Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Candice LeRae, PWG, and Moving Gender Equity Forward

Devin Chen: PWG TEN 8/9/13 &emdash;
By taking a ton of abuse alongside other luminaries, LeRae has made it
Photo Credit: Devin Chen

Back when I was still writing for Cageside Seats, I wrote an article criticizing Pro Wrestling Guerrilla's lack of female performers in the company and warned about them pushing guest star talent over the Southern California mainstays who made the company great in the first place. In one fell swoop over the weekend, specifically at night 2 of this year's Battle of Los Angeles tournament, they answered both criticisms in one post-match angle.

Candice LaRae, PWG's most visible and tenured female performer to date, was aligned as part of the resistance to the new stable of big swinging dicks in the company. World Champion Adam Cole, Tag Team Champions the Young Bucks, and Mr. PWG himself Kevin Steen aligned at the end and were placed in direct opposition to BOLA winner Kyle O'Reilly, LaRae, dyed-in-the-wool original Joey Ryan, and next big thing Drake Younger. She's squarely in excellent company not only within the company, but within the independent scene on the whole.

To say this turn of events was a pleasant surprise was an understatement. I conditioned myself to always have the complaint that PWG wasn't going to bring in women and they were going to continue to be a sausage party, despite the fact that women have been forcibly asserting their worth in the independent scene. LeRae had always been a fixture in PWG, and when she was on shows, she was treated with the utmost respect vis a vis the rest of the roster, which outside of dalliances from Christina von Eerie and ODB, has been almost unanimously male.

She had previously been relegated to opening matches, but now, she's in the main event. Elevation equals agency, at least from onset. Some companies like Anarchy Championship Wrestling have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to female performers who interact with males on the roster and are granted full agency. But Chikara is the other company that has gotten a reputation for being gender equal, and they've only had three active women on the roster at most at any given time in the last five years.

The question isn't how many women a roster has, it's how they are integrated into the fabric of the story. Sara del Rey could have been the only woman on Chikara's roster, but she was pushed to the main event when the fans got behind her. She was Eddie Kingston's equal. To me, even only one woman who is allowed to infiltrate the men's club is proof enough.

Granted, LeRae right now was only equal to her peers and referee Rick Knox in that all five of them ended up immolated by the Bucks, Steen, and Cole. However, she not only held her own against Ryan in the feud they had last year, but she was presented as his better. I trust PWG will do the right thing and use this feud to make her not only the first female main event player in the company, but also become the next Ryan, the next Brian Cage, the next Young Bucks and be Southern California's native pride.

All a wrestling company needs to do is put forth one example in good faith. Right now, LeRae has resolved one of PWG's biggest critiques just by taking a triple superkick in one match and a wounded-warrior beatdown ending in a package piledriver after another. If this story evolves the way it should, then PWG will have earned boundless goodwill on top of the massive amounts of it they had stocked already.