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Juneteenth in the Key of Wrestling

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Juneteenth originated on June 19th, 1865 as a celebration of the emancipation of the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas after the Civil War. Today, Juneteenth stands as a symbol of hope, resilience, liberation, and freedom for Black people around the United States.

Today is a reminder of how far Black people have come in today’s society. I believe that one of the areas where that progression is most apparent is in the world of professional wrestling.

Over the last decade, Black wrestlers have moved to center stage in a way that hasn’t been seen before but there’s been no more significant example than the reign of dominance exemplified by Black women in 2023.

Merely 6 months into 2023, we’ve already gotten to experience 4 Black women holding titles in 4 different major promotions simultaneously: Bianca Belair as RAW Women’s Champion in WWE, Jade Cargill as TBS Champion in AEW, Athena as ROH Women’s World Champion, and Mercedes Moné as IWGP Women’s Champion in NJPW.

We watched Bianca Belair become WWE’s longest-reigning Women’s Champion of the modern era, holding the RAW Women’s Championship for 400+ days.

We witnessed Jade Cargill go on a 60-match undefeated streak and set the tone for the TBS Championship, holding it for over 500 days.

We were spectators to Mercedes Moné making history yet again, moving major ticket sales and main eventing shows for the historically male New Japan Pro Wrestling.

We’ve gotten the pleasure of seeing Athena embark on an enthralling new chapter of her career, blazing a trail as the most dominant women’s champion in the history of Ring of Honor.

For the first time ever, two women and more specifically, two Black women main evented a New Japan Pro Wrestling PPV when Willow Nightingale defeated Mercedes Moné to become the inaugural NJPW Strong Women’s Champion.

Since ROH TV launched on HonorClub in March, Black women have been in the main event twice (Athena vs Willow Nightingale and Athena vs Kiera Hogan) and more main event matches look to be on the horizon.

Trinity made her long-awaited debut in Impact and immediately became one of the brand’s biggest stars. She challenges for the Knockouts World Championship at July’s Slammiversary event.

Beyond their accomplishments in the ring, these women have had massive contributions to Black culture. Little Black girls from Compton danced and performed on the stage of Wrestlemania 39 as a part of Bianca Belair’s entrance. At AEW’s Double or Nothing PPV, Jade Cargill paid tribute to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, the first sorority founded for and by college-educated Black women, by strolling with her sorority sisters, accompanied by a performance from Big Boss Vette. Willow Nightingale and Jade Cargill were panelists at the 2023 Black Sports Business Symposium, speaking about their experiences being Black in the pro-wrestling world.

Courtesy of WWE

Courtesy of Scott Lesh Photography

From these women, we’ve learned valuable lessons about radical love by them showing up to different promotions in public declarations of sisterhood & support.

They’ve served up iconic looks, leaving us anticipating their next gear, next hairstyle, and next entrance in a way that only a Black girl can.

As a Black woman who grew up loving wrestling, there were little to no wrestlers I could see myself in. Fast forward to 2023 and there’s at least one, if not multiple, in nearly every major promotion. There is still a lot of work to be done to make professional wrestling more equitable for everyone but this Juneteenth is a great reminder of just how far we’ve come. Just like Jazz, Jacqueline, and so many other legends who paved the way for the Black women of today, there are so many other incredible women coming up the pipeline who will take the torch and continue to pay it forward.

This generation’s Black women wrestlers are setting a standard of excellence, creativity, and unwavering confidence. Black women in professional wrestling are here to stay, whether we’re wrestlers, referees, announcers, content creators, podcasters, or even just fans. We’re taking up space, shining our light unapologetically, liberating ourselves from societal expectations, and not asking for permission. If that doesn’t call for celebration, I don’t know what does.


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