Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thank You and Goodnight, Rachel Summerlyn

An absolute icon is leaving wrestling for good
Photo Credit: Kelly Kyle/Texas Anarchy
Sunday in Austin, TX, Inspire Pro Wrestling will be holding its second event dedicated mostly to its burgeoning XX Division, No Turning Back. The present and future of women's wrestling in Central Texas will be on full display. Mia Yim will challenge for the NWA Women's Championship held by Barbi Hayden. Three more competitors will look to punch their cards for the XX Division Championship match. A slew of talented wrestlers will continue on the neverending quest to prove to everyone that wrestling ability is not bound by gender, but the biggest thing to happen on this show will involve one of the pioneers taking a microphone for the last time and saying goodbye.

Rachel Summerlyn wrestled her final match on February 16, 2013 according to Cagematch, defeating Sami Callihan in front of a raucous Upstate New York crowd for Squared Circle Wrestling. Injuries kept her from the ring initially; she stayed on the sidelines to pursue other things in her life in privacy. Even though she never officially retired before her appearance on Sunday, she quietly has been living life on her own terms, outside the wrestling industry and most importantly away from the bullshit politics and personal strife that had haunted her backstage in the final year or so of her active career. Every decent person deserves peace in their lives, and for the last year, Summerlyn has seemingly gotten that kind of tranquility that she couldn't get haunting the same ruts she had at the end of her career. But for someone as influential, as talented, and as important as she has been to Austin and San Antonio locally and independent wrestling on the whole, she deserved some kind of closure as well.

The hip thing would be to paint Summerlyn's career as some kind of tragically underrated period in time. I don't know how she's perceived nationally, mainly because I've spent the last three-plus years of my wrestling fandom focused in on promotion in Texas like Anarchy Championship Wrestling and Inspire Pro, but it was in that area of the country where her fearlessness and intensity set an example for everyone. From her first match against Mickie Knuckles in IWA Mid-South, where she was thrust into a baptism of fire in the form of deathmatch wrestling, all the way through her gorefests with Scot Summers, she was never afraid to bleed, never afraid to take the big bump, never afraid to toe to toe with whoever it was she tasked herself with wrestling. Gender meant nothing, and because of that, it meant everything. She was every bit as feminine as one might expect from a blonde bombshell and still would knock anyone down a peg or two regardless of who they were.

And even if Ring of Honor or SHIMMER didn't know what kind of performer they had with her, she still left an indentation nationally. ACW for years was a hub for the best wrestlers in the world to cycle through, and up until the beginning of 2013, that promotion was her yard. I would like to think that Sara del Rey came through Austin, saw Summerlyn belly up to the bar against lunks like Summers or psychopaths like Matthew Palmer (and I mean that in the most glowing positive way possible, luv u Centerfold) and thought she could do the same thing up north. Daizee Haze, El Generico, Chris Hero, RD Evans, Portia Perez, Jessicka Havok, all of them came through Texas in some fashion, and they were all indelibly touched by her fire and passion.

That fire and passion isn't dying by any stretch of the imagination; it will just be directed into various areas of her own personal life instead of wrestling. While a great fire is being extinguished in the wrestling world, Summerlyn, like every great performer, has the absolute right to end her career on her own terms. She has given so much to wrestling and honestly has never asked for anything in return but a fair mind to the art she was creating. And for that, I am eternally grateful. She more than anyone changed my mind on what wrestling could be, who could wrestle each other, and what limits and boundaries could be broken. She's forever an icon to me.

And so I say thank you, Rachel. Thank you for putting your blood, sweat, and tears into your work. Thank you for breaking boundaries. Thank you for leaping from the balcony of the Mohawk and making Scot Summers bleed his own blood. Thank you for the prom dresses, for becoming Harley Quinn, and for Cookie Monster. Thank you for sharing your bromance with Jessicka Havok and for sharing your time with me on my podcast. Thank you for everything. Now go enjoy life. You deserve it more than anyone in wrestling that I know.