Legacy and longevity are too often conflated with one another, weighing something or someone’s value by how long it hangs around performing its tasks.
There is an aspect of such a quality worthy of admiration, but nothing in this life is infinite. What stands the test of time when that final chapter is written is not how long an entity existed, but what it accomplished with the time it had.
Pro Wrestling VIBE, an LGBTQ-led pro wrestling promotion at the forefront of the LGBTQ pro wrestling movement, closed its doors last month with one final party, Braumatica, after three years of operation.
Three years feels like a brief amount of time even for the world of independent pro wrestling. But Pro Wrestling VIBE accomplished something most promotions never do, and those accomplishments were apparent on that final Sunday afternoon at DC Brau brewery.
The first event in the extended canon of Pro Wrestling VIBE was Prime Time Pro Wrestling’s Butch vs. Gore event in 2020; a show defined by its ability to force a space for LGBTQ wrestlers and fans into existence and build a community of acceptance around that populace.
O’Shay Edwards battled Pro Wrestling VIBE founder Billy Dixon at that first show before he came out publicly as bisexual later that year. He brought his expected level of destruction when he returned to the VIBE ring at Braumatica, as he defeated MV Young, Olijah Friday and longtime rival Breaux Keller in the opening match.
But his words following the bout embodied what the company provided him.
“About three to four years ago, I packed up everything and moved up here with no guarantees, no promises, and it was people like [Dixon and McGrath] that gave me an opportunity to be me,” Edwards said. “Because of that, all of y’all accepted who I was, who I am and who I’m going to be, and for that, I need to thank you.”
Faye Jackson main evented Butch vs. Gore in a sexually charged battle with EFFY that riled up an already bouncing (in more ways than one) crowd.
Three years later, she was back in the main event, coming out of retirement to vanquish VIBE’s most heinous enemy, Darius Carter. With Dixon as special referee, it was the climax of a three-year arc that embodied the company’s storytelling theory: riveting, violent and the desire to push audiences to their limits in a fashion that makes the emotional catharsis of pro wrestling that much more real.
Edith Surreal, Trish Adora and Erica Leigh pushed back the tyrannical charge of Killian McMurphy, Robb Radke and Saul Esparza in a wild contest focused on how queer stories within pro wrestling can and should evolve.
McMurphy’s internalized queerphobia and how it manifested toward Surreal and others pointed the lens directly on how dominant culture still exists even within specific marginalized populations, and the detriment those kinds of attitudes pose.
Jordan Blade and Eel O’Neal turned in a technical fight that Blade properly defined as “Black history” afterward. Brooke Valentine and Andino traded shots in a Chocolate City championship battle worthy of the city from which the belt draws its name.
Allie Katch and Ashton Starr put together a classic in the first “Rain On Me” match, a match that is only possible because of the emerging queer wrestling movement and the power that companies like Pro Wrestling VIBE seized amid changing cultural tides.
You’d be hard-pressed to find another pro wrestling event where opponents fought in honor of their respective divas, much less a wrestling crowd belting dueling chants for Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande as a soundtrack to forearm shots and stiff kicks.
But that encapsulates the magic of Pro Wrestling VIBE. It pulled the curtain back and placed queer identities, stories and culture square in the middle of independent pro wrestling’s stage. And those who graced its ring built amazing, authentic moments previously unseen in the annals of pro wrestling history.
Pro Wrestling VIBE delivered many firsts that define where pro wrestling is in 2023 just as much as they define the promotion itself: Fusing pro wrestling with ballroom at Paris Is Bumping, giving the LGBTQ community its own trademark tournament in the Cassandro Cup, the first all-trans-femme main event in pro wrestling history, Allie Katch putting everything in her soul into her rendition of “Rain On Me,” battles over who the bigger Britney Spears stan is, the breathtaking looks of our Divas champion Eddy McQueen.
More than these moments, though, is the space Pro Wrestling VIBE created for so many people beyond the ring. The company became something special for those who never saw themselves in wrestling.
VIBE was for us and by us; yet welcomed all comers to join the dance party.
As Billy Dixon said on the LGBT In The Ring podcast ahead of Braumatica, queer wrestling isn’t dead because Pro Wrestling VIBE is over. It’s stronger than ever, with many of the names featured on the company’s cards since 2020 winning championships across the U.S. and becoming internationally known.
What kicked off in DC Brau three years ago and said goodbye in that same room on Feb. 19 will be remembered as a catalyst for changing pro wrestling for the better, and for those whom it empowered.
The VIBE was here for a great, defiant and groundbreaking time — not a long one. What Dixon and McGrath built will hold its legacy for much, much longer.
As much as it pains me to know there won’t be another trip to pro wrestling’s queer Starrcade, or one more chance to walk for the judges, it would hurt so much more if we weren’t able to say goodbye.
“I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive. Rain. On. Me.”
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