In June 2019, New Yorkers were treated to a unique mixture of two of the most flamboyant forms of popular entertainment: Professional wrestling and drag. The cleverly titled Choke Hole had its Big Apple debut in Ridgewood’s Superchief Gallery, which was documented by the alternative media website Vice.
The aim of the event is to reclaim the inherently queer subtext of professional wrestling outlets like WWE. “There’s so much homoerotic and queer subtext there,” said Jassy, one of the drag performers of the night.
She continued: “Makeup, fabulous outfits, dramatic storylines, and flamboyancy – queer people are the originators of these tools, but our queerness is still ostracised, so they’re packaged up and disguised in a heteronormative box, then sold to the masses.
“With Choke Hole we want to take wrestling and amplify that queer subtext explicitly. We want to show that queer people can be strong. They can fight, perform stunts, be good, evil, and sexy; they can win or lose, they can get hurt and persevere, but most importantly they can entertain, while wielding the tools they created.”
Choke Hole recapitulates the tropes of professional wrestling – heroes and villains, character performances, extravagant fighting – and peppers it with the signifiers of drag. Wrestlers enter the ring and lip-sync to songs that communicate who their fighting personas are.
Jassy, who is described as a “Kris Jenner-esque queen by way of Akira Toriyama, clad in pink and orange gem tones with a black latex tie,” enters the ring lip-syncing Britney Spears’ ‘Work Bitch’. Her character is that of a real estate agent, and the hyper-capitalist lyrics (“You wanna live fancy? Live in a big mansion? Party in France? You betta work, bitch”) let audiences know her motivations.
In the show’s narrative, Jassy cannot sell her latest property until the current tenant, a six-armed humanoid insect named Raid, is defeated in a match.
The two fight, with Raid ‘coming’ all over Jassy with a string-shooting ‘penis’. The crowd, unused to this amalgamated form of entertainment, initially cheer both performers until they realise that Jassy is the ‘villain’.
Faces and heels (heroes and villains) are a common practice in wrestling storylines, but rarely appear in drag. Whether a drag performer’s intent is to shock, entertain, or enlighten, they are centred and cheered. To combine drag with wrestling is to introduce characters who are not necessarily meant to be adored.
Speaking to Vice, one of the performers, Miss Toto, said: “It was hard to understand why people were booing me … I’d never been booed before in my life! These people are really invested.”
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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