Jacqui and Erin can usually be found watching pay-per-views together, investing in storylines online and pretending to be pro wrestling experts.
In our second podcast episode, we’ll be talking about what exactly hooked us back in post-childhood, looking at some of the recent steps made for women’s wrestling and picking apart some of our favourite characters and genres of wrestling.
This interview was recorded in August 2020.
Erin Dick 0:01
I’ve been thinking about how to introduce you and how to start. But I’m also kind of just like, maybe it’s better if we just like, I don’t want to pretend you know, I don’t want to be like, this is my guest today.
Jacqui Picone 0:13
Also, I don’t think I’m like qualified in any field, or an expert in any knowledge, but I can reasonably be called a guest.
Erin Dick 0:23
Hi, I’m Erin, and welcome to the another episode of Bronco Busters, a podcast sharing the stories of women and queer people in pro wrestling.
In this episode, you’ll meet my friend Jacqui Picone. Jacqui is, in many ways, my wrestling soulmate. We met in my first year of uni, just as I was re-entering the world of pro wrestling. Somehow, I was able to wrangle Jacqui back in, through uncovering a collection of shared childhood memories.
These days, we can usually be found watching pay-per-views together, investing in storylines and pretending to be experts in the artform we love to consume.
We’ll be talking about what exactly hooked us back in, looking back at some of the recent steps made for women’s wrestling and picking apart some of our favourite characters and genres.
I wanted to bring you on to the podcast, because I wanted to kind of set the scene for people who don’t – “Wrestling? Like, what’s that? I don’t understand. Because I think you’re a good case study for someone who like grew up watching it, fell out of it, and then dive back in again at like 150 miles an hour.
Jacqui Picone 1:15
It’s ruined my life.
Erin Dick 1:17
Yeah. And for that I can only apologise it’s completely my fault.
Jacqui Picone 1:21
It is 100% your fault, actually, because I don’t think I would have gotten back into it if I hadn’t met you.
Erin Dick 1:27
No. Yeah. So I am sorry. But I would like you to paint that picture for everyone as to how I wrangled you back in. So most people would know, Pro Wrestling like WWE as children, you know, they might have watched it as kids with their family on TV. And yeah, it’s usually WWE.
Jacqui Picone 1:47
I was very much watching WWE, and I wasn’t allowed to watch it at my house. Mum did not approve. And to be fair, I think the time that I would have been watching it, I can imagine my feminist mother being like, “Absolutely not”. And so yeah, I watched it, like friends houses and stuff, really loved it. And then kind of, yeah, like, hit like 12, 13 and was like, “um, I like boys. I have better things to be doing with my time.” Um, so I stopped watching it. I didn’t watch it all through high school. I didn’t watch it from first, probably five years out of high school, four years out of high school, and then came down to Melbourne and met you at uni. And I don’t even actually remember how we got on to the conversation of it. But there was some, I think it was probably some discussion of John Cena.
Erin Dick 2:39
Most likely, yeah
Jacqui Picone 2:40
And yeah, I think we both were like, “Oh, you watch wrestling? I used to love wrestling.” And I think yeah, so the conversation of like, how you were getting back into it? I think. And I was like “Oh, sh*t, yeah, I should get back into it.” And then yeah, I think we started watching it together.
Erin Dick 2:56
Yeah, I think I was very much on that trajectory of like I was very much back into the WWE Universe again, I was like, all in on that. But was still kind of exploring other international markets as well. And yeah, like local markets and stuff like that, too. But if I remember correctly, I think it was because I like, it’s always like my icebreaker because it just seems to like really freak people out when I’m like, “Oh, I’m an adult person who watches wrestling. Further to that I’m an adult woman who watches wrestling.”
Jacqui Picone 3:29
Yeah, and I think it’s a good conversation starter as well. Because you do then find people who go, “Ah, f*ck, I used to love wrestling.” Or there’s people who have literally never watched it and are like, “It’s so foreign to me, like, explain, explain to me what it is or why you watch it.” So I think yeah, it’s a good icebreaker actually, I always weave it into conversation.
Erin Dick 3:48
I guess like as kids, the whole appeal is that there’s these big characters, right? There’s these like, larger than life characters. And it’s usually a battle of good versus evil or something on that sort of periphery. What’s, what’s the appeal do you think like, as an adult fan?
Jacqui Picone 4:03
I’ve always really loved watching sport, I find it really intriguing, especially live sport, I find it very compelling, I guess. And especially like, when like games are really tight, like a game of rugby or something, if it’s a really close match, and you know, the teams are really good. It’s, you know, it builds that tension really well. And so it’s so enjoyable. And then I think it’s kind of the same thing, but you add theatrics to it, like, because I think the standard of wrestling now especially is so athletic. And so like actual that you can’t say that people who do wrestling are athletes because it’s insane. And because it’s pre scripted,
Erin Dick 4:46
Jacqui Picone 4:47
like, [laughs] but it’s like, because it’s pre scripted you can’t really be like, well, like, because this person’s performing better, they’re gonna win. You kind of never really know what’s going to happen. While like, even though they do, which I find quite intriguing. Like, there’s always like a little bit of mystery, even if you think it’s the most obvious thing in the world, when that obviously happens, you’re like, “Oh my god, like, I didn’t think they’d actually do it”. Like Daniel Bryan winning both belts at Mania. You will like, surely it’s gonna happen. But you always have that voice in the back of your head that’s like, “No, they won’t do it. It’s WWE, they never give you what you want.”
And then he wins. And you’re like, “Oh, my God. So I think, yeah, I think it’s like, partly the athletics and it’s what hooked you when you were younger. There’s just really nothing like it, which I find quite intriguing.
Erin Dick 5:44
Yeah, for me, I guess it’s like, because it’s that amalgamation of sport and theatre.
Jacqui Picone 5:49
Erin Dick 5:50
And that’s how most people I guess I’ve come to learn what it is maybe through like GLOW, for example, that a lot of people started taking to wrestling or being interested by it when glow first came out on Netflix, and especially women. And you mentioned as well, when you were younger, how it was – Your feminist mother wasn’t very happy about you watching it. Do you want to elaborate?
Jacqui Picone 6:12
Well, yeah, I mean, like in the early 2000s, early to late 2000s, obviously, women weren’t portrayed in [a positive light], you know, I don’t wanna say positive because that’s not the right word, but they weren’t treated respectfully. I’d say. I only ever watched WWE, I was really aware of anything else. So, in WWE women weren’t really portrayed as smart or capable, or, you know, they were always either like an evil like femme fatale, like Trish Stratus played that so well. Or, you know, I guess like in my brain, the only one that kind of got away with it was Lita, but then she didn’t, because she ended up in that Edge, Matt Hardy thing. So I think like it was like, women were treated more as objects, or sort of the visuals of wrestling, rather than equals to the men who are competing. And I think when you think like, when we look back on some of the, like, the women wrestlers, they did have the capabilities. But they weren’t really given the opportunity to [perform] and so yeah, I think like, my mum was like, “Um, you’re like, 10, I don’t think I need you watching like a bra and panties match.”
Erin Dick 7:25
I mean, it’s interesting, right? Because, like, I guess I was maybe a few years ahead of you. In that when I was in my obsessive phase, I was probably like, 11, 12 when I was at my, my worst, like buying John Cena merch, all the rest of it. It was, yeah, 2008, 2009,
Jacqui Picone 7:43
See, I was in high school then, I wasn’t watching it anymore.
Erin Dick 7:46
It was still the same, though. Like the women’s matches got like, what, maybe two minutes on a card of like three hour pay per view, for example. And yeah, there wasn’t, I mean, the Playboy thing had just been a real prominent storyline where Snoop Dogg was around all the time, for whatever reason.
Jacqui Picone 8:04
I hate wrestling.
Jacqui Picone 8:09
I think I think that’s like kind of going back to the, what’s appealing about it as an adult is is actually like a nice little break from reality, because you’re watching it knowing that it’s like, especially things like WWE, and TNA and stuff, you know that it’s, one, not real. And two, it’s just a little bit silly. And I think like if you can suspend your kind of like belief in it being a serious thing.
Erin Dick 8:36
Yeah, I think you and I get along watching wrestling on that level, because we view it the same way, like aesthetically and for the storyline, we think it’s a bit ridiculous. But at the same time, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say that we don’t truly invest in those like, really intense grudge match scenarios or athletic contests as well.
Jacqui Picone 8:55
It’s I think, I very much, compartmentalise but like I kind of reserve my like serious, serious wrestling brain for – which is not a thing – for New Japan matches. And then like the silly fun stuff is in WWE.
Erin Dick 9:15
I would say the same. But at the same time, I know that when I watch Japanese wrestling, I’m just like, thirsty as hell. Like, I think we need to talk about how horny wrestling is because I feel like that’s not a conversation that people are having. And we have every single time there’s a pay per view on.
Jacqui Picone 9:31
Every single time and especially when we watch Japanese wrestling, because Japanese wrestling is way hornier. It’s way hornier, it’s more homoerotic by far.
Erin Dick 9:40
I think there’s two sides to it. For me, I think there’s like the homoeroticism, which is very true of all wrestling like, you know, generally you have men in tights and they’re oiled up and yeah they’re just rolling around with each other, that’s very homoerotic. And there’s always these really like serious storylines of like, protect out, tag team, partner and stuff.
Jacqui Picone 10:00
Especially in Japan, where there’s like, got these factions and they’ve got, like I was watching the video of Kenta, when he joins the Bullet Club. And like Shibata coming down. And I was listening to it with the Japanese commentary. And I was reading the subtitles. And I think I told you about this and they were like, “they’re meant to be soulmates. How could he do this to his soulmate?” And it’s like,
Erin Dick 10:25
I think that’s the second layer for me is that it’s the homoeroticism, but then there’s the theatrical, and I don’t know prestigious nature of it as well and makes it so interesting. As a Western viewer to watch. I guess I wanted to also talk about the move towards women’s empowerment. And I’m using quotation marks because we know that it’s kind of flawed in a lot of ways in wrestling, but maybe we’ll just stick with WWE for now. For all that they’ve done well, there’s a lot that they could do better as a brand and as a wrestling company for their women. If we talk about the pros and cons of women’s wrestling in the last like five years, what would you say they are?
Jacqui Picone 11:06
I think it’s a funny thing, actually. Cuz I think the NXT women’s roster at the moment, I’m trying to think of any other one, but I genuinely think they probably got the best women’s roster in the world. And I think you’d be really hard pressed to beat it. So I think the pro would probably be NXT’s booking of the women I think has been really solid. I’d be hard pressed to really point out many flaws. But so yeah, I think a pro is definitely the way that they’ve been booked in NXT. I think in general giving them more time giving them a lot of firsts in the last five years has been good. You know, like your first Hell in a Cell your first Extreme Rules, first [Royal] Rumbles, stuff like that, first Survivor Series. But I think the con to that then has been that it’s been consistently the same women which I get obviously you just do still have to build stars, but I think like Charlotte Flair, and don’t get me wrong, deserves every championship she’s gotten. She’s a phenomenal wrestler, but I don’t think, like I think there’s a point probably like two years ago where you didn’t need to keep building Charlotte, we knew she was good. Like, it would have been nice to see someone else pushed into a good position. I love Becky Lynch, I reckon she’s bloody great. But same kind of thing. I think she reached a point where it was cool she won the both belts, but then I don’t think she needed to really keep being pushed after that. So yeah, I think the con has just been that like, yeah, you’ve got those four women who are like the mainstays of the women’s roster and they’re amazing, but
you kind of seeing no one else really progressing up to a point where they can compete with them. I think like a con has been at there’s been no midcard title. I think rather than, don’t get me wrong, having tagged in belts was great, but I don’t think they have proven as useful as a med card title could have been like an icy title or something.
Erin Dick 13:09
When the whole Women’s Revolution first, right, when that started when it was the Divas era still. And it was kind of Paige and Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, them and then Becky and Charlotte started to kind of filter through and the rest of them. I mean, I could sit here and name them all right, but I feel like the thing that I’m getting at here is that the commercial success and the marketability of the Women’s Revolution came from the fact that the big stars were usually white women.
Jacqui Picone 13:40
Erin Dick 13:41
And that’s still something that lingers very much today in that your black stars and women who are people of colour aren’t getting those same opportunities at that level and that recognition.
Jacqui Picone 13:53
I mean even like you see like the Japanese stars who came ove,r and this is again like the booking in NXT you so consistently good with all women, I think and then they got to the main roster and disappear. Like, Asuka, who is I reckon one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world easily, smashing NXT literally undefeated, comes up to the main roster and I really haven’t seen her do anything that’s been like carrer-defining in WWE. Like she can wrestle Charlotte Flair, she can wrestle Bayley, like she’s so good, but she’s not having title reigns or anything like this like they are. Kairi Sane as well who’s now left, but did nothing on the main roster. I don’t know where Bianca Belair’s gone. An absolute pure athlete, just gone. It’s definitely an issue of, yeah, there’s just there’s no diversity being shown once they get to this main roster where they’re being put in front of bigger crowds, bigger audiences, bigger TV numbers, like, if you ask someone who is like a casual viewer, they could probably only name you, Sasha, Becky, Charlotte… Bayley, I keep doing it.
Erin Dick 15:21
That’s always the one isn’t it? She’s always the one that just drops off at the end.
Jacqui Picone 15:24
She’s so good. She’s on the run of her life at the moment.
Erin Dick 15:26
But like that’s, that’s the, yeah, you nail on the head, like a casual viewer wouldn’t be able to name any of the the other women in that company. And I think it’s a reflection of broader issues. I know you said before wrestling’s unlike anything else. But it is also very reflective, I think of mainstream culture, and what’s happening in the world right now. And, you know, we saw that with the 2000s and the late 1990s. with, you know, just nu-metal was everywhere and it was dreadful. As much as the last few years, I mean, and I think it was for you and I at least as as you know, young women who had grown up kind of watching this stuff, to see more attention being given to the women in formats, like, you know, tournament’s and new titles and things like that was awesome. But we’re at the stage now where like, that’s not, that’s not enough. That’s not acceptable enough.
Jacqui Picone 16:16
I don’t want to be pandered to, like, it’s great to see it’s great to see progress. And like I said, it’s great to see like they brought in women’s tag titles. I was like, that’s awesome. But they haven’t done anything with them. So I’m like, what was the point? Like, don’t just do something to make us happy. actually put on, we want to see that you’re investing in these people and these stories and this, like, invest as much time – If you can put so much time into storylines like the pot plant with Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho, or like, if you can, like if you can invest time into a swamp fight between Bray Wyatt and Braun strowman, like, think about how much time went into that, then how come you can’t develop a reasonable feud between two women? It’s lazy. And it’s maybe like five years ago, it would have been, and it was it was so amazing, like, just the fact that women were getting given time. And it’s why like, as much as I am not a big Ronda Rousey fan, as you know, it was still exciting because, because she was there women did get put in the main event and women did get pushed as legitimate competitors, even though they already were. But yeah, it just I don’t like being pandered to, and I think you are similar in that way.
Erin Dick 17:39
Yeah, I think the thing that really made it clear to me like the moment that kind of broke it for me the illusion of we’re in a Women’s Evolution right now where things are changing, the Mandy rose and Sonya Deville storyline, the fact that they like tried to manufacture like a gay storyline between the two of them who were best friends, but they kind of just gave up on it. It was like too hard.
Jacqui Picone 18:00
Yeah. And now Mandy, who is a genuinely talented wrestler is Otis’ girlfriend?
Erin Dick 18:07
Yeah. And hates Sonya. They have they just like, women can’t be friends.
Jacqui Picone 18:12
Sonya hates her because she’s pretty?
Erin Dick 18:14
Yeah [laughs], yeah, that’s it.
Jacqui Picone 18:16
It’s like, it sounds so silly to say because she was such an over the top but ridiculous character, but like, It’s why I loved Vickie Guerrero. Because she was a bitch. She was just a stone cold bitch. There was no redeeming qualities to her. There was no face turn, there was nothing, like and they just fully were` like, yeah, cool. You are allowed to be a villain as a woman and it’s not based in like, it wasn’t based, in like she’s jealous of another woman. Or like well, you know what I mean? Like it was just that she was just not a nice person. And I kind of really enjoyed that. Like I enjoyed that there was this, like this woman that was just out for herself.
Erin Dick 19:00
So AEW have kind of carved out their brand as the alternative to WWE. And whether they’re achieving a lot of what they set out to do, you know, be the company that appeals to the audience that is disillused by WWE, I think they’ve achieved that I think they’ve managed to attract that audience. However, I think the majority of that audience is still very male, is still very straight, is still very white. And I mean, you can’t say that that’s true of wrestling. Like I’ve had the argument thrown at me that just because wrestling appeals to white straight people because it’s like “hick city”, but that’s because people remember it for what it was when they were growing up right? That 2000s era. Nyla Rose was their women’s champ. She is a trans woman and a trans woman with colour on top of that, and she copped so much abuse from fans because of her existence, right as a woman in this women’s division. And I think that kind of just says it pretty loud and clear that companies as a whole maybe could do a lot more to combat, you know, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism in their fan bases. But we could also say that I don’t know it’s like, is that the responsibility of fans to do that? Is that the responsibility of companies to foster that culture?
Jacqui Picone 20:22
I think it’s kind of both because I think while I do think AEW, you know, there is still a lot that could be done, not to just pinpoint them, but I do think they’ve done a much better job than somewhere like WWE. Like, I think I remember quite early on, they like, banned a few people from their shows and stuff, because they were like yelling out awfully transphobic stuff while Nyla was having a match. And I think they’ve been quite supportive, in the way of like, they put the title on her and have built her to look like a f*cking threat, like, against anyone like she’s a scary woman to be in the ring against. So I think they’ve done a good job in the way of like, not really addressing it in the way that like, it doesn’t need to be, she doesn’t need to be sold on the fact that she’s a trans woman, it just so happens that she is a trans woman. And I think they’ve done quite a good job of just “yeah, that’s the way it is, nothing to pick a big fuss about.” That being said, I think there probably needs to be a greater message to fans that that behaviour isn’t tolerated and those comments on Instagram and stuff aren’t tolerated, but it is still a hard thing to –
Erin Dick 21:38
Yeah, we all carry that burden of making wrestling a better place for everyone.
Jacqui Picone 21:43
Yeah. A safe space for everyone, I think. Like a space where people just can enjoy themselves. Especially because wrestling is such a left field thing in itself. Like it’s not a very mainstream thing. Even though WWE is huge. It’s not it’s not a very mainstream thing. So it should be, you’d think like similar to kind of like your like punk rock and stuff. It should be like that space where it’s very inclusive. It’s very “everyone welcome”. Everyone, you know, “you be you, I’ll be me”. And it’s not as much as WWE still does have obviously the monopoly, it’s not just WWE anymore. There’s so much out there for anyone, like whatever you like, there’s something – Do you like really hardcore wrestling? Cool. There’s something there for you. Do you like, you know, like me, do you like watching people get kicked in the head real hard? Cool, go watch New Japan.
Erin Dick 22:34
Yeah. Yeah, I think the movement kind of towards people wanting to see younger talent, fresher faces, new styles, that change in aesthetic will hopefully open more doors to people who aren’t the same people we’ve seen on our screens for the last 10, 15 years longer probably. I guess like the proliferation of like, on demand services now mean that you can watch your favourite company in the UK that’s seats like 50 to 100 people and you can watch the stories that they put on and the sort of talent that they have there in in a diversity sense. And you can be like, “Oh, wow, the wrestling world is actually a lot bigger than I realised watching it as a kid on my screen, and it was Randy Orton breaking into Triple H’s house. Or was it the other way around? It was Triple H breaking into Randy’s house, wasn’t it?
Jacqui Picone 23:22
With his with Randy Orton’s fake wife?
Erin Dick 23:24
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And she was screaming in the background, Triple H had his sledgehammer and they just stare at, they just like lock eyes and a really gay way for a good five seconds.
Jacqui Picone 23:33
Randy Orton had like a shirt, that’s like 14 sizes too big big for him on?
Erin Dick 23:37
I would like to say that, the more you kind of move away from the bigger products and start checking out smaller products that have a bit more, you know, a build around them more so than like, maybe just your local in the country town that sits like 100 people type thing. But you know, yeah, I would like to think that as you start moving away from the bigger products and checking out smaller companies, there is a lot more attention to detail in how to protect patrons and how to look after patrons and how to also just like, tell authentic stories with representation. And you know, I think there’s some companies that do that really well already. But as we’ve seen, I guess with like the Speaking Out movement, tere’s been a lot of like, disappointment, for me, at least come to surface about companies, even as close to home, like local companies that aren’t doing the basic thing are protecting their workers and protecting their fans.
Jacqui Picone 24:36
I think it’s a whole culture shift that needs to happen, though. And I mean, more broadly than just in the wrestling community, because I think almost like parallel to this happening in the wrestling industry, there’s obviously a lot going on in the music industry at the moment, especially in Australia that’s very similar to the Speaking Out movement. To steal a really cliched phrase, but it’s kind of like what for that, like time’s up moment to kind of like, but for it to actually be real and not just a slogan, not to, not to disparage that movement. But yeah, I think it’s just broadly, and I’m not saying that we should not be, you know, taking steps to make changes where we can, but I think until there’s a broader cultural shift, it’s hard to kind of implement stuff without broader support.
Erin Dick 25:27
Yeah, well, that’s it right. The thing about wrestling I guess it’s just there’s no union. There’s no like governing body that we can go to and music is hard to govern as well. So if we look at that, like in a holistic way, it’s yeah, it’s about the culture of arts and entertainment and sport, even if we were to go to that.
Bronco Busters would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which these interviews and stories are recorded throughout the Kulin Nation. We pay our respect to their Elders – past, present and emerging. We also extend this acknowledgement to the Traditional Owners of the various lands on which our guests reside. Colonial violence is ongoing and the fight for justice resides with each of us.
To hear and read more from the women and LGBTQIA+ people of pro wrestling, head to our website: bronco-busters.com for more stories and transcripts. You can keep up with us on Facebook at BroncoBustersAUNZ and Instagram @broncobustersaunz. And don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.