If you watched the AEW event last night, you probably recognized a lot of the newly announced members of their roster, but maybe not all of them. Sonny Kiss, for example, isn’t quite as well-known as the Lucha Bros, even though he’s also appeared on Lucha Underground. Yuka Sakazaki certainly isn’t the legend that Aja Kongn is, although our joshi devotee friends assure us that she’s also pretty awesome. Another woman who appeared and isn’t all that well-known yet is Nyla Rose.
Nyla’s been wrestling since 2013 in promotions like Covey Pro, Warriors of Wrestling, and even Meiko Satomura’s own Sendai Girls Pro Wrestling in Japan. She’s also a transgender woman, which is still extremely rare in the pro wrestling mainstream. By signing with AEW, she probably just became the most prominent trans pro wrestler in the world. We could says, as Pink News did, that she’s the first trans wrestler to join a major promotion, but that would probably just lead to an argument about whether or not AEW counts as a major promotion yet. However, if AEW gets the TV deal most are expecting and becomes the success they seem to have the potential to be, Nyla Rose will be inarguably breaking new ground for trans people in wrestling.
I wasn’t particularly familiar with Nyla’s work myself, but I’ve been checking out some matches on YouTube since last night, and I think she’s pretty exciting. As a pro wrestler, she defies the unfair social expectations placed on trans women — that they should be as small and traditionally feminine as they can possibly be, as if in atonement for being trans. Nyla is unafraid to use her size and physicality to dominate and intimidate, in the tradition of larger-than-life cis women wrestlers like Aja Kong, Chyna, Awesome Kong, and Jazzy Gabert. It takes a lot of courage to play that role as a trans woman, knowing the kinds of things jerks already tend to say about those women.
Nyla Rose isn’t a star yet, and she probably has room to grow as a performer (who doesn’t, really?), but she shows a lot of promise and she deserves the same chance at stardom, the same room to grow, as any other young wrestler who just made their first big signing. We haven’t seen much from All Elite Wrestling yet, but it’s very promising to know that they’re willing to give that chance to her.