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Get to know the British wrestling collective where ‘queer joy’ is central
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Get to know the British wrestling collective where ‘queer joy’ is central

London: Think fishnet tights, silver hot pants and long false eyelashes, and add bodies bouncing off ropes and landing butts on faces in takedowns. This is the queer wrestling group Fist Club.

Their mission, they say, is to prove “that wrestling isn’t just drag for straight guys, it’s drag for everyone.”

It was that sense of fun that delighted the audience in a sold-out north London theater for their latest show.

The group’s founders – Daisy Lang, Ash Wilk and Heather Brandenburg – shared a love of wrestling, but wanted a space that accepted people who didn’t align with the conventional image of a wrestler, so they created one.

“For me it’s all about the strange joy,” Wilk told Reuters backstage. “Nothing gives me the same strange joy as Fist Club.”

That joy comes as much from the costumes and makeup, which incorporate drag and cabaret elements, as from the clinches and joint lock moves performed in the ring.

Several extravagantly tattooed acts laugh and pose in the dressing room as they put the finishing touches on their wigs, paint pencil mustaches and apply glitter where necessary.

“My identity doesn’t fit the cis-straight male identity of your kind of typical wrestler,” said Lang, whose characters include drag king Rocky Rhodes.

By creating a space that is queer-focused and trans-inclusive, they believe they have created a show where everyone can feel at home, a modern take on the wrestling that attracted an audience of millions when it was televised in Britain broadcast. Seventies and eighties.

Back in North London, the crowd cheers with joy as a character dressed to resemble singer Tina Turner recovers from a painful-looking shoulder kick to overpower an opponent wearing crotchless trousers and a bikini top.

Fist Club presenter Katy Bulmer says it shows the universal appeal of what the group does.

“It doesn’t have to be your whole gimmick, you can just book queer people, you can book trans people,” Bulmer said. “And people will come, and people will cheer and people will understand.”

Published May 9, 2024, 7:29 AM IST