Women’s pro wrestling smacks down in London for the first time

Pro wrestling

Women’s pro wrestling is coming to Hackney for the first event of its kind in London, writes Tal Fox

When wrestling promoter Dann Read became a father to a baby girl he realised the sport he loved so much needed some serious changes.

“When Emily and I had our daughter Winifred, we were looking around and seeing a real lack of female role models in entertainment. Female characters are the supporting act, and rarely the winner.”  

Dann is “crushing clichés and breaking barriers” as he brings Pro Wrestling EVE, London’s first female wrestling tournament to the Cre8 Lifestyle Centre in Hackney Wick later this month.

“The wrestling business was like a boys’ clubhouse, and every now and then a girl was let in, but they were never given the credit they deserved,” says Dann. “When they fought it was ‘just a girl’s match’ and it drove a lot of talented girls away.

“All these girls were working their arses off, harder than the guys because no one was giving them a shot.”

Pro wrestling

Pro wrestling
Reigning champion Nikki Storm showboats before her match; Credit: Pro Wrestling EVE

Dann met his wife, Emily, through a shared love of sport and the pair set up their first wrestling show in 2010. They hope to challenge preconceptions of women in the wrestling industry.

“It’s crazy that we’re in 2016 and sport is still geared toward guys. There’s so much more coverage and it’s bullshit,” he says.

Female wrestlers are referred to as “divas” and the sport is often sexualised.

“You don’t say ‘Serena Williams you need to play tennis like a girl’. It’s the same skill.”

The Pro Wrestling EVE tournament has been running across England for the last six years, but until this month has not come to London. Dann explains why it has been so popular.

“For those who’ve never seen wrestling before it’s unlike anything you’ve seen.”

He explains that a key aspect of the sport was the ability of performers to read and react to the expectations of the crowd:

“It’s not all choreographed. The top characters are actually competing against each other.”

Hackney show

Pro wrestling
Alpha Champ makes her entrance to the arena; Credit: Pro Wrestling EVE

Dann wanted to bring his show to London to promote his talented wrestlers. He was drawn to Cre8 due to the venue’s work in encouraging girls to take part in sporting activities.

One of the stars of the show will be reigning champion Nikki Storm, a 25 year-old wrestler from Glasgow.

She made her professional debut in 2008 and has been keen on the sport from a young age, having watched wrestling on television. At the age of 18 she decided to join the Scottish wrestling alliance. Storm says she is excited to bring the EVE show to a Hackney audience: “It’s amazing – we’re making history, not reading about it.”

Although Nikki loves what she does and is grateful for the opportunity the tournament has given her, she has also been frustrated by the sexism in the wrestling world: “Early on in my career I would be backstage and I would be largely ignored or if I wasn’t ignored I was hit on.

“There are a lot of opportunities that would not have come around so quickly without Pro Wrestling EVE.”

The tournament will take place on Sunday 20 March at the Cre8 Lifestyle Centre in Hackney Wick. Doors open at 3pm and the wrestling kicks off at 4.

Additional reporting Molly Fleming

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