“Pro wrestling isn’t ballet”
We should consider retiring this saying. If anything, ballet/dance is the perfect athletic background to transfer over to pro wrestling. Zoe Dubois (aka Black Swan) didn’t grow up dreaming of being a pro wrestler or even watching pro wrestling. But from the age of 2 (she’s 23 now) Zoe has been learning choreography, how to portray a character on a stage and tell stories non-verbally—purely through body language and pantomime. Along the way she developed incredible core strength, flexibility, and coordination.
Note to wrestling scouts: Get off the football field and checkout the nearest dance studio!
Zoe isn’t a total anomaly in this respect (see Ashley D’Amboise & Thekla to name a couple) but what makes Dubois unique is that she hasn’t merely salvaged a portion of everything she’s learned from ballet that transfers over to wrestling and discarded the rest. Rather, this precocious ballerina seems hellbent on raising pro wrestling up to ballet’s impossible standard—not necessarily consciously but via her inherent intellectual curiosity. In an interview with We Luv Wrestling, Zoe talks about how she draws on ballet’s theatrical methodology of storytelling and adapts it to wrestling. Where she was once conveying a story using sautés and grand battements she now resorts to suplexes and neck breakers. You can tell she hasn’t entirely fleshed it all out yet but there’s reason for excitement. This ancient art form (ballet) with its rigorous discipline and orthodoxy surely has a thing or two to teach its younger more freewheeling distant cousin (pro wrestling) about connecting with a live audience. There’s so much to mine and so few conduits who can do it. Zoe is one of those conduits.
So why not just continue with ballet?
Zoe’s explanation is a bit more self-deprecating, so I’ll use my own artistic license to reformulate her answer: She’s been blessed with a physique more accepted in pro wrestling than ballet (i.e. the girl is a physical specimen). Ballet’s loss is pro wrestling’s gain.
Ain’t no gimmick
As Black Swan, Zoe Dubois never feels like a wrestler with a ballerina gimmick. Rather she feels like a ballerina who somehow stumbled into pro wrestling. This is actually more fact than fiction. It can take wrestlers years or even decades before they nail down their character. Zoe, to the envy of 99% of pro wrestlers, has done it from day one.
Everything I’ve listed up until now sounds great in theory. But I wouldn’t have looked into any of this if I wasn’t seeing something extraordinary in the ring.
And then the bell rang
Depending on her opponent, a Black Swan match can have varying degrees of execution and timing. Most fans, if they’re familiar at all with Zoe’s work, may remember her AEW Dark matches against Skye Blue and Willow Nightingale. But (according to CageMatch) those were just her 4th(!) and 9th(!) professional matches. So you’ll need to seek out her more recent indy work against a wider variety of proficiency in opponents on YouTube to get a better idea of where she’s at. I’ve linked Black Swan vs Tanyia from Pridestyle: Guilty Pleasure below. If you’re a fan of intergender wrestling, look up her match against Damian Drake.
Black Swan is “coming along nicely” as far as the fundamentals go. But what captures my imagination is seeing some of the extremely high-end stuff she can pull off, along with what she does in-between moves. She’s a unicorn. Zoe does a lot of the simple things in her own unique way. The way she stands communicates a PHD-level of mastery over her body and movement. Even a simple headlock takeover is accentuated with her unique flare. She’ll duck a grapple and then arch her back, looking at her opponent upside down while her upper body floats like it’s in water. I marvel at the way she transports her body like Terminator’s “T-1000”, pouring the lower half of her body like a liquid through the ropes and onto the apron until the rest of her body reconstitutes in place. Even Black Swan’s delivery of her kicks feels like something that was built in a studio rather than a ring. And of course there’s her devastatingly beautiful “pirouette kick”. She has so many unique maneuvers to juke and dodge attacks. Everything she does looks liquid-smooth and sometimes mind-bending.
Her bumping and selling is made all the more effective for the chasmic dichotomy between how fluidly she moves when on offence or evading attacks to how rag-dolled and utterly broken her body is made while taking damage. In these moments she looks perfectly out of her element and hopelessly out of her depth. Until, of course, her ballet training once again finds an escape or reversal that someone trained in pro wrestling could’ve never anticipated.
The more Black Swan matches I watch, the more tools I see. In a match against Christina Von Eerie, Dubois escapes a bully choke by having her legs scorpion up over her back, past her head until her feet land flat on the mat in front of her own face so she’s shaped like an ouroboros. Zoe then precedes to lift her body to a standing position. If that sounds physically impossible, trust me, what you are picturing is exactly how it looked.
It’s a lot easier to have “aura” when you’re making your entrance in front of thousands of cheering fans, backed up by giant wall of LCD screens, and arena lighting all captured in 4K. But when watching Black Swan enter to a tiny venue in front of dozens of fans, aided only by her haunting entrance music (which, admittedly, is a metal version of Swan Lake that will melt your face off on its own, just have a listen), it’s chilling.
Her red eyes peer out of two black streaks across her face. Her immoderate entrance gear falls off her body in stages and she effortlessly floats along her path. It’s not hard to picture how this entrance could be extrapolated onto the grander stage that is All Elite Wrestling. When I picture a Black Swan entrance in full effect, it has a floor of that of Julia Hart’s.
And you can do a lot to change her entrance up as she evolves. There’s an infinite number of musical arrangements of Swan Lake from Classical to Metal to Techno to Dance and they all sound awesome. Swan Lake (Epic Trailer Version) by Hidden Citizens is what I imagine Black Swan would use for her final form.
Long-term Story Ready
Too often in AEW, they’ve brought in an established star who requires a spot be made for them on the card, pushing acts that the company has been building up down the card if not completely off it. It’s unfortunate because a lot of what captures your imagination the most is seeing the meteoric rises of wrestlers like MJF, Orange Cassidy, and Darby Allin.
Once again, Tony Khan, I am absolutely not saying AEW shouldn’t sign Mercedes Monè. You give the GOAT whatever she wants!
With Black Swan, she could realistically be slotted onto the very bottom rung of The Division, similar to how Orange Cassidy came into AEW. And because she’s a relative unknown, AEW could really hammer home the notion that she’s a ballerina who wrestles and not a wrestler with a ballet gimmick by downplaying her current wrestling capabilities. Have Zoe show an agent all the ballet moves she could do in and around a ring and then collaborate with her opponents to construct a match where Dubois can do as few wrestling moves as she can get away with.
As fans, we’d watch Black Swan show flashes of brilliance. While she struggles to initiate offence, she thrills audiences by using ballet-adjacent maneuvers that we’ve never seen before to evade attacks and return fire with counter-strikes. Invariably though, she’d get caught and ragdolled by her opponent to inevitable defeat. From there, we tell the story of Zoe’s desire to expose more people to ballet at odds with finding success in pro wrestling. Maybe eventually she starts to give in to being more of a pro wrestler and finds success. But then she plateaus. So now she must go back to her ballet roots and figure out how to blend these two styles seamlessly to be the best version of herself.
With AEW fans being equal parts informed and impatient, maybe leak out that AEW is very high on Black Swan but see her as a long-term project.
On the indy’s, Black Swan fancies herself a shit talker. I think it would benefit Black Swan to enter AEW essentially muted, and with a naiveté about how wrestling actually works. But then emphasize how even without the basics, she can already do things in the ring no one else can. Maintain the mystique through aloofness: Simply not knowing what a person’s voice sounds like is so intriguing. Inaccessibility drives fascination. And it’ll make her words feel all the more important when we finally do hear from her.
Creative Pitch: Origin story
Black Swan’s story writes itself because it’s mostly true (that doesn’t mean we don’t stretch the truth a little though): Zoe Dubois, training since the age of 2, under the tutelage of both her parents was a ballet prodigy. But to make it to Paris, you have to be more than just a prodigy. You must fit the mold. Without even flexing, Zoe breaks that mold.
(Now we get into the pathos of Black Swan with some AEW-pilled creative fiction)
With her life’s dream dashed, Zoe began searching for something to fill the void. Luckily, she lived in Las Vegas, probably the most employable city for someone with her talents. She decided she was going to be open to anything and expanded her horizons. But while she excelled at everything she tried, nothing gave her as much joy as ballet. On a whim, Zoe attended the very first All Elite Wrestling event, Double Or Nothing, in her own back yard of Paradise, Nevada. She hadn’t grown up watching pro wrestling but she was willing to give it a look.
Zoe was entranced. AEW had pageantry. It had grand entrances with musical accompaniment. What fans saw as a match, Zoe saw a Pas de deux. Fans saw a leapfrog, Zoe saw a Grand jeté. Fans saw a Superkick, Zoe saw a Penché.
It was during the main event of Double Or Nothing where Zoe Dubois had two epiphanies: One; When she saw the grace and elegance with which Kenny Omega moved around the ring, she knew she could do this. And two; When she saw Jon Moxley appear out of the crowd and take out Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho, Zoe knew she didn’t want to be on this side of the barricade. She needed to be in that ring. She needed to kick some ass but also show the world the beauty of ballet.
So it goes: At the birth of All Elite Wrestling, AEW had unknowingly laid the egg which would hatch into the Black Swan. (I did say it was AEW-pilled, didn’t I?)
You can let me know your thoughts on all this in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter at @aew_one. Thanks for reading and, as always, make sure you let the women in your life know how much you appreciate them! 🙂