Lots of surprises on Thursday’s All Elite Wrestling (AEW), but one of the biggest was the announcement of US indie wrestler Nyla Rose, who has been competing the past few years in Japan, announced as part of Brandi Rhodes‘ AEW Women’s division. While the rest of the announced stars were rather well-known indie stars like The Lucha Brothers, Best Friends, and Kylie Rae, the announcement of a virtual unknown like Rose took many by shock. But Brandi did mention she’d been scouting for stars in Japan, and following the announcement of joshi legend Aja Kong, Tokyo Joshi Pro‘s Yuka Sakazaki and now Sendai Girls and Marvelous wrestler Nyla Rose, her vision is coming through. But what was an even bigger deal than all of this was the fact that with her signing, Nyla Rose becomes the first transgender wrestler to sign a major contract with a major promotion.
A student of Christian York, CA Elliott and John Kernon‘s KYDA Pro Wrestling School, she made her debut in 2012. In 2013, the Alexandria, Virginia native joined local Covey Promotions, with showcases in Women Superstars Uncensored (WSU), Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW) and Women’s Wrestling Revolution (WWR). In 2016, she headed to Japan, where she began to work forChigusa Nagayo‘s Marvelous and Meiko Satomura‘s Sendai Girls, as well as working for other joshi groups like WAVE. She also returns to the US with New York’s New York Wrestling Connection (NYWC) and Warriors of Wrestling (WOW), where she’s reigning and 2x WOW Women’s Champion. Nyla Rose is also Native American, of Oneida descent.
It marks a dramatic shift in the portrayal of LGBTQ+ wrestlers in pro wrestling. Earlier in the evening on Thursday, AEW also announced the signing of gay wrestler Sonny Kiss (also known as XO Licious on Lucha Underground), while many openly gay wrestlers are finding unprecedented success on the indie world, such as Parrow, EFFY and Kris Wolf. One of the top stars in the SmackDown women’s division right now is openly lesbian wrestler Sonya Deville, whose sexuality has been completely tuned out (although not ignored) in favor of simply presenting Deville as the kick-ass fighter she truly is.
For transgender wrestlers, it’s been a harder struggle. With the constant arguments against bone structures, muscle mass, etc. (most of which are complete bunk), transgenders wrestlers have had troubles getting into the business. But there have been some trailblazers before Nyla Rose. American wrestler Amanda “The Blood Thirsty Vixen” debuted first in 2011 with American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) and in the UK, Harley Ryder made her debut in 2013. Amanda also won a title, winning the WILD Women’s Championship from Lucky O’Shea in 2011, in the now defunct World Independent Ladies Division (WILD) Wrestling promotion in California.
In December of 2016, New Zealand’s Impact Pro Wrestling’s Candy Lee became the first transgender wrestler to win a major indie title in a country, when she became the new IPW Women’s Champion. She continues to be a rising star in the blossoming Australia/New Zealand indie scene.
Nyla Rose signing with AEW has set a new precedent in pro wrestling in the US, as one of the impending new major players on the US pro wrestling scene has opened his wallets and arms to a member of the transgender community as one of their own.