Ladies sing the bruise: Philly female wrestlers on the rise

Provided/ Costume by Costume by Kate Nix

The art of wrestling isn’t just one to be enjoyed by the guys —especially when women are packing such a punch in the wrestling world.

Earlier this month, every boy and man you knew was likely glued to the WWE World Heavyweight Title’sFatal Four Way Match, but Philly’s women were riveted by the launch of an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign for P.L.O.W., Philadelphia Ladies of Wrestling, at the 2300 Arena.

On its fundraising page, P.L.O.W. says, “We are bad a— Philly babes who kick butt and will inspire confidence, strength and independence in all women.”

Best known as the spot where “The Wrestler” (2008) was filmed, the 2300 Arena welcomed the aspiring femme-wrestling federation formed by women with names such as “Gnara-Lee,” “Diamond Hitz,” and “Whitey Houston.”

They’re looking for money to train in Chikara, a Philadelphia-based promotion focusing on tag teams and the high-kicking Lucha Libre style, as well as afford gear and a ring of their own.

“The Politically Incorrect Crowdfunder Launch Party proved to be a great kick-off,” said Hitz of the $2,000 raised and the raucous good time had by all. “If people weren’t excited about a new female wrestling league in Philly, they wouldn’t cough up the cash.”

Though female wrestlers are not new to the Philly area, 2016 is the biggest year yet for the ladies of local wrestling.

Princess KimberLee of Chikara — “a comic book come to life,” says trainer Mike Quackenbush —was the first female to be named the main champion of a mixed-gender wrestling company in January.

And that’s not all — many local independent matches now feature women on the card.

“More women are getting into training all the time and more women are doing amazing things in the ring,” says Hitz, who credits Philly artist Lauren McFadden with creating P.L.O.W. and putting together a team of talented and driven girls to round out the roster.

“It’s totally inspiring to see.”

Then there’s the fact that Kate Nix’s wrestling costume company, Closet Champion, is on the rise.

“I got an overwhelming amount of new client mail when KimberLee won the Grand Championship in Chikara in December 2015,” said Nix who began designing with local burlesque companies and theater troupes. “Wrestling is becoming a more welcoming environment as the world becomes more aware of the capabilities of women.”

Nix points to wrestling’s DivasRevolution and the return to WWE Women’s title:”I also think that the good old boys of wrestling are fading out.”

Like Chikara trainer Quackenbush, Nix sees her designs as “visual storytelling,” which means she gets to use her dramatic skills. “If your gear makes no sense for who you are as a character, then it’s hard for the audience to believe your story.”

Quackenbush, the founder of both Philly’s The Wrestle Factory and ChikaraPro, is a former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion and said he treats his training of women just as he would men.

“We’ve trained men and women since the day we opened in 2002 — same classes, same curriculum,” he said. “There’s nothing a man can do in a wrestling ring that a woman cannot. In the last 15 months, we’ve seen a big increase in our numbers. We once had a single female trainee. Now we have 11.”

Soon,Quackenbushwill have more when the P.L.O.W. crew join in — and they’ll likely buy Nix’s outfits as they are fans of her work. It’s cyclical.

“All of the funds raised go directly towards training and costumes,” said Hitz. “We are dedicated to getting in the ring full time and becoming the best athletes and performers we can be, which will only enrich the audience’s experience where the arts, or women kicking a— is concerned.”

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