Wrestling: Apply Pressure – an Interview with Faye Jackson

Wrestling (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Wrestling (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

An interview with independent wrestler Faye Jackson.

In a world of uniformity, caution, and fear, Faye Jackson says exactly what she’s thinking when she’s thinking it.  Never afraid to speak truth to power, the Ohio-bred talent opens up about her status in the industry, having to take control of her character, not fitting into wrestling’s aesthetic box, and the jump from wrestling to promoting.  She also talks about the wrestling promotions that do the right thing by their talent and fans, and why those with the most visibility aren’t always the ones with the strongest opinions.

Cameron Hawkins: Faye, thanks for taking the time to speak with me on behalf of FanSided’s Daily DDT.  First question: We’re almost three months removed from what was going to be WrestleMania Weekend in Tampa.  How many times have you gone over your Sweatpants Battle Royal Event, and the other shows you were going to participate in, in your head?

Faye Jackson: I honestly think that the GSBR and shows like For The Culture, and Big Gay Brunch was going to change the landscape of wrestling…if people could see it. Everything is a good idea but once people are able to witness the diversity and entertainment on a different level, wrestling would have changed for the better. I think about it often, especially now with the pandemic. It’s so much going on that but I think that weekend would have changed a lot of lives and viewpoints. 

CH: I think of you, AJ Gray, and Effy, the organizers of those three events, respectively, as “modern” in a way outside of just the right music, attitude, and language, so I absolutely see the point.  Did the three of you bounce ideas for those events, or was it more of a “watch my colleague do them, and if they need me I’m here”?

FJ: We didn’t talk about our events to each other at all. They were a part of The Collective and I was with Primetime Pro Wrestling. But once everything was announced we all hit each other up and basically said the same thing to each other: I’m here if you need anything. AJ gave me the “you better not be booked at this time” message and I hit him up with the same message lol. We just supported each other to see all those shows succeed.

CH: You’ve worked with talent of all ages, styles, experience.  Tell me about making the leap from being on the card to creating the card, and putting together your own event, and does having such a diverse resume help that?

FJ: Kudos to any promoter that makes the cards, secure the talent, get the venue, market, spend money because that ish is exhausting. On top of being the talent. I still had a few other shows to work at before my own. I was lucky to have a few people that handled the major logistics of the show. I don’t think talent truly realizes how much it takes to put on a show. It’s a lot. And not to say I wouldn’t do it again but now I know how to make things easier for the future. 

CH: I think I know the answer to this, but what act was the coolest “get” for the Sweatpants Battle Royal?

FJ: I’m just happy for everyone that agreed to do the show. Everyone said yes without hesitation and that was a big help. The crazy thing is I never got to announce everyone in the battle royal. AND I had a few surprises that reached out to me that wanted to participate. If word would have came out about those…WHEW CHILE!

CH: Got it.  From the outside looking in, based on support for the show and social media interactions, you seem to be a favorite of your peers, but you’ve expressed that “the people in charge of the bigs” aren’t exactly fond of you.  Is it a philosophical thing, style thing, something else?

FJ: So around this time last year I had some “interests” but I was told that some of the things I said were “problematic”. And I get that it was just people looking out for me. Here’s my thing, I can’t hide the fact that I’m a plus-size BLACK female. I will speak about the things that are wrong in the business. At that time it was 2019. Now it’s 2020 and if the words I say for speaking up for myself and others will be deemed as “problematic” then so be it. That means you’re not ready to face and fix the problem. Also I’ve been told that the world isn’t ready to see a plus-size woman as sexy. Pretty..yes. Cute…yes. Sexy…”they’re not ready”. It is what it is and I can’t hide something that other people have told me. No matter what I wear, people notice my curves. I can’t hide that. I’ve been told to lose weight at the beginning of my career. I did and guess what I STILL HAD A FAT ASS. I can’t hide that, I’ve tried. Many many times. So take me as I am or don’t take me at all.

CH: Let’s talk about the second part of your answer first.  I think of WWE’s “Piggy James” and “Molly Holly’s fat ass” storylines, which were both unfair, and told from the perspective, on screen, from other women.  I look at WWE going out of their way to tell the “Plus-size model” aspect of Nia Jax’s gimmick.  I don’t question your confidence, but is there a fear at all of your figure being exploited for storyline reasons but the defined aesthetics of TV wrestling?

FJ: I think so and it’s ok because I realized that wrestling just ain’t there…yet. It didn’t become popular to be a plus-size model until 2015. And that was mainstream media. Wrestling will always be 2 steps behind. Do I think there is a fear of my figure being exploited for storyline reasons? Yes but this is where the “problematic” kicks in. I won’t do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable. I learned to say No to a lot of stuff. You can’t even imagine some of the storylines I was told beforehand and I said absolutely not. If it makes me difficult to work with then so be it. I know as far as I will go and no one can tell me otherwise. Sometimes money isn’t the end-all, be all. I need to be able to sleep at night. 

CH: To give people an idea of what you mean, is there one pitch you can outline that was an automatic “NO”?

FJ: I was pitched an idea doing a promo of myself eating some beans.  At the show give girls stinkfaces and act like I farted.

CH: …

FJ: Which is why it’s RARE to see me do a stinkface to anyone.

CH: That’s both succinct and frustrating.  so for the first part of your answer- I look at you, Darius Lockhart, and a few others that don’t hesitate to call our racism, sexism, and injustice.  When you look at AEW and WWE, some of the people with the most reach seem to be less than loud about the things we experience collectively.  I’m a huge fan of Titus O’Neil’s activism, and I’m not saying everyone has to be Medgar Evers.  Does activism make it harder to get hired, and once someone is signed to a big company, do you think they’re asked to say less about the specific issues facing them?

FJ: YES and YES. I know they are told to watch what they say on social media and I get that. The fan base is still predominantly white male in mid ages. They don’t want to lose a skew of a fanbase. With that being said, if you won’t stand up for others why should someone stand up for you when someone treats you wrong? It can’t be one-sided and they get a check but don’t want to rock the boat. It’s a lot of followers in this business but not a lot of leaders, especially in the locker rooms. I will say I do see a change and I’m grateful for seeing a change. But don’t let it fall to deaf ears when everyone stops saying #Blacklivesmatter or #speakingout. Continue to do those things. That’s a leader. A leader always takes the bullet but the leader is the one they write about in the history books. 

CH: Well said.  As far as just going along with what’s given to you, regardless of what it makes you look like, The Broadus Clay “Born to Shuck and Jive/Black momma stage dance at Mania” was the last big “THIS IS GROSS AND WRONG” moment for me.  Is there a storyline you can point to, recently, that tested decency, as far as race/gender/representation for you?

FJ: At the moment I think everyone is in the “safe zone”. It’s not too bad or over the line. I do know as much as I enjoyed the Attitude Era about 90% of the storylines and characters would not be acceptable now. I would like to see The Godfather comeback and make one more run. Then pass the torch….to me. 

CH: HA! I gotcha.  You’ve performed in front of crowds of all sizes.  What’s your take on “empty arena” shows, and the adjustment to “talent as the audience” shows?

FJ: It’s cool and weird. When I started training, you were constantly told that you “wrestle for the crowd”, “listen to the crowd and adjust when needed”. Now there’s no crowd. So you’re just basically wrestling in front of your peers. Which is cool but weird lol. At least it’s something to watch. Wrestling is the only thing that’s live on tv at the moment and has everyone’s attention. So the performers have to go just as hard because everyone is watching.

CH: I think some people have excelled in that environment.  Adam Cole, Asuka, Seth Rollins, and Kevin Owens jump out as I write this.  Is there anyone not on TV you think could really make that environment work?

FJ: Already signed or not signed?

CH: Either way.

FJ: I think it depends on what type of wrestling you want to watch as well. I think Tim Thatcher wrestles great with or without a crowd. I think Nyla did a great job as well. 

CH: Absolutely.  I want to transition into #Speakingout.  Kind of the first big thing I wrote for FanSided was the aftermath of Jim Cornette being released from NWA, and how the bigger issue was the production of his commentary, because they knew who they hired.  Fast forward to today, and Dave Lagana, the person responsible for that production, is out as well for sexual assault claims.  As someone who has shared ring time, locker rooms, and meetings with not only those accused, but the accusers as well, what’s your first reaction to David Starr’s notes app apology?

FJ: Everyone has a past I feel like at this point. The problem is with a lot of these men is sometimes they don’t realize even when you are dating someone, NO MEANS NO! If that’s your girlfriend and she decides she doesn’t want sex, leave it at that. And if you try to bully her then you don’t care about her at all. There is such thing called Gray rape. And guess what it has rape in the title. I will say that people do grow up and later on down the line they become mature and realize they’ve done some messed up things in the past. Everyone has their “one”. But if it’s the same story with multiple women, did you learn from your “one”? Or now you want to say you learned from your behavior and apologize. If you know how to be a DECENT human being then this wouldn’t have happened in the 1st place. Nobody is perfect but at least be decent. How hard is that?

CH: That’s it, really.  What started as a shared experience with UK wrestlers shifted to the American Indy scene, and has touched AEW and WWE.  Do you expect more to come out soon, or do you think this was kind of a moment in time that’s going to pass?

FJ: I think right now we will see more names come out. I’ve had people tell me their stories and they are afraid to share them because of backlash. This shouldn’t be ok. People shouldn’t fear for their lives over backlash. Because people are threatening people’s lives over their “favorite wrestler”. This is not ok. If your favorite wrestler was decent these stories would not have to be told. I feel for these women. I feel horrible especially for the ones I shared locker rooms with. Forget my image and what I portray. I would NEVER let any man talk to any woman any type of way. I’ve had full-blown arguments with people that called women “Ring Rats”. Because if they’re a “Ring Rat” WHAT THE F–K DOES THAT MAKE YOU? A hoe too? Ok. Accept it.

CH: Yeah, I think the toughest part for me, so far, was seeing X wrestler accused or]f something, then the comments saying “you just want clout” then I check my DMs and 3-4 women are telling me the same story about X wrestler.  Wrestling’s absolutely a male-dominated business on every level.  Do you think things improve if more women are put in management/creative roles?

FJ: Absolutely. I love this business. And one thing about something you love is you learn how to do other roles besides being a performer. I know women that would love to be given the opportunity to do more backstage roles. I am confident that the independent level will make swift changes for the better. Unfortunately, I’m not as confident that the bigger platforms will. The independent level will forever lead by example so I hope others take notice. 

CH: GCW put on a show this weekend with social distancing in mind, from the show being outside, to spacing between seats.  Do you expect to see more and more shows pop up this summer, and if so, when would you be comfortable participating?

FJ: I do expect to see more shows run a similar format. Personally, I don’t like outside shows because I don’t like bugs and I don’t like to be rained on and I don’t like the sun beaming down on me. Lol I’m not an outdoorsy person. But if that’s the only thing we have at the moment then I just have to put my big girl panties on and do what it do.  And I’m not comfortable with indoor shows with a crowd because I think everyone has Rona and it’s gonna be circulating in the same air.

CH: I think that’s the responsible way to look at it.  I have a few fan questions that came in as we’ve been talking.  First: what promotions have you worked with that you think are the best at making sure female talent is treated well?

FJ: Queens of Combat for sure! Zane Riley has been a saint since day one. He makes sure all of the women are protected and taken care of before and after the shows. Also Maureen Tracy is the Mama bear of the locker room. I’ve witnessed her kick fans out, pull them out the seats, for saying anything lewd or disrespectful. Primetime Pro Wrestling with Gator and Lo is a prime example of how a locker room should be handled. Everyone has a safe space. And you can ask them for anything. Even Drew with Beyond Wrestling has always made sure there was no BS going on with his locker room. If he sees it or hears about it, you’re out…period.

CH: Following that, with your background in HR, what policies/stances could more companies take to follow their lead?

FJ: With wrestling it’s tough because people make their own rules. Even now. I would say, and this is not going to be a popular opinion, but it’s time to put an age limit on when people can start training. 18 and unless you live on your own, you still need your parent to come with you at all times until you turn 21. There needs to be a buddy system to make people more accountable. A lot of workers travel together for this reason, to hold everyone accountable. 

CH: We’ve all had a lot of downtime, and you’ve spent a lot of time prior to spring 2020 on the road.  What’s something you’ve found either laying around, or in storage at home that brought back good memories?

FJ: I did go home to Ohio and found some old nostalgia wrestling tapes. It made me realize how much I did love wrestling as a kid. Also old pictures of the 1st time I went to a wrestling show. I have a picture of Lita on the top rope about to do a moonsault. 

CH: Lita’s absolutely high on a lot of women wrestler’s “why I got into the business” list.  Who’s out there today that you think can have that kind of effect on kids?

FJ: Absolutely Naomi and Bianca BelAir. For me when I saw Jacqueline and Jazz I saw myself. Today it’s Naomi and Bianca making people feel proud to be a strong black woman.

CH: Agreed, they just carry themselves in a way you want to see emulated and valued, and that’s before they get into the ring.  Last question, and this one was asked a few times:  What’s your favorite dish at Red Lobster?

FJ: Snow crab legs with lobster mashed potatoes with a mango lobsterita and ALL OF THE BISCUITS!!!!!!!!!

CH: Valuable information for someone on a wrestling site writer’s salary.  Faye, on behalf of Daily DDT, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me.  Is there anything you’d like to leave off with?

dark. Next. Why isn't WWE as quick to support Black women publicly?

FJ: I hate it here lol! Naw, just kidding. Even with all the BS that’s going on, don’t let anyone kill your dreams. Never let anyone dictate your future. And sometimes if you don’t see the change you want to see, you change it.

CH: Well said.  Faye, thanks for your time.

FJ: No problem. You still owe me Red Lobster.

CH: Pretty sure I can make that a business expense after this, so we’re BOTH getting lobster.