As a child growing up in the 80s, my weekend highlight was watching Big Daddy at my Nana’s house. The excitement and drama that the weekly wrestling brought to the living room was captivating. Back then and, let’s face it, until recently, wrestling was a male-dominated industry. Women had limited appearances and, when they were involved, they faced backlash, sexism and sexual harassment.
Fast-forward to 2019 and things are different. Women’s wrestling has a global following and the UK is the place to be if you want to thrive in this immersive theatre world.
Husband and wife team, Dann and Emily Read, founded EVE, a London-based female wrestling academy, in 2006. Their vision and determination to create an environment where women felt comfortable performing has been extremely successful. They now train hundreds of women from all walks of life and fill theatres across the country with their captivating punk, feminist shows. Later this month, EVE – Riot Grrrls of Wrestling is in Manchester and, according to the couple, audiences will be immersed in a world where women are empowered and superheroes come to life.
“EVE is more than just wrestling,” says Dann. “It is an evening of the most intense live action you’ll ever see. It is a chance to immerse yourself in the drama. Cheer, laugh, boo, whatever you fancy, during a night of death-defying, jaw-dropping, action-packed, wrestling stunts fuelled with cabaret, comedy and drama.”
Emily, a former wrestler, knew she wanted to make it a better, fairer and less sexualised space and, along with Dann, has been instrumental in changing the perception of wrestling and making it a safer and more welcoming environment for women.
“I had some bad experiences and wanted to create a female wrestling company where women would never have to worry about being groped by men in the ring or cornered in the locker room with guys,” she explains. “Wrestling has a lot to offer. It is a place where women can come and reclaim their bodies and minds and feel empowered.”
The couple is thrilled about their upcoming visit to Manchester. “As soon as we visited Fairfield Social Club, we felt there was such a warm community spirit where people want to make a difference, which resonates with the work we do. We are so much more than the show. We are helping to empower women from so many walks of life. Wrestling gives women a chance to step away from their everyday lives and become something else. The comradery and energy that it ignites is amazing”.
The hit Netflix drama Glow has helped to change perceptions and entice a new audience to the industry. The couple have good relations with many of the cast including Kate Nash (who plays Rhonda ‘Britannica’ Richardson) and Welfare Queen (played by real-life wrestler Kia Stevens). Glow’s success has seen a surge in women joining their academy.
“Glow has really helped what we are doing,” says Emily. “And we have been delighted to create opportunities for women to learn a new skill, take themselves out of their comfort zone and become someone else in the ring. They can transform into the person they wish they were in everyday life and also use it as an opportunity to release any inner frustrations, making it very therapeutic.
“It is a perfect platform to be creative and let loose. There is no age limit and as long as the women are in good health, there is no reason why women of all ages can’t take part.”
Audiences in Manchester are set to be entertained by a ferocious cast of 16, including one of the best female wrestlers in the world, Sakura Emi from Japan, who is a sweet-natured woman out of the ring but a force to be reckoned within it.
“You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to watch the show,” says Dann. “It is a great opportunity to let loose for a few hours and have a bit of a giggle.”
The couple have ambitions to grow and would love to expand their academy into Manchester. If they do, I know I for one will be the first to sign up for a wrestling lesson.
Main image: Glow star Kate Nash faces off against Eve Jetta. Photo credit Rob Brazier.
Eve Riot Grrrls of Wrestling is at the Fairfield Social Club on October 25, 2019. Doors open at 7.30pm and the event starts at 8pm. Tickets on sale here: https://www.evewrestling.com/tickets
As with all standing room-only EVE events, Absolute Scenes is an 18+ show. EVE events often contain strobe lighting.