Watch out: female wrestling is not just a fiction popularised by Netflix. At EVE, the London club of “Punk, Feminist and Riot Grrrl of Pro-Wrestling” women are rocking and kicking asses.
This Sunday 4th of March, it was cold in The Resistance Gallery, the place where EVE’s members are training.
“Don’t worry, you won’t be cold in a minute!“ Exclaimed the coach Rhia O’Reilly to the 16 girls who came here to wrestle. Few seconds after, all of them were jumping and yelling boosted by the encouragement and the music that Greg Burridge, the second coach, turned on. With 2 hours of warm-up, fitness and wrestling skill exercises: they didn’t care anymore about the weather.
The training sessions takes place once a week since 2010, the year when Emily and Dann Read created the company. They were already working together in the wrestling business for ten years. They also lived together and had a daughter, Freddie. They cite their kid as “a big reason for us to start EVE“. They saw the sexism against women in wrestling firsthand: fewer opportunities, harassment, sexualization “by the crowd and often by male wrestlers“ and difficulties to be recognised.
“We wanted our daughter to see strong women, to see women who she can look up to, and so we decided to start a company so that can happen,“ they say. Deal done. A lot of girl power and female empowerment come from this female wrestlers.
Like usual, when women want to have a safe space only for themselves, there are some dudes whining about this absurd concept: the ‘reverse sexism’. This only women environment is however one of the main reasons that push forward this female wrestlers. It was Charlie’s first session and she “really enjoyed it“. She liked “all the yelling, being loud, being free“.
She confesses that she wouldn’t have wrestled in a mixed club. “I knew, because it is a feminist club, I wasn’t gonna be judged. I was gonna be supportive. Everyone would be in the same state of mind. I wouldn’t have to worry about the male gaze, wherever they were going to look at me judgemental or sexually. I can yell, I can be entitled, I can look absolutely disgusting and I don’t feel judged.“
This is what EVE is about: confidence, freedom and empowerment, in the ring and in everyday life. The creation of a character helps. Greg says, “Sometimes people are self-conscious about themselves. They surprise themselves how confident they can be becoming an another character or hiding behind another character. Wrestling you become a totally different person.“
Rhia approves, “I used to be a villain and I worked in charity. It was really nice to be horrible to people because I never do it. I was like, ‘Sometimes I don’t want to be happy and nice all the time!’ It can be really liberating.“
The benefits of wrestling are not restricted to the ring. Sian, was one of the girls training, she tells me, “Wrestling is performance. There is some self- defence elements into it but it is very much about making a statement. Women can use their body in a really confident way.”
Charlie adds, “It teaches you to have that confidence and to fight. It is about teaching yourself to be loud, not to be ashamed and to own space as a woman instead of backing down and making yourself small. It is definitely a skill that can get transfer into others situations.“
While society teaches girls to be quiet, nice, polite, to not take too much space and to avoid fights: wrestling is a release which encourages them to be who they want to be and EVE has already won many battles.
“We ran Europe’s first ever wrestling to be broadcast live on internet pay per view. We ran the first ever women’s wrestling show in London as women’s wrestling had been banned there for over 50 years,“ explains Emily. An another Charlie, Charlie Morgan became the “first woman in wrestling business to come out as being gay at EVE event.”
You can watch this awesome moment on this video here.
You better get used to it, EVE won’t stop kicking asses. One big event is coming soon – “Our history making show ‘Wrestle Queendom’ at York Hall in Bethnal Green, the 5th May, London on Saturday May 5th. We’ll be taking the venue historically known for putting on men’s boxing shows and putting on Europe’s biggest ever women’s wrestling show! We will always want to push the boundaries, to make bold moves and grow as a company and that’s certainly our biggest challenge yet. A challenge that a lot of people are watching because of many insecure men in the wrestling business, insecure because the business that was almost solely theirs for so long is changing, those men are watching us fight, and they want to see us fail.“
“We will Fight. But we will not fail“
Words: Marie Verger, Illustrations: Hatti Rex