Last April, Zelo Pro made its Milwaukee debut at Turner Hall with a show featuring Austin Aries defending his Impact World Championship in a three-way match against Bryce Benjamin and Isaias Velazquez. We interviewed Aries ahead of the event, and it wouldn’t have been wrong to assume that Zelo Pro’s Arrival would primarily be a homecoming for the Wisconsin-born Aries.
While nothing can be taken away from Aries or his performance that night, the main event of the evening wasn’t the hometown hero defending his title. Rather, it was two female wrestlers in a heated rivalry doing battle for the Zelo Pro Women’s championship. Zelo Pro’s Arrival, much like wrestling throughout 2018, belonged to the women. With Zelo Pro making its return to Turner Hall on Friday with Milwaukee Meltdown, it’s only fitting that the two women who stole the show at Arrival will have a rematch.
Women’s wrestling, of course, is not new. “Good” women’s wrestling is also not new. From Joshi wrestlers like Aja Kong and (the GOAT) Manami Toyota to SHIMMER stars like Sara Del Rey and Cheerleader Melissa, there has always been great women’s wrestling. It’s just been harder to find. However, it’s been a little less difficult in recent years with the internet making the independent and Japanese promotions like STARDOM more accessible, as well as WWE finally embracing women as athletes. Yet for all the good that WWE has done within the past year, they are still behind, and it’s companies like Zelo Pro that are leading the way in bringing true equality to professional wrestling.
Of course, that is easy to do when you have wrestlers like Tessa Blanchard and Kylie Rae to headline your shows.
Tessa Blanchard is a name you might recognize, and not just because she is the daughter of an original member of the Four Horsemen (and step-daughter of his greatest rival, Magnum TA). She wrestled in the initial WWE Mae Young Classic, but was one of the few who didn’t sign full-time with the company afterward. WWE’s loss has been a huge gain to the independents, as Blanchard has won titles and had great matches throughout the world. She’s held titles in 15 different promotions, won the women’s match at All-In, was Impact’s Knockouts champion and Knockout of the Year in 2018, signed to be the face of WOW (Women Of Wrestling), and was ranked #3 in Sports Illustrated‘s Women Wrestler of the Year. Blanchard has a confident ring presence that few can match, and her athleticism and toughness are on full display at all times when she’s in the ring. It’s hard to believe that she’s only 23.
Despite making her debut in 2016, Kylie Rae has quickly become one of the top names in independent wrestling. The Chicago-based wrestler has an infectious personality that endears her to any crowd she performs in front of. (It doesn’t hurt that she comes to the ring wearing Pokemon-inspired gear and high fives everyone as the Pokemon theme song plays.) In her two years in the ring, she’s won titles for promotions like Zelo Pro and AAW, while also participating in a WWE tryout. This looks to be a huge year for her and WWE…or someone else will surely come calling for her sooner rather than later.
Women will also populate the undercard on Friday’s show as well, with a three-way match between Laynie Luck, Shotzi Blackheart, and the incomparable Jordynne Grace. Luck has been quietly building a strong résumé of work in Zelo Pro, while Blackheart may have one of the most well-defined characters in wrestling right now as the “Ballsy Badass from the Black Lagoon.”
They’ll take on Grace (a.k.a. “Thick Mama Pump”), who has an impressive list of in-ring accomplishments that is only matched by an even more impressive resume of exposing pervy dorks who invade her DMs. Grace stands at just 5’1″, but she has the power and strength of a wrestler twice her size. Only 22 years old, Grace may have the brightest future of all.
When you add in the men’s matches, Milwaukee Meltdown is absolutely stacked. Austin Aries will take on another independent legend in Jimmy Jacobs. Pat Monix and Simon Grimm will continue their rivalry in a dog-collar match. And DJZ vs. GPA and Zero Gravity will take on Daga and Gringo Loco in what should be a high-flying spectacle.
Many wrestling pundits have proclaimed that 2018 belonged to women wrestlers. There is definitely evidence to support this, but even putting that out there feels like old world thinking and a gross misunderstanding of what is really going on. Women’s wrestling is a fallacy and something that should be left in 2018. There is only wrestling now. Women just happen to be some of the best at it.