A Fan Letter to Brighten Dark Days

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There’s a lot of scary stuff happening in the world, stuff that’s having profound impacts on everyone around the globe. For those of us anywhere inside the professional wrestling bubble, the timing adds to the sting. It’s a special time of year for us, and we are all bummed out – fans, staff and all performing talents.

I wanted to share something very special to me with everyone, hoping it can be a bright point in your day.

The change last year from Developing Tomorrow’s Women Athletes to Developing Tomorrow’s Wrestling Attractions was met with a great deal of warmth. But, it also brought a fair amount of skepticism.

And we dug our heels in and stood our ground, RISE would make as many efforts as possible to develop talent and create opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

In the bigger picture, we hoped this would not just mean for talent, but fans too. We hoped to reach new fans, making an environment that was a safe space, a truly inclusive environment – for everyone.

Any time I am asked, “Why?” This letter will likely be my response.

I received an email last week and I am pasting the message below. The only changes I am making, at the request of the author, is I have left out their name.

It took an entire team of people to make these moments, matches and memories happen. So many people on the RISE team worked so hard to make all these things happen. Some of those were folks with us since day one, some were crucial additions to the team in a time when we wanted a very real focus on inclusion and representation.

I hope this fan knows how much this touches my heart. Your story is an important one, one I hope many other promotions will read and take notes as to how important inclusion and representation are.

Thank you for supporting RISE. Thank you for sharing your story.

Thank you for being you.

I hope you all enjoy.

All the best,

Kevin

 

“Dear Mr Harvey,

I wanted to write and thank you, here at the end of all things, for all the amazing Rise shows. I know I’m not your oldest fan – my first show will have been one year ago, Legendary 2019 – but Rise has brought me so much joy in that year, it feels longer. As poet Stephen Sexton said, O plateau! These days of violence have been my happiest.

I’ve been a wrestling fan for a while now, but I remember my first experience of a live show being incredibly alienating: the audience was unfriendly, and I didn’t feel safe as a trans person. It was nothing like the little bubble I’d been lucky enough to find online. I’ve since managed to carve out my own little niche and I’m able to relax in most crowds – but nothing was able to prepare me for the experience of my first Rise show. Rise felt like I had finally come home.

The humour, the passion, the love that imbued every moment of that show transformed everything for me. It felt, all at once, like every reason I’d fallen in love with wrestling in the first place. I’d got so used to watching athletic competitions that I’d forgotten how much I longed for a show with a kind heart. I talked for months about how incredible the rumble match was – I’ve never seen that many women in one ring, getting so much respect and such a great chance to show their strengths and tell a story. I still talk about that match as the one which opened my eyes to Big Swole!

And I’m not sure if you know this, but Legendary took place only a few days before the Transgender Day of Visibility; meaning, when it came, I was able to clutch to my chest the photos I’d taken of Nyla Rose at your show. I never in a million years thought I would be able to see her in such an intimate setting, but you made that happen.

And then Pride and Joy – I still tear up thinking about what that show means to me. I confess, I am the fan in that photo of Candy. She was the first trans wrestler I had ever heard of: until she won her IPW belt in 2017, I’d thought it was impossible for a trans person to make it in wrestling. I’d thought that any trans person – any LGBT person, really – was doomed to fail or be closeted forever. So seeing Candy in real life, when I never expected to see her ever since NZ is so far away – it meant the world. That whole show meant the world. I want to go beat by beat – Sophie King, Effy’s promo, Mercedes Martinez and Cassandro… Pride and Joy really, truly changed what I thought wrestling could be. We hear a lot of messages of acceptance, but Rise Pride actually backed those words up. I’m nowhere near eloquent enough to say how much it truly meant, honestly… It was like looking into a future of what wrestling could be, looking past the fear and cynicism I currently feel. I never believed such a bright, accepting world could exist in this industry, but you made it real. Apologies if this email reaches you tear-stained; I still have that poster on my wall, and I think about it every day.

I’m going to have to stop myself before this turns into a match-by-match recap of Rise’s live events, but they have been so many of my favourite wrestling memories. Seeing Priscilla Kelly defeat LuFisto at the Summit. Seeing Jamie Senegal in BOTH of my favourite matches of the year – against Mercedes Martinez and against Candy Lee. Seeing brave bold babyface Sophie King putting their body on the line by standing up to Parrow – THAT is an image that has stayed with me!! I’ve been hoping for a rematch ever since, and I’m prepared to spend the rest of my life rooting for Sophie King to be that brave little underdog again!

And there’s so many wrestlers that I associate with Rise, and feel so grateful to Rise for bringing into my life. Hawlee Cromwell, Kris Wolf, Blair Onyx, Devon Monroe, Effy, Big Swole, Lady Frost… And so many stories I’ll be rewatching over and over. Each show has so many twists and turns, so many laughs and gasps of surprise. Your audiences were always welcoming and uplifting to be a part of. And your commitment to finding and lifting up new talent has been such a thrill for me! I never know who I’m going to see at a show, but it’s so exciting to watch people in their matches and realise I’m seeing history unfold before my eyes – realise that two, five, ten years from now, other people will realise how great these wrestlers are too.

I know I’ll be able to continue watching talented wrestling, women’s wrestling, story-driven wrestling, and comedy wrestling if I look hard enough in the right places. But I can only pray that I’m able to find the whole package again all in one place. You created something truly beautiful with Rise. The community you fostered, the wrestlers you booked, and the explicit commitments you made to women and to LGBT talent. I’m so sad to say goodbye to Rise; to this fan, your promotion has truly felt like a home this past year. Thank you for giving me such beautiful memories, and thank you for showing me that wrestling can be a wonderful place. Thank you for having so many trans people on your show. I look forward to seeing the future of Rise.

Your fan,

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