Rachel Summerlyn, via Dirty Dirty Sheets
Women in independent wrestling are experiencing something of a golden age. While SHIMMER, Women's Superstars Uncensored, Absolute Intense Wrestling's Girls Night Out series and other promotions and events are providing a legitimate stomping ground for segregated female wrestling, the real mark of this conquering of the world outside of WWE and TNA is coming where gender-mixing is the norm. It's clear that through what Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and especially Anarchy Championship Wrestling and Chikara are doing that there may be a time in the near future when gender divisions are obsolete. Yes, the gender barrier is coming down, and we're powerless to stop it. For people like me who don't care what anatomy his favorite wrestlers have, this is awesome. For others, well, they'll just have to keep shouting at the abyss as they're on the wrong side of history.
That being said, for as much good as ACW is doing to promote the fact that women like Lady Poison, Athena, Angel Blue and especially Rachel Summerlyn and Portia Perez are just as talented as their male counterparts (and with regulars like ACH and Davey Vega and visitors like Akira Tozawa, Jerry Lynn and Chris Hero, Anarchy has more than enough male wrestlers who can toe the line in any promotion in America), it still seems weird that nominal segregation exists there. While Perez and Summerlyn have held "main" titles in the promotion, both still compete for their American Joshi Championship and the latter at least is in the Queen of Queens Tournament that is happening on Sunday in Live Oak, TX (suburb of San Antonio). Then again, to peer into the soul of Anarchy is to see how they see things.
The first thing to note is that they don't have a "Women's Championship" or a "Divas Championship" or anything that's frilly or flowery or stereotypically feminine. It's the "American Joshi" Championship. While yes, joshi is the word used to describe Japanese women's wrestling, that's where the gender specification stops. Joshi is reputed by nearly everyone who watches it in addition to men's puroresu to be at the very least just as brutal as their male counterparts. Women need to go twice as hard to get half the respect, and for their efforts, they're not as famous as the Misawas and Mutas of the world and in fact have their moves, style and mannerisms lifted from them by the men, often with not even the courtesy of a hat tip. The word itself connotes toughness at least and even superiority at best.
Then there's the Queen of Queens Tournament. Again, it is a feature that has women, but there's nothing frilly about the competition itself. It's always hard-hitting and action-packed, and this year's slate would suggest no different. Jazz and Jessicka Havok, for example, are two of the hardest wrestlers ever. Call either one of them out for not being as good as the men because of gender, and my guess is your jaw will be dislocated from the rest of your skull in short order. The lineup isn't the only thing that sets it apart this year or in any other year either. Their other major tournament, the Lone Star Classic, is not just open to men, but open to all wrestlers. In fact, it's where Perez won the Anarchy Championship, and she wasn't even the only female entered. If anything, if there is a "suppressed" gender in ACW, it's the men, and I doubt any of the competitors there will tell you that they feel like they're repressed at all.
In a perfect world, the endgame for all this intergender interaction in ACW would be a unification match between the American Joshi and Anarchy Champions down the line, a sign of respect that would be more than a gesture, but an actual living manifestation of their already progressive attitude. Even so, with the split titles and the women-only tournament, ACW is proving that gender isn't a difference. Even if they weren't, they should be applauded for being the leaders in showing that the term "women's wrestler" is outmoded and antiquated, and that we should refer to Summerlyn, Perez, Jazz, Havok and everyone else on the roster as only "wrestlers". It really is the highest respect anyone could bestow on them, even if their rule would be one under a queen instead of a king.