Monday, November 28, 2022

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EVE: The Punk Power Riot Grrrls of Wrestling

What makes something punk? Is it sleeveless denim jackets, nose piercings, and mohawks propped up by an obscene amount of gel? Is it a raw, grungy ferocity, furious, unrelenting energy? Or is it an unwavering anti-establishment mentality? A willingness to rage against the machine with unabashed bluntness, telling Nazi punks to f*** off. Many feds try to capture the essence of punk. Few embody the punk spirit as purley as EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling. 

Imagine a dingy windowless underground pub, the rattle of the Central Line tube pulling away from Bethnal Green station in the distance. The air is thick with sweat, dozens of bodies are packed like sardines as they stand in awe at the performers on stage. The energy of EVE has as much in common with a Misfits or Minor Threat gig as it does a WWE or AEW.

The parallels between EVE and punk are palpable. Both were born from a rebellious desire to be heard and appreciated, no longer content from being crushed under the boot of mainstream society. For the punk movement, this was jaded teens lost in the economic downturns of the 70s and 80s. For EVE it was the disparity between male and female wrestling. EVE was founded in 2010, during the dark days of women’s wrestling. The days of the Diva Search. A “Wrestlemania moment” was coming down to the ring with Kid Rock or a five-minute battle royal with the entire roster. EVE was born to prove that women weren’t a sideshow. They were wrestlers.

Seeing this plastered on the wall is more than a subtle dig at WWE. Declaring themselves as the Riot Grrrls of Wrestling, a name that itself is tied to an underground feminist punk movement of the same name, EVE makes no effort to mask its social and political stances. They are as clear as their piledrive a fascist t-shirt or the Audre Lorde quote that adorns the ringside wall, “revolution is not a one-time event.” It is a philosophy the EVE wholeheartedly believes and has the receipts to prove it.

Fighting for the rights of the oppressed is inherently punk, and EVE swings for the fences with its social and feminist agenda. They back Bloody Good Period who fights for free and accessible sanitary products for all women, as well as The Outside Project, an organization dedicated to helping vulnerable and homeless members of the LGBTIQ+ community. They seem to attach themselves to grassroots movements that directly affect the community’s support.

But EVE’s actions are far from performative. Identity capitalism is rampant among corporations looking to cash in by projecting a pseudo-woke attitude. There is no need to harp on about it, no big promo package or social media post patting themselves on the back. EVE lets their actions do the talking.

EVE’s desire to help others bleeds into their treatment of their performers. EVE’s most significant contribution to the wrestling industry is its push for unionization. Signing a deal with the performer trade union Equity back in 2019, EVE’s performers now have a dignity at work policy and the right to engage with union representatives. Speaking about the issue Equity declared

“The work (wrestling) is precarious, often low paid, and physically demanding. Equity believes wrestlers have entitled to the same protections and entitlements that other professional performers experience at work, and it is our ambition to engage with promoters across the UK to achieve this.”

This should come as no surprise with punk’s connection to the working class and the socialist movement. Unionization is common practice here in the UK. Still, apart from some recent rumblings from Andrew Yang and the wrestling legend of Hogan putting the kibosh on Jessie Venture’s push to form a union, it is a practice that has never been adopted. Not even AEW, a promotion that has perpetuated the idea of putting its wrestlers first, has not provided their roster with union representation.

EVE cares about its performers. Believes that they are not pieces of meat to be treated like crap, forced to near kill themselves for little to no money. They offer a fundamental human right, an entitlement to come to work and be treated fairly, a guarantee that no other promotion can offer.

Despite its contentious political nature and punk roots, EVE has a strong sense of community and inclusivity. If you fall in the pit, there is always someone there to pick you back up. EVE is no different. Live wrestling can be very intimidating, especially if you are a new fan. It’s real easy to have your night ruined by a smark standing next to you. EVE has a zero-tolerance policy to any harassment of fans or performers, so you can rest at ease about being judged.

But what’s wrestling like? In short, excellent. Streaming a curated list of matches every week, You can catch EVE for free on YouTube. In a punk move, they have even run counter-programming against WWE’s Crown Jewel. This was my gateway into EVE. I had heard about the promotion while living in London but never got to check them out. There were a lot of familiar faces to welcome me, Kay Lee Ray, Piper Niven, Yuka Sakazaki, and Jordynne Grace. But what kept me watching was all the faces I didn’t know. Being a wrestling fan for over 20 years, you sometimes think you have seen it all. So when someone comes out of nowhere and surprises me, I mark out hard—watching Laura Di Matteo hold her own in a fatal-four-way with a host of soon to be WWE talent or Madison Eagles controlling the ring in what is arguably the best representation of a ‘ring general’ I have ever seen. EVE is a melting pot of all wrestling styles, strong, Joshi, or traditional. There is something for everyone.

With COVID restrictions beginning to ease, after 18 months of turmoil, EVE is finally getting back into the swing of things. December 4th will see EVE return for another night of great wrestling. If you can’t catch it live, the show will be streaming live on YouTube if you want to get your first taste of this punk brand of wrestling.

No other wrestling company epitomizes punk as well as EVE. Its rebelliousness, social advocacy, and working-class slant goes are the same tenants rooted in the punk revolution and its splintered subgenres.

But the fight is not over. It never is. EVE’s unwavering spirit has been tested. The current landscape of the UK indie scene is bleak. Its snake-bitten underbelly was revealed during the Speaking Out campaign. A set that was already struggling in the wake of NXT UK hoovering up as much major talent as they can get their hands on. Predatory actions and a complete disregard for women have devastated the UK landscape. Yet EVE endures. Talent may move on, wrestling may wax and wane in its popularity, or you may be hit with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Regardless, if EVE holds the spirit of punk in its heart and much like the genre that inspired it, EVE will continue to survive.

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