Considering where professional wrestling has come from, what it used to be, and what it still is much of the time, it’s no surprise that there is a wave of accusations of sexual assault and domestic abuse levied at wrestlers at all levels. And yet the sheer scope of what took place this past weekend with the #SpeakingOut movement within the industry is jarring.
Starting late last week, women wrestlers and fans started sharing stories of sexual assault and abuse by male wrestlers all over the globe under #SpeakingOut. Some names at the top of the industry were implicated, and some even saw immediate consequences. Matt Riddle, Jordan Devlin, Jimmy Havoc, Jack Gallagher, Trent Seven, and Will Ospreay are just some of the names that have worked for major companies and were either accused of heinous acts themselves, of shaming survivors, or of covering for accused assailants.
What happened to men accused has been of varying degrees so far. WWE claimed it was merely “looking into” the allegations against Riddle and Devlin, but fired Jack Gallagher.
AEW announced it will wait to see what to do with Havoc after he completes rehab for substance abuse and counseling, though it sounds like we may have seen the last of him with the company.
It wasn’t just the top companies, however. Indie darling Joey Ryan was accused by no less than 12 different women of sexual assault and abuse. He has since been fired by Impact Wrestling and seen his own independent promotion company, Bar Wrestling, shut down, as well, in response.
Jim Cornette, a borderline behind-the-scenes legend in the industry, was accused of forcing young wrestlers to perform sexual acts with his wife when he was running Ohio Valley Wrestling.
The movement created an even bigger fissure in the U.K., and that’s where it started. David Starr, who had been a fixture in Progress and Revolution Pro Wrestling, was accused of rape and abuse and has subsequently been dropped by just about everyone in the aftermath. From there it has snowballed. Will Ospreay, a huge star in the U.K. and with New Japan Pro Wrestling, was accused by Pollyana of blackballing her from shows and companies after she came forward with stories of being sexually assaulted by a friend of Ospreay’s, wrestler Scott Wainwright. NXT U.K. stars like Travis Banks and El Ligero were also among those named. Banks was accused of sexual assault of underage girls, while El Ligero was accused of sexual abuse and manipulation. The list of other wrestlers that have been accused goes on and on.
While this may come as hardly a shock to outsiders, given wrestling’s reputation, the independent scene especially has grown in popularity, partially due to its focus on inclusivity and promotion of women wrestlers. WWE’s women’s “revolution” of 2015-2016 was essentially a response to the rise in popularity and sincerity of women’s wrestling, and intergender wrestling on the indie scene. Whereas WWE had previously only considered women wrestlers as eye-candy or worse, it was on the indie scene where they were first treated as equal performers. Only as that grew did WWE began to take women wrestlers seriously.
But clearly the whole industry still has far to go, even if it’s a minimal sign of progress that these women felt they could finally speak out.
As for the big companies, it’s easy for WWE to fire Gallagher, as he was barely a factor in its on-screen product. Riddle, however, had just been moved to Friday Night Smackdown from NXT and was clearly highly thought of by the company. His first-ever match on the main roster was against staple A.J. Styles. Where that investigation goes and WWE’s response to it will be a major test of just how seriously they take accusations and investigations of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
Same goes for AEW. Havoc had carved out a spot on television, but not such a big one that he couldn’t be easily removed and replaced. Guevara, on the other hand, is a major star who is being built as a pillar of the company and show for years to come. Again, what his and AEW’s response to his vile comments will show just how far “evolved” they are from WWE, as they certainly like to claim.
UPDATE: Both Sasha Banks and Sammy Guevara released statements Monday afternoon via Twitter.
AEW also released a statement on the future of Sammy Guevara: