When the opening bell rang at London’s first ever all women’s wrestling event last month, it called time on another fight that has rumbled on for more than 60 years.
Professional wrestling in London was outlawed in the 1930s, and when the ban was lifted in 1952, the Home Office quickly passed a by-law exempting women.
The ban was finally dismissed for both sexes in 1987, but with the rise of American wrestling and their focus on ‘divas’, women’s wrestling became, for the most part, a sideshow.
But the ‘Let’s Make History’ event, hosted by professional women’s wrestling organisation Pro Wrestling EVE at the Cre8 Lifestyle Centre in Hackney Wick aimed to ‘redefine’ this much maligned genre.
The evening featured many different styles, from the taut, technical wrestling of April Davids and local fighter Pollyanna, to the all-out physical contests often referred to in wrestling vernacular as ‘slobberknockers’.
In fact, the sheer close-up danger of the slams, leaps and head-first drops on show triggered audible shock amongst some curious, less experienced punters, who seemed surprised at just how real this ‘fake sport’ could be.
Lighter moments came with the arrival of identical twin tag-team The Owens Twins, and the suspiciously English-accented Tennessee Honey, billed as hailing from “Peckham, Tennessee.”
At one point, two wrestlers launched each other into the venue’s soundproofing tiles, leaving a visible dent and triggering speculation that EVE’s damage deposit was in jeopardy.
Luckily, the venue staff seemed to be getting into the spirit of things.
Cre8 employee Melissa Herbert, who spoke of remembering “the originals – Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks…” told the East End Review: “I hope they are successful. They’re bringing something different to Hackney.
“There are girls out there who want to do something physical, but something different.”
As if to hammer this point home, a representative from South London wrestling school Burning Hearts circulated the crowd, asking punters whether they could see themselves lining up alongside the stars of EVE in future.
A chant of ‘this is wrestling’ echoed around the auditorium and, as a bruised but triumphant Rhia O’Reilly emerged to lift the EVE Championship belt, the message couldn’t ‘ring’ any clearer.