A villain in the ring, pro wrestler Nyla Rose is a hero to fans


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She may play a villain in the ring—a “heel” in wrestling parlance—but to fans, Nyla Rose is a trailblazing hero. When Rose signed with All Elite Wrestling before its launch in February 2019, she made history as the first openly transgender wrestler in history to sign with a major American promotion.

When she won the AEW Women’s World Championship a year later, she achieved another milestone, becoming the first trans wrestler to win a title in a major American promotion.

But as she recently revealed, Rose had hit a low point in her career just before signing with AEW. Having starred in the 2016 Canadian television series The Switch, she was thinking about taking a break from wrestling to pursue acting, when AEW executive vice president and wrestling legend Kenny Omega got in touch.

“It was such a blessing from the universe at that point because I was so down on myself. And the universe was like ‘Alright, let’s give her a bone. Let’s give her something.’”

Of course, she’s faced plenty of backlash from both old school wrestlers and fans who’ve argued that she has no business competing against cis women—despite the fact that these matches are scripted and choreographed!

At a televised match in December, someone in the crowd held up a transphobic sign misgendering Rose as she made her way to the ring. She simply flipped him the bird and got on with the show. (The man was reportedly later ejected from the event.)

That’s typical of the way Rose treats her groundbreaking status. As writer Samantha Riedel wrote in a 2020 appreciation, “For Rose, who is not only trans but Black and of Oneida heritage (the source of her ‘Native Beast’ nickname; in Japan, she’s ‘The American Kaiju’), the fact that AEW hasn’t tried to make her race or gender into a plot point is nothing but a plus.”

“You are a person and a performer first,” Rose told TV Insider that same year. “With representation on weekly television and with AEW being the company that it is on the scale that it is, with TNT and the scale they are on, they see me as a person. They see me as someone going out there and doing their job. The transness being secondary or even third to anything else. That is a beautiful statement. It shouldn’t matter and doesn’t.”

This month, Rose is part of AEW’s Pride campaign. “Every step I take, I do with pride,” she says in the spot. “Here I am, a Black, indigenous, trans woman. The music hits. The pyro hits. Everybody’s looking directly at me on a national platform, and I am living my best life. I know that me going out there simply just to wrestle is more than simply just wrestling to someone out there. I see the messages, I see the DMs, I get the fanmail.”

“Times are changing,” she continues. “They don’t quite change as fast as we wish they would, but they are changing, and people like me are helping cultivate that change.”

Pride50Welcome to Queerty’s Pride50. We’re celebrating the members from our community who are responsible for some of the most inspiring and extraordinary moments for LGBTQ people over the last year. See all the honorees