Back in October, I was photographing and interviewing female wrestler Erin Angel. Erin has been wrestling since she was 15 and it was really interesting to hear about how the whole industry works. The piece was put together to go on The Rabbit Hole, but due to the site’s editor giving birth (yey!) there’s been a slight delay. You can check out the interview below.
Tucked away amongst the tangle of conference rooms at the Peacehaven Meridian Centre in East Sussex, female wrestler Erin Angel is preparing for a charity match put on by Premier Promotions.
It’s a chilly Saturday evening in Peacehaven, and Erin appears relaxed, even though she’s maybe not quite what I expected. Chatting easily as she laces up her Barbie pink wrestling boots, the diminutive Southampton-based wrestler is finishing off her pre-show preparations.
She’s used to people being taken aback when they meet her. “Ask someone to think of a wrestler and they’d think of Hulk Hogan or a sumo wrestler. Not someone who looks like me!”
Dressed in lipstick-pink latex chaps, with white-blonde hair and standing at only 4’11, you could easily confuse Erin for a dancer or gymnast. But the 26-year old has been wrestling since she was 15 after her younger brother started watching it on TV.
“I’d find myself putting it on the TV instead of him! It became my addiction,” she laughs. “My mum saw an advert for a local show. Once I saw it live, I was like ‘I have to do this!’ At 15 I was quite young to train, but because not many girls do it, they were very keen to have me involved. My family and friends were shocked to begin with, but they’re all really supportive.”
With the sport taking Erin across the world – she’s wrestled across Europe and in Canada and India – the appeal of the sport starts to transpire. Yet with her tiny 105lb frame, how does she stand up to the opposition? “I’ve wrestled one of the greatest British female wrestlers, Klondyke Kate. She’s 25 stones, and she was my opponent for about three years. The difference between us was massive!”
When asked if she often won, Erin giggles. “Some of the time I did! My speed and agility work to an advantage. She wasn’t very mobile, but someone of that calibre and weight got me a lot of the time.”
Wrestling is known for over-the-top theatrical moves and choreographed altercations, but Erin insists the sporting factor is evident in each match too. “It definitely has that real element, and in the training also. The flying-through-the-air moves are more choreographed, but it depends on the night and the audience about how brutal you can be!”
She goes on to explain: “For WWE, they need storylines within their two hour shows. But if you go to over-18s shows, you just go out there and fight! The crowd is getting drunk and there’s a lot more freedom. There are also the shows for children at holiday camps etc, so you need to do the moves they see on TV.”
Despite the real-ness of the sport, Erin has remarkably avoided too many injuries. “I’ve been really lucky I’ve not had any breaks. Oh, I broke my nose actually, but that doesn’t count!! I’ve had concussion, I split my head open and had to have it glued. It was at Butlins, there was blood everywhere but I just had to carry on with the show. People in the crowd were shouting out ‘It’s ketchup!!’”
With female wrestling still a very niche sport, is there much competition? “Yeah, everyone wants to look the best, be the best. It’s like any other sport. But the better you look, as a girl, the more shows you get booked on. There are eight guys tonight and only two girls so you have to be the best. I train in the gym 3-4 times a week. I swim for good cardio and I wrestle most weekends.
Known for her missile dropkick – a move which involves jumping from the top turnbuckle and kicking both feet into her opponent – Erin is touted as one of the top eight women wrestlers in the UK, and has performed in front of crowds surpassing three thousand people.
“You can’t make a full time living from wrestling in the UK at the moment,” Erin states, explain that she teaches swimming to parents and babies when she’s not in the ring. “It’s bigger in the US and Japan. I’ve entered trials before and had good feedback, but it’s not got any further than that yet. Unless something came along that was a fixed contract, I wouldn’t move abroad.”
Despite that, in the UK female wrestling is definitely getting bigger. There are several promotions company that solely work with female wrestlers. Erin explains how female-only wrestling shows can vary from mixed-gender events: “A family show like tonight’s is a different market to some of the female-only wrestling shows, which have mostly men in the audience. But there are women as well who love it. The girl power element is quite inspiring. But it’s not so dated that it’s just men being pervy. I know the kinda shows that are more like that, and I don’t have to choose to do them. I’m not really involved with that side of wrestling, I keep to the mainstream stuff.”
As she checks her make up and adjusts her stage outfit, Erin considers the future. “I hope I’ve got a good few years left, maybe another six or seven years at least. For female wrestlers, your time is a lot shorter than a male. Until family life takes over, I’ll keep doing it.”
Unfortunately, this evening’s event was cut short due to a fire in the electrical intake at the nearby Co-Op. The full show has been rescheduled for March 1st at the Meridian Centre in Peacehaven. The next Premier Promotions event (male only) is their Christmas Spectacular at the Worthing Assembly Halls on 30th December.