In every corner of the world, LGBTQ people, including LGBTQ pro wrestlers, aren’t simply existing anymore.
We are thriving.
With nearly 500 out LGBTQ professional wrestlers worldwide (and counting), those who want to erode what we’ve built are in for the rudest of awakenings.
The Queer Wrestling Index 200 aims to celebrate the community making that possible within the pro wrestling world.
Welcome to the 2022 QWI 200.
20. Sandra Moone
Sandra Moone is pro wrestling’s beacon amid the bright lights of Las Vegas. The reigning PrideStyle and UGWA champion’s star shot straight out of the desert and showered across the entire U.S. this year, logging appearances on the East Coast in Wrestlers’ Lab, the Midwest with Naptown All Pro, Timebomb Pro and Black Label Pro and the South with GCW and Generation Championship Wrestling. She became a major player in the Pacific Northwest as well, challenging for the DOA Pro Wrestling Grand championship and the DOA Tag Team titles alongside Abigail Warren and facing Steve Migs for the Wrestling With Wregret YouTube title at Without A Cause.
Where Moone did her most damage was California and her home of Las Vegas. She became a fixture in West Coast Pro, defeated Joshi sensation Maki Itoh at Prestige Wrestling and challenged for the GLAM GLAMpionship. Her trademark intensity drove her to become the inaugural PrideStyle champion, topping Papa Jace in a match of the year contender. She defended that belt in wild brawls with EFFY, Bryn Thorne, Max The Impaler and Sonico, remaining undefeated in the upstart promotion. AEW and IMPACT Wrestling came calling because of her ability, and Moone looks to stay on their radar while ruling the Subspace Division.
19. Jordan Blade
Jordan Blade put opponent after opponent square in her crosshairs while draping gold on gold across her shoulders. Blade entered the year as the reigning Pro Wrestling Magic Women’s, United Elite Wrestling Women’s and Paradigm Pro Wrestling Super Middleweight champion and defended each with tenacity for most of the year. She added the Paradigm Pro Heavy Hitters title, becoming a double champ in the company. Her rivalries with Connelly and Aiden Von Engeland in Paradigm Pro Wrestling produced must-see matchups, including a celebrated Dog Collar match with Connelly for the Heavy Hitters title.
In tag team competition with her Kings of the District partner Eel O’Neal, Blade entered the Enjoy Cup Tag Team Title tournament, challenged for the Pro Wrestling Magic Tag titles and ruled the Pro Wrestling VIBE tag division. That resume earned the duo entry into the tournament to crown the first IWTV Independent World Tag Team champions. Blade continued her quest to dethrone Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora World champion Trish Adora, challenging her in the CFU cage. The “Submission Sniper” reached the finals of the ECWA Women’s Super 8 and PPW Fighting Spirit Grand Prix tournaments and brought her technical prowess to Women’s Wrestling Army. Frankly, Blade made it known that she is a title collector, nearly capturing more than 10 different championships—more than enough gold fit for a king.
18. Toni Storm
Toni Storm saw a resurgence after joining All Elite Wrestling following her choice to leave WWE late last year. Her entry into the company saw her reach the semifinals of the Owen Hart Foundation Women’s tournament. That performance jump-started her run to the AEW Women’s World championship, challenging Thunder Rosa for the title at the AEW/New Japan Pro Wrestling joint event Forbidden Door. Storm racked up wins against former champions Nyla Rose and Britt Baker before forming an alliance with Rosa, creating the short-lived team ThunderStorm. After an injury to Rosa, Storm defeated Baker, Jamie Hayter and former AEW Women’s World champion Hikaru Shida to win the interim AEW Women’s World title at AEW All Out in September.
The interim tag would be removed later in the year, making Storm the second out LGBTQ grappler to hold that title, and the second out champion overall in AEW history. She would defend the title against Baker, Shida, Serena Deeb and Athena before delivering a bloody, hard-hitting fight with Jamie Hayter at AEW Full Gear in November. Her reign may have been relatively short, but Storm showed strength in betting on herself and proving why she’s been seen as a top name internationally for the better part of a decade.
17. Allie Katch
2022 saw Allie Katch blast off to a new dimension—one filled with dreamlike moments becoming corporeal. She fulfilled dream matches against AEW star Ruby Soho and pro wrestling icon Mickie James in GCW, the latter of which started her down a path of in-ring simping against top female names of the pro wrestling world. Katch stood apart as one of the most popular names in GCW, earning a shot at the GCW Extreme title and battling internationally recognized talents in IMPACT Knockouts Tag Team champion Taya Valkyrie, IMPACT Knockouts World champion Jordynne Grace, LuFisto, Lizzy Evo and Dark Sheik.
Of course, you can’t talk about Katch without mentioning BUSSY, her tag team with EFFY. The duo made sure that the GCW Tag Team titles were pronounced BUSSY, defeating The Briscoes for the titles. After defenses against The CAUTION, Second Gear Crew and Delirious and Edith Surreal, they challenged for the titles again inside the blood-drenched warzone of GCW’s annual Art of War match. But her GCW exploits don’t fully encapsulate her year. She made her IMPACT Wrestling debut in a Monster’s Ball match against Masha Slamovich, challenged for the Winnipeg Pro Wrestling Women’s title, took AEW star Sonny Kiss and Max The Impaler to the limit in Glory Pro and made her PROGRESS Wrestling debut. And who could forget Al Calderone at Pro Wrestling VIBE. When she touches you, you die, or get swept off your feet in more ways than one. Truly out of this world.
16. Sonny Kiss
Sonny Kiss still remains one of the most criminally underused talents on the AEW roster, but she reached a new level of admiration both in and out of AEW in 2022. Most of Kiss’ AEW appearances came on AEW Dark and AEW Dark: Elevation where she notched a weighted winning record, including a historically significant match for LGBTQ visibility against Ashton Starr. The “Beautiful Badass” would finally make it back to AEW TV by first battling and then turning heel and joining Ari Daivari’s Trustbusters stable.
But “The Concrete Rose” cemented her place by going on a run outside of AEW that was the thing of legends and cemented her as a benchmark. There is a reason why her name continually pops up in other entries on this list: Kiss gave everyone she stepped into the ring with across North America one of if not their best match of the year. Tops among those are her battles with Devon Monroe, Candy Lee, EFFY, Kidd Bandit, Troy Merrick and IMPACT Wrestling star Gisele Shaw. She challenged for titles in Pro Wrestling Magic, F1RST Wrestling and Greektown Pro Wrestling and nearly left Wrestle Queerdom with the Paris Is Bumping Grand Prize trophy, but Kiss became someone who exists beyond championships whose talent and inspirational power are undeniable.
15. MV Young
The King of the Motherfucking Polyam Cult now has a second throne and crown to bear: the King of Pittsburgh Pro Wrestling. MV Young carried three championships into the year, the Enjoy Wrestling, FEST Wrestling and Wrestlers’ Lab titles, and nearly became a quadruple champion after competing for the RYSE Grand championship. He defended his various championships against stiff competition, including Max Zero, Trish Adora, former IWTV Independent Wrestling World champion AC Mack, Mr. Grim and AEW star Lee Moriarty. His straight-up brawl with JD Drake for the Enjoy title stands out as one of the most bullish matches of the year. He also dipped his toes back into the promoting world, running a handful of events showcasing talent in the Pittsburgh area, including a number of LGBTQ talents.
Young made his way back to the West Coast as well, impressing crowds in Oregon-based promotions Prestige Wrestling and POW! Pro Wrestling, highlighted by a reprisal of his show-stealing 2019 match with Funny Bone and a Prestige Tag Team title challenge alongside Paxxx Americana tag partner Dark Sheik. His Vegas return saw him step into a Versus Pro ring. But all things with MV Young come back to Pittsburgh where he has set up a T2T Academy chapter in the area, passing on his knowledge and building Pittsburgh’s pro wrestling scene toward a brighter, more inclusive future.
14. Ashton Starr
It’s easy to live up to the surname Starr when you have the level and diversity of skills that Ashton Starr holds. And he showed exactly why all over the USA this year. Starr was a major part of the Southeast First movement that kicked off in January, starting with a thrilling trios match against The High Flying Star Machines. He followed that up by making a historic challenge for AC Mack’s IWTV Independent Wrestling World title, the first world heavyweight title match between two out gay Black men ever. Starr was a mainstay of Southeast First’s takeover of Uncharted Territory, challenging Alec Price for the Southern Underground Pro Bonestorm title and building a rivalry with Rico Gonzalez and Rob Killjoy. Starr also challenged for the ACTION Wrestling title against Kevin Ku, The TWE title against Merc and entered the Scenic City Invitational tournament.
But Starr also shined outside of the region, challenging Keita for the Without A Cause championship, entering the Cassandro Cup Rumble and impressing crowds in the Bay Area at Hoodslam, GLAM and Full Queer, including challenging for the Lone Star Saloon title. He built himself a fine little home away from home in Ohio Wrestling Alliance, scoring a victory over PB Smooth, and delivered a violent affair against Sandra Moone at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch. GCW proper came calling as well as Starr became another Big Gay Brunch regular to wrestle under the GCW banner for the first time. His return to AEW programming against Sonny Kiss was a full circle, sentimental moment, and now he is paying it forward, forming the tag team The Re-Up with former rival Gonzalez and already challenging for the Freelance Wrestling Tag Team titles. Despite what the entrance song music says, Ashton Starr is the farthest thing from a problem.
13. Erica Leigh
“The Big Gal” stomped down historically-held barriers to make 2022 a historic year in the independent wrestling world. Erica Leigh entered the year as the reigning Pro Wrestling Magic champion, but she accomplished the most in New Jersey-based promotion East Coast Wrestling Association. She became the first woman to enter the ECWA Super 8 tournament, one of the most revered independent wrestling tournaments dating back to the late 1990s. She reached the finals of that tournament, ultimately falling to Darius Carter. Undeterred, she disposed of Killian McMurphy thanks to a Sonic the Hedgehog ruse and won the ECWA Women’s Super 8, defeating Jordan Blade in the finals.
Leigh became the first woman to hold the ECWA Legacy title and cashed in her Super 8 win to become the first woman and out LGBTQ person to win the ECWA Unified Heavyweight title. Her path of chaos and high fashion carried her to her Canadian debut at Demand Lucha, title challenges in Demand Lucha, SWO and Maryland Championship Wrestling and an AEW appearance against former AEW Women’s World champion Hikaru Shida. Her tag teams GummiBoar with Boar and Artsy Fartsy with Edith Surreal established themselves in the tag title picture in Pro Wrestling VIBE and FEST Wrestling respectively, and she built herself into a fixture of the DMV that carries its unique spirit anywhere she speaks the gospel of the Minions.
12. Billy Dixon
The careers of many high-caliber wrestlers can be separated into distinct eras that define them over multiple years. Billy Dixon went through multiple eras this year alone—and they all slayed. After coming out as gender-diverse, Dixon entered the year firmly entrenched as “The Business,” challenging for the Pro Wrestling Magic title and closing the book on his years-long rivalry with O’Shay Edwards in a Last Fighter Standing match for Dixon’s F1ght Club Chocolate City championship. His “Purple Rain” era debuted at WrestleMania weekend as he battled Keita at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch and showed violent defiance against Hoodfoot at For The Culture in the first all-Black deathmatch main event ever.
Dixon returned to the no ring deathmatch world in No Peace Underground and returned to Enjoy Wrestling before closing out that era and potentially his career in an emotional war of an I Quit match against longtime rival Darius Carter at Pride & VIBE Weekend. His 27-month reign as Chocolate City champion came to an end and Dixon retired. But you can’t kill “The Business.” Dixon returned months later at FEST Wrestling, decreeing the start of his “Artgrap” era. They drove Sonny Kiss to the limit at Uncanny Attractions, seeked vengeance against murder-perv Charles Mason in JCW and wrestled his first match in Virginia in years. Outside of the ring, the “Babyface Douchebag” remained at the helm of Pro Wrestling VIBE and built the first LGBTQ pro wrestling weekend festival, Pride & VIBE Weekend, where he made good on his promise to deliver the queerest rumble match. As PWI Editor-in-Chief Kevin McElvaney accurately stated, Billy Dixon is the modern-day Dusty Rhodes equivalent the LGBTQ pro wrestling movement deserves as it and they continue to break new ground.
11. Killian McMurphy
I’ve said it many times before, and I will never stop saying it: Killian McMurphy is a menace. ”The Shamrock Shooter” reached new heights of villainy in 2022 as the loudest member of comically evil stables The Goons, The Best Business Bureau and The Trade. He captured tag team titles with both The Goons and The Trade, holding the SWO Tag Team and Maryland Championship Wrestling Tag Team titles respectively. McMurphy challenged for singles gold as well, doing his best to pry away the Pro Wrestling Magic Jr. Heavyweight and Dark Arts titles. He nearly beat longtime frenemy Erica Leigh to the punch when he challenged for the ECWA Unified Heavyweight title and took her on outright for the ECWA Legacy title. McMurphy also found himself in the Invictus Grand Title tournament.
But the spot where McMurphy left his most searing mark was Pro Wrestling VIBE. He entered the Cassandro Cup Rumble first and outlasted 29 others to become the second holder of the Cassandro Cup trophy, one of the most prestigious honors in LGBTQ pro wrestling. Then he declared himself the new “Gay President” and christened the trophy with Kidrock and a Chik-Fil-A sandwich, kickstarting a six-month period where he evolved into the quintessential queer villain, embodying the spirit of internalized homophobia and the folly of unchecked privilege possessed by cisgender white gay men. That pot boiled until his battle with inaugural Cassandro Cup winner Edith Surreal at Pro Wrestling VIBE’s Prime Time Vibes event, where Surreal crashed his inauguration and swore vengeance against McMurphy and The Goons. The funny blue rat would be proud.
10. Trish Adora
Trish Adora is the diamond of the DMV, a hero of the pro wrestling world and someone whose presence continues to draw new eyes to her wherever she laces her boots. The reigning Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora World champion held that title for another calendar year with the three-year anniversary of her championship win on the horizon in Feb. 2023. As always she was a fighting champion, defending her crown against longtime rival Jordan Blade, MJ Jenkins and Alpha Zo stateside and against Mercedez Blaze and Rhio in the U.K. during her debut with PROGRESS Wrestling. Adora and Big Swole turned a masterful three match series, going 1-1-1 while defending the PAWD World title and challenging for Swole’s Battle Club Pro Icons title.
Adora tore up the West Coast in Hoodslam and Prestige Wrestling, battled LuFisto and Masha Slamovich in Beyond Wrestling, made her way up to Canada to wrestle for C4 and faced down AC Mack in a battle of Black queer world champions that shattered wrestling’s history books. She challenged for titles in Black Label Pro, Capital Championship Wrestling and Enjoy Wrestling. “The Afropunk” tested the limits of international star Taya Valkyrie for the AAA Reina de Reinas and MLW Women’s World Featherweight titles. Devon Monroe may still be reeling from the kneeling German suplex she hit on them at Paris Is Bumping. And she ended up right where she belongs by year’s end, making multiple appearances for AEW and returning to Ring of Honor.
9. Max The Impaler
“The Non-Binary Nightmare” went global this year, bringing The Wasteland to all corners of the earth and making history simply through their dominating presence. Max challenged Don’t Die MIles for the New Wave Pro Heavyweight championship in one of pro wrestling’s first all-non-binary heavyweight title matches of all time. They won the Josei Taichi tournament to win the ZERO1 USA Women’s title and paired up with their Wasteland War Party partner Heidi Howitzer to claim the New South Pro Tag Team titles. Their rivalry with Connelly spanned multiple promotions, culminating in a Terminal Combat match for the Paradigm Pro Wrestling Heavy Hitters title, and their match with Nyla Rose in AEW was the first battle between transmasc and transfemme competitors ever to happen in a major wrestling promotion.
Max trekked across the Atlantic, dominating competition in Pro Wrestling EVE, PROGRESS Wrestling and Wrestle Carnival. They then jumped the Pacific, becoming the first transmasc wrestler to step into Tokyo Joshi Pro and DDT. Their infatuation with Pom Harajuku proved to be one of the most endearing developments in TJPW. They made similar history in the U.S., becoming the first transmasc wrestler to ever appear for AEW, IMPACT and the NWA and earning shots at the NWA Women’s Worlds, Without A Cause and PrideStyle titles. They are an international star whose pattern of breaking barriers stands equal to their domineering presence and continues to give non-binary wrestling fans a hero to lift up.
He may not call himself “The Bisexual King” too much these days, but Keita’s kingdom has expanded over the last two years. Reigning as the Without A Cause champion, Princex of Pride champion and Relentless Wrestling champion, Keita is the king of West Coast wrestling. Keita also held the WAC Stallions title for a period in 2022, ruling the Pacific Northwest promotion as a double champion. He defended his various titles against top opponents, including Max The Impaler, Jaiden, Rebel Kel, Ashton Starr and New Japan star Rocky Romero. He survived a triple threat cage match with Da Shade and Jai Vidal to end his year-long quest to become Princex of Pride champion and defended the belt against Kevin Blackwood.
The “Ruler of Realms” became a major player at Las Vegas’ PrideStyle and stepped into the deathmatch world again with Circle 6 and No Peace Underground. No matter where he set foot, he dominated, unlocking new heights for himself. That drew the eye of New Japan Pro Wrestling, earning him matches on multiple NJPW American cards. He appeared on multiple GCW events and defeated 2021 QWI 200 #1 Billy Dixon at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch Dallas. But above all of the victories and titles, Keita proved his “Keita Your Heart” nickname true by earning the respect and admiration of West Coast wrestling fans that embraced him as the flagbearer of the Pacific Northwest. He is a figure that belongs among the ranks of Dark Sheik as a tentpole of West Coast professional wrestling ready to spread the word of “West Coast, Best Coast” across the nation.
7. Anthony Bowens
Anthony Bowens proved why AEW signed him to a multi-year contract this year, becoming one of if not the most popular competitors in the company en route to a historic title win. 2022 saw the rise of The Acclaimed, Bowens’ tag team with Max Caster, as they climbed the ranks of AEW tag team division despite injury setbacks that kept Bowens out of the ring for multiple months. But that time out of the ring proved advantageous as Bowens and Caster’s infectious personalities and the adoption of their now trademark Scissoring celebration became a cultural phenomenon within the company’s fanbase and beyond. Bowens’ cry of “Scissor me, Daddy Ass” rang through arenas across the nation and helped turn the duo into uber fan favorites just in time for their outstanding series of matches against AEW Tag Team champions Swerve In Our Glory.
The Acclaimed became AEW Tag Team champions in front of a hometown New York crowd at AEW Dynamite Grand Slam and haven’t looked back since. The win made Bowens the first out gay male champion in AEW history and the third LGBTQ AEW champion ever. He and Caster defended the titles against Swerve In Our Glory, FTR and Private Party. Bowens added a singles match against three-time AEW World champion Jon Moxley that impressed. Their Scissoring gesture spread to other sports, with the Philadelphia Phillies using the celebration during their World Series run. While already a star-worthy in-ring competitor, Bowens became a cultural touchstone once his personality and charisma shone through. And his celebration of his sexual orientation through those massive moments let other LGBTQ people share that glory alongside him, one “Scissor me, Daddy Ass” at a time.
6. Edith Surreal
Edith Surreal is an in-ring technical marvel, seemingly evolving with every match she enters. But she channeled something else within her fluid mat skills: defiance. As one of the most prominent out trans pro wrestlers, Surreal lent her voice and presence to the fight against rising transphobia within the U.S., letting her continued success speak against bigots. She did so through title wins, claiming the Lucha Libre & Laughs Women’s and Invictus Pro Wrestling Women’s championships. She proudly displayed the trans flag in Dallas ahead of her brawl with Max The Impaler at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch Dallas. She challenged for titles in Demand Lucha, Enjoy Wrestling and GCW, and she stood up to queer firebrand Killian McMurphy in Pro Wrestling VIBE. Her match with Nicole Matthews at Vancouver-based promotion DUSK Pro was a standout of her year.
But “The Ephemeral Queen” made her largest statement alongside Dark Sheik and Candy Lee, competing in the first all-trans femme main event in pro wrestling history at Paris Is Bumping: The Legends Ball. The message of that match continued in her main event battle with Japanese trans icon VENY at Wrestle Queerdom. Though she defeated PAWD World champion Trish Adora, formed formidable tag teams with Erica Leigh (Artsy Fartsy) and AEW star Willow Nightingale (Ephemeral Babes) and put herself into contention for the Uncanny Attractions title, all of those victories pointed to one that extends beyond just her; a limitless hope in the face of hate.
Whether wrestling in her native Japan as ASUKA or the rest of the world as VENY, she is recognized as one of the most prominent wrestlers in the world. VENY made appearances and racked up title wins in pretty much every prominent Japanese promotion other than New Japan Pro Wrestling and STARDOM. She captured the SEAdLINNNG Beyond The Sea Tag Team titles with Las Fresa de Egoistas partner Makoto around the turn of the year and added the DDT KO-D Tag Team titles in May after defeating the Calamari Drunken Kings. She entered Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Futari wa Princess Max Heart tournament, challenged for the DDT Universal title and fought at the TJPW/DDT/Pro Wrestling NOAH joint event Cyberfight Festival. In Sendai GIrls, she teamed with deathmatch icon Jun Kasai and won the Sendai Girls World championship.
Her power couldn’t be contained to Japan, however. VENY made her way to Europe, competing in Italian promotion SAJ and entering U.K. promotion Pro Wrestling EVE’s She-1 tournament. 2022 also saw VENY make her American debut, defeating Edith Surreal in the main event of Wrestle Queerdom. Already recognized as an international star, her continent-hopping year further cemented that sentiment, and the reverence Japanese fans hold for her proved the cultural power endemic to pro wrestling. Bow to your trans Joshi queen.
4. “Speedball” Mike Bailey
“Speedball” Mike Bailey was perhaps the busiest honoree on this list, wrestling 150 matches in IMPACT Wrestling and every major North American independent promotion in his first full year back in America after a five-year absence. The best example of Bailey’s in-ring schedule occurred during WrestleMania weekend where he cemented himself as the ironperson of the weekend, wrestling nine intense matches in three days. They were a quadruple champion for a brief period in June, holding the IMPACT X-Division, C4 Underground, IWS World Heavyweight and C4 championships at the same time.
His IMPACT X-Division title win proved historic, making Bailey the first gender-diverse champion in the company’s history, and he nearly added the IMPACT World title in an hour-long battle with Josh Alexander. Bailey reached the finals of Pro Wrestling Guerilla’s Battle of Los Angeles tournament and put on match of the year candidates in GCW, West Coast Pro, New Japan Pro Wrestling and countless other promotions. He challenged for championships in America, Germany, Canada, Ireland and England, including an outstanding IWTV Independent Wrestling World title bout against AC Mack at Uncharted Territory. There is honestly too much to list here, but Bailey brought a challenge to gender divides in pro wrestling’s structure and presentation everywhere they shined.
EFFY is prolific. EFFY is constant. EFFY is fine, and somehow continues to outdo himself year after year. His Big Gay Brunch events grew to new heights, showcasing a multitude of LGBTQ stars and celebrating the legends that paved the way for the modern LGBTQ pro wrestling movement. He proved his international cache in matches with Japanese deathmatch icon Jun Kasai, Canadian star PCO and British LGBTQ trailblazers Visage and Che Monet. He battled legendary wrestlers Minoru Suzuki and Pimpinela Escarlata and made Jeff Jarrett relevant again at The Wrld On GCW.
The supremely popular GCW name finally secured his first championship in the company, winning the GCW Tag Team titles with BUSSY teammate Allie Katch and putting his body on the line in The Art of War for another chance to hold them. His brawls with GCW World champion Jon Moxley, PrideStyle champion Sandra Moone and Santana Jackson kept EFFY a hot topic among pro wrestling audiences, and he challenged for multiple titles across the country, including a shot at AC Mack’s IWTV Independent Wrestling World title. For brevity’s sake, EFFY is queer wrestling royalty not just for his ability and commitment to advancing LGBTQ identities within pro wrestling, but because of the infectious “Fuck You” attitude he infuses into every drop of it.
2. Dark Sheik
There has been a lot of talk of queer wrestling royalty so far, but what about Girl Raven? Dark Sheik’s crown is adorned with 20 years worth of accoutrement that signify her place in the history of pro wrestling, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t room for more this year. Her rivalry with Nic Zander in UGWA lit the California promotion on fire and left her a two-time Champion of All Sharks (also known as the UGWA San Jose title). The High Priestess of the Church of Wrestling brought her role as the writer of Hoodslam to the ring, using her unique abilities to brick Chupacabra to win The Golden Gig as solo champion for the first time. The Motherbrain also ended Darius Carter’s reign of terror as Paris Is Bumping Grand Prize champion during Pride & VIBE Weekend before sharing the ring with Candy Lee and Edith Surreal in the event’s historic all-trans femme main event.
Dark Sheik’s popularity in GCW rose even from the huge amount of love she already engendered from the company’s fanbase. She challenged for the GCW Tag Team titles alongside The CAUTION partner Anton Voorhees, defeated Joey Janela in The Bay and notched victories over Parrow, Allie Katch and Taya Valkyrie at EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch. She challenged for titles up and down the West Coast, including a Prestige Tag Team title match with MV Young, collectively known as Paxxx Americana. But what symbolizes her drive the most was seeing the promotion she founded, Hoodslam, defy the uncertain future of the pandemic and reach new heights. It’s reflected in her continued advocacy for trans populations amidst a resurgence in transphobia in America, with her spirit embodying the idea of existence as protest. Quote Girl Raven, nevermore.
1. AC Mack
There is no height that AC Mack could demand the ring announcer hold his numerous championships high that matched how far the Atlanta native climbed in 2022. January 21, 2022 will forever be remembered as the night Mack etched his name into the lineage of pro wrestling. On that night, Mack defeated Alex Shelley in one the most emotional matches of the year to become the new IWTV Independent Wrestling World champion and the first out gay male world champion in pro wrestling history. But Mack didn’t rest on the laurels of that win and the fiery promo and in-ring kiss with partner Rico Gonzalez that followed it. The win ushered in the Southeast First movement that would take over independent pro wrestling for most of the year, and Mack anchored it with multiple title defenses during Southeast First’s takeover of Uncharted Territory.
Mack would go on to become a triple champion multiple times during the year, adding the Ohio Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight title, Unsanctioned Pro Heavyweight title and Intense Wrestling Entertainment Mayhem title. But he never lost focus on making sure his world title reign would be just as memorable as the way he won it. Mack’s IWTV Independent Wrestling World title reign ranked as the third-longest (281 days), second in successful title defenses (25) and brought him to promotions coast-to-coast to turn away foes in pursuit of Iris. The list of those he defeated to hold onto that title is all-star caliber: IMPACT stars “Speedball” Mike Bailey, Masha Slamovich and Alan Angels, AEW star Willow Nightingale, Ashton Starr, EFFY, Sonico, Atticus Cogar, Dominic Garrini. I could keep going, but for brevity’s sake, AC Mack stood as a pro wrestling gamechanger for his city, his region, his culture and the community that holds him so close to their hearts. Hush! AC mack is number one for 2022.
Congratulations to all 2022 QWI 200 honorees and all LGBTQ figures in pro wrestling. See you in 2023!