Nothing can stop this momentum. LGBTQ people are everywhere in wrestling, 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 Queer Wrestling Index 200.
170. JB Anderson
The bringer of bonk continued to build his name within the storied walls of Hardoce Hustle Organization this year, challenging for the H2O Hybrid title as part of the Marauder Territory faction. His prowess earned him a fight with deathmatch icon Matt Tremont as well as appearances with Pennsylvania-based promotions High Tension Wrestling and Voltage Wrestling. That didn’t keep the DMV product from plying his violent breed of wrestling at home, with multiple bouts at F1ght Club Pro Wrestling and 1CW, including bouts with fellow out wrestler Shawn Carlson. 2023 also marked Anderson’s public coming out, a major personal achievement outside of the ring.
169. Mitchell Starr
Few understand the theater of pro wrestling while still packing a stiff punch better than Mitchell Starr. The WAW staple kept both unholstered in Norwich this year, winning WAW’s Scott Hall Memorial tournament and reaching the semifinals of its King of the Ring tournament. Starr challenged prominent U.K. deathmatch wrestler Big F’n Joe for the DOA Pandemonium title and provided a QWI match of the year candidate with Adam Bolt for the WAW Pride championship. He capped the year with a dream match against former ECW and WWE star Yoshihiro Tajiri.
168. Kaitlyn Marie
Another growing name within the Mid-Atlantic U.S., Kaitlyn Marie reached a new zenith in multiple regions. Marie brought her unique mix of personality and pain to North Carolina indies such as Premier Wrestling Federation, Elevation Pro Wrestling and Urban Combat Wrestling. She made her way to Alabama for New South Pro Wrestling, Delaware’s Capital Championship Wrestling and logged multiple matches with Ladies Night Out. Her match with Allie Katch at EFFY’s Big Gay Thanksgiving brought her profile to new heights, placing her in position for more in 2024.
He made be “Totally Plastic,” but Pha’Nesse’s in-ring constitution proves much stronger than any synthetic. His young career hit new heights within the Southeast U.S., picking up big wins in New Level Pro and TWE Chattanooga, capturing the latter’s Tag Team titles with Totally Shook partner Jameson Shook. Pha’Nesse found further success in Tennessee’s Retinal Wrestling and made his EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch debut at BGB 7 in Chicago, battling Ashton Starr and Alex Maze, providing a stage worthy of his potential.
166. Vanessa Kraven
After coming back from retirement last year, Vanessa Kraven found her old stride once again throughout Eastern Canada in 2023. The former WWE Mae Young Classic entrant shined in multiple Ontario and Quebec promotions, including International Wrestling Syndicate, Acclaim Pro Wrestling and Lutte 07. She challenged for multiple titles in C4, the Main Event Wrestling Women’s championship and the Femme Fatales championship. Kraven made her Ring of Honor debut during AEW’s Canadian tour, placing her back in the eye of a major pro wrestling promotion.
165. Justine Ward
The Maritimes’ favorite cannonball followed a solid rookie year with a campaign of solid showings and toppling previous foes. Ward performed well in their home promotion, Kaizen Pro Wrestling, challenging for the Let’s Wrestle championship and avenging their loss to KPW champion Covey Christ last year. They appeared for Glory Hold Pro Wrestling, New Evolution Wrestling and North Pro Wrestling, and their rivalries with Cody Orion and Draven Kyuss exuded their never-say-die attitude.
164. Gabby Forza
Forza’s rookie campaign saw a quick ascension in the Northeast U.S. for the football champion turned pro wrestler. The gnome aficionado proved herself in the ring at Create-A Pro against Sazzy Boatright, IMPACT Wrestling star Brian Myers and former AEW TBS champion Kris Statlander. She challenged Lady Frost for the Wrestle Pro Women’s championship and became a favorite at Wrestling Open thanks to her rivalry with Tina San Antonio and standing toe-to-toe with IMPACT Knockouts Tag Team champion Masha Slamovich. Her accolades got her shortlisted for PWI’s Rookie of the Year award.
163. Sway Archer
Sway Archer turned the intensity up on his trek through the Eastern Canadian indie scene this year, building his profile in top promotions including C4 and International Wrestling Syndicate. His Dynasty tag team with D. Smith collected tag team title matches in Junction City Wrestling while rising in the ranks at Cross Body Pro Wrestling. Archer also earned shots at singles gold, vying for the CBPW Internet title and battling Tre Lamar for the Courage Pro Wrestling Hamilton Heritage and Tri-State Wrestling championships. And he did all of that while becoming a gearmaker to the stars of pro wrestling as well, keeping his hands in all kinds of wrestling pies.
162. Adam Bolt
Saying 2023 was a whirlwind year for Adam Bolt would be an understatement. The South Yorkshire native rose in profile outside of the ring, sharing his coming out story with major news outlets, including the BBC, and that strength translated to success in the ring. Bolt claimed his second Phoenix championship and became the inaugural WAW Pride champion. His tag team with Jackie T, known together as Big Man Inc., nearly added tag team gold in both Elevation Wrestling and Phenomenal Elite Wrestling. Tack on appearances with TNT Extreme and Wrestle Island and you have a year equal to Bolt’s leading man energy.
161. Caleb Jean Cartier
The trapper out of Texas snagged plenty of significant moments this year. He reigned atop the United Wrestling tag team division with Culture Shock partners Oli Summers and Danny Orion while shining in trios action at AAPW. The trio also took on battles at Party World Wrestling, Borracho Pro, Inspire A.D. and New Texas Pro Wrestling. Where CJC truly bloomed though was Austin-based promotion Uncanny Attractions, both with his Culture Shock crew and alongside deathmatch star Dimitri Alexandrov, after the two had a bloody brawl, against Hoodslam staples Nurse Ratchet and Funny Bone. When you can pull off a crimson mask and Sailor Moon cosplay, you’ve got something special
160. Charlie Pierce
Charlie Kruel and her pop tarts were declared dead and buried so that Charlie Pierce could run in her stead. With her new attitude, Pierce met the challenges of 2023 head-on. She continued her near year-long reign as WTF Women’s champion, challenged for the All Heel Wrestling Women’s, Imperial Pro Wrestling Women’s and Chicago Style Wrestling Northland Women’s titles. She added stops in Paradigm Pro Wrestling, New South Wrestling and Lucha Libre Total Chicago, but her wins over deathmatch legend Mad Man Pondo and indie wrestling gem Gary Jay were key additions to her revenge era.
159. Olivier Vegas
Bow down to the queen of the Southern Midwest. Olivier Vegas collected championships, or accessories as she calls them, across Texas, Arkansas and her native Oklahoma, including Women’s titles in Motivate Pro Wrestling, All-Star Pro Wrestling, Diamond State Pro Wrestling and New Class Wrestling Organization. Her drive for gold extended to tag team competition as well. Vegas and fellow out wrestler Malik Mayfield captured the Core Pro Wrestling Tag Team titles, becoming the first Black intergender tag team champions in Oklahoma history and possibly the first all out LGBTQ tag team ever to hold gold in the state. She formed another hard-hitting duo with Reiza Clarke in Squared Circle Pro and made multiple appearances with popular Texas promotion Metroplex Wrestling. All in a day’s work for a fashionista.
158. Zaye Perez
It’s fitting that a man with the moniker “Playboy of the PNW” is one half a tag team called Flamin’ Aces, especially when that team reaches a boiling point over the course of the year. Zaye Perez and tag partner Spencer Scott planted their flag as the new “it” tag team of the region, reaching prominent spots in POW! Pro Wrestling, Timber Pro Wrestling and Portland-based DOA Pro Wrestling. The tandem united with Jaiden to form the Super Aces in POW! ahead of a raucous street fight, notched two victories over Prestige Tag Team champs C4 and challenged for the SOS Wrestling Tag Team titles. The culmination of Perez’s year came in DOA, though, as the team won the DOA Tag Team titles, making Perez only the second out LGBTQ wrestler to ever hold those belts.
157. Tegan Nox
Nox’s return to WWE in December 2022 set the owner of the shiniest wizard back on track to deal punishment. Nox popped up on both the Raw and Smackdown brands during 2023, challenging for the WWE Women’s Tag Team championships multiple time. She faced off with Rhea Ripley for the Women’s World championship on a series of house shows and battled Becky Lynch for the NXT Women’s championship.
156. TJ Meyer
The state of Michigan and deathmatch wrestling success are increasingly becoming synonymous and TJ Meyer continues to prove it. Meyer reigned as New Edge Pro Wrestling Heavyweight champion for more than 270 days, turning away challenges from EFFY, Jake Crist, NWA Worlds Heavyweight champion EC3 and former IMPACT Wrestling World champion Moose. He supplanted his resume with appearances in ICW No Holds Barred, Flophouse Wrestling, Horror Slam Wrestling and Combat Zone Wrestling. He added the KAOS Tag Team titles to his waist with tag partner Mongo to close out the year.
155. Troy Merrick
The 17-year in-ring veteran turned in another successful year throughout the Canadian Maritimes region. Merrick opened the year as East Coast Pro Wrestling champion and the holder of the Glory Hold Pro Wrestling championship harness, holding onto both for the better part of the year. He added the Ultimate Championship Wrestling Heavyweight title in an exciting cage match against Hollywood Cole Trafford, becoming the first three-time UCW Heavyweight champion in the company’s 15-year history. Merrick continues to prove that he has plenty left in the tank, including a number of tombstone piledrivers for those who step up.
154. Tony Wright
One of British pro wrestling’s cheekiest grapplers made sure he got a spotlight worthy of a leading man in 2023. Wright made multiple appearances with Futureshock Wrestling, including teaming with famed comedy wrestler Santino Marella, made his way to Wrestle Island and entered the Sovereign Pro Crown Cup. He captured the UBW Airbourne championship and let the rest of the colors of his rainbow blossom on Purpose Wrestling’s Rainbows & Hand Grenades Pride show and EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch U.K. before making his debut on TNT Extreme’s IGNition brand. Wright’s feud with Briac Strong provided a strong final act for the year.
153. Mitch Malik
Mitch Malik grew into a celebrated tag team deathmatch wrestler through the course of 2023, snagging accolades across the Rust Belt and Midwest. As part of The Bruisers with Robert Katchem, Malik secured the Asylum Wrestling Revolution Tag Team and the SNPW Tag Team titles during the year while adding appearances with Ruthless Pro Wrestling, ZERO1 USA and Flophouse Wrestling. The duo challenged for additional tag team gold in RPW, Pro Wrestling eXpress and Renegade Wrestling Alliance.
152. Raio Negro
Raio Negro quickly rose to the ranks of Brazilian pro wrestling’s top high-flyers over the last two years, but 2023 saw him reach his highest peak yet. He and tag team partner Yan Karlor won the Brazilian Wrestling Federation Tag Team championships, becoming the first out LGBTQ tag team to do so in the history of South American pro wrestling. Negro also reached the final two in BWF’s annual Maremoto Dos Rookies Royal Rumble-style battle royal, proving his mettle while paying homage to WWE star Bianca Belair.
151. Yan Karlor
The former BWF Internet champion found new gold with teammate Raio Negro, writing his name in pro wrestling’s history books alongside his close friend. That win came with another stellar entrance, this time Barbie-themed, but Karlor wasn’t just gold and show in 2023. Karlor took Allan Sales to the limit in an attempt to regain the BWF Internet championship, adding to his title as “The Pride of Brazil.”
150. Robb Radke
Robb Radke found a new mission in 2023: sweep The Goons. After teaming with his fellow Goons in the culmination of Killian McMurphy and Edith Surreal’s feud at Pro Wrestling VIBE’s Braumatica, Radke found himself ousted from the group. He stood on his own and vowed revenge on his former friends, fighting various members across High Tension Wrestling, F1ight Club Pro Wrestling and Flying V Fights. Radke added appearances with Voltage Wrestling and Major League Wrestling as part of Alex Kane’s Bomaye Fight Club. Outside of anti-Goon duty, Radke challenged for the Chocolate City championship and continued his 1,000-plus day reign as Outbreak Badstreet champion.
149. Leyla Hirsch
“Legit” Leyla Hirsch stepped into a ring for the first time in over a year in June of this year and she didn’t miss a beat from the long injury recovery. The AEW star made her return in the company’s sibling promotion, Ring of Honor, and rattled off 10 straight singles wins before challenging Athena for the ROH Women’s World title. Hirsch would only lose one more singles match against Willow Nightengale in 2023, earning wins over Trish Adora, B3CCA and Nicole Matthews along the way. One can only imagine the kind of dominance she will be capable of with a full year of action in 2024.
Few exploded in the British wrestling scene this year like Zizi did. The young grappler captured the Elevation Wrestling Women’s and House of Pain Women’s championships in quick succession at the beginning of the year before building herself into a fixture of True Grit Wrestling’s women’s division. Zizi’s success caught the eye of TNT Extreme Wrestling, giving her prominent spots on its Siren’s Fury women’s wrestling events. She battled Chantal Jordan within those confines and main evented another Siren’s Fury event later in the year against Allie Katch, one of the most popular independent wrestlers in North America. At only 20 years old, Zizi is just beginning to scratch the surface of her potential.
147. Sonya Deville
Whether you know her as “The Pride Fighter” or “Daddy Deville,” the long-tenured WWE star turned in her most successful year to date despite it ending early due to injury. After challenging for the WWE Women’s World title on multiple house shows and logging another WrestleMania appearance in the WWE Women’s Tag Team title match, Deville captured the first championship of her WWE career. She and Chelsea Green defeated Liv Morgan and Raquel Rodriguez for the WWE Women’s Tag Team titles. That reign would be short-lived as Deville tore her ACL less than a week later, but nothing can take away that crowning moment for a beloved figure and the most vocal LGBTQ advocate in WWE.
146. Gabby Ortiz
Ortiz’s profile rose considerably thanks to being featured in the Apple+ series “Monster Factory,” showing emotional vulnerability and determination in telling her story, and that translated to her performance in the ring. She challenged for titles in ISPW, Capital Championship Wrestling and Labor of Love while adding appearances in Blitzkrieg Pro, Dropkick Depression and Invictus Pro Wrestling. She popped up in AEW for the third year in a row and held the Pro Wrestling:R Women’s championship as well, keeping her Philly spirit roaring throughout the year.
145. Paris Sahara
The “Ebony Sensation” hit a new trajectory throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. After challenging for championships in 814 Wrestling, Aon Pro Wrestling and Eclipse Wrestling, Sahara brought her distinct class to Enjoy Wrestling in battles with Killian McMurphy, Ray Lyn and The Runway. She added appearances with MV Young’s 880 Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling and AAW. The “Melanated Starseed even tried out for NWA, continuing the work to bring her message of inspiration to as many eyes as possible.
144. Mook Massacre
To watch Mook Massacre in the ring is to embrace controlled chaos, which may be why the promotion he co-founded, North Carolina’s Urban Combat Wrestling, has risen in profile so quickly in the Mid-Atlantic. Outside of building a haven for the top underrepresented talent in the Carolinas, Massacre reached the finals of the inaugural UCW Heavyweight championship tournament. He notched matchups with Isaiah Frazer and former Deadlock Pro Wrestling Heavyweight champion Bojack along with multiple appearances for Pro Wrestling Hype, but the highlight of his year came when he defeated New Japan Pro Wrestling star and Bullet Club member Chase Owens.
143. Jack Andrews
The more enigmatic half of The Ody made no mystery about the action he brought to the ring in 2023. He and tag partner Chris Copeland challenged for tag team gold in Indiana-based promotions Paradigm Pro Wrestling, Unsanctioned Pro and Summit Pro, and they paired up with fellow Death Clutch member Alex Kane to reach the finals of Paradigm Pro’s Cyclone Classic trios tournament. The duo participated in the SPO tribute show and helped Death Clutch remain a dominant faction on Paradigm’s Magnum Opus series.
142. Free-Range Kara
The farmland fighter of F1RST Wrestling reaped a stellar harvest in 2023. Kara scored wins over former F1RST Wrestlepalooza champion Darin Corbin and Victor Analog in the Minneapolis-based promotion, adding them to her Rotunda Rumble win at F1SRT second Saturday Night Nitro event at the Mall of America. She added another rumble win at Destination Pro Wrestling, putting her in the DPW title picture, and found further success in Timebomb Pro and Higher Ground Wrestling. Her match with Dark Sheik brought joy and her continual battles with Badger Briggs gave her a solid frenemy in the Twin Cities.
141. Kaydin Pierre
Kaydin Pierre bathed the Mid-Atlantic in Pink yet again, making the region the domain of the “Pink Princess.” Pierre reigned as the Rated R Wrestling Heavyweight champion for most of the early year, pairing it with his Battleground Wrestling Tag Team championship. Pierre built his name in Urban Combat Wrestling, Dominant Championship Wrestling and Elevation Pro Wrestling. The leader of the Pink Gang entered his most high-profile match to date in November at EFFY’s Big Gay Thanksgiving, serving a star-making performance against EFFY in the show’s main event. It’s far past time that people outside of the region pay attention to Kaydin Pierre.
Come back tomorrow for the next 30 2023 QWI 200 honorees.