Wrestlers throw sexism to the mat
An artsy, filthy, feminist fury powers this league of ladies as they get ready to rumble
Imagine if Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson were a doughnut-chomping harpy in an electric-blue bodysuit. Picture CM Punk as a woman with hairy armpits impersonating a beaver. Or try envisioning the Undertaker joyously showering his opponents with garbage and projectile vomit.
This is the world of the League of Lady Wrestlers: a Toronto collective that aims to be weirder, wilder and infinitely more disgusting than anything pro wrestling has to offer. The LOLW was born in 2013 in Dawson City, Yukon, by artist Aubyn O’Grady. The first match was held in the yard next to her cabin, in a wrestling ring made out of car tires salvaged from the nearby dump. Participants were made up of friends and locals, all of whom enthusiastically agreed to make their own costumes, invent characters and wrestle in front of more than 200 people. The event was a roaring success.
In 2014, O’Grady moved to Toronto, and soon three other women from the League followed. (The Dawson City LOLW lives on, as does a new edition in Montreal.) They’ve since held several LOLW events here, with Friday’s Island Rumble II marking the second time the League has held an event outdoors, at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island.
“Getting to the island is a commitment, so we know our fans are ready to engage in a night of wild women,” O’Grady says.
Fourteen wrestlers will be fighting at the Rumble — all female or female-identified (the league is open to transgender women) representing a variety of ages, sexual orientations, body types and wrestling styles.
There’s Shreeka, the Dredgepond Siren, who uses magical potions to disable her opponents. Then there’s O’Grady herself, who wrestles as Big Jody Muffpaw, a lumberjack whose finishing move is the CanConfriendly Log Driver’s Waltz. Friday’s match will be her last: in her two years with the League, O’Grady has broken a leg and endured 19 stitches after falling onto a glass bottle.
But she says the wrestlers play on the safe side. “We don’t try to push limits too much,” she says. “We know we’re basically backyard brawlers. We get moves off of YouTube.”
Although they are serious about what they do, the LOLW view themselves as more of an art/performance project than an actual wrestling league: they’re closer to characters from a John Waters movie than WWE personalities.
They collaborate regularly with local artists and musicians for their events, which helps keep costs down. Past brawls have included performances from the Toronto noise band New Fries, and comic artist Michael DeForge acted as O’Grady’s manager for a few bouts.
Ultimately, the group aims to subvert the stereotypes perpetuated by female performers such as the WWE’s hyper-sexualized divas: they want to show that there are myriad definitions of femininity and that it is OK for women to be strong, weird, hilarious, queer and disgusting. O’Grady thinks this element of subversion is what keeps crowds coming back.
“People come expecting a wet Tshirt contest or Jell-O wrestling, and instead we’re giving them a real show.” The League of Lady Wrestlers present Island Rumble II Friday at 7 p.m. at Artscape Gibraltar Point. Tickets $15. Info at bit.ly/rumbleII.
From left, League of Lady Wrestlers members Garbageface, Doughnut Messaround, Beaver Fever and Kitty Stardust.