooks takes on emerging Ring of Honor star Vita Von Starr in a preliminary bout.
Making a point to include LGBTQ fighters on CFU’s debut card was important to CFU founder and Grit & Glitter contributor Mayydayy.
“We tried to get as diverse a roster as possible while keeping to the shoot-style concept,” they told Outsports. That same commitment came into play when deciding to exclusively feature female fighters.
“I love shoot-style, and, at least in the West, there are very few opportunities for women to perform in such a style. Shoot-style promotions in Japan have historically featured women much more prominently than their North American counterparts.”
Liking the #CageFight on #AEWDynamite tonight?— Combat Fights Unlimited (@CombatFightUltd) June 19, 2021
Then you'll love @CombatFightUltd Presents: #ShootToThrill on @indiewrestling! Premiering June 24th at 8pm ET! pic.twitter.com/2awZJeXFcP
Female fighters have gotten more play at North American shoot-style events in recent years, most notably at Paradigm Pro Wrestling and Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport. But that increase hasn’t been enough to satisfy Mayydayy’s immense love for women’s wrestling.
“Even [on] the shoot-style shows that do feature women, they are always vastly outnumbered and occasionally relegated to just a single token match,” Mayydayy said. “No one was doing a show quite how I thought it should be done, so I just went ahead and did one myself.”
At the same time, Mayydayy took a stealthy approach to revealing Shoot to Thrill’s diverse presentation.
“We were very careful not to advertise ourselves as ‘all-women wrestling, first time ever, historic,’ etc, because it always feels inauthentic and forced when the company itself does that,” Mayydayy said. “I figured that, as we revealed the roster and matches, people would figure it out and run with it, and they have.”
Putting that idea into practice was a huge step for Mayydayy in terms of their relationship with pro wrestling. Not only is Shoot to Thrill CFU’s first event, it’s also the first event Mayydayy has ever promoted.
The show has been a long time coming, with soured business deals and pandemic shutdowns delaying the event by a full year.
The brackets for #ShootToThrill have officially been REVEALED!— Combat Fights Unlimited (@CombatFightUltd) June 21, 2021
Place your bets! Who do YOU think is going to win that big beautiful trophy?
Catch @CombatFightUltd presents Shoot to Thrill, THIS THURSDAY at 8pm ET on @indiewrestling! pic.twitter.com/f5W7UQ3TCj
“We actually filmed almost exactly a year after we were supposed to originally run live, “ Mayydayy recounted. “I’ve helped out on ring crew and such on a few shows, but being fully responsible for an entire show is a whole new level.”
They did have some guidance in learning the ropes from promoters, both queer and not. One of the key rules of pro wrestling promotion, like any other live event, is to remain flexible, but there was one facet of CFU’s debut show that Mayydayy remained steadfast in keeping: the cage.
“It’s such a great visual for MMA/shoot-style. I literally do not understand why no one is having shoot-style matches in a cage. It just seems so obvious to me,” Mayydayy said. “We also took down the ropes and turnbuckles to further sell the blend of MMA and pro wrestling.”
: You saw her claim her #TicketToGold last night on #ROHWD, now @VVonstarr takes on @BonesawBrooks in our #ShootToThrill preliminary bout, airing FREE on @indiewrestling's Facebook page prior to the main card.— Combat Fights Unlimited (@CombatFightUltd) June 10, 2021
Catch all the action June 24th! pic.twitter.com/enpbQk69wl
Building CFU places Mayydayy’s name alongside a growing list of LGBTQ creators in pro wrestling, but, to them, that connection isn’t firing on all synapses exactly.
“I’m not sure I ‘qualify’ as LGBTQ,” they said. “I’m asexual, so sometimes we get a plus on the end or occasionally an ‘A’ that everyone stands for ‘ally. People pretty much ignore us, which I guess is easy when you’re defined by a lack of something.
“In my experiences, most LGBT spaces are hypersexual, and there’s us in the corner just eating a cookie or whatever,” they added. “It’s like inviting a vegan to a BBQ.”
This time around, though, Mayydayy is the one firing up the grill and doling out a night full of meaty matches. And Mayydayy is quick to point out that this isn’t a one-shot deal.
“There are definitely plans for future shows,” Mayydayy confirmed. “I love Marvel movies, so when you watch the premiere, stick around for the credits.”
Combat Fights Unlimited Shoot to Thrill debuts Thursday, June 24, at 8pm ET/5pm PT on Independentwrestling.tv