Here's what it's like being a woman wrestler in 2017 — as told by the stars in the ring today
Netflix’s latest original series, Glow, tells the story of another TV show: the similarly named Glow: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, an all-women’s professional wrestling program that aired in the late ’80s and was heavy on camp and neon spandex. The original Glow has endured as a cult favorite, inspiring not just the Netflix show but also a 2012 documentary. The new Glow — which stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron — is earning positive reviews, winning over critics and wrestling fanatics alike.
With all of the heightened attention on the world of female professional wrestling, Mic decided to talk with some present-day women wrestlers who are working the independent circuit today. We reached out via email to several pros — all of whom are in different stages of their careers — to discuss what it’s like operating outside of the WWE, the occupational hazards they face and the progress the industry’s made on gender equality.
Amber Nova only made her official wrestling debut a little over a year ago, but the wrench-wielding South Carolina native is already turning heads thanks to her scrappy personality. Her first national television appearance was an impressive effort on a recent episode of Impact Wrestling, with a post-match promise of more to come.
Deonna Purrazzo is a true independent wrestler who’s wrestled in every major American wrestling company — WWE, Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor — as well as Japan’s premier women’s wrestling company, Stardom. Originally hailing from New Jersey, she’s been wrestling since December of 2012 and is the first wrestler to win back-to-back years of independent promotion ECWA’s Super 8 ChickFight Tournament.
Session Moth Martina is an especially over-the-top character from Dublin, Ireland, whose party girl gimmick is rooted in comedy wrestling. (At last count, the character has 37 different children from multiple fathers.) Earlier in 2017, she was on the winning team of a six-women’s tag team match (alongside one of the WWE’s newest signees, Nixon Newell) at OTT Wrestling’s biggest show in history, ScrapperMania 3, wrestling in front of a sold-out crowd of 2,200 fans.
Jinny is a fashionista who considers herself above everyone, whether it’s her opponent, tag team partner, the ring announcer, the referee or (especially) the crowd. She’s made history in the U.K., not only as the first female graduate of premier British promotion Progress’ wrestling school, but also as a participant in the match that crowned the first ever Progress Women’s Champion. Jinny came up short in the ring, but it’s likely only a matter of time till she nabs a belt.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.
Mic: What made you decide to become a professional wrestler? When you told people about your plan, what image did they have in their minds? What do they think about your life as a professional wrestler now?
Amber Nova: As an EMT in South Carolina, I would drive around in the ambulance with whichever partner, talking about wrestling and wanting to move to Orlando to pursue it. Finally, I was like, “Now or never.” My family was very supportive and friends and co-workers were very enthusiastic about it. They knew my passion for wrestling.
Deonna Purrazzo: When I started watching wrestling and I saw [women] like Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, I knew one day if I tried it, I could be just like them. After that, I simply became obsessed with all things wrestling, and at 9 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a professional wrestler. I think they thought it was a childhood phase and I’d outgrow it, but, 14 years later, I am living that dream every single day. Of course they were skeptical about my choice to sign up at 18, fresh out of high school, but seeing the success I have gained in such a short time, I think they would say they are more than proud now. I wanted to change the perception of women’s wrestling from that young age.
Session Moth Martina: I never dreamed I would ever do it, it never crossed my mind in my youth. But years ago, I found a school for professional wrestling in Ireland, and I said, “I’ll give it a go.” [I] never thought it would be anything as serious as it became. Fast forward a few years and I’ve based my entire life around it. All my friends are wrestlers. All I think about is wrestling. It pays my bills. It’s my social life. My family and friends never saw it as more than a hobby years ago, but how it has grown for me, I feel they have come to accept it as part of my career — my dream job.
Jinny: I have watched wrestling since a young age, but at the age of 11, I decided that I wanted to be a wrestler. It was the storylines and the way that you could emotionally invest in the whole show without getting bored that had me hooked. But it wasn’t until a couple of years [after the end of 1997] that I saw women being used in more segments, and it was then I was fully drawn to wrestling. There were some great wrestlers that I watched growing up, such as Chyna, Lita, Trish, Ivory — who was actually in the original Glow series — Chris Jericho and The Rock.
DP: I think the biggest [struggle] is one we’re fighting every day — to be athletes and treated with the same respect as the men. We are in the midst of the biggest boom period of women’s wrestling and there are opportunities all over the world for women to learn and experience from, but people still argue this isn’t for women. Hopefully, we as women continue to break down barriers and produce the best quality wrestling possible.
SMM: Well, of course, non-fans would have the stigma of the ’90s female wrestling — when there was nothing but models in a bra and panties — stuck in their heads from it being so [highlighted by] the media back then. I like to think non-fans would be pleasantly surprised by the contrast of how most women [wrestlers] try to portray themselves these days.
J: I think for true wrestling fans there aren’t any. However, you do have some fans who will still say women’s matches are used as filler on the show or a toilet-break match, but now we are steering away from that. I am sure there are more, but luckily I haven’t had anyone ask me any stupid questions about women’s wrestling.
AN: I’ve been pretty thankful to not have many serious injuries, but being as small as I am, I’ve gotten some pretty bad bruises. [There are] days where I can’t turn my neck, [have a] black eye and the muscles in my lower back have been strained. But still, I have been pretty fortunate.
DP: So far, I have broken my nose twice, I’ve had a concussion and have had seven stitches under my left eye from a catch gone wrong in the ring. However, we are trained to expect injuries to happen and how to cope with them as they happen and know, "the show must go on!"
SMM: I’ve been very fortunate in my career so far as to not sustain a serious injury that has put me out long-term. But [it’d be a lie] to say I am walking around perfectly fine. I wake up daily with pretty bad back pain — that’s the name of this game. It is by no means an easy job.
J: Wrestling is like ballet with violence; you have to learn your craft for a very long time. But regardless of how long you’ve been training, every time we go in the ring we put our bodies on the line.
What do you want to see happen in the wrestling industry when it comes to the role of women?
AN: With all these new shows on the WWE Network and with the [resurgence] of Glow, hopefully [we’ll see] a show on the [WWE] Network for women similar to 205 Live and more female wrestling companies like Glow, Wow, Shimmer, Shine, AIW, AWS, Bellatrix, nCw, Stardom, Reina, to only name a few.
DP: Gosh, that’s so hard for me to answer because all I’ve seen and ever wanted for women’s wrestling is happening right now in the present. In years’ time, I would love to see Ring of Honor present a Women of Honor Championship.
SMM: Women’s wrestling has come very far in the last couple of years. I hope to only see it rise to where women are given the same platform as the men to show their craft … and have it not as an achievement, but have it be the norm.
If you were a professional wrestler during the Glow days and part of that roster, what do you think your gimmick would be? The more over-the-top, the better.
AN: I’m the classic car-driving Nova Girl, drive my car to the ring, wrenches falling down from the ceiling, car horns blaring. When the match is over, [I’d] throw my victims in my trunk. Maybe I’m like the Undertaker and have the new Casket Match — the Car Trunk Match.
SMM: More over-the-top? Then I would be exactly as I am.