Sunday’s “Great Midwestern Trendkill” event wasn’t the first time out gay pro wrestler AC Mack stepped into a Naptown All-Pro Wrestling ring, but it will be his last.

Mack, the first out LGBTQ male world champion in pro wrestling history, 2022 QWI 200 No. 1-ranked wrestler and foundational piece of the “Southeast First” pro wrestling surge, wrestled his partner, Rico Gonzalez, in his final match on Sunday.

This final battle closes a seven-year chapter of Mack’s life in the ring; one defined by claiming gold and breaking barriers. It’s hard to find a championship in Georgia and the greater Southeast U.S. that Mack hasn’t held, from the title atop his wrestling school, the WWA4 Heavyweight title, to his near-800-day ACTION championship reign that forced audiences outside the South to pay attention.

But the intertwining of championships and breaking new ground for Mack hit their peak just over a year ago. After winning the 2021 Scenic City Invitational tournament, he defeated Alex Shelley for the IWTV Independent Wrestling World title in front of the ACTION Wrestling faithful. Mack etched his name into pro wrestling history as the first out LGBTQ male world champion ever.

He followed that by participating in the first world title match between two out LGBTQ male pro wrestlers when he defended the title (dubbed “Iris” by Mack) against wrestling cornerstone Ashton Starr.

Even as these new benchmarks were being constructed, though, Mack knew that he was nearing his end. The grind, anxiety and imposter syndrome took their toll, contributing to the decision, but not feeling like his initial goal of reaching WWE was attainable anymore ultimately led him to decide to step away.

Yet as that WWE-or-bust goal faded ahead his final match, Mack’s true legacy came into view, and it holds so much value to the evolving world of pro wrestling. He is an out gay Black man in the South who thrived, building human connections whose strength manifested in the emotional response by the ACTION fanbase when he announced he was leaving in-ring competition last month.

Mack’s impact is seen every Thursday when viewers of WWA4’s weekly livestreams see the growing population of out LGBTQ wrestlers walking the road that Mack helped pave. The moments after his world title win gave all of pro wrestling one of its most heartfelt and iconic snapshots of LGBTQ love when Mack and Gonzalez kissed in the middle of the ring.

His success showed those continuing to reinvigorate pro wrestling in the Southeast that so much more is attainable beyond the region and that those outside of the Sun Belt need to put eyes on the region Mack calls home. He proved how the myths of pro wrestling’s 100-plus-year history can be rewritten for a new, inclusive age.

Pro wrestling is much better for having AC Mack in it for the last seven years, and as he challenged for the WWA4 Heavyweight title, the first singles title he ever wrestled for, currently held by Gonzalez one last time on Sunday, pro wrestling’s resident “Loudmouth” wrote the last stanza of his story knowing that his presence brought something much more valuable than a WWE contract.

AC Mack brought a mountain of inspiration, and that is worth forcing a ring announcer to hold high above their head.

Thank you, AC Mack.