Instead of a blog post this week, I wrote a bit of a treatise in a thread on the Male vs. Female forum. The topic was the underground wrestling scene: how it's changed and where it's going. I'm posting my reply here, but for all the context, you can find the full thread HERE:
Well, this was supposed to be my blogging day, but I got a tip that there was an interesting discussion going on here (and also that Diablo might be spreading around some of my "early days in the scene" stories), and I thought weighing in on this thread would be a neat substitute for blogging.
So where's the real-life, in-person wrestling scene coming from, where's it going, and how can it (or can it at all) be built-up/shaped/revived? This is going to be a long post, with a lot of my thoughts on the matter, so you've been warned… (Just adding this now that I finished writing, I seriously do apologize for the length.)
Responding to a description of some very high-stakes women's matches, thatguylouis says:
What you're describing is for me at least the major appeal of underground wrestling, when both women involved have a legitimate enjoyment of the sport and view it more than a paycheck it can create some really fantastic matches with pride on the line.
BUT it was already said that
These "in the moment" captured moments are definitely rare
So it seems there's this idea of a perfect match that's real, that's organic, that has meaning and context and backstory, and that is very rare. And there's a desire to "bring back" the kind of environment where Those Matches happen between women. But that's hard to do.
Here's the bad news (there is good news later, never fear). Setting out directly to create Those Matches is 100% impossible. You can create a video "in that style" or an "homage" event, but then you'll be missing the most important ingredient that makes Those Matches so exciting, the context. Those Matches are rare, because they "just happen" when conditions are right. They're the highlights, the one match you remember out of 10 or 20 or 100 that were more average. And if, somehow, it were possible for Those Matches to happen all the time, for the women it would be exhausting and off-putting to have "pride on the line" every time, and for the guys, Those Matches would no longer be special -- somehow the stakes would have to be raised again.
The only way to create Those Matches is to create the scene and community where they can happen. A little more bad news -- that's hard to do. Sentiments like Diablo's penpal's
I just know the right guy could get it done
we need girls
are only going to bring out professional women. I certainly know a lot of phenomenal professional women - myself included ;) - who love wrestling and what they do, but in the context of building a scene, a pure-pro membership both misses the point and makes the community smaller. How to create the right environment? Age-old question -- how to get more women to wrestle?
Women like wrestling for all kinds of reasons - for sport for competition; to do something tough, or adventurous, or even silly; to hang out with friends; maybe this one will try anything once; maybe this one likes to show off; maybe this one loves costumes, characters, superheroes, WWE… (Sidenote: judging from recent conversations with other Doom Maidens ladies and how many say they'd love to do pirate, vampire, princess, etc. videos, that last one's actually pretty big.)
Now the good news! The scenes and communities where all this fun stuff can happen are real. They come and go, but they have existed and can exist. I remember a very active and vibrant scene when I was first getting into wrestling -- indeed, it's how I got into wrestling.
I think back on the events that I attended then -- events that Diablo and Hanz have described a bit already -- and there were opportunities for women to wrestle there for any and all of the reasons I mentioned.
Amateur Female Jello Wrestling was fantastic -- mostly women would show up, goof off, do wacky, messy pro-style matches, and have a great time. But all kinds of matches would happen. I brought my never-wrestled-in-her-life sister one night, and for her first time, I tried to let her win -- but she absolutely refused! Least competitive match ever! But fun, and it was great my sister felt comfortable enough to come out and try. On the other hand, the first women who came together to form Doom Maidens were jello wrestlers who wanted to learn more competitive wrestling. And on the other other hand, one night I had one of Those Matches… A former friend and her boyfriend had really insulted my boyfriend. Since it was a women's only wrestling event, the men weren't allowed to get physical about the situation -- but we ladies were. The slippery jello made it impossible for either of us to hold on well enough to score a win, but we were determined and just kept fighting until the MC had to stop it and move along the night.
I think back to the fetish and BDSM parties I went to as well. There was so much going on -- someone who came for the flogging might want to jump in and give the wrestling a try. A domme might want to order her sub to take a wrestle-beating. And a wrestler tired after a few matches might want to watch or try out some of the other activities.
AND I think back on the Grapple Den parties. Again, there were so many types of matches. Training for newcomers at the beginning, matches between friends who came together and pairs who just met that night, women's matches, mixed matches, men's matches, mini-sessions, "traditional matches" between regulars who fought each other every single time… Something for everyone to do but also something for everyone to see, no one sidelined or in the spotlight the whole time, chances to fight and chances to chill out.
So after all this writing, what's my point? It's this: any event created with the intention to make a show of a certain type of women's match has the potential to be a cool event, but it will be more of the professional and less of the community. Creating community where cool things just happen is a super-imprecise procedure. There are a few things not to do, but as for what to do…
It takes a lot of events, environments that are low-pressure and welcoming to newcomers, and it takes time for it to build up and for the friendships and rivalries that add intensity to the scene and to matches to develop. It takes luck, and the right moment, and giving up rigid expectations. It takes a lot of people to make community. Probably one person can't force it to happen. But one person can try…and it may not go anywhere. But that person can try again, or another person can try, and as long as someone keeps striking sparks one time one of them will catch. A second person will get inspired, more people will take notice… It's super hard to do except when it just happens, and when it does, it's worth it.
And every time one of these moments happens, it's going to be different than moments before. As a lot of people just noted in this thread, New York City right now is a lot different that it was even a few years ago. If any of the underground wrestling sparks floating around here currently do catch, we'd be looking at a Brooklyn scene rather than a Manhattan scene. Elsewhere it's been discussed how women's wrestling styles and their access to training has been changing; a current scene would undoubtedly include more jiu-jitsu than any scene from a pre-UFC time. Fashion changes in sports and fitness as much as anywhere; in the "real" world I feel like I see a lot of yoga pants lately -- will they make their way into underground wrestling?
No two scene moments will look just alike. If the whole idea is about the real, authentic, and organic, they can't. They grow out of their times and places. But if the whole idea is about the real and authentic, the feeling should be what counts.