Prologue: Fangirl Revisited

Where do I begin? Before we can move forward, we must take a moment to go back. Back to a previous article, I had written.

As you may recall I wrote an article months ago about how I longed to finally attend an event as the real me. The me after I started to transition. The me that no one in the wrestling world has ever gotten a chance to interact with before. I desperately needed this to happen, and a little pandemic called COVID-19 had delayed it for longer than I desired. I yearned for it in my heart, the want and desire to attend wrestling as a Trans Woman who knew she was exactly that. I was prepared mind, body, and soul, now I just need a moment, an opportunity. All Out Weekend gave me that opportunity. With anxiety coursing through my veins, with my bank account on its knees begging me not to, and massive amounts of self-doubt, I made my purchases, I made my plans, I took my time off, and I made my way to Chicago.

Below is the definite personal account of my time spent during All Out Weekend. It begins in the same way a lot of my life adventures seem to start, with tragedy, but unlike years past (or at least how it felt) there will be a triumph, there will be a celebration, there will be the high feeling of living the dream that I never thought I could feel. There will be angels who lift me up, friends who won’t let me fall, moments and memories I will treasure forever. I feel I am not a great enough wrestler to fully and completely put pen to paper everything I felt that weekend. I must admit in advance, I will come up short. I will get as close as I possibly can though. With a tear in my eye, and a shudder in my fingers as I type I will do my best to convey and explain how the weekend felt, how the weekend moved me, and through it all what I will carry for a lifetime. This is my story, and I hope you will take the time to read it.

Chapter One
Hello Darkness My Old Friend (And the Light that Saved Me)

You can do everything right and still lose. That uncomfortable reality ringed in my ear as everything began to fall about at the Thrifty Rental Desk.

I sincerely believe one should not have to suffer in order to understand or experience bliss. One should not have to shed tears of tragedy to eventually experience a smile of satisfaction. Pain should not have to come before pleasure. Tragedy does not need to come before triumph. I believe in all of those things. With that belief in mind, it seems inevitably many of my stories must begin that way, and my downward spiral that almost derailed my happiest of weekends was started with a simple statement.

“Sorry Sir, we cannot rent you a vehicle”

The misgendering was salt in the wound that was already cut deep and wide with that statement. Due to dead name issues, and credit check issues, a car I had paid for and rented months in advance would not be given to me. The vehicle I desperately needed and planned on relying on exclusively for my entire stay was now no longer going to be given to me. Keys denied, plains derailed, OCD triggered. I try not to use “trigger” lightly, so let me be clear that when I say triggered I mean TRIGGERED. My body started shaking to the point I had to sit down, the tears were flowing, I started to scream, I started to cry, I started to curse. I somehow calm myself down long enough to apologize and excuse myself from the Thrifty Customer Service Desk. I only got a matter of feet away before my whole body started to convulse and I found myself in a pretzel-like mess on a flow talking to my friend in Virginia pleading, crying, screaming, upset isn’t the word for it. I felt like a helpless child. I felt trapped, I couldn’t breathe, I breathed too much. My heart raced, my head pounded, I started to meltdown, self-destruct. I self-destructed to my friend, I self-destructed on Twitter, I self-destructed to my fellow Voices of Wrestling contributors. I felt embarrassed and ashamed while I did all of it, and I couldn’t stop. I felt myself disassociating, I felt I could witness my own self-destruction. I started to self-harm…. I was close to cutting into myself with my nails and making myself bleed. I kid you not, I started to think the darkest thoughts as I sunk deeper into my anxiety. Then I notice, someone had DMed me.

“What’s wrong?” inquired the DM. I’m not sure that was the actual wording but that’s how I remember it, that’s how it was best summed up. I blinked, not believing who was messaging me. I have no idea how they saw my self-destruction on Twitter, but they had. I swallowed, took breaths, and told them what was wrong. I will keep the conversation private but in the end, they would PayPal me all the money I need to survive the entire weekend’s transportation needs. All they asked was not to be revealed, and I will keep my word on that. Know I am grateful, they were a lifeline, a saint, and one day I hope I can do for someone in need what they did for me. I steadied my breath, repeated to myself “get up and move, get up and move, get up and move.” and bit by bit I forced myself out of the airport, ordered a lift, and got the hell out of there. From there, it would be nothing but up and away. A nightmare almost derailed my weekend before it had even started, but now, a dream that I would make last as long as I could was about to start.

Chapter 2
Burgers and Violence. They Go Great Together

“Here you go, it’s on me” said the bartender as she slides a blood-red hard cider toward me. I was at Kuma’s Corner, and with heavy and loud death metal blaring I felt a surprising sense of ease. This was the place I needed to be to get rid of all my negative thoughts and feelings. A waitress came to me and gave me props for my pro-Transgender gear I was wearing and told me of their own experiences and soon-to-be attempted journey. I gave them all the props in the world in return and encouraged them. The waitress would end up getting one of the best tips of the weekend for how she treated me, and how she took care of me. My burger was arguably one of the best burgers I ever had. As the death metal assaulted, with consent, my ears, and Mad Max: Fury Road playing on all the televisions, I felt oddly soothed. Normally, one wouldn’t consider any of these things soothing, but I did. It was exactly what the Doctor (Wagner) ordered. I felt my nerves calm, and as I bite into the burger for the first time in its medium-rare glory, the juices dripping all over my french fries, I felt my anxiety being defeated, the last bits of it melted away and burned for good. I had the money, I had the motel room, I had an experience ahead of me, but most importantly I had an evening with violence. As I finished my burger, gave my tip, and gave a nod to the waitress who showed me love, I made my way to The Art of War Games.

Ever since I fell in love with GCW with Run Rickey Run, I wanted to attend a GCW show and know how it felt, know how it would hit me. On this night I would find out, it hit me like a sucker gut punch. I felt extremely of place and instantly felt this wasn’t the crowd that I belonged in. That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time, I had a blast, but there was something different, something off. An uneasy and unfamiliar feeling I could not shake away. I feel part of the issue is I was alone and on my own, and I knew absolutely no one. A stranger in a strange land trying to navigate waters she has never charted. I wouldn’t dare put the blame directly on GCW. I was an unfamiliar person in an unfamiliar place. The Grand Sports Arena on the other hand didn’t help matters. Despite its first name, there was nothing grand about this place, I felt the need to scrub myself with sandpaper in a very hot shower within minutes of being there. That said, also within minutes of being there someone working the door fist-bumped me, once again for my Pro-Transgender clothing and mask. That gave me all the comfort to my nerves I needed. With a confidence boost and knowing I would be alright, I dove into checking everything out.

A few more people would approach me and let me know they loved my Transgender mask and shirt. I began to calm down if not fully fit in. With that encouragement, I was able to find my chair and experience violence. Such extreme violence. No workrate, no psychology, no well-put-together wrestling, just violence, and I was ABSOLUTELY FUCKING OKAY WITH ALL OF IT. Watching the two-ring ladder match and that insanity brought me to my feet and kept my mouth wide open. Allie Kat and Deppen had a very fun and entertaining match, and WARGAMES was the deathmatch violence I knew I should’ve expected. There was no rhyme or reason, just 12 men beating and blooding the ever-loving shit out of each other. I even got showered in the glass after Effy got put through a glass panel, I remember having to flick shards of glass off my skin. In a sick, perverse way it was kind of awesome. I got exactly what I expected and paid for with the Wargames match. Getting what you paid for, an amazing concept.

I was almost a damn idiot in the end. The night was almost ruined, without realizing it because to save money on a Lyft I ALMOST left after War Games. I will never forget the man before the door warning me not to, who told me it would be worth it. I listened, turned around, and experienced one of the best moments of the weekend as Moxley made a surprise appearance and kicked Cardona’s ass to become GCW Champion. I was so emotionally charged my knees became weak, Moxley does have that effect on me, and I fell to the ground. As Gage came out to make it clear he wanted to fight Moxley I went into full fangirl mode realizing I was about to get one of my dream matches in the future. I’d do “ALMOST” anything to see that live and in person.  In the end, despite not being my scene or normal crowd, my attending GCW was a success, I got the EXACT experience G.C.W promised and while it may taste bitter in some ways, I’m glad I was able to taste it all the same.

Thank you Game Changer Wrestling, you put my anxiety through a glass panel and it didn’t get back up. Oh, I made sure to fist bump the guy who told me to stay, he prevented me from making a big fucking mistake. You’re my hero. 

Gay Brunch Jeri

Chapter 3
I’m Here, I’m Queer, and I Want Some of those Pastries My Dear

Ain’t no rest for neither the wicked or weary, and weary I was. Didn’t change the fact there was a big day ahead. I woke up early and got my butt ready for breakfast at a cafe called Buttermilk. Allow me to do some free advertising, if you ever have a chance to go to Buttermilk in Naperville, DO SO! It is excellent. I had a benny with buttermilk biscuits and topped with fried chicken breasts with two over-easy on top. It was amazing and if anyone had joined me for breakfast they would’ve been horrified as they watched me devour this beast and conquer it. I was intimidating as hell and you would’ve trembled before me. The most amazing thing they gave me though was the homemade cracklins. The cracklins were fantastic, I absolutely loved digging into them. Perhaps one of the best side dishes I ever had. An undercard match that stole the damn show. Combine that with an excellent cookie dough latte, and I was in heaven. I didn’t even believe in heaven, but my mind has been changed. Buttermilk was heaven. It was so much heaven I would go back before I would leave the weekend behind. This isn’t a story about Buttermilk though, and Buttermilk was only for the appetizer… going to the biggest gayest brunch in town.

You know how I feel about it. Effy’s Big Gay Brunch is a show I’ve written about on a couple of occasions and one I desperately wanted to attend. Truth be told it was one of the main reasons I wanted to make it to this weekend. If I was going to attend I was going to do it right. I put on my Bihexual witch shirt, a schoolgirl-Esque skirt, kick-ass tights (see picture above). It was exhilarating. I looked good, felt good, and I hoped I didn’t get arrested for murder cause I must confess, I killed it. I went into this show with much more confidence than I did The Art of Wargames, and the moment I stepped in line and started talking to a few attendees, I felt at home. They greeted me and let me into their circle(s) immediately. We talked, we laughed, we connected, it was beautiful. These were my people, this was my community, I felt hope, I felt acceptance, I felt belong. I almost started crying right there. It was that emotional for me. I can’t overstate how important being at the Big Gay Brunch to me was. Everything felt beautiful and every little thing seemed like it was going to be alright, and they were.

Then the show itself happened, it was everything I had hoped for, expected, AND THEN SOME. Everything I want/dream out of my pro wrestling was here. Such diversity, such inclusion, such importance, and significance. The crowd was a positive and loving crowd, ready to cheer and root on everything. We were here for every single moment, every single wrestler, every single ounce of all of us. We were a unity, a community, loud and proud and demanding to be heard, seen, included. It ruled hard. No judgment, no gatekeeping, no excluding, acceptance, understanding, love and warmth.

There were so many moments that stick with me. I paid Dark Sheik five dollars to staple onto Allie, AND SHE DID. (Sorry Allie, I love you, just wanted to see you get stapled that’s all). I had Pollo Del Mar dance up against me, and it was fantastic. I even was able to achieve a hug. YES! Devon Monroe and Ashton Starr killed it and stole the show (in my opinion) and everyone else put on a beautiful, meaningful, important show. THERE WAS BRUNCH and I made sure to get myself some mimosas and pastries out of the deal. They were all delicious, and it went to a local LGBTQIA+ charity which made it even better. Oh at one point there was also a hot pink dildo in thumbtacks that was almost used as a weapon. Clearly, this was important information I needed to share. I had to tell a fan to be careful not to step on it. A highlight for sure. the SGC and Billy Dixon/MV Young beat the shit out of each other, there was a scramble match that exceeded all expectations. Atlas and Effy had the main event and it was worthy of being called the main event. Welcome back Atlas! I got to see one of my favorites in Edith Surreal perform. Combine all that with meeting people I have only tweeted, and being gifted a cookie that was Effy’s ass? Yeah, all of this ruled so very much. I fell in love hard. It was everything I had asked for, and I felt truly blessed. I say it proudly, wrestling is gay, and I will do all I can in the future to make sure it gets even gayer. As I left the arena my heart was filled, but now it was pounding, for the weekend was about to reach the climax. I’m all about that climax and every inch of me, every pure and utter bit of fangirl that was inside me, outside me, and was well… you know…. was actually me was about to explode. There would be witnesses, there would be no casualties (other than my voice). But first… there was a BBQ.

Chapter 4
Realizing my voice belongs with the Voices of Wrestling

“Maybe I had made a mistake” was the admitted thought going through my head as I arrived at my destination. Seems ridiculous in a lot of ways, but I was timid and nervous realizing I was about to step foot and meet the other members of this website.

I knew the right house, but I pretended not to. I was at a  moment that I both was looking forward to and was concern about all in the same breath. I must admit, and I feel embarrassed admitting, I was afraid and hesitant. I was now standing before the house of Chris Samsa, and in his backyard were many more members of Voices of Wrestling. I twiddle my fingers as I approached the gate. I kept telling myself “they will like you” over and over again in my head. These were my peers, these were the people, and their friends/significant others, that I wrote with and for. While I always joked and teased they were about to meet an awkward mess of a human being I started to feel my body start to shake. I almost took out my phone and ordered a Lyft to take me to NOW arena instead. What if they hated me? What if they thought I was dumb? What if I got kicked off the site cause I was insufferable? Would they see and respect me as a woman? What if they didn’t. What… What.. What. What if everything went wrong and they regret inviting me, and this was the end?

“Hello, I’m Chris” This casual and normal guy with the casual and normal voice who casually and formally shook my hand said. A simple act that helped in the biggest way. I still felt nervous, could feel myself rubbing my arms up and down but that simple statement and greeting began the slow thaw. It’s amazing how simple gestures can help. Next thing I know I had a bratwurst and a cup of water in my hands. One by one I met, and admittedly at times forgot the names of members of the website. They were chatting excitedly about wrestling, and the bonds that had already been formed amongst many of them were already felt and easy to see. It was kind of daunting, I felt out of place and wondering how the hell did I get accepted into this group? Slowly but surely I began to get more comfortable. I fit right in. I was able to joke, talk, express, and enjoy myself. The desire to run, the second-guessing went out the window. In particular, it was wonderful to meet people who weren’t part of the site, or only were occasionally. I won’t single anyone out, but in the end, I felt like I significantly grew my relationship with the site through going to this BBQ. A BBQ I kept going back and forth about whether or not I would attend, and I’m glad I did. 

In the end, we all took a couple of group pictures, I’m unfortunately front and center (Gotch, do I hate that.). Nevertheless as I look at that picture I can’t help but smile at everything. A collection of friends who were accepting and welcoming and made this girl feel like part of the crew even though I had only been a part of everything for a short while. What they did too, directly and indirectly, help me feel relaxed and calm cannot be overstated. I had great conversations and felt respected and listened to. I felt like I belonged, and I love that feeling. That feeling of belonging and acceptance. This may be to meta since I’m writing about this site on this site, but getting to meet my fellow writers and podcasters truly made me feel like I had another community I could depend on and trust. A feeling that was proven true when my rides (AND FOOD) would be taken care of for the rest of the evening. They helped me, they took care of and protected me, and I will never forget that. Never. Then, it was on to the show. The show the weekend was about to culminate too. All Out. We had a suite, we had each other, the ingredients were there. Now it was time to put the recipe together. 

Chapter 5
It All Came To This

As we pulled into the massively packed parking lot I took a moment to close my eyes and open my heart. It was go time.

Here we finally were. I took in a calming breath as I put my mask back on. The anticipation hit me like a Stan Hansen lariat as I slowly entered the suite entrance to the arena. As I made my way to the suite I could feel my nerves try to get the best of me. This was the big one. All Out. I was in a suite, I was among my VOW Community. Dave freaking Meltzer was in the booth across from us, not aware about the unholy ruckus that was about to explode across from him. No, I didn’t say hi I was too nervous. Not because he was Dave, but because being nervous is my natural state and I didn’t want to come across as bugging/annoying him. Maybe if there’s another time. 

It is impossible for me to put into words everything I felt and experienced at All Out. It is literally a “YOU HAD TO BE THERE” scenario. The best way I can explain is it is without a doubt the greatest wrestling show I’ve ever attended. The best night of wrestling my eyes have witnessed, my ears have heard, and my body has felt. I definitely felt it, I felt it from the moment the show started and I was REALLY FEELING IT by the time the show ended. I’m not going to lie or lead you on, I let it all out. I screamed I cheered, I booed, I cursed, I stood up, I spun around, I dance, I applauded, I chanted, I cried, I laughed, I freak the fuck out, and I got down with my bad self. I went absolutely bonkers that night.

There was time I shuddered and glanced around, worried I was making a damn fool of myself, worried that everyone else thought I was being ridiculous. No one did, no one was bothered. One person would later tell me he thought I had the most fun of them all, and while I don’t know if that’s true, I had an absolute blast. The moment the proper show began I was in a euphoric state of excitement. Suzuki came out and I lost my damn mind, then the cage match happened between the Bucks and Lucha Bros and I DID lose my damn mind. High fives and cheers around the suite as the Lucha Bros finally won the championships. If the show had ended there I would’ve felt exhilarated. The Bucks versus the Lucha Bros is without a doubt, and without any second guess, the best and greatest wrestling match I’ve ever seen live. And I’ve seen some damn good ones, but nothing that surpasses that. I’m pretty sure I got some swelling of tears in my eyes as the match came to an end. It was beautiful, it was violent, it was majestic and it will replay in my head for a long time.

Then Punk came out and I didn’t start bawling like I thought I would. Oh, the crying almost started, then I started giggling, I started laughing, I started covering my face from the laughter. Why was I laughing? CAUSE I WAS SO DAMN HAPPY TO SEE PUNK. I felt wave upon wave of pure and utter glee wash over my body as Punk made his return and then proceeded to have as good as a return he could’ve had against Allin. It was an amazing moment.

The night ended in a way I had to grow a new brain just so I can lose it once more. Adam Cole, then Bryan Danielson (one of my favorite wrestlers of all time) debuted back to back and Is pun around, I cheered, I yelled, I shuddered, and shook. I couldn’t take much more. I couldn’t handle much more, but they kept overloading me, overloading me, overloading me. I had to step away for a few seconds to catch my breath and recenter. I was so exhausted and drained the suite was dangerously close to having to carry me home. I would not have traded any of it for the world.

Forget the greatest night of wrestling, that’s an understatement that was one of the greatest nights of my life. Amazing wrestling, moments, memories, emotions, friends. Then there was another special small moment. A woman in Dave Meltzer’s suite pointed at my Trans-mask and made a heart out of her fingers to show her support just sealed the deal that this was the happiest I had been in a long time. I’m going to ride that high hard and as long as I can, and as far as it’ll take me. As a half-dead me was taken to IHOP to have a post-show meal I kept doing my best to bottle every ounce of that experience. For when I need it, for when uplifting is a must. I cannot for the life of me put in these words how I felt, as reading them doesn’t do it justice. You had to be there, and by there I don’t mean All Out but at any event or moment of major significance to you. That event or moment that put you at such a high you weren’t sure you ever would come down. Sure you eventually would, but it still wouldn’t take away all you had felt and experienced. All Out was a special night for me, and when my world becomes cold and dark, I will use it to light my way and keep me warm.

Fangirl Welcomed

Needless to say, I was exhausted and rough the next morning. Stand by for picture evidence.

Rough Jeri

Still hella cute though.

As I woke up and took myself to another delicious breakfast at Buttermilk, I sighed as I sipped my coffee. We had come to my least favorite part of the weekend, the ending. It’s the truth though, a necessity. All good things must end, they must end so you can fully appreciate that they happened. As I tipped my waitress close to 50 percent because she was awesome and made me feel amazing, I walked out of the restaurant in an unusual state. A state of my hair lifted high. Things had started wrong, but everything had turned outright. Everything had turned out better than my highest expectations. It wasn’t until I got to the airport and through security, it finally dawned on me, this wasn’t one of the greatest weekends of wrestling for me. This was one of my greatest weekends. The moments, the memories, the magic. The magic. I was touched and spellbound all weekend by friendship, companions, and angels who lifted a helping hand.

Pro wrestling was there for me this weekend. After being away for almost two years it greeted me like an old friend. It held me, hugged me, kissed me, and propped me up when I felt low. It held my hand, sang a song, and let me know every little thing is going to be alright. Every element of wrestling played its part. The independents to the big leagues. The wrestlers and the fans. My peers, and my mutuals. Hell, I got to give credit to the Lyft drivers, the waitresses, the bartenders as well! Everything played its part to perfection culminating into a crescendo of me being at my best, feeling my best, and having a moment of bliss that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I wanted and longed to attend Pro wrestling as the real me and despite the nerves, despite the fear, despite the setbacks, and despite my own self-doubts and criticisms, it was beautiful. It was pure and utter brilliance. I received hugs, I received appreciation. People would call out to me to show support and backing for being the real me. I felt community, friendship, acceptance. I was an out and Proud Trans Woman and no one pushed back, no one talked shit, and everyone embraced me with open arms. Living a life that has often gone so wrong, it shocked me how almost damn near everything was right. Even the car hiccup led to the right as it led to a massive reminder there was good in the world and good people doing amazing things still existed. It was damn near perfect

The reality is wrestling isn’t perfect, there is a lot of roads to build, inroads to make, and changes to achieve, but on this weekend I could’ve been fooled into thinking everything was perfect. As I sit at home with a cat in my lap typing with damn near trembling fingers, trying to get all my thoughts out before they fade away and are no longer fresh, I will leave you all with these final words. You owe pro-wrestling nothing, it owes us everything, and on a weekend I came to collect it paid WITH INTEREST everything I felt due. I thank you Game Changer Wrestling, I thank you Effy and all the performers at Big Gay Brunch, I thank you AEW, I thank you, everyone, who said hi and/or showing support. I thank you Voices of Wrestling for being so accepting of me and making me feel like I fit in, even if I am a circle being pressed through a square hole.

But most importantly, I thank myself. I thank myself because through it all, through everything I’ve had to deal with and fight against in my life, I made it to this point. I made it happen, I got myself to experience it. Did I have help along the way? Yes, I was nudged toward the door, but I had to step through it. I will never fully explain what this weekend meant to me mentally and emotionally, but if I had to sum it up in two words… I would say… almost everything.

Whew, I am so tired as I bring my thoughts to an end. My eyes are growing weary and heavy as I finalize this article. I’ll end this article in the simplest and most honest way possible. Pro wrestling loved me this weekend, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to love it back. I’ll see you all at All Out weekend 2022.