Does Pro Wrestling Belong In Steampunk?

An Editorial

By Ashley Lauren Rogers

Before we begin I want to let you know I’ve got an Indie Gogo live for a new stage combat show called SCOWL: Fight For Your Rights. Check out more info at the end of this piece!

As steam shoots from the stage a woman with fiery orange hair, corset, and striped attire enters from Gorilla Position. She is “The Irish Lass-Kicker,” Becky Lynch. Fans scream, many wearing goggles with “Becky Lynch,” painted on the side of them that they purchased from the official WWE shop. Becky Lynch is a professional wrestler, a WWE Superstar, and a former Smackdown Women’s Champion. Lynch has been a part of the WWE roster and instrumental to the “Women’s Revolution,” in 2015 and has been Steampunk since her feud with Sasha Banks a few months prior to that in NXT. She’s a major player currently on the Smackdown roster and she’s Steampunk but that brings up a question which surprisingly has rarely been considered… Is Professional wrestling Steampunk?

We can talk about the visual aesthetic of Lynch, and the antics of Aiden English and his former tag team partner Simon Gotch (now working the independent circuit under the name Simon Grimm) as The Vaudevillains but beyond aesthetics and character, at the core of Pro Wrestling, is it Steampunk? Much like freak shows, and wild west showcases of the past the art of pro wrestling evolved from turn of the century circus and carnival culture. Pro Wrestling as we know it today emerged from a series of grappling bouts by circus strong men who’s matches would be similar to amateur wrestling matches. These strongmen would challenge one another as well as paying customers.

The problem with this style was two-fold: first the organizers couldn’t guarantee the length of the match and amateur wrestling matches tended to be two-to-three hour long affairs but second the organizers couldn’t guarantee their chosen champ wouldn’t get hurt challenging random carnival attendees. Both problems hurt said organizer’s potential paycheck. If his champ were injured he wouldn’t be able to compete thus lost wages and as entertaining as these feets of strength and athleticism were the audience would eventually become bored.

Over time this was improved upon thanks to a number of performers including and mostly thanks to the likes of “The Strangler,” Ed Lewis, Billy Sandow, and Toots Mondt amongst others. By pre-determining the ending of the matches organizers could ensure a better level of safety for their competitors and by instilling time limits the audience would have a sense of the longest time a match could run, and by expanding the repertoire of what styles and maneuvers were allowed within a match (including Grecco Roman, Boxing, and various other martial arts styles) it added a much more visually interesting style for carnival goers to watch, and also being able to work out the finishes of the matches ahead of time optimizing storytelling drama.

While many of the changes, the flash, the long form storytelling are fairly recent (post 1920s) many aspects of the Carnival/Circus culture has never left the business, or at the very least it lasted until the internet age. There’s an attitude that has always existed of maintaining the idea of reality (a term known as Kayfabe). Wrestlers/Superstars for long stretches of time would have to maintain their character outside of the arenas and gymnasiums they’d perform in so as not to drop the veil that this is a legitimate competition.

In WWE superstar Chris Jericho’s Autobiography A Lion’s Tale he discusses the use of “Carnie speak,” amongst wrestlers in order to be able to talk about the business but not tip their hand that said business is predetermined, and in his time working in Germany observing that a common way how the Faces (the good guy in this case) would find themselves tricked by his dastardly Heel (the bad guy) opponent and fined money by the referee. The face would go out to the crowd to raise money in order to pay his fine and continue the match. Backstage the three would split the profits.

Professional wrestling is a style of story-telling is rooted in 19th century history which has been improved upon, changed and evolved with modern understandings but still harkens back to the old-school style and history that shaped it. Always moving forward while maintaining a sense of what it was. That sounds pretty Steampunk to me.

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More about SCOWL: Fight For Your Rights

Support our Indie Gogo and Check out our Twitter @SCOWLFight and Instagram for more updates!

We premiered SCOWL as a concept first at Motor City Steam Con a year ago and have been approved for a full show at The Transgender Theatre Festival at the Brick in Brooklyn.

SCOWL: Fight For Your Rights is an action packed theatrical presentation combining stage combat choreography, acrobatics, and mixed media to create queer and trans inclusive theatrical performance with a sports appeal. Much in the same way streaming shows like GLOW, live theatre like The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, and even long form storytelling elements from shows like WWE and Lucha Underground.

How far would you go to fight for your rights? To stand up to insurmountable odds? To refuse disrespect? When The Riarchy Corporation bought out the majority shares in SCOWL they instituted rule after rule, seeming to punish those most in need of support. Pushed to the edge it’s up to former SCOWL champion April Rain and a motley crew of trans and nonbinary warriors to defeat the Riarchy Corporation in a best of three competition. If they win Riarchy Corporation owner Pat Riarchy will give up his shares in SCOWL and dissolve the Riarchy corporation. But if she loses, April, and all members of the SCOWL roster will have to present and compete as their sex assigned at birth or leave SCOWL.

Published in: on May 6, 2018 at 9:26 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a great article. As a someone who has done pro wrestling and writes a steampunk comic on bareknuckle boxing, I think you can learn so much about writing combat from putting a match together using the seven steps in a match.

  2. That’s so cool! I had no idea about the roots. Thanks for a great article


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