What a difference a year makes! March 24, 2016 I wrote a quick column for SCU that included a short response to Chopstix’s writing on the state of women’s wrestling in California (concentrating on SoCal). In my response, I was slightly annoyed that this guy who was not affiliated with wrestling whosoever was telling me how great of a time it was to be a women’s wrestler in the area. And on that day, I called shenanigans…but that was then.
In my opinion this is a banner year for women’s wrestling in SoCal for various reasons. So, what changed? First off, we got to mention the WWE effect wherein what happens on WWE often gets echoed on the independent circuit. The WWE casting a light on women’s wrestling in a positive and competitive way has trickled down to the independents and helped women throughout the states including here in SoCal where we have had some very positive changes in four specific areas:
- Televised Wrestling: Lucha Underground giving women a chance to duke it out against either sex and Championship Wrestling from Hollywood bringing women back to their promotion were big strides for women in SoCal. LU has certainly displayed how tough women can be, and while it’s based out of SoCal the women of LU are from all over. A more unique benefit CWFH offers is that they have based their women’s roster off local talent giving us a chance to be seen on a larger platform. Additionally, CWFH grooms its women to be able to work for various TV productions in a variety of position from wrestling to backstage interviewing and commentary.
- New and returning female wrestlers: To round out 2016 we now have 19 women wrestlers in SoCal. Some names of note include Ray Lyn, Hudson Envy, Heather Monroe, Buggy Nova, and Shayna Baszler all of whom not only added to the SoCal roster by debuting or returning, but also being active wrestlers who work a variety of promotions on a regular basis. These additions and returns have been evident in the variation of women’s matches in comparison to last year; rosters have gained some more depth, tag teams have formed, and there are enough females to have more than one women’s match per show.
- Widening the playing field: The return of AWS was an incredible help to women’s wrestling. In the 3 shows Bart held this year, he booked more women’s matches than some promotions who ran year long, including an all-women’s show. Also noteworthy was Empire Wrestling Federation opening up its doors to more female wrestlers, Santino Bros return, and the debut of the women’s promotion, “Sabotage.”
- Shift in support: more promoters have come to accept women’s wrestling and made strides to give them recognition. I feel this is part of the WWE effect as well as a byproduct of the ladies working hard. Recently more male wrestlers have come to support their female counterparts than before not just in SoCal but worldwide – anyone recall Will Ospreay calling Kimber Lee vs Kay Lee Ray one of the best matches ever “regardless of gender*” or Joey Ryan’s undying support? The shift in attitudes regarding female wrestling should be noted because with male wrestler’s support can come male fan support – and this isn’t just about intergender wrestling but all women’s wrestling. Though I will note it seems that a larger variety of women were allotted chances to wrestle the guys this year as well.
These four factors combined has really propelled women’s wrestling in 2016 for SoCal and its effects, if maintained, can be lasting. Case in point, SCU’s decision to recognize women wrestlers with their own award. If you had asked me how I felt about a SoCal women’s wrestling award two years ago, I would have said the idea was asinine and that a separate award was a slight – hashtag nope! Last year I was asked my opinion on having a women’s wrestling award and the main point of my answer was that so long as it wasn’t meant to separate us females but to show recognition then I was good with it. Today I gladly welcome this award as a positive step for women in SoCal. If you read PWI, at the inception of the Female 50 there was doubt if there were enough women to fill the list; now there are enough great female wrestlers to make that a top 100 (or 200, hint hint). A few years ago, in SoCal a women’s award would be futile, but look at us now! Growing, developing, and putting out some pretty cool stuff.
Is there still progress to be made? Of course. This is only the beginning and look how exciting it is! I am eagerly looking forward to 2017 as an individual wrestler and as a part of SoCal women’s wrestling.
*Oct 26, 2016; Will Ospreay. Twitter @WillOspreay