Out pro wrestler Charlie Morgan is set to make women’s wrestling history this weekend just one year removed from her surprise return to the ring — and she’s doing so in brand new territory.
Morgan will face frequent tag team partner and close friend Alex Windsor in the main event of Dubai-based pro wrestling promotion Wrestlefest DXB’s “Equal Measures” event on Oct. 15. The match will mark the first time two women will face off in a pro wrestling main event in the Middle East.
Morgan commented on the opportunity presented to both her and Windsor during an interview with Cultaholic. “We both want the same thing. We both want to go out there and tear the absolute house down,” Morgan said.
She added that sharing the ring with Windsor for the historic match on Saturday adds “a specialty” to the moment.
“We started out together, unintentionally got injured at very similar times, we returned on the same show … and now we’re both the first women ever to wrestle in Dubai. It sounds like such a perfect story,” Morgan said.
Both women returned to pro wrestling after years away from the ring due to injury at Pro Wrestling EVE’s “Wrestle Queendom 4” event last August, and now find themselves poised to, according to Wrestlefest DXB founder Shaheen, represent the progressive attitudes held within Dubai’s young wrestling scene.
“It’s always been a mission of mine since the day I started … I’m not going to stop until my lungs give out,” Shaheen said. “When we announced the women’s match at our last show, you could see the faces of little girls and the women in the back. It was too good to be true, in a sense. So, why not start it out with a bang?
“We’ve actually had ‘we want women’s wrestling’ chants at our previous shows. To give this to the fans and hand this over to them on a plate, I think this will be more of a ‘hey, you deserve this.’ I think Alex and Charlie will definitely live up to those expectations,” he added. “We just want to show [fans] that women are fully equal to men inside and outside of the ring, and I hope that gets sent as a message — crystal clear.”
Shaheen, real name Mohammad Al Shehhi, emerged as a front-facing figure for Dubai’s pro wrestling scene in recent years, becoming the first Emirati wrestler to appear overseas. His stated desire to elevate women’s wrestling through Wrestlefest DXB is a welcome attitude that falls in line with progressive shifts in Dubai toward gender equality.
But the spectre of any sports or entertainment event held in the region with altruistic statements attached typically carry suspicions of sportswashing. The term has gotten a lot of play in recent years thanks to the forthcoming World Cup in Qatar and Saudi Arabia funding LIV Golf and multiple local WWE events. And for good reason as the treatment of marginalized genders and LGBTQ populations in those and other nations in the region continue to lag behind.
While Dubai’s city government has addressed policies that disproportionately punished women, the same cannot be said for LGBTQ protections. Consensual same-sex sexual activity and gender expression outside of one’s gender assigned at birth are still criminalized.
This isn’t to say that taking on the mission of showcasing positive images of gender equality through pro wrestling should be taken as nefarious. Unlike WWE, Wrestlefest DXB appears to have little if any financial connection to the government maintaining the unfair treatment of LGBTQ people under the law.
The Dubai Sports Council gave the promotion accreditation earlier this year and is listed as a supporter of the promotion, yet it enjoys much closer relationships with sports organizations such as the UFC and FIFA.
This doesn’t completely wipe away the notion of sportswashing, especially considering the relative size and scope of the upstart Wrestlefest DXB compared to international sports juggernauts, but it does engender more validity to the motivation behind the Morgan/Windsor main event.
It’s frustrating to see athletes get caught in the middle of doing something groundbreaking and sussing out any ulterior motives of those providing the platform to do so, but these are questions that now must be asked.
Here’s to Morgan and Windsor showing how breathtaking women’s wrestling can be on Saturday, and the power of the moment doesn’t get subsumed into the growing issue of sport as PR.