Sexy, strong and sixty-something - meet Dawson City's newest lady wrestlers
This documentary deals frankly with sexuality and bodily functions. It also contains strong language. The original version is above; below is a censored version.
By Amy Siegel
I never thought I would love wrestling. Growing up, I didn't see myself in the Hulk Hogans in the ring or the sexy women on the sidelines. But entering into the world of the League of Lady Wrestlers has changed me forever.
The amateur performance wrestling league started in Dawson City, Yukon, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Territory. I remember hearing about the league in 2013, as pictures trickled down to Toronto through social media channels. A group of raucous babes in scavenged costumes throttling each other on a homemade ring in the backyard of a wooden house at the edge of town. Pure glory.
The League grew over five years, spreading across Canada. In every place it went, wrestlers developed characters from the grotesque to the meek, from convicts to opera stars, from those without words to the political elite.
As the League's website says: "In the ring, we can be brash, brave, gross, funny, loud, smelly, angry, and exuberant. We are bitches and heroines. We are loveable and not likeable . We support each other in these choices."
After several years of putting on large-scale wrestling events, organizers decided to end the national league with a final show in the Yukon: Thunderdome. I traveled to Dawson City as League documentarian to capture Thunderdome, aptly named after the steel-cage jousting arena in the post-apocalyptic film Mad Max.
One of the most exciting parts of Thunderdome was the introduction of two new wrestlers: Lulu Keating and Debbie Wight, who play Senior Sex Siren and Biker Bitch, respectively.
Lulu and Debbie are not just the newest members. Compared to the usual grapplers in the league, they're also the oldest.
"You know, it's really interesting doing this as an older woman," says Debbie. "You watch the other wrestlers — they're really fit and they can do some really good moves that take a lot of finessing and practice. And I'm thinking, I can never do those moves. I'm older. You know, I just had surgery."
These women brought an energy and enthusiasm to the ring that was contagious. As first-time wrestlers they were diligent students, creative, super gross and really funny. So it feels weird bringing up their age because it's not what defines them and their age doesn't factor into our relationship. But that's what this episode is about.
"They just either get it or don't get it. And most of them don't get it," Lulu says. "Like, why are you making a fool of yourself? You're not pretty when you're up there and you get all that fat jiggling... that's not beautiful. And don't we always wanted to have pictures taken of us when we are at our best, the most beautiful and camouflaging that we can be?"
"So some of them don't get it and I don't blame them. The first step is for us to show it. Proudly and arrogantly."
In the context of the event, watching Biker Bitch and Senior Sex Siren be wild and raucous in the ring was no less than a beautiful thing to behold: they were incredible performers and everyone I talked to was impressed by their bravery and excited to include a new demographic in the League.
Their performance was informed by such intelligence and wit and I am honoured to have the opportunity to share a piece of their story. I was blown away by their openness in discussing bodies, aging and sexuality.
I want to acknowledge the huge numbers of people who contributed to Thunderdome: individuals, community organizations, and the wrestlers especially. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work, laugh, and learn alongside all of you.
Rest In Power, LOLW.
Listen to the documentary, "The League of Lady Wrestlers," by clicking the Listen link at the top of the page, or download and subscribe to our podcast.
Amy Siegel is an artist, activist and academic. She works across diverse media including video, performance, installation and community-engaged art.
Amy Siegel and Sean Frey established Twelfth House Collective in 2012, which produced the award-winning expanded cinema production The Water Thief. Her short documentary film Out On The Street (co-director Alex Abramovich), about queer youth homelessness in Toronto, screened at festivals across Canada. Recently, Amy was part of Ahuri Theatre's What Dream It Was, an interactive theatre production with youth of mixed abilities, which was nominated for three Dora Awards in 2017. She holds an MFA in Documentary Media and an MA in Adult Education and Community Development.
Amy is currently working on a feature-length film about the League of Lady Wrestlers.
This documentary was edited by Julia Pagel.