I’ve always been entranced by women’s wrestling. Going back to watching Chyna during the Attitude era, it was during her matches where I’d often feel a change in my demeanour compared to the rest of the card. It wasn’t just the usual excitement and thrill of well executed moves performed by larger than life personalities. A lump in my throat would start to form and my eyes would begin threatening to tear up. What the fuck was going on? Even as a teenager, I didn’t think there was anything ”wrong” with me but I lacked the emotional maturity to understand it or even confront it. The pity of it all, however, was that back then I was often watching WWF Raw with friends so I would deliberately take my personal investment out of the match for fear of showing this side of myself and being made fun of.
No wrong way.
When it comes to enjoying watching professional wrestling, there’s no wrong way to do it. And I feel like AEW’s ”smorgasbord” approach gives me tastes of everything. Sometimes I get enthralled with just the pure skill and execution of the moves performed in a match. Sometimes it’s just the adrenaline rush of chaotic action and danger. And even pro wrestling that relies heavily, if not entirely, on comedy can leave me swooning over a pro wrestling match. But the wrestling matches that will stay with me for life are the ones where I’ve become so emotionally invested in a wrestler that you want to see that person succeed. So, for example, at the same time as I’m taking in a Thunder Rosa match, my heart is stirring for Melissa Cervantes, that her avatar, Thunder Rosa, will be successful in going over in the match and, even more importantly, getting over with the crowd. In these matches, Thunder Rosa’s success and Melissa Cervantes’ success are one in the same.
The power of sympathy.
Think back to MJF’s feud against CM Punk when he claimed that he was bullied as a child and taunted with antisemitic slurs. What made the story all the more tragic was that everything was made better because he got to meet his hero CM Punk, so when CM Punk made fun of the photo taken on that day, it broke MJF’s heart. Now, we all suspected that might be a lie and it turned out it was. But that didn’t stop us from, in that moment, acknowledging that if it were true we’d suddenly have a hard time booing MJF because we’d relate to him being vulnerable. We’d have sympathy for him. Sympathy is not a pejorative for “feeling sorry for someone” or “pitying someone” but rather relating to their cause and rooting for their success. This is the magic of a sympathetic babyface but you can’t just have a wrestler tell a sad story. A prerequisite to pulling this off is that we must actually believe it’s true. It’s the one time in pro wrestling when we do not allow ourselves to overlook its scripted nature.
A Quick Disclaimer:
I inevitably will have my blindspots when it comes to speaking on women. I try my best when any marginalized group expresses discontent to listen and understand and if I don’t understand right away, err on the side of accepting until I understand. If I’ve fallen short in the succeeding section, please let me know.
Today, many years removed from that immature teenage boy trying not to cry during Chyna matches, that physiological response is still there. I can turn on Thunder Rosa vs Britt Baker from St. Patrick’s Day Slam (2021 or 2022) and feel my throat swell up and my eyes well up except now I understand what the source of this is…
I don’t know how well you know all of the women in your life but whether it’s my mother, my sisters, a past or present partner, or a friend; Every single woman that I’ve been afforded to know well enough has told me stories of things that have happened to them that would have altered my world view if not change me in a significant way. This does not seem to be an anomaly. Plainly put, this world is abhorrent to women and I’m not sure any of us deserve their love. And even if you were to say “Well surely not ALL women…” consider a woman under the microscope of being a famous professional wrestler. The aggregate of unwarranted abuse and disrespect they face in a typical week would ruin anyone’s life. Yet they endure in the face of the hate they get just for being women. Women professional wrestlers are inherently sympathetic. And this statement isn’t to infantilize women or say that we should pity them. Just the opposite. Women are inspirational and worthy of being celebrated. So when a community, like the AEW fanbase, meritocratically glorifies a female wrestler with the same fervour that they would a male wrestler, that semblance of female quality feels life-affirming if not reparative. And if that’s not worthy of shedding tears of joy over, what is?
When I started AEW.ONE, I just wanted a place to write out my thoughts and ideas about AEW rather than put them in a hard to find Twitter thread. I was open to never finding a ’niche’ or my ’voice’ but I’m passionate about AEW and I’m passionate about #WomensWrestling and I’ve honestly been left dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of discourse surrounding AEW’s women’s division. So I guess this is my attempt at being the change I want to see in the world as I pivot this blog to being dedicated to AEW’s women’s division.
Thanks for reading and make sure you tell the women in your life how much you appreciate them.