For many years, there has been an influx of Black wrestling talent and content creators that have helped shaped the industry in a positive manner. From legends of the past such as Booker T, Ron Simmons, and The Rock (to name a few) to the stars of today and tomorrow like Ricky Starks, Big Swole, and Willow Nightingale, it’s hard to deny the impact that Black wrestlers have had on the industry.
Even so, it seems like there’s always been an uphill battle to face in terms of representation — but it’s one that’s not as hopeless as it might seem.
In Inclusive Creations’ new documentary Wrestling with Whiteness, filmmaker and wrestling content creator Jaychele Nicole explores the experiences of what it’s like to be Black in the wrestling community. Through interviews with notable Black wrestlers and content creators alike, Nicole strives to uncover the experiences shared by Black people within wrestling and how their contributions have given rise to a new form of representation for fans worldwide.
Wrestling with Whiteness is a moving piece that deftly handles its subject matter by showing the unique viewpoints of Black people within the greater wrestling landscape. It is a documentary that shines a light on the importance of representation and why it matters more than ever now in wrestling than it has in the past.
RingCrashers had the pleasure of chatting with Nicole about her new documentary and the process that went into crafting Wrestling with Whiteness to ensure that the stories being told were as clear as they needed to be.
RingCrashers: How did the idea for Wrestling with Whiteness come about?
Jaychele Nicole: I have always been interested in wrestling. As a Black wrestling fan, I always cared more about the wrestlers of color. I wanted to focus on using my community organizing experience to help make the wrestling community more inclusive for Black fans like myself, along with the wrestlers.
RC: What was the best part of creating this documentary? What was challenging about it?
JN: The best part about the documentary was getting to work with wrestlers and companies that I hadn’t worked with before. I love making new connections and bonds with people in the industry. This gave me a great opportunity to do that. I was also always pleased with my interactions with the wrestlers and how open and transparent they were when it came to sharing their stories.
I have always wanted to but struggled to work with major companies to get interviews. Fortunately, through this project, I was able to change that. I also expected a lot of pushback on Twitter from the trolls and bigots. Being Black in wrestling media is already a challenge, so I wasn’t expecting anything worse than what I normally receive. It didn’t end up being too bad. Not as many personal shots as I expected. Nothing that I couldn’t handle, to be honest.
RC: The documentary is split into five segments, which include “Brotherhood/Sisterhood”, “Transformation of Role Models”, “Accurate & Authentic Character Representation”, “Ways to Change the Community” and “Advice to Future Stars”. What was the thought behind putting these individual segments in the manner they were put?
JN: When I first began to interview wrestlers, I had about 20 questions I wanted to ask. I ended up wildling that down to about 10 to 12. From about the halfway point of doing all my interviews, I could tell that there were some shared experiences. I originally called them themes, but that sounded so corny. I decided to organize the clips after Lillie Alexandra of Fightful helped me timestamp and mark up all the interviews with some notes. Based on those notes and timestamps, I began to star, circle, and arrow who would be going where, at what time, and in what segment.
RC: Of the Black wrestlers interviewed, who were your favorites to interview?
JN: I enjoyed my conversations with Darius Lockhart and JDX. I wasn’t going to put out the series if Darius Lockhart wasn’t in it. Swole was such a necessity for me as well. I was so grateful to finally interview her because of our offline relationship. She’s so kind and lovely every time we interacted. Of course, Ricky Starks was amazing. I didn’t even imagine that I would’ve been able to include him. Willow and Tasha were also amazing gets and conversations. They’re both two huge role models for me and I speak with them often now. It’s very hard to choose a favorite if you can’t tell.
RC: What do you hope viewers of Wrestling with Whiteness will come away with when they see this documentary?
JN: Wrestling fans, and wrestlers alike, will be able to learn from the experiences of Black wrestlers. The purpose of the Wrestling with Whiteness project is to develop feelings of empathy and to educate non-Black wrestling fans. Even Black wrestling fans who may not be connected to wrestlers, or know their stories, may be able to learn the other side of this work. It is also empowering to see so many Black wrestlers get involved in a project together.
RC: BONUS: What impact do you hope to make as a wrestling content creator?
JN: I hope to expand people’s opinions on what representation and inclusion in wrestling should look like. I hope to use my experience as a community organzier and DEI specialist to turn wrestling fans into allies. I also want to further incorporate Black culture, and Blackness in general, into wrestling and wrestling media.
Marc Quill is the editor of RingCrashers, GateCrashers’ home for all your All Elite Wrestling and indie wrestling needs. He’s also the web novelist behind Skye Emery: Bluebird, which you can read here. You can chat with him about wrestling, comics, and stuff in general on @MarcQuill on Twitter.