In the last three years, professional wrestling in Washington, D.C. has gone from the occasional WWE show televised and hosted in arenas, to being dominated by the new class of independent professional wrestlers. The likelihood of running into a fellow lover of the graps in your favorite bar is higher than ever, with wrestling shows providing one of the only spaces in the city where you’ll see the upstanding lanyard-wearing intern rubbing shoulders and pounding beers with punk rock legends. What was once a multi-decade indie drought in the district is now a wellspring of progressive companies dedicated to reflecting the culture of the DMV. With Pride Month upon us, we can all brag that D.C. boasts one of the queerest wrestling scenes in the entire world.
Referring to the D.C. metro area as the DMV will still get you looks of confusion from most American wrestling talent because like everything else in wrestling, there’s a little bit of inside baseball when it comes to the terminology. Mention the “Grapitol Region,” however, and the recognition kicks right in. From SLAMATA to “submission without representation,” our love for a good pun remains shameless. The first LGBTQ+ run wrestling show in D.C. history was lovingly named “Butch vs. Gore,” a title that may take a moment to shake a memory awake.
For and by, and DIY
What sets the Grapitol Region apart from our regional counterparts around the United States is it’s recognized as a place built largely for and by LGBTQ+ workers, giving us a remarkable amount of power and room to play that none of us take for granted. As typical for most straight dudes associated sports or hobbies, queer folks have always been present in wrestling, but have a history of being either misused or overlooked entirely. Here, we’ve been given the opportunity to cultivate a community largely informed by our values and ethics, two words not typically associated with professional wrestling. The first two companies to jump start the new era of the D.C. indies back in 2019 were Prime Time Pro Wrestling (now defunct, but not in our hearts) and F1ght Club Pro. Both are noted for how they’ve elevated and pushed the careers of queer wrestlers to main event status, with our beloved District as the backdrop.
I find it really beautiful the city has embraced professional wrestling as a form of art, since there’s sometimes an assumption professional wrestling is too tasteless and tacky to gain popularity among District residents. To the contrary, the ever-developing local indie fan base continues to flourish and be recognized as a space explicitly pro-LGBTQ+, as opposed to milquetoast allyship. DC Brau Brewing Company has hosted more than half of all local events since the indie vanguard made itself known, and their own commitment over the last ten years to queer allyship in the District is reflected when the ring goes up in the center of the brewery.
The hardest part of the ring is usually just the checkbook
As it is with most frustrations of D.C., the primary challenge with every show is the enormous amount of red tape companies have to tear through to simply make it to show day. Running independent wrestling shows is expensive to the point of laughter, as promotions must go through the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (who are not quite beloved, as District residents can guess).
Wrestling is regulated with almost identical rules to boxing and mixed martial arts, and hyper-regulation often comes with an endless list of paperwork and money to be spent. Wrestling promotions and wrestlers themselves are forced to spend an exorbitant amount of money to keep up with a rule set and licensing that often doesn’t apply to us at all. The LGBTQ+ DIY community tends to suffer first. Wrestling shows are a labor of love, and I personally value paying wrestlers on our rosters at fair rates over ponying up cash for the sake of bringing bureaucracy into the ring.
Where there is wrestling, there is heart
For most of us in this little corner of the LGBTQ+ wrestling world, the spectacle and glitter is just the beginning. Wrestling demands imagination, creativity and the freedom to play. Much to the shock of outsiders I speak to, those elements have created a space that makes it safe to come out in. I credit my wrestling family as the first reason I had the courage to come out as transgender myself, because of that encouragement to play and explore. Since wrestlers are constantly coming up with new ways to present their personas on short notice, fans and workers are already well-trained to embrace new names, and now, pronouns. Wrestling gives us permission to see the potential in how we want others to see us.
If you find yourself lucky enough to snag a ticket the next time an indie show is running in D.C., take a look around the room. You’ll see camaraderie that can’t be found anywhere else, a fresh space to socialize away from the constant competition of our day-to-day hustle. And no matter how in-your-face gay you assumed sweaty hotties in tights and makeup might be, trust me. As the indie wrestling star and former 51st State Champion EFFY has said, “Make it gayer!”
Wrestlers to watch
The District is home to multiple championships, most notably through F1ght Club Pro. At the time of writing, Chocolate City Champion Billy Dixon and Pan Afrikan World Diaspora World Champion Trish Adora lead a roster that includes Kings of the District, notable for including Jordan Blade and Eel O’Neal and having District roots. D.C. native Mr. Grim is also carving out a name for himself and making an impression all along the East Coast.
Keep up with the latest in LGBTQ+ wrestling with F1ght Club Pro on Instagram @pawd_wc.
And follow author/professional wrestler manager Lolo Mcgrath at @leaux__leaux.
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