Walk with Me

Life is funny. The things than can change in a month, a week, or even just a few days. A week ago, Mia was just a girl at work. I had a crush, sure, but she was nothing beyond a simple wish upon a star. She had her life and I had mine. She’d smile at me. I’d blush. Then, we’d go about our days. But now, just days later, a fleeting moment of time we’d miss if we blinked in the grand scheme of things, everything is different. Wrestling is like that. An ever-changing landscape, with angles, stories, and whole promotions shifting gears constantly. If we miss just one show, we often return lost. We may care about a particular wrestler or entire storyline we didn’t before for any number of reasons.

For those of us who wear our hearts on our sleeves, life, like wrestling, has its way with us more often than it doesn’t it seems. I was relatively content before Mia. I had (and still have) lots to work through, but my life is safe. I have worked hard for it to be something I can be proud of. And I am. But I knew there was a void. A week ago, I had zero plans to fill it, and today? Today that void is gone, completely obliterated by the happiness I now hold dear because of Mia.

One week.

One week and her face is the one I want to see more than any other. One week and my mind races even now, late at night, because I cannot wait until she is standing with me again with my hand in hers. One week and her smile, her beautifully perfect smile, makes it so my own never leaves my face. I have trouble grasping all that this is or could become. It’s a wild thing.

As I met her today for coffee, my heart raced. I saw her standing across the street from the coffee shop where I stood. I felt like a teenager, almost giggling with excitement. And again, my ridiculous anxiety riddled emotions, mistaking excitement for something very different, made it so my eyes filled with tears, though I managed to keep them all in this time. She waved this cute little wave of hers and jogged across the street, her soft dark brown hair flowing in the wind as she did so. She walked up, smiling the sweetest smile, and placed her hand on my cheek, just for a second, saying hello in her way without needing any words.

It’s becoming something unique for us, me freaking out for no reason and her calming me immediately with only a touch. No one before has ever calmed me like she has. With her near me, or touching me, I feel no fear, no anxiety, no anything, except safe. The only other thing that has ever been able to reach me close to so monumentally is wrestling. On bad days, the truly awful ones, it was there for me to lean on and into. When my life didn’t feel worth living, wrestling allowed me the escape that kept me moving. It was there to hold onto, and sometimes it felt like it was holding me right back.

We bought our coffees and started to walk, nowhere special, just forward. Together. She took my hand almost right away and looking down at it even now as I lay at home, alone in bed, I can feel her skin on mine still, her fingers gripping mine ever so slightly. It’s difficult to explain, but when she looks at me, I feel like the only other person in the world. We were far from that as we walked through downtown and a relatively busy University campus, but all the other sounds seem to fade away and we sort of just existed in this bubble all our own.

It reminds me now of a specific type of moment in wrestling, a promo in fact. The best promo we have today. The Cody Rhodes promo. And not just any Cody promo, but THE Cody promo. You know the one. It’s the one when the lights turn down, filling the arena with a dark intensity matched only by the look in his eyes that tells all of us we’re about to witness the magic only he can create. The spotlight is next, shining the brightest light on something we won’t soon forget. The crowd hushes, and he begins, his palpable energy demanding our attention from start to finish. For those promos, for those precious minutes, everything else fades away. It’s just you and Cody.

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

Right? Now we all know the crowd isn’t really gone. We know there are countless others watching from their homes, but he is so good at what he does, he makes it feel special for every individual watching. It’s true magic. That’s what Mia does when she talks to me. The arena blackens. The spotlight shines as brightly as ever. Her beautiful brown eyes lock onto mine, the crowd hushes, and it’s just her and me. It’s a brand-new Cody promo every second I’m with her.

We talked about so many things as we walked and walked and walked. Every so often she’d gently pull me close and wrap her arm around me or lean her head against mine. I didn’t need to see it, but I knew she was smiling as much as I was as she did so. I wondered last Wednesday night at times if I was perhaps assuming that she liked me as much as I did her because that is what I wanted so desperately. I don’t wonder that anymore. I can’t explain it. I just feel it.

As we neared the end of our long journey together, I began gripping her hand a little more tightly with my own. I didn’t want it to end. What you could call our second date, maybe third if we stretched the rules a bit, and I was so sad to see her go. Obligations aside, I’m beginning to realize that I’m a happier person when she’s with me. I wanted to tell her that as we stood next to her car. I wanted to show her that this was something special for me, that she was my Cody Rhodes promo, even though she wouldn’t have any idea what that meant. All I could utter, accompanied by my over-emotional sad eyes, was a whispered, “I’ll miss you…”

She didn’t say a thing. She just brushed my hair out of my face and placed her hand on my cheek once again. Only this time, instead of the fleeting anxiety calming moment from earlier in the evening, she leaned in and kissed me. Her lips were soft and perfect. The seconds passed like in slow motion, but soon enough she pulled back. She rested her forehead on mine and smiled her sweetest smile yet. I could have stood with her there forever. But before I knew it, with one more smile meant just for me, she was gone.

I’m sure I looked strange standing there alone, my fingers touching my lips as if I’d never been kissed before. In a way I hadn’t, not like that. After my head floated its way back down to my body, standing there alone, I began to wonder what the whole exchange had meant. Was is real? What did it mean? What was next?!

My phone vibrated a few seconds later. It was her. All the text said was, “Tomorrow?”

I don’t have a wrestling analogy for how I felt in that moment, for how I feel still now, or for how I know I’ll feel when I wake tomorrow thinking about her and our moments together. I’m grinning like a little girl still thinking about her and how her lips felt on mine.

While the future promises nothing, today my heart is happy and so am I, all thanks to Mia. And that’s more than enough for now.

Love and Wrestling

I have been a wrestling fan for almost 22 years. Almost 80% of my life spent obsessed with something that has given me more joy and comfort than I could have ever hoped for once upon a time. Never did I realize how much more it had left to give me than when I was able to share it with someone I cared about, someone who had never watched a second of professional wrestling before Wednesday night. To see the wonder in her beautiful brown eyes, to hear the laughter from deep in her belly, and to feel the pure joy emanating off of her as we watched was something I will never forget as long as I live.

How did I get here? Let me set the stage.

I had never watched wrestling with a single soul other than my Grandad, who died ten years ago. Ten years of settling in and watching all my favorites by myself. Ten years of wrestling becoming everything to me. Ten years of cheers, tears, and everything in between. When no one and nothing else was there, wrestling always was. So, to imagine that I could share that with another soul, until Wednesday, was unfathomable. It wasn’t that I never wanted to share this magical obsession of mine, it’s just that there had never before been anyone special enough to offer the chance to, let alone anyone who even cared enough to ask. Then there was Mia.

I first saw her at a café downtown, not far from where we both work. She has this aura about her that I just cannot explain, but it hit me that day. As I tend to do though, I shrugged it off, because in what world would things ever go beyond that? I’d see her at work every now and then after that, and within the last month or so, I’d see her more and more. Beyond her striking brown eyes, she is always smiling, one not for show but one full of literal joy and light. I got this feeling in my stomach, one that hasn’t left since, that maybe, just maybe, there might be something there. I was seeing her too often for it to be a mere coincidence. Being proactive for once in my life, I asked my wrestling Twitter family in the most obvious of hypothetical questions, advice on how to proceed. They were encouraging and helped to build my budding confidence to dangerous levels.

I walked to her office, my heart in my throat, and I asked in the loudest whisper I could muster if she would ever be interested in having a coffee with me sometime. I didn’t explicitly know if she was gay at the time, I was just very hopeful. As I stood there, as exposed as I’d allowed myself to ever be emotionally, I watched her smile at me, not her usual bright smile, but a different one, one I knew was just for me. She was happy, and we agreed to see each other a few days later for coffee and a walk downtown, somewhere we could talk without my soft voice getting lost in the accompanying noise. The walk was her idea, which meant the world to me already. She wanted to hear me, to listen to what I had to say. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from anyone.

As we ate lunch together the next day, something she surprised me with, she politely questioned me about my interests. So, as I sat there nervously with her, the most beautiful girl who’d ever given me the time of day, I brought up the thing most important to me. I talked to her about wrestling. I tried to put into words for her how wrestling had saved my life, had given me breath when I needed to breathe, and had always been there, even when I had nothing else. I carefully watched her face as I did so, looking for the first sign of doubt or regret. I saw none. What I did see were those piercing eyes of hers and how they never left my own. She studied me and hung on my every word. I told her that I had begun to write about wrestling and how much joy it had brought me to give back to something that had given me so much. She didn’t laugh. She didn’t even smile. She simply asked if she could read what I had written. I was stunned.

I hadn’t even noticed my hands shaking as I held my phone looking for the Mission Pro & Tegan Nox pieces I had written. All the self-confidence I had gained was gone in an instant. This may sound irrationally childish, but I felt tears begin to well in my eyes. Anxiety is something else, y’all. I was so embarrassed, until she reached out her hand and grasped mine with hers. She just held it, like she understood I needed her, and the shaking stopped. The tears went away, and I felt this peace come over me that I have never in my life felt before. I gathered myself, peaking quickly into her eyes, which still locked onto mine like I was the most important thing in the whole world in that moment, and I showed her what I had written.

I didn’t expect her to get it. How could she? She didn’t know who Tegan was or what Mission Pro was, what wrestling meant, or what loving wrestling was all about. But as she finished reading, she looked up to me and smiled this smile of hers once again and told me that she could feel my passion through my words, that if I loved something so much there must be something to it. The next couple of minutes are a blur, and I still don’t know if I invited her or if she invited herself to watch AEW Dynamite with me in my home. While that excited me, I became immediately terrified. I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering how I was going to mess things up or how I had romanticized this in my head to be something it wasn’t.

Once home, though extremely anxious, I became excited to show her AEW, to expose her to what has become a large part of my heart since its inception. Ricky Starks and Darby Allin. Britt Baker. FTR. Cody freaking Rhodes. It was set to be such a good show. But then, as I whipped together a few snacks for the show, my mind starting turn on itself again. What if she watches and laughs? What if she thinks what I hold so dear is nothing but a joke, like so many others do? What if I can’t hold it together and my anxiety ruins everything? What if any, all, or something else completely takes this night and makes the result what I’m most afraid of? I stayed by myself for so long for many reasons, an excruciatingly traumatic past not even atop that list. I stayed alone because I was afraid of being so vulnerable with someone, only to be broken all over again. What if this night turned into that?

By the time she knocked on my door, my hands were shaking again. I couldn’t control it and I was on the verge on crying. I realize this probably sounds ridiculous; I do. I can’t explain it. It’s all a part of me. The tears, the anxiety, the self-doubt. I wear it all like a giant scar. Some days, I make jokes about crying all the time, but it’s not something I’m proud of. This night, as I walked to my front door, I hated myself all over again because I was about to be falling apart in front of the first girl I had ever let inside of my head and heart to this degree, and I was going to do it in my own house.

I opened the door, and I can’t even imagine what I looked like, about to cry and literally shaking with nerves, but whatever I looked like didn’t faze her. She smiled and reached her hand to grasp mine, and once again, everything else ceased to be. I watch a lot of romcoms you guys. I’ve seen moments in movies that could not possibly happen in real life, but in that moment when her hand touched mine again, I swear it didn’t even feel like we were in my house any longer. All I felt was her soft hand gently squeezing mine, her beautiful eyes telling me everything was going to be ok, and my heartbeat beating like a war drum within my chest.

In her other hand, she held a large bag of Runts (the candy). This is going to seem so trivial, but I must explain why the tears came back and a few of them even flowed down my cheeks as she handed me the bag. First, it was a large zip-lock bag filled with Runts candy that she must have been collecting for some time. Where does one even find them anymore? I have to order them online! Secondly, I keep Runts candy in a bowl on my desk at work. Third, I do that because my Grandad used to call me ‘Runt’ all the way up until he died, because I’m 4’11” and tiny AF. Fourth, there was no banana shaped Runts to be found, because they are disgusting. She didn’t know about my Grandad, obviously, but she had noticed all the other things. It seems silly, but it meant so much to me.

Noticing the impact her gesture had on me, she stepped forward, without hesitation, and wrapped her arms around me. It felt like we stood there forever. Honestly, when I close my eyes right now, that’s where I go. I cannot describe how safe I immediately felt with her, how my heart felt like it would burst through my chest, and how the shivers she sent through my body when she whispered that she “had me.”

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

As we settled in on my couch, some space between us, we sipped our waters and anxiously awaited the start of Dynamite. We chatted a little more about my love for wrestling and I learned about her love for videogames. I think that’s why she was so open to learn about my obsession, because she had one of her own that others may have once looked down on as well. As Mikey Rukus’ song and the Dynamite intro hit the screen, she sat straight up. Ricky Starks’ music hit, and I watched as she scooted herself a little closer to the edge of the couch, the cutest smile ever forming on her lips. Then Darby Allin walked to the ring, and I swear she squealed a little bit. She turned to me and told me that she had no idea what was happening but that she was “all in.” The irony of the words she chose made me giggle a little.

As the night moved forward, I swear she hung on every move and every word. She became enamored with Darby, asking if we’d see him more as the show went on. She was blown away by the match with FTR and SCU. She noticed Diamante and Ivelisse standing ringside, excitedly asking me if they were Hispanic like she is and when their match would be. Showing legitimate concern over the chaos that was both the Jericho/Kassidy match and the Cody/Brodie shenanigans, I had to reassure her that it was all a work. Then I explained what a “work” was. We BOTH swooned over how beautiful Dasha looked while she interviewed Cody and how real the beef looked between Brandi and Anna Jay. I explained the Hangman character and my broken heart over what happened with he and Kenny.

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

She clapped and cheered as Britt Baker and Red Velvet tore the house down in a match I’ll now remember forever, because if nothing else comes from that night, I’ll know the match I watched that hooked a new fan of women’s wrestling. I explained the Dark Order and the nuance of Orange Cassidy, trying to do both justice but falling short. It didn’t matter though. She was invested and whether it was true or because she liked me enough to try, it didn’t matter. Then, the main event. I don’t think she was prepared for The Butcher and Mox. Hell, I wasn’t prepared, but we watched together and were both blown away with the physicality and legitimacy of what they accomplished in the ring.

Credit: All Elite Wrestling

As the show ended, I hadn’t realized that over the course of the two hours, we had found each other on the couch and were just inches apart. She smiled as she told me that she couldn’t believe it was over, and that she kind of felt like she did when she finished a videogame, full of adrenaline. She wanted more. I nervously suggested that there was more if she wanted, that another show had happened while we watched Dynamite, and that I usually watched that show right after. I didn’t even need to ask if she wanted to stay. She smiled again, the one that felt like it was just for me and asked if we could turn it on. I was a little stunned and sensing that, she made sure to add that there was no pressure, that we didn’t have to. But I couldn’t have agreed fast enough. It felt like a dream. As I navigated to NXT on my DVR, she scooted a little closer to me still, put her arm around me and pulled me close to her. She asked if it was alright and all I could do was nod. I felt like I was floating.

We watched NXT, and as great a show as it was, I found myself slipping into this state of perfect happiness often. She’d lean her head down and rest it on mine, or play with my hair, or tickle my shoulder, and I’d close my eyes and just exist there, listening to the action but not needing to watch. She adored the Shotzi/Dakota match, asking how often women got to wrestle on TV.

Credit: WWE

She loved Adam Cole, claiming how great a friend he seemed to be to Kyle O’Reilly. Then she learned that he and Britt were a thing, and we fangirled together about how perfect that was. Kayden Carter, Kacy Catanzaro, and Xia Li had her attention from bell to bell and she wondered aloud why Xia was so mean after losing. It was adorable. Her eyes never left the screen during the Balor/O’Reilly interview, completely enamored with the incredible performance from both. Then we watched Candice, Johnny Gargano, Damian Priest, and Io tear it up in the main event and though the match was great, we both knew our night was nearly over.

Credit: WWE

I walked her to the door and though I silently wished she would never leave; I couldn’t have felt more content with everything in that moment with her. She smiled at me and wrapped me in her arms once again, pulling back to kiss me on the cheek before she walked out of the door. She didn’t know everything about my past, just the little I had told her during the night to help explain my voice and some of my anxiety. She didn’t know I had deeply rooted trust and PTSD issues and that I’d want to take things slowly. She didn’t know any of that. She was respectful and romantic because that’s who she is. And that is perfect.

I don’t know where things go from here. I’ll always be the first to doubt myself and my happiness as a façade. I would love to believe that she felt as strongly about our first evening together as I did, and maybe she did, but life is funny, and no one can predict the future. What I do know and what I will hold dear is the fact that wrestling once again played this significant life-altering role in a moment in my life I’ll never forget. If nothing else, I pushed through something uncomfortable. I trusted my instincts and went after something my heart desired. I shared my love of wrestling with another, for the first time in ten years.

We’ll see what the future has in store for Mia and me. No matter what, I am sure I have found someone who will be an important person in my life going forward in whatever capacity that may end up being. I am also sure that professional wrestling has gained a brand new fan.

It was a night I will never forget. Why wouldn’t wrestling have played a role in that? Why wouldn’t wrestling walk hand in hand with love in my heart? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mission Pro & Girl Power

Credit: Thunder Rosa

When I was a little girl, women’s wrestling was very different than it is today. The landscape as it was is almost unrecognizable now. Bra and panties matches. Swimsuit contests. Mud wrestling. Puppies and catcalls on national TV in place of praise and encouragement. Women were a draw sure, for a very particular crowd and a very particular reason. They deserved far more than they were given.

Don’t get me wrong, this did not alter my view of women in wrestling then. I looked up to these brave and talented women, so beautiful and confident in themselves. For many of them, this was a dream they had pursued viciously. They were at the pinnacle. They were my idols. I dressed like them. I talked like them. I walked like them. I desperately wanted to be them. But I always wondered, why weren’t they allowed the same opportunities as men were? Why didn’t they get the same time? Why were they asked to be “wrestlers” but not wrestle?

I often questioned my own childhood dream to one day become what they were, because my dream as it existed in my mind did not look like that. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was not the dream that was flawed. It was the business. As time moved on, so did the wrestling, and although it has been a very slow transformation, women’s wrestling is now what I had always hoped it was. It’s simply wrestling.

Credit: Mission Pro Wrestling

The show that Mission Pro Wrestling put on Friday evening, Hell Hath No Fury, was nothing short of a monumental shift in the wrestling world. All women, from top to bottom and everything in between. Mission Pro isn’t just lip service. It’s not a gimmick. It’s everything it says it is and more.

The passion on screen was palpable all night. The wrestlers left everything they had between the ropes. Referees wore intense smiles full of pride, the commentary team called tremendous matches with vigor and excitement, and the performers were magnificent on the mat. The meaning of the event was felt in every facet, and it showed. It left a very real feeling of accomplishment and pride within my soul, and I was just a fan watching from hundreds of miles away on her laptop.

New stars and familiar faces took turns taking center stage and the product they gave us couldn’t have been better. At the end of the show, Lindsay Snow, who had just finished sharing the ring with Thunder Rosa just moments prior, took her opportunity to thank her competitor, and through her voice, I felt such sincere gratitude and fulfillment. The faces of the rest of the roster echoed her words, and the joy could be felt through that small arena and across the world to those of us who streamed it live on the Title Match Network.

Credit: Mission Pro Wrestling

I found myself fighting back tears throughout most of the evening. I’m generally an emotional person anyway, but this show just hit different. When wrestling is done right, it’s breathtaking. That’s not just lip service but a literal fact I have experienced time and time again. A story well told can reach through the screen and hold you so tightly that you dare not look away. A match well fought can make you sweat, scream, and jump into the air with glee or shock. Emotions well sold can elicit such heartfelt meaningful responses, that they feel as real as anything could in those amazing moments. I felt all that Friday evening, and more.

It wasn’t just the stories, like the captivating main event authored by Thunder Rosa and Lindsay Snow. It wasn’t just the matches, like the undeniable banger AEW’s Big Swole and La Rosa Negra put on mid-show. It wasn’t just the emotion of the matches, like the surprise victory from the bubbly Madi Wrenkowski or the valiant David & Goliath effort from the Prodigy herself, Rok-C, even though she came up just short of the victory. You see, it couldn’t just be any of these things, though any of these things can make a good wrestling show spectacular. It couldn’t just be any of these things because Hell Hath No Fury was so much more than that.

Credit: Lindsay Snow

And that’s why, as the final match reached its end, and the champion embraced her incredible challenger after, the tears began to leak down my cheek. As all the women were called into the ring, my heart filled with such overwhelming pride. I was proud of Thunder Rosa. I was proud of all those amazing women who put on a tremendous show when the pressure was on, when it mattered. I was proud of the fans in attendance, who threw their support behind every single one of those women who walked through the curtain. They showered them with love and made the show dynamite to watch from afar as I did. I was proud of that little girl I remember, who’s childhood dream finally came true, through the triumphs of other women.

More than anything though, I cried tears of joy and pride because as a woman, as that grown up little girl I remember who wanted nothing more once than to see what those girls accomplished, it meant everything to me. I have no doubt that other little girls watched this show or will watch Mission Pro in the future, and they’ll feel empowered too. That is something that no one can ever take away. For it wasn’t given; it was earned.

As Mission Pro moves forward, so do women and the opportunities it has helped to create, even those that haven’t even been thought of yet. I am so thankful to ALL the women who took part in Hell Hath No Fury, for standing up and proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that women’s wrestling isn’t just a draw, it’s THE draw.

As a fan, I thank you. As a woman, I can’t even explain how Mission Pro has made me feel. I have so much love in my heart for what you all accomplished Friday. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

Credit: Mission Pro Wrestling

As Thunder Rosa stood in the ring to close the show, surrounded by her peers, absorbing the magnitude of the moment that she created through hard work, determination, and a desire to elevate women’s wrestling, she sent a message to the wrestling world. Though the show spoke for itself, her words still echo through my mind as I write this, words I won’t soon forget.

“This is only the beginning.”

You’re damn right it is.

Wrestling Was There

It was November 1998. A Monday. I was staying up far too late, as I did when my Grandad would look after me. He turned the television to channel 32, TNT, and what followed jumpstarted a lifetime obsession that’s still never been eclipsed. I can vividly recall WCW Nitro introducing the starry-eyed newly 6-year-old me to Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero. Bret Hart. The Outsiders. The Giant. I can carefully close my eyes, and if I concentrate just hard enough, the voices of Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan echo through my brain as if it were that night two decades ago once again.

For a sheltered innocent little girl, the pomp and circumstance became everything. I longed to go to shows. I begged to dress up like my favorite Nitro Girl, Spice, for Halloween. My Grandad bought me figures and magazines, and whenever I stayed with him, we’d watch his old tapes. He explained the history of WCW, the NWA, and the WWF. His weathered tone and carefully chosen words were captivating always. I learned all about Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Terry Funk and Dusty Rhodes. I would watch as his eyes grew large with pride as his tiny granddaughter found love for something he cherished so dearly. He would tear up as he told stories of my Grandma. She’d hated wrestling, but she would always sit next to him when he watched, just so she could share in something that meant so much to him.

I wasn’t allowed to watch at home, so I missed shows often, until I was able to sneak off to Grandad’s house again to catch up. My parents did not approve. I can’t necessarily say I blame them looking back, but I resented them terribly for it. As I grew up some, things changed, as they do. WCW was no more, and soon all I knew was the renamed WWE. New stars sunk their claws into my imagination, names like Edge, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and the Hardy Boyz. I was able to watch as women took wrestling by storm, incredible ladies like Molly Holly and Lita became my absolute idols. Because of them, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wanted to be just like them when I grew up. I just had to be a part of this amazing world that had opened up my own.

Life is a fickle thing. Things happen throughout it that alter our journeys and ourselves forever. As a young girl, walking through that curtain and stepping into a wrestling ring with other amazing women sounded like a glimpse of heaven that normal humans just didn’t often get. It was perfection. I would have worked tirelessly and moved mountains to achieve that goal. But my dream was not to be.

When I was 14 years old, I was physically and sexually assaulted by a family friend. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. The resulting moments are frozen in time, like permanent uninvited indentations in my memory. When I close my eyes at night, it’s incredibly difficult to not go back to that place. When I’m in a crowded room still, because of extreme PTSD, I struggle to feel safe. Anxiety becomes crushing, sometimes when doing normal everyday tasks. I look at myself in the mirror and I do not see what I should see, I see a broken version of the girl I used to know. It has been almost 14 years, but the impact is everlasting.

I lived with my Grandad permanently after this happened, as my parents never could learn to accept a daughter that had been damaged in their eyes. It didn’t help that they also did not approve of my being gay, something I had only told them I believed I was just months prior to the assault. Not only did I feel broken, damaged beyond repair, and so very angry at those who should have been there to hold me but were not, as a result of the abuse, I suffered massive laryngeal trauma resulting in my not being able to speak in a tone any louder than a soft whisper. Despite numerous attempts at rectification, this is still the case today.

Now that I have made things uncomfortable for everyone, I mention this not for pity or for distraction, but for context. The girl I was became a memory in the summer of 2007. After, I was someone quite different. I lost a tremendous amount, but one thing I didn’t lose was wrestling. When I cried myself to sleep every night, wrestling was there. When I tried to vocalize my true pain, tried to scream from the bottom of my lungs and deepest pit of my belly, nothing came out, but wrestling was there. When my Grandad died shortly after I graduated High School, and I lost the only person in the world who loved me, wrestling, which he had given to me, was still there.

Now, I understand that wrestling was not literally “there.” It wasn’t close enough to touch. It wasn’t a shoulder to cry on. It wasn’t holding me as I consistently fell apart. It wasn’t my voice when I couldn’t find my own. It wasn’t building me back up when I needed it most. It wasn’t really these things.

Except that it was. It was all these things and more. When I tune in to my beloved AEW every Wednesday night for Dynamite, the atmosphere and audience are my voice. When I open my mouth, screams may not literally emerge from my throat, no matter how much I may want them to, but that’s ok because the fans scream for me. The stories are so entirely all-encompassing that they feel real enough to relate to, to invest in…to touch.

During the hard moments, the ones where I find myself looking back, feeling sorry for myself, or when I am just plain sad, wrestling is where I turn, because people like John Silver, Hangman Page, Britt Baker, Tony Schiavone, and Kip Sabian can reach within themselves and turn sadness into laughter. They are real life magicians. Big Swole, Shanna, Hikaru Shida, and Thunder Rosa can take a girl who at times feels too broken to believe in anything, and they can make her believe anything is possible. They can make her feel strong. The fans are a community of strength and support I have desired since I was a girl. My shoulder to cry on, my helping hand back to my feet, and the voice in my ear that reinforces the strength I know I have in me. I love them with my whole heart.

More important than anything else, these incredible people, performer or otherwise, can take me away with these precious fleeting moments and allow me to not necessarily forget things I’d like to, but allow me to be a part of something where no one cares that I’m the girl who likes girls, or that I’m the girl who was abused, or that I’m the girl who whispers, or that I’m the girl who is too short, too emotional, or too broken. I am all those things and all those things are me. In wrestling, we are who we are, and we’re family anyway.

Life took away my family. Wrestling gave me one back. And I will forever and ever be grateful.