Some have referred to pro wrestling as a “soap opera for men,” and it’s easy to see why. The stories are melodramatic, but at the end of the day, they’re largely about macho chest-beating. All conflicts, no matter how absurd, can be solved through good ol’ physical violence.
Yeah, there’s a lot of testosterone in the air.
But that doesn’t mean it’s all a boys’ club. After all, to torture a cliché, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” right?
“If I said some of the things I say in the ring or did some of the things I do, I’d probably have a nice criminal record by now,” Chrissy Johnson, of Duryea, says.
Like many wrestlers, of course, the version of Johnson you might meet on the street is very different from the one who’s been crackin’ skulls in the squared circle for the past eight years. Indeed, being able to indulge her dark side and build up a larger-than-life persona is part of the appeal of wrestling for her.
That said, the departure of her in-ring character from her everyday personality isn’t the only reason Johnson says people still seem surprised to find out she’s a pro wrestler. Simply put, she’s part of a minority. Homegrown female talent remains a rarity in NEPA’s wrestling scene.
Sammi Pandora, of Union Dale, is one of the newest local ladies to lace up a pair of wrestling boots, having graduated from Back Breakers Training Center in Scranton just last year.
“When I went to the training center for the first time, I was the only girl in the place. There wasn’t anyone else there,” Pandora recalls.
Though she admits the gender disparity intimidated her at first, Pandora quickly learned to channel that into motivation. She pushed herself to take just as much punishment as her male counterparts, and you better believe she dishes it out, too.
“Every now and then, if I’m in the ring with a guy, they might stop and ask if I need a break or if I’m OK, which they wouldn’t ask if they were in the ring with another guy,” Pandora says.
“Sometimes you’ve got to antagonize them a little bit to get them to see you differently, to see you not as a woman but as a fellow wrestler.”
As frustrating (and maybe a wee bit amusing) as those kinds of experiences are, the fact that they exist suggests a surprising advantage to the otherwise unfortunate minority status women wrestlers have in the NEPA indies.
That is, in a major promotion like WWE – which Pandora recently got a firsthand taste of, appearing as a member of wrestler Adam Rose’s “party posse” during his “WWE Monday Night Raw” debut earlier this month – male and female rosters are often kept separate. Men wrestle men and women wrestle women. Men compete for a variety of championship titles, while women have only a single gender-specific belt to fight over.
Meanwhile, in the local independent scene, the lack of female wrestlers dictates more mixed-gender matches and, to a degree, more equality. It’s arguably a progressive step forward, even if it is one perhaps born more of necessity than choice.
“Wrestling is like anything else; it has its good and its bad. I met my boyfriend through wrestling. I’ve gotten to travel. People know who I am all over. I’ve been on TV, I’ve done interviews, my name has been in magazines, and I’ve met so many people, people that I still keep in touch with that I probably never would’ve met if I wasn’t in this business,” Johnson says.
“Things are always changing. At the end of the day, the good outweighs the bad.”