The Ring is known for bearded middle-aged men screaming all kinds of profanities to each other. A great show of testosterone-driven bravado and fist punching into thin air. Dripping sweat is dried with towels, and their names are reflecting the powerful force which they are going to thump their contenders with. People from all-over drive long distances to see the mighty spectacular, scripted drama, spray-tanned bodies and celebrities in the Ring. This is professional wrestling. Amidst this masculine bravado in the heart of pro-wrestling, Capital One Arena, in front of a crowd of 14 128 people, there are two women in the Ring. One is petite and Japanese, weighing no more than 98 pounds. Her name is Riho and in the opposing corner, Goliath is waiting, Nyla Rose at 185 pounds.
Nyla Rose made history in the world of professional wrestling when she became the first transgender woman to get contracted by a large wrestling promotion company in the United States. She was also the first transgender woman, competing in the Women’s World Championship, in Washington D.C., her home town. This was on the opening episode of All Elite Wrestling’s newly launched Dynamite. Dynamite is still very young but has grand plans to become a strong competitor to WWE.
Rose joined the Shadid and Tony Khan’s AEW earlier on in the year, initially only focusing on her strength and downplaying her gender for a while. She wanted to focus on the storyline, her native heritage and her striking size. But with fame came the critics. Social media got ridden with an intense backlash concerning a transgender woman who is competing against much weaker women in the Ring. Plenty of pro-wrestler supporters felt that it was unfair to have her compete against women who were visibly not comparing to her. Some expressed their concern for the safety of the other women. Politically motivated, polarising and virtue signalling is how others referred to her presence in the Ring.
In contrast to all the critic, there is a crowd who felt that seeing her in action against women wasn’t such a big deal. Supporters come for the work, the punches and the wrestling. They felt that is where it should stay. To many, it is about being entertained, and entertainment is what Rose brought to the Ring. Rose is a mixed martial artist with formal training as an actress. She grew up in a lower-middle-class home, where she used to watch wrestling with her grandmother. During her school career at TC Williams High School based in Alexandria, she was wrestling once a week. It had a lot less theatrics, and she decided to join the drama department instead. Now she has the best of both worlds. In her mid-20s, she started transitioning and being the first transgender woman in the Ring is precisely the place where she wants to be.