‘Sexualising any athlete is wrong’: The women’s wrestling game has changed forever
We met Bea Priestley, a ‘young feisty redhead ready to take women’s wrestling by the throat’
It’s safe to say that the wrestling world has been a pretty sexist place in the past. Women are often subjected to mud sling matches, bra and panties matches and other trivial activities that would never be expected of a man.
Bea Priestley, who was one of the first women booked by independent Wrestling company is just 20 years old, but has already killed it with her feisty fighting style in New Zealand and the UK. and has moved her success from New Zealand to the UK scene. Now based in London, Bea describes herself as: “A young, feisty, fiery redhead, ready to take the British Women’s Wrestling Division by the throat.”
I spoke to Bea about how the world of women’s wrestling is changing.
Have you ever been treated unfairly by either crowd behaviour, expectations of what you should do in the ring, or backlash from fans because you’re female?
I think women have it hard to get booked , generally shows only really have one female match, so there’s lot’s of competition, but that competition means that the girls that do get booked are normally really good quality athletes. As a woman you need to stand out and know the right people.
Have you ever experienced sexist heckling?
I’ve had grown men shouting “have my children” and “nice tits”, but thats started to die down. But online, people commenting on my body always seems to pop back up. If a girl doesn’t have a perfect body crowds will only point out her flaws, they don’t comment on men being ‘out of shape’.
You’ll get female wrestlers who aren’t the best athletes- but they get on the promo poster because they’re attractive. Because there are so little female matches in comparison to male matches the women get remembered every time, so you can easily be branded ‘the chubby girl’.
Does sexist treatment of women in wrestling acts as a deterrent for those who want a career in the sport?
People need to get over the fact that its going to happen regardless. People will always comment on women’s bodies- and wrestling involves that on a bigger stage. If you want to be an athlete you should look like an athlete and train like an athlete, there are some exceptions, but wrestling takes thick skin.
What’s your advice for girls and women who want to get into watching and following wrestling or even become a wrestler themselves?
Wrestling is always evolving, and women’s wrestling is at a high point. I used to be shy about wrestling, I didn’t tell a lot of people in high school that I watched it because they would think it was dumb, but that’s only a problem if you let it be. I like what I like and opinions don’t matter to me anymore.
I actually saw a bunch of guys from my high school when I want home to New Zealand, they had seen my last woman standing match online, they started tagging all their mates under the video, they’re the same boys who made fun of me for being into wrestling in the first place. Now I’m getting paid, you just need to keep at it and stay passionate.
Adam Pacitti, the General Manager at WCPW, told me how the company planned to support female wrestlers and treat them more seriously in the sport. He said: “It’s taken a long time for major productions to present women’s wrestling as the way it should be.
“Traditionally the women have been demeaned and objectified, and most importantly not being taken seriously. The recent Sasha Banks VS Bayley Iron Man Match on NXT Takeover was seen as a turning point for female wrestling and the diva’s revolution was a big step. It’s just a shame its taken so long for this to happen.
“We as a company believe that women should be treated no differently to men, and thats the way it should always be.”
He added: “Unfortunately wrestling to a female fan can hold the stigma associated with being a female gamer, it’s heavily populated by men and women may not be taken seriously. To female fans who may be worried about making their love for the sport public: Embrace it.
“When I was at school ‘losers’ liked wrestling and now I make my living doing it. People who took the piss out of me are coming out of the woodworks and asking me to retweet their crap, it says a lot, and its the same for women too. Life’s too short.
“Sexualising any athlete, male or female is wrong. fortunately at WCPW events we haven’t had much of that stuff happen. I think behaving like that is pathetic, and I’m pretty people who do behave that way aren’t getting much action.
“We’re looking for exactly the same qualities that we look for in male wrestlers. You’re not going to see a three minute women’s match in WCPW,we take our bookings very seriously. Normally you see one female match per card and that’s something we’re looking to expand upon to make sure that every weekly episode has women’s wrestling.
“If you’re a woman who wants to get into wrestling professionally there are great training companies all across the UK, so go for it.”