Popular independent pro wrestling promotion Game Changer Wrestling confronted and quelled a collection of attendees multiple times at Saturday night’s “Say You Will” for hurling homophobic, transphobic and misogynist speech towards wrestlers during the show.
Fans in attendance told Outsports the group made transphobic comments and chanted a homophobic slur during the event’s early matches, which featured LGBTQ wrestlers Dark Sheik and Speedball Mike Bailey.
Abby, a fan at the show, told Outsports she notified pro wrestler and regular GCW production crew member Kaia McKenna of the group’s comments during the first half of the 31⁄2-hour broadcast.
“It was clear they were trying to get attention from wrestlers,” Abby said. “They would go right up to them during entrances and when the wrestlers went backstage.”
Abby informed McKenna of the group after the homophobic chant had broken out and the group’s offensive comments “seemed to lessen” for a period. But the group piped up again during a match featuring female wrestlers Allie Katch and Kylie Rae.
The fact she did that to those fucking assholes who were chanting that fucked shit.— Alexx (CEO) of MASONERS INC. (@CCKAlexx) January 16, 2022
These fans began making overtly sexual and misogynist comments towards the two, prompting Rae to respond by giving the group the middle finger and smiling while locking Katch in an abdominal stretch.
Those comments prompted pro wrestlers John Wayne Murdoch, Reed Bentley and Manders to come from backstage to confront the group as the match continued, telling them to stop or leave. GCW owner Brett Lauderdale also came out to “shut down the guys,” as Abby puts it.
“That seemed to work because that was pretty much the end of it, aside from them just being rude to us after for bringing attention to it.”
Lauderdale addressed the situation Sunday, stressing the group isn’t indicative of the GCW fanbase.
“GCW does care. We do our best to stay on top of and deal with any incidents as they occur,” Lauderdale posted on Twitter. “I am personally approachable and accessible to everyone during every show, and am ready, willing and able to assist with any concerns at any time.
“I noticed an incident last night during the Allie/Kylie match and I left my post immediately to address it. I was right there with [Murdoch], Reed, Manders and everyone else, face to face with the assholes in question and handled it as quickly as I could.”
Everything is falling into place…— ALLIE KATCH (@AllieKATCH) January 11, 2022
Saturday’s event was the last GCW show before arguably its most important event ever this Sunday, “The WRLD On GCW” from New York City’s historic Hammerstein Ballroom.
The sold-out show will feature some of the companies most high profile matches to date, including some featuring top LGBTQ performers (EFFY vs. Jeff Jarrett, Allie Katch vs. Ruby Soho, Dark Sheik vs. an unannounced opponent).
Featuring top names among queer wrestling circles at Saturday’s event points to GCW’s slow yet steady progress of integrating high-caliber out wrestlers on GCW shows in addition to its satellite promotions Jersey Championship Wrestling and LA Fights. But the last event on the Road to Hammerstein saw that growing focus on inclusion challenged by the group.
Abby says she’s satisfied with GCW’s response.
“This isn’t near the first time I’ve had to go to them about a situation like this and each time they improve,” she said. “They took it seriously when fans said something, addressed the people directly and made sure they knew it was unacceptable, got more assertive when that was tested and it was ended.”
Dark Sheik also voiced support for GCW following the event, saying “Thank you to GCW for supporting and believing in me. To stand shoulder to shoulder with someone like me is to invite attack — but they never flinch. This inspires hope.”
Thank you to Detroit and Chicago, the shows were so much fun and the crowds were electric!— Sweet Muslim Girl (@darksheikftf) January 17, 2022
Thank you to @GCWrestling_ for supporting and believing in me.
To stand shoulder to shoulder with someone like me is to invite attack - but they never flinch.
This inspires hope
While GCW handled the situation in the moment, Saturday’s incident sparked other GCW fans to ask if preemptive action on the part of the company would help curtail such things from happening in the first place.
Multiple promotions have implemented some form of a fan code of conduct outlining conduct and speech that are prohibited, including the kind of speech present Saturday night, as a proactive measure against hateful conduct.
When the suggestion that GCW be similarly proactive arose on Twitter following the event, the official Twitter account for Orange Crush, a pro wrestling art periodical operated by Adam Abdalla and Susan Globus that co-owns GCW affiliate Jersey Championship Wrestling, responded.
“I can’t speak for Brett, but I’m not going to baby fans. Good people know how to act and assholes will laugh at a code of conduct, and if you’re actively a piece of shit I will kick you out personally. Thanks,” the statement reads.
Alex, another fan in attendance, says fans should be ejected for exhibiting such behavior.
“Only thing I ask is just to start booting people out. It will create a more comfy environment for everyone,” Alex said. “No more warnings.”