Juneteenth is on the lips of the wider American populace more than ever before in 2021.
Some of the credit for that goes undoubtedly to the recent passage of legislation naming the historically Black emancipation celebration a Federal holiday. The heightened focus on this memorialization of slaves in Galveston, Texas, learning of their freedom two-plus years after the Emancipation Proclamation is also certainly part of the increased scrutiny of racial inequality in a year defined by public action.
The pro wrestling world has come to reflect that focus as well. Events like Black Wrestlers Matter and GCW For The Culture placed Black wrestlers and creators front-and-center in an industry with a long legacy of indifference to underrepresented communities.
Both were successful and led to the creation of a Juneteenth pro wrestling weekend unlike anything the industry has seen before.
Friday features a trio of shows dubbed the “Ohio Triple Threat” from Ohio Wrestling Alliance, Paradigm Pro Wrestling and Unsanctioned Pro. The first Black Wrestlers Matter champion will be crowned Saturday night at Black Wrestlers Matter 2. Pro Unapologetic will host an event focused on female wrestlers of color with Black Girl Magik on June 26. All of these events exclusively feature wrestlers of color and aim to make a statement amid the greater Juneteenth festivities.
But what makes these events even more special is their pledge to highlight the diversity within Black populations, including Black queerness. Events in 2020 did so as well, but the number of Black queer wrestlers has increased alongside the number of events. The long list includes O’Shay Edwards, Ashton Starr, Jordan Blade, AC Mack, Brooke Valentine, Jack Andrews, Russell Rogue and many more.
For Devon Monore, who will battle to be the first contender for the Black Wrestlers Matter title on Saturday, the increased presence is “wonderful” to see.
“I think it’s great to represent that there are Black people out here that have intersecting identities,” Monroe said on the Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring. “I think it’s great that the crowd can see that there’s people who are Black and gay, there’s people who are Black and lesbian.”
Butch vs. Gore’s Billy Dixon is happy to see Black pro wrestling hold its own showcases as he prepares to challenge for the Paradigm Pro Wrestling Heavy Hitters title against “The Hoodfoot” Mo Atlas on Friday. But the continued lack of equal representation on non-BIPOC-specific shows remains a frustration.
“Some of these shows could just explicitly feature Black performers,” Dixon told Outsports. “I think that to highlight Black wrestlers on a consistent basis is not hard because some of the best wrestlers in the world are Black.”
For Dixon, his match at Paradigm Pro Wrestling’s Unreasonable Doubt event, and the weekend overall, signal that stigmas within the Black wrestling community toward Black queer identities are “going the way of the dodo bird.”
“This show means a lot because one of the biggest matches of this weekend features a performer that is both Black and queer,” Dixon said. “Wrestling is a microcosm of the world. The same way that the cast of ‘Pose’ wasn’t invited to the BET awards or the NAACP awards, wasn’t nominated or anything like that, there has been a hesitancy within the Black community in wrestling of really embracing and uplifting their Black queer members as well. To see that stigma really kind of going the way of the dodo bird is really nice to see. At the same time, things could be better.”
“I want to be able to help smash that barrier for the Black queer community in wrestling, which is why this match means a lot to me,” Dixon added.
Black LGBTQ creators are lending their voice when shaping these events as well in the form of Paradigm Pro Wrestling’s J-Rose and Pro Unapologetic’s Taye. Similar to what pro wrestling has seen with LGBTQ-centric events in recent history, providing space for Black queer voices in all facets of these events is vital to the accurate depiction of identities that pro wrestling really hasn’t know how to portray historically.
“I did this show because growing up, I felt uncomfortable in my skin,” Taye said. “I didn’t really get to see girls with my color of skin on TV, and, if they were, they were not really shown all that much. To look at [Black Girl Magik], these girls, they’re not just that generic Black woman.”
“They all have different personalities. They all look different. They are strong, independent Black women that should be shown,” Taye added. “I just want people to stop generalizing people and let them be a wrestler at the end of the day, to look at their talent and not as [meeting a quota].”
The Ohio Triple Threat (OWA Good Trouble 2, PPW Unreasonable Doubt, Unsanctioned Pro 12) broadcasts live Friday, June 18, on independentwrestling.tv at 7pm ET. Black Wrestlers Matter 2 broadcasts live Saturday, June 19, on blackwrestlersmatter.com at 8pm ET. Black Girl Magik emanates from Ridgefield Park, NJ on Saturday, June 26, at 7pm ET.