Female wrestlers have always carved out a unique space for themselves in terms of breaking down barriers and effecting positive changes in their professional landscape, but there have been some major breakthroughs over the past few years that allowed women's wrestling to step into the spotlight in a big way. Earlier this week, the first all-women's professional pay-per-view wrestling event, dubbed WWE Evolution, took place live in New York, and it's only been the latest, not to mention the largest, in a string of events that have finally put women's wrestling front and center.
It probably doesn't surprise you to learn that professional wrestlers, when they're not performing dropkicks and powerbombs, are actually huge nerds. Many female wrestlers, in particular, have even adopted some of their famous looks from the genre icons they grew up loving and idolizing.
Ahead of WWE Evolution, SYFY FANGRRLS had the opportunity to chat with two professional female wrestling champions, Alexa Bliss and Ember Moon, about the genre characters they use to influence their style in the ring, the fantasy books they're currently reading, and what it means to see women's wrestling come this far.
Each of you has infused some genre elements into your wardrobes. Who are some of your favorite characters that you like to emulate when you take center ring, so to speak?
Ember Moon: So I have a lot of different influences, and each one of my gears is inspired by a different comic book character or villain. But mostly it's inspired by my D&D character from way back when. Take my money in the bank gear; that was inspired by Loki. I know what happened to him in the last Avengers movie and I almost walked out. But also just different things, whatever floats my boat. You know, Alexa is awesome with her stuff. She steals my ideas.
Alexa Bliss: Whatever!
EM: I mean, she totally beat me in a Riddler [outfit] she did. I was so upset, but so envious all at the same time.
AB: I started cosplaying back when I was with Blake & Murphy; we decided that we were going to do an Iron Man gear, and that was the first one. It was so much fun to bring a little bit of our personal interests into the ring — especially because sometimes, when you're so set in the storyline, in the character, you kind of lose who you are outside of that. So I love to take a lot of different inspiration for my gear, and I'm a big horror movie fan so I've done Freddy [Krueger], which was probably my favorite; and Chucky, which took me about a year to be able to actually do it. Because first it got turned down, and so then I kind of had to sneak it in on Halloween last year. I did one outfit that was Harry Potter colors, but I just wore it for one of the pay-per-views. Yeah, I've done a lot of cosplay stuff, and it's a lot of fun.
So you mentioned Harry Potter. Do you know what house you are?
AB: Gryffindor all the way.
EM: Really! That's shocking.
AB: I know what you're going to say, you're going to say I'm a Hufflepuff, but I'm not.
EM: No, you're totally a Slytherin, 'cause I'm totally a Slytherin. You're a Slytherin across the board, miss. But yeah, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. My husband is too. I have a massive map of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade hanging upstairs, and I've got oil paintings of Harry, and He Who Shall Not Be Named. I have tons of Harry Potter artwork; that's one of the things I love to collect. I collect a lot of random stuff too, like 1960s Batman.
What would you say your favorite franchise is within sci-fi, fantasy, or horror? Who are your favorite characters?
EM: For me, I would totally have to go medieval fantasy. There's not really a lot that I would turn away from. I'm super into Game of Thrones. I like that fantasy aspect of things; that's just the world that I choose to get lost in.
AB: What's the book on tape we're listening to right now? We listen to a book on tape when we travel together.
EM: Oh yeah, it's called Warbreaker. It's by Brandon Sanderson. He's one of my favorite authors of all time. I've listened to all his books. I love his mind and creativity about his interpretation of medieval times, and it's a really awesome journey. Also Steelheart, and the Stormlight Archive. I'm still finishing the new book that just came out almost a year ago now, oh gosh! Yeah, see, I'm nerding out.
AB: I'm nerdy in certain areas. Ember actually has been introducing me to new things like these books on tape, with the medieval fantasies. And it's actually gotten to the point where we quote them in the ring when we have matches against each other.
EM: That is accurate.
AB: She will quote the book in the middle of our matches. Very professional. It's great.
EM: Yeah, you never know what's going to happen.
AB: I'm a really big Marvel person. I like Marvel. I am a big fan of the Avengers and Iron Man. I recently just bought a baby Groot, and I'm very happy about that. I'm obsessed with baby Groot. He just is my world. And I love horror movies. I love, love, love, love horror movies. I'm actually going to get ready to go to the new Halloween tonight, and I'm very excited about that. but I love anything that there's a good villain and that's just what I find appreciation with. I mean besides Disney, obviously. Everyone knows I'm a big Disney fan. You don't even wanna open up that can of worms.
No, let's open that can!
AB: I have a Disney tattoo that I just got. I probably know everything there is to know about Disney. My Evolution outfit is even Disney-inspired. I've done every other kind of cosplay except this, and that's very shocking to a lot of people
Who's your favorite Disney villain?
AB: Oooh, Maleficent. I loved the movie. I thought it was great. I loved it. I thought the graphics were amazing. And it's so cool when Disney remakes these and you see the villain's point of view as well. It's just so cool, and it always adds such a great aspect to everything. And the Alice in Wonderland movie that came out was awesome. They have The Nutcracker that's getting ready to come out. I'm really excited to see that.
Do you recall any female characters, specifically in genre, that you were drawn to or inspired by growing up?
EM: I freaking love Xena. I actually did a gear inspired by her last year at one of the takeovers. That was just kind of something new at that time, for me to see a strong powerful woman that didn't need a man, who was whooping all the men and all that stuff.
AB: Mulan was the first female character that I realized was empowering as a woman. It's obviously a fake story, but she went to battle for her father. She didn't want her father to be drafted in the war, so she went herself. That was the first time I really saw a really strong female character growing up. 'Cause I did grow up watching mostly Disney.
Can you talk a little bit about what it feels like to be at the forefront of this time in WWE?
EM: As someone who started working in a public storage building for a hot dog and a soda pop, going from being a match after intermission because everyone would leave to go get popcorn, or take their time getting back, it's really cool to see how much the women at WWE have inspired that movement. It has been a revolution, it has been an evolution to see: going from The Jumping Bomb Angels way back in the '80s, coming all the way up to seeing Becky and Charlotte and Alexa Bliss, or Stratus and Lita, and all these amazing women that have pioneered women's wrestling — not just on camera, but behind the scenes as well. I think it's an amazing opportunity for every woman that is going to be on that Pay-Per-View, not to only just wrestle but to showcase themselves as individuals, and also inspire young girls, young boys, the entire world and show them that you can do what you wanna do in life. That you can make history, you can break barriers, and that's exactly what we're going to do at Evolution.
AB: Yeah, it's amazing. It's awesome to see, especially with how far women have come. I remember even when I first started with WWE only five years ago, there wasn't a lot to be expected from us and to see how far our women have come just in five years, even just from when I started. We've had these matches that would've never been expected from our women five, ten years ago. And now we're doing them often, dominating them, and now we have our own Pay-Per-View. And I feel it's something that the company behind us, the WW Universe, wanted to see our women succeed. And that just shows that it's not even just the shift of WWE, it's just the shift in the world. That people value women so much higher now in any section, any sport industry. We have women from diverse backgrounds being a part of this evolution. It's so cool to see everyone come together for the love of what we do and to be able to perform together and keep this evolution going. I'm excited to see what the roster's gonna look like in another year, five years, ten years from now.
What do you think defines a strong female character. What does that phrase mean to you?
EM: For me, personally, it's just not being afraid to be yourself. Not being influenced by your circumstances or environment. It's just feeling comfortable being you and not letting anyone change who you want. That to me is a strong person, 'cause it takes a stronger person to say no and to not be influenced by other people than to just go with the status quo.
AB: I would have to say it's confidence. A woman who is proud to be who she is respects herself and shows that women can be strong-willed, and the confidence to carry that. I feel like that can be an issue with women all over the world, insecurities and everything like that. A strong-willed woman is someone who's just as strong mentally as they are physically, and I think confidence is the main part of that.
This interview has been edited and condensed.