Ahead of WrestleMania XL, these Black women wrestlers body slam misogynoir

By Evan F. Moore, For The Chicago Defender

Last fall, after a very long time, I started watching pro wrestling again (the last time I checked, WWE Smackdown took place on Thursday nights — don’t be mad at me, Wrestling Twitter).

As I started watching WWE, AEW (All Elite Wrestling), TNA (Total Nonstop Action), and some of the matches I’ve missed over the years, I noticed a shift.

The shift I’m seeing represents a level of Black excellence I hadn’t seen before. Previous generations of avid wrestling fans saw women as valets who were most likely kept around to satisfy the male gaze via “Bra & Panties” matches. 

Those days, thankfully, are over.

On most nights during the week, one can find these women kicking butt, taking names, and looking fly while doing it. From main roster talent featuring current champions, former champions, main eventers, veterans and up-and-comers, the ladies are running things. 

WWE Superstar Jade Cargill, then with AEW, had some of her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sisters with her during a ring entrance. 

During WrestleMania 38, HBCU Texas Southern University’s “Ocean of Soul” marching band performed as WWE Superstar Bianca Belair entered the ring, skipping and twirling her hair. Most recently, Naomi, another WWE Superstar, sported a hairstyle during last week’s WWE Smackdown that was a tribute to the hairdos worn in the 1997 film B.A.P.S., which stands for Black American Princesses. 

Let’s not forget the historic match with Belair and the then-named Sasha Banks (now Mercedes Moné in AEW), which headlined WrestleMania 37. 

Also, fans are checking for AEW’s Queen Aminata, Willow Nightingale and Athena. WWE NXT’s Lash Legend, Jaida Parker and Kelani Jordan, along with WWE’s Mia Yim.

My mother, a retired school teacher, often drops jewels of knowledge on me when she thinks I need it. 

She’d say: Not everyone is going to be happy for you. 

That’s a bar. 

Evan F. Moore writes about Black Women Wrestlers and the excellence they're showing.

I thought about Mom’s words when I saw Belair on the cover of the WWE 2K24 video game along with fellow WWE Superstar Rhea Ripley.

The vitriol that Belair and other Black women in every vocation imaginable receive is, unfortunately, commonplace.

The gatekeepers seem to believe that Black women don’t belong on the cover of video games, so they probably threw a fit when the aforementioned Cargill, Belair and Naomi ended up in the middle of the ring — a moment some wrestling fans say they hadn’t seen before — to close out WWE Smackdown last week leading to their historic six-woman tag team match against Damage CTRL at WrestleMania XL.

It’s a tough time to be a hater.

During a 2020 podcast, Nightingale, who has a title shot later this month at AEW Dynasty, told “Women’s Wrestling Talk” that a promoter once told her: “Well, I already have a Black girl, why would I need another one?”

On the Fridays my daughter is with me, WWE Smackdown is appointment viewing in our household as it was with my parents when I was young. My daughter loves the aforementioned Belair — a Black woman. During a match, when another wrestler tried to sneak up on the former WWE Smackdown champion, she yelled: “Bianca! Watch out! 

Seems like my daughter sees someone who looks like her, and wants Belair to succeed. Perhaps, most importantly, she sees herself represented in a world — and in a sport — that will one day try to tell her otherwise. 

Krista B., a lifelong wrestling fan and the co-host of “Those Wresting Girls Podcast,” echoes the sentiments of young Black girls — of all shapes, sizes and demeanors — now seeing themselves represented in major pro wrestling storylines. 

“I love to see that we have the representation. I love the fact that they’re inspiring other little girls to want to get in the ring and for wanting to be a part of wrestling,” Krista said. [The number of Black women wrestlers today] makes me feel a little bit of animosity because where was this when I was growing up?

“It’s so cool to watch wrestling. It’s so cool to be a part of it… When I was growing up, it was a ‘hush’ thing to say that we watched wrestling. Now, we can be out loud and unapologetic about watching wrestling, as well as being unapologetic about being in the wrestling ring as a Black female — it’s the most amazing thing ever.”

Like many wrestling fans this weekend and beyond, I’ll be tuning in to see Black women wrestlers excite their fans, drinking the tasty tears of racists, and continue to not suffer fools. 

Grab your popcorn. 

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