Last month, a behemoth of a farm boy brought his bright-red tractor to work at Nashville's Nissan Stadium, much to the delight of spectators. That farm boy, WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, used the tractor to lift a corner of the SummerSlam 2022 ring and send opponent Roman Reigns rolling out onto the concrete floor.
The dramatic show was what many imagine professional wrestling to be: loud, bombastic and — above all — masculine entertainment.
Yet in 2021, the magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated ranked a comparably over-the-top women's fight as its Match of the Year. That bout between All Elite Wrestling (AEW) stars Thunder Rosa and Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., was a knock-down drag-out full of blood, thumbtacks and broken tables on par with some of the most hardcore men's matches.
Thunder Rosa — also known as San Antonio resident Melissa Cervantes — triumphed in that match. And almost a year later, on March 16, she won her first AEW Women's World Championship after defeating Baker in a steel cage match in the Alamo City. In doing so, she became the first female Mexican-born wrestling world champion.
Now, as founder of the all-women Mission Pro Wrestling, Thunder Rosa hopes to keep leveling the playing field and paying it forward — in Texas and beyond.
To that end, MPW is presenting A Hard Day's Night, a night of wrestling to benefit the Salvation Army, on Saturday, August 20th at Salvation Army Mission Corps in San Antonio.
Despite her own auspicious career, Cervantes didn't become a pro wrestling fan herself until her 20s. Thunder Rosa made her wrestling debut in 2014.
"It feels like it was a huge hobby that became a career for me," she told the Current in a recent phone interview. "In terms of my favorite wrestlers, I like trailblazers who don't care what people say, like Medusa or Sherri Martel. Those are the women I really look up to."
'Making a difference'
Hers may be a profession associate with cartoonish fun, but there's a gravitas to Cervantes that shines through in her conduct. Her ring attire for AEW's Double or Nothing pay-per-view in May included a sacred heart with the word "Uvalde" in the center. The gear was later auctioned off for $5,000, with all proceeds going to the families and victims of the Uvalde school shooting.
"I am so proud of living in Texas and what Texas has given me as a person, as a wrestler, and as a mother. My son goes to school in Texas," she said of her decision to speak out after the tragic incident. "So, for me, it was important to give back to the community, because those mothers and fathers, they're going to be affected not only now, but for life. It's going to take years or decades for them to get back to normal.
"Making a difference is the biggest thing for me, as a wrestler," she added. "By utilizing this beautiful sport, I have been able to reach out in ways that I otherwise would have never been able to do."
Shining a spotlight
Matches between men are in the minority on the bill for San Antonio's A Hard Day's Night bill — the exact opposite of how bigger promotions book their events.
The Current spoke via Zoom with one of the men who'll appear: Simon Miller, British pro wrestler and YouTube presenter for wildly successful WhatCulture.com. He had no qualms about being one of the male wrestlers on a bill dominated by women.
"As a society, that's how we view things: it's 'men's' wrestling, it's 'women's' wrestling," he said. "But if we throw away the identity terms, it's wrestling."
Indeed, Miller said he'd like to see the sport's gender balance shift.
"It has been a predominantly male sport. But athletes like Thunder Rosa, they're just as good, if not better, than the men," he said. "It's great that we have women's main events, but we want to get to where that's not a headline. Until you get there, you need to shine a spotlight on it, which is exactly what Mission Pro is doing. And that's why I think it's so badass. It's going to give more people opportunities, and hopefully, 5 to 10 years down the line, it will address that imbalance and we can just enjoy wrestling."
Mission Pro Wrestling — A Hard Day’s Night, $5-$40, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, Salvation Army Mission Corps, 3802 SW Military Drive, eventbrite.com/e/mission-pro-wrestling-hard-days-night-tickets-326403550807.
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