Paris Is Bumping’s debut event last year was represented grit in the face of adversity.
It stood up in a rural Maryland bar with no fans, and made a statement about the determination the LGBTQ community in pro wrestling and beyond show in their ability to create inclusive and unapologetic alcoves of queer and trans expression.
The melding space of ballroom and pro wrestling that Billy Dixon and company created last year proved captivating to audiences. It beckoned those that weren’t able to attend due to the Covid-19 pandemic with the promise of a sequel, Thursday’s Paris Is Bumping: Solid Gold ‘21.
Nearly one year later, Paris Is Bumping got the full ambiance that it deserved and those of us who watched from home found our invitation into a second one. A pro wrestling environment that truly invoked the spirit of community and competition that defined ballroom in its early days.
Matches were had, trophies were earned and moments exclusive to LGBTQ interpretations of pro wrestling were on full display. Where else will you see four men fighting in a match where the only way to win is to strip your opponent to his underwear?
But the lasting image of this ball can’t be whittled down to a single moment or match. Paris Is Bumping: Solid Gold ‘21 is a sum of its parts, each building block crafting an atmosphere that allowed those in attendance to express and explore themselves in the same fashion as the wrestlers on 2020’s edition.
Watching fans walk during intermission, giving into the show’s message of freedom with beautiful abandon, held the same power as any three-count. The image of Washington Heights reclaiming her familial ties to pro wrestling and finding closure amidst her late father’s legacy touched hearts.
Once again, out pro wrestler Candy Lee announced her presence with a vogue performance that exuded the same joy and bite that we’d expect had she been in the ring.
The tears that accompanied out pro wrestler Edith Surreal’s tribute to trans pro wrestling trailblazer Mariah Moreno mirrored the cheers when Moreno stood across the ring from dastardly villain Darius Carter in the show’s main event.
Pro wrestling is at its best when the emotion of the moment feels all too real, and for five-plus hours (or three hours in the IWTV cut) every single soul in the building felt it all. Not simply because humans have a way of relating to the drama of storytelling, but because Paris Is Bumping’s tale hit close to home.
There is a sense of community in that. Almost like a family reunion with a bunch of people you’ve never met: a chosen family reunion. One that empowers one another to remain true to themselves, be who they are at their core and create spaces for themselves and others to do so. And just like last year, you still feel like you belong and crave to experience such a welcoming environment in person - even if you were there to take it all in firsthand.
Simply put, Paris Is Bumping: Solid Gold ‘21 is a testament to these ideals and its shaping pro wrestling, like so many other LGBTQ projects, into a beast that demands attention and study.