Y’all, crafting this list gets harder every year. Yet I continue to relish the challenge it presents: evaluating nearly 550 out LGBTQ pro wrestlers and narrowing that down to 200, making incredibly tough decisions along the way.
It’s a difficult task I welcome not just because of the QWI 200’s ability to honor so many of pro wrestling’s queer community or what it represents in a field that historically shrouded and vilified us, but because there is no cap on empowerment and queer joy despite the still amassing attempts to legislate us out of existence.
There are many examples of pro wrestling as protest art that I can point to from this year. It’s innate to the nature of art, which translates directly to pro wrestling’s athletic expression on stages all over the world.
But this correlates with the spread of queer joy and defiance directly sourced by the growth of acceptance. You see it in the faces of international stars Micha, Rebecca Reznor, Safire Reed, Jessica Love, Larah Dominatrix, Zac Monsoon and Micke Morbult.
You hear it in the cheers of fans at the increasing number of wrestling events celebrating our community like “POWW You Better Work,” “EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch,” “PCW Pride of the Ring” and “Purpose Wrestling Rainbows & Hand Grenades.”
It’s evident in the passion shown by young wrestlers chasing their dreams such as Dayday Bandz, Harleen Lopez, Beau Belles, Skye O. Shure, Ashley Buchanan, Aria Check, Zoe Nix, Rider Furlong, Nix Wilde and Sigrid, Daughter of Tyr, drawing inspiration from the stars who showed them they belong in the ring.
It powers the determination to make the comebacks we saw from Dani Jordyn, Reiza Clarke, Parada and Christopher Torres this year.
That feeling generates the unique mix of sadness and celebration when those that worked tirelessly to dismantle the gates that held queer people back for so long, like AC Mack, Charles Cassus, Cassandro and Jeyla Jey, leave their boots in the middle of the ring after that final match.
People like Dark Sheik, Mook Massacre, Jensen Ryan, Pollo Del Mar, Kalon Jay, Marco Mayur, Rosie Fingers, Joey Scott, Milhouse Mallot, MV Young and High Voltage Kat took the step of being the creators, providing the canvas for so many outstanding wrestlers to craft their portraits and stories for these audiences.
And those who put in years of work to break down barriers such as Tommy Purr, Visage, Priscilla, Mitchell Starr, Broken Doll Roxy, Pimpinela Escarlata, Nyla Rose and Terrance Griep haven’t stopped their journey, building on legacies already established.
Nothing can stop this momentum. We are everywhere and we don’t give up ground easily.
The same tenacity buried within us that fuels our continued fight against cultural and political attack is what makes all of what we are seeing in the pro wrestling space possible. The art of queer pro wrestling is crafted by the hundreds of in-ring artists using their bodies to move us. That is why this task gets more difficult every year, and why I welcome it.
It means we’re winning. Welcome to the 2023 QWI 200.
From her origins as the “Radio Devil,” Gozzie has risen to be a gothy light within the North Carolina pro wrestling scene. A staple at Asheville-based Urban Combat Wrestling, Gozzie secured a win over perennial QWI honoree Kaydin Pierre while racking up women’s championships across the region, including in AIWF and SCW. She also entered the world of deathmatch, battling Raven Havok in Total Professional Wrestling.
199. Saraya Saber
Cobb County, GA has a long lineage within pro wrestling, and Saraya Saber is the latest to add her name to that table. Saber’s first full year in the ring saw historic firsts for the Southeast U.S., with Saber competing in the first matches involving multiple trans wrestlers in both Tennessee and Georgia against Sigrid, Daughter of Tyr and Andey Ripley. She challenged for the Primos Women’s championship in Colorado and impressed in her Wrestling Open debut against Armani Kayos. She capped the year with her EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch debut at EFFY’s Big Gay Thanksgiving in November.
198. Kimberly Spirit
Intergender tag teams roll call!!— Kim Spirit (@Catie_V) September 17, 2023
Beauty & The Beast Slayer! pic.twitter.com/sxZ8ISLpCF
A favorite of Pennsylvania-based promotion Susquehanna Wrestling Organization, Kimberly Spirit turned in a year full of rising to new challenges. Her rivalry with IMPACT Wrestling star Sonny Kiss dominated the later part of the year in SWO, leading to her getting a tag team win over Kiss alongside The Beauty and The Beast Slayer partner Zac Belmont. The duo also challenged for the SWO Tag Team titles while Spirit challenged for multiple singles titles in SWO and Delaware-based promotion 1CW before making her debut in the Combat Fights Unlimited cage.
197. Dani Jordyn
After more than a year away from the ring due to injury, Jordyn hit the ground running once she was ring-ready once more. She logged appearances at Southern Honor, Zicky Dice’s Outlandish Paradise and Intense Wrestling Entertainment. Her return also marked a new role as the head of Southern Honor’s women’s division. The highlight of her year, other than an Overkill reunion during Southern Honor’s annual Rumblejack match, came when she challenged Kenzie Page for the NWA Women’s World title.
Divinna’s CNL Women’s title reign last year made history as the first by an out trans woman in South America, but she didn’t rest on her laurels. Her 392-day reign came to an end only when vacating the title due to medical absence. Once back, Divinna proved relentless in her quest for more gold, challenging for titles across Chile, including a no-disqualification battle against Cami Love for the CLL All Stars championship. It’s only a matter of time before she is strapped up once again.
195. Hunter Gallagher
The self-proclaimed favorite sugar baby of pro wrestling discovered new heights to conquer in 2023. The former Jet Jameson held his clutch on the What A Drag championship throughout the year despite a tense challenge from Kidd Bandit. Gallagher also competed at Knokx Pro, but nothing topped his partnership with former WWE diva Ariane Andrew to bring pro wrestling to the queer haven of West Hollywood with the debut of Poundtown Wrestling in October.
194. Sebastian LaShawn
The head mistress of the Megachurch kept proving why her star is on the rise in the Rust Belt. LaShawn lead her Megachurch faction to continued success in promotions across Ohio and Pennsylvania, notching her own challenge for the Eclipse Wrestling Women’s championship in that time. She made appearances with Mega Wrestling, Rickey Shane Page’s RCW promotion and wowed fans in her intense Naptown All-Pro Wrestling debut against Alice Crowley.
193. Princesa Triton Elisa
Elisa has built herself into a high-flyer worthy of the title “princesa” in recent years in Madrid-based promotion White Wolf Wrestling, and 2023 added to that prestige. Elisa entered the year as the WWW Level One champion, ending her reign just short of one year in May. She remained a key fixture of WWW shows throughout the year and nearly claimed the number-one contender position for the TYRIS Wrestling Absolute title as well. Her most powerful statement though was through visibility as the only out trans woman on the WWW roster and one of few out trans wrestlers in the entirety of Spain.
192. William Blackwell
With a clear influence from William Regal, William Blackwell can stake a claim to the throne of the Arkansas independent wrestling scene. The “classically violent” grappler spent the majority of the year as South Central Wrestling Heavyweight champion, logging stellar performances at Chaotic Kingdom Wrestling, All Pro Wrestling and Vino’s lovingly debaucherous pop-up shows. Blackwell added the Diamond State Wrestling Imperial Division title later in the year, adding to his dominance over the state.
191. Zakai Living
Zakai Living is one of the young rising stars of Texas pro wrestling that worked his way onto the stage of multiple major promotions in the state. Living made appearances with nationally-known promotions Mission Pro Wrestling and Uncanny Attractions alongside local favorites River City Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Element. He found the most success with Living N Fashion tag partner Devin Carter. The two won the United Southwest Tag Team championship and challenged for the PWE Tag Team titles.
190. Devin Carter
The other half of Living N Fashion put together a stellar year of their own. Parallel to their tag team success with Zakai Living, Carter put in stellar performances against Eddy McQueen, Erica Leigh and Ray Lyn at Austin-Based promotion Uncanny Attractions. They also rose in San Antonio-based promotion River City Wrestling, winning the RCW Future Legends championship. Carter also became the inaugural Hybrid Rising Star champion, further building their reputation as a young belt collector with a bright future.
189. Brooke Valentine
Despite losing a good chunk of 2023 due to injury, the Queen Bee did plenty to assert her dominance in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond. Valentine captured the Capital Championship Wrestling Tag Team titles with Jordan Blade early in the year and nearly added the F1ght Club Chocolate City, Black Wrestlers Matter and RUGGEDpro Heritage championships in singles action. She also appeared for notable indie promotions Enjoy Wrestling, F1RST Wrestling and Wrestling Open. Valentine added notable shots in Naptown All-Pro and 880 Wrestling, setting her up for a stellar return in 2024.
188. Cami Love
Cami Love is quickly shaping into one of the better young talents of Chile’s lucha libre scene. He found success in tag team action with House of Love partner Destello, challenging for tag titles in Generacion Lucha Libre, Fenix Lucha Libre and MAX Lucha LIbre. Love would claim gold in singles action, though, winning Chile Lucha Libre’s Torneo All Star tournament and defeating Sinner for CLL All Stars championship. A standout defense against Divinna added to a stellar title reign that is still going strong.
187. Reiza Clarke
2023 was the self-coined “redemption arc” for the Texas native. Her first full year in the ring since 2020 saw Clarke appear for multiple Texas promotions, including Mat War Pro Wrestling and Metroplex Wrestling, including a rivalry with fellow out wrestler Morgan Mercy. She challenged for the Bayou Independent Wrestling Women’s title, reached the semifinals of the AAPW Women’s title tournament and formed a duo with fellow out wrestler Olivier Vegas in Squared Circle Pro. Clarke also left a mark at Joan Jetson’s Big Queer Launch 2 in Colorado and Pro Wrestling:R in New Jersey.
186. Sazzy Boatright
Whether you tried to hide your moms or offered them up to pro wrestling’s real motherfucker, Sazzy Boatright kept their mom-fueled momentum chugging in 2023. The T2T Brooklyn product debuted for Enjoy Wrestling, made multiple appearances for Create-A Pro Wrestling and Labor of Love and ventured into the world of no ring deathmatch in 880 Wrestling and New Fear City. They challenged for the SWF Women’s title and logged a major highpoint with their EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch debut at BGB 7 in September.
185. Brian Bomb
Lodged in a forever battle with Tommy Purr over their Sable fandom, Brian Bomb wrapped up his rookie year with great performances from coast to coast. Bomb made his Battle Club Pro debut in Brooklyn and entered hard-hitting battles against the likes of Anton Voorhees, Parrow and Richie Coy in Bay Area-based promotion Full Queer. He capped off the year with appearances for Monster Factory Pro Wrestling and T2T Brooklyn’s Queer Punk Outlaws, showing plenty of personality and potential along the way.
184. Sassy Bear Clarence
Britain’s sassiest bear found individual success while putting on for the queer community in 2023. Clarence made his EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch debut in BGB U.K.’s Rainbow Rumble, returned to PCW’s Pride of the Ring and entered a three-way hardcore war with Jason Joshua and Keegan at WAW’s Norwich Pride event. He claimed the Falling Starr Wrestling Limitless championship, yet still reserved some time to challenge for the Independent Wrestling Universe Tag Team titles alongside 2Sassy partner JPR. Sassy Bear rounded out the year with appearances in Genesis Pro Wrestling, Championship Extreme Wrestling and Forever Rivals Wrestling.
183. Xander Phillips
The “X-Factor” continued holding down the San Diego pro wrestling scene with his The Block tag partner JF3000 while expanding his horizons during 2023. Phillips debuted for Las Vegas-based promotions PrideStyle Pro and Versus Pro, Colorado’s Battleground Pro Wrestling and Arizona’s Slam U. He and JF3000 notched an impressive record closer to home, winning key matches in Desert Pro, San Diego Pro Wrestling and securing his first championship, the Wrestling Warzone Tag Team titles.
182. Riley “THEE” NBF
The NBF stands for Non-Binary FInery, but it also stood for Next Britain Fixture after Riley’s 2023. They notably appeared at WAW’s Norwich Pride show and Purpose Wrestling’s Rainbows & Hand Grenades Pride show. Riley went on to further establish themself within Purpose Wrestling in a battle against David Francisco. They added a WIN OTA championship challenge and matches in FIST Club and Wrestle Island to round out another great year that continues to build Riley into an emerging talent ripe for a bigger breakout in 2024.
181. Keith Haught
Pennsylvania’s non-binary bearcat kept their dice rolling in the right direction this year, especially in the Pittsburgh area. Haught earned a Ryse Wrestling Grand championship match against Edric Everheart to go along with Ryse Wrestling Tag Team title shot alongside Tyler Voxx. They also snagged shots at singles gold in West Virginia’s Victory Championship Wrestling and Pittsburgh’s 880 Wrestling, with the latter promotion becoming another regular spot for them. Haught and fellow Pittsburgh mainstay MV Young joined forces to challenge for the VCW Tag Team titles as well, continuing to shed light on the growing queer pro wrestling scene throughout the Rust Belt.
180. Logan Knight
The Sooner State has a belt collector on its hands named Logan Knight. “The Spotlight” secured titles in nearly every promotion he wrestled in during the year, kicking things of by winning the Majestic Championship Wrestling Flawless and Empire Pro Wrestling Heavyweight titles. He later added the Core Pro Wrestling Tag Team titles, dethroning fellow out wrestlers Olivier Vegas and Malik Mayfield, along with the MCW Heavyweight title and Body Progression Wrestling Tag Team titles with Tunnel Vision partner Derek James. Knight nearly added a sixth title to his trophy case, falling to NWA star Rush Freeman in his bid for the WAH title.
179. Nikki Van Blair
Australia’s bigender baddie fulfilled the pledge of another fun year in the ring. Van Blair did the most damage as part of Prima Pi Kappa with Frankie B, entering the PWA Black Label Tag Team Premiership tournament and the Colosseum tag team gauntlet. She provided a memorable moment during Pride month, carrying the bigender flag to the ring ahead of her match with Speed Force, and PPK battled their most high profile opponents to date when they matched up with EFFY and Allie Katch, collectively known as BUSSY. Van Blair remains a key figure for visibility among the powerful crew of queer wrestlers down under.
178. Anastasia Morningstar
The wrecking ball of Beyond Wrestling’s Church of Greatness stable, Anastasia Morningstar turned in a QWI-worthy year despite losing the last quarter of it due to injury. They ran roughshod over the competition in Wrestling Open, securing victories over top names including AKIRA, Masha Slamovich, Jordan Blade and Brooke Valentine. Morningstar challenged Edith Surreal for the Enjoy Wrestling title, becoming the third out non-binary wrestler to do so. They did claim gold during the year, however, winning the WWX Women’s championship.
177. Estrella Divina
Estrella Divina kept herself in the conversation for Mexico’s top out trans luchadora in 2023, both alongside her Las Shotas partners and on her own. After opening the year with an MSLL Exotico title win, Divina added the ELLAP Universal title to her collection and fought for the Copa Reino Tibetano at AAA’s Villano IV tribute show. She added multiple trios bouts with Las Shotas members La DIva Salvaje, Mamba and Jessy Ventura across a number of Mexican independent promotions and shared the ring with exotico icon Pimpinela Escarlata in a number of contests.
176. Seabass Finn
Pro wrestling’s favorite fisherman hooked himself a QWI nod after turning a great first full year in the ring. Finn became a fan favorite at Massachusetts-based promotion Chaotic Wrestling, challenging Paris Van Dale for the CW Pan-Optic championship, teaming with ECW legend Tommy Dreamer and battling international stars Anthony Greene, Tyler Bateman and Ava Everett. He sought further training from Fred Rosser among others at the NJPW LA Dojo and put in work at various other New England-based promotions, most notably Wrestling Open, Pro Wrestling Grind and Fight Life.
175. Veda Scott
The preeminent commentator on the American indie scene and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s American events still proved they are a worthy competitor on the othe other side of the commentary desk. Scott made multiple appearances for LVAC, challenged Kayla Sparks for the Immortal Championship Wrestling Women’s title battled formidable names in women’s wrestling including Jody Threat, Liiza Hall and Kristara in Canada. They found themself in multiple major tag team matches with their spouse, “Speedball” Mike Bailey. The team known as Bird Law challenged for the Enjoy Wrestling Tag Team titles, defeated a team of former IMPACT Wrestling champions in Deonna Purrazzo and Steve Maclin and wrestled hard fought contests against Best Hoes (B3CCA and Aaron Rourke) and AVD (AKIRA and Masha Slamovich).
174. Bobbi Diamond
Belfast remained the domain of Bobbi Diamond in 2023 as the Titanic Wrestling Heavyweight champion held court over the promotion for the entire year. After claiming the title last year, Diamond turned away all challengers in 2023, becoming the longest reigning champion in the history of the Northern Irish company. He also found time to challenge for the Titanic Wrestling Tag Team titles as well before tag team partner Pretty Big Deal turned his back on Diamond, setting up a 2024 queer clash once PBD returns from injury. Simply put, Diamond was dominant in 2023 and there are few signs pointing to that changing for the crown bearer.
173. Tyler Adams
2023 was the culmination of years’ worth of work for Tyler Adams, planting himself firmly in the pack of rising U.K. stars. Adams did so early in the year thanks to a heated rivalry with former Ring Ratz partner Harley Hudson, ultimately defeating her for the Wrestle Island Women’s championship in April. He went on to retain his title against Lucia Lee, Lucy Sky and Hudson. He was a fixture on various U.K. Pride shows, entering the Rainbow Rumble at EFFY’s BIg Gay Brunch U.K., teaming with Hudson at Purpose Wrestling’s Rainbows & Hand Grenades and starring in tag team action at WAW’s Norwich Pride event. The Intergender King certainly looks to remain hungry going forward.
172. Beauxx Bombshell
Beauxx Bombshell is one of the pro wrestling figures reminding the Mid-Atlantic that wrestling is for the divas. The Torrie Wilson stan built herself into a force in Urban Combat Wrestling with Pink Gang partner Kaydin Pierre and solo thanks to a hot feud with The Warden. He claimed tag team gold in Tennessee-based promotion Rated R Wrestling and West Virginia’s Battleground Wrestling, adding to a year of matches with top out talent in the region, including Pierre and Jadis Quinn. Bombshell capped off the year with a heated battle with Noah Veil at EFFY’s Big Gay Thanksgiving that couldn’t help but serve.
171. Gin Sevani
Being the devil in disguise comes with its perks and Gin Sevani is fully aware of this fact. The Southern California grappler brought her profile higher in 2023 by leaning even further into her vicious side in Versus Pro, Pandemonium Pro, Oasis Pro Wrestling and Wrestle Drag. She challenged for the Full Queer Lonestar championship. After a brutal rivalry with former tag team partner Bovi, she and Chris Nastyy became top players in the PrideStyle Pro tag team division. Hoodslam’s expansion into Arizona gave Sevani another venue for violence, battling Bryn Thorne. She also made history, competing in Vegas-based promotion Future Stars of Wrestling’s first all-women battle royal. Being the devil is pretty good.
Come back tomorrow for the next 30 2023 QWI 200 honorees.
Also check out regular conversations with LGBTQ wrestlers on the LGBT In The Ring podcast.