LGBTQ History Month kicks off Friday, and New Jersey-based pro wrestling promotion Pro Wrestling After Dark (PWAD) is ringing in the celebration in the only way it knows how: lovely, lovely chaos.
The company will host its Taste The Rainbow event, a Pride-themed pro wrestling show hosted by out MC Larry Legend that brings together some of the top names in LGBTQ pro wrestling for a show that meets PWAD’s reputation for brutality, humor and weapon-laden battles.
Owner Chad Minnes started the company three years ago out of a desire to build projects that “normally aren’t seen in the marketplace of pro wrestling.” While Minnes doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, highlighting LGBTQ identities has always been a goal when producing PWAD shows.
“LGBTQ events have always been important to me,” Minnes told Outsports.
Minnes’ work as a labor organizer, along with close relationships with LGBTQ friends and family members informed his desire to build something that spotlights the community.
“I was able to travel the world and meet different people, and it really opened my eyes to people’s personal lives.”
Meeting one of his top stars, out pro wrestler Vince Ceres, who wrestles under the name Ceberus, also pushed Minnes to make PWAD a welcoming space for the community.
“To have somebody like Vince that can reach a huge community and be a positive influence to people, I think it’s huge,” Minnes said. “He’s always willing to give back.”
Taste The Rainbow, a name chosen with input from those appearing on the show, represents another step in both their relationship and PWAD’s commitment as a non-LGBTQ-led promotion to serve LGBTQ audiences. With input from Ceres, Minnes crafted a show that boasts Pride from the ring outward. Notable LGBTQ wrestlers, including Sonny Kiss, Kiera Hogan, Edith Surreal, Diamante and The Runway, will step into the ring for the company’s growing LGBTQ fan base.
Minnes told Outsports that he consistently receives messages from fans expressing joy that they “have something that we can go out to and we know if we express ourselves we can feel safe.” PWAD even has a Pride championship belt that Minnes hopes brings added visibility and awareness to the larger wrestling community.
But the company is also using Taste The Rainbow as a way to forge more direct relationships with the community outside the ring. Proceeds from the event will go to support AC Pride, Atlantic City’s brand new LGBTQ advocacy organization that Ceres brought to Minnes’ attention.
“I like to give back to whatever I get involved in,” Minnes said. “Human rights are important to me. With so much exposure now on the community and people being able to come out and be open - be who they are - I’m proud to be a part of that.”
On 10/1 at the Tennessee Ave Beer Hall, THEO IVORY, GABBY ORTIZ, and GEY MYSTERIO compete in the first of its kind…Felicia Rose’s GAY OR STAY 3 WAY.— Pro Wrestling After Dark (@PWafterdark) September 12, 2021
This is a fundraiser for AC Pride.
Get your tickets today at https://t.co/b1noB4rQLZ pic.twitter.com/JLvDsJPY50
The show itself promises the eclectic presentation PWAD fans have come to expect, with matches ranging from technical clashes (Sonny Kiss vs. Kiera Hogan, Edith Surreal vs. The Whisper) to comedic (Felicia Rose’s Gay or Stay 3-Way featuring Theo Ivory, Gabby Ortiz and Gey Mysterio) to hardcore battles (Cerberus vs. Mr. Grim).
Above all, Minnes wants Taste The Rainbow, and PWAD as a whole, to be an example of diversity and inclusion for other promotions that aren’t LGBTQ-led that want to authentically engage with the community.
“I want people to be comfortable,” Minnes said. “For me, pro wrestling has never really been about the finances … to have people be in their zone and be comfortable going out on a Saturday night - whatever city or state it is - is my main goal.”
Pro Wrestling After Dark’s Taste The Rainbow will emanate from the Tennessee Ave Beer Hall in Atlantic City, NJ on Friday, Oct. 1. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com/prowrestlingafterdark and the show will be available on-demand at a later date on IWTV.