Wrestling Trailblazers: From Nyla Rose to Harley Ryder, meet five iconic trans wrestlers

Besides Gabbi's inspirational journey, there are a few trailblazers that have come out with their true selves, inspiring many in the LGBTQIA+ community. From Nyla Rose to Harley Ryder, meet five iconic trans wrestlers.


                            Wrestling Trailblazers: From Nyla Rose to Harley Ryder, meet five iconic trans wrestlers
Gabbi Tuft (Instagram: @gabetuft) and Nyla Rose (Instagram: @nylarosebeast)

On February 4, 2021, Former WWE wrestler Gabe Tuft, known to fans by the stage name Tyler Reks, came out as a transgender woman, Gabbi Tuft, via press release. The bodybuilder was counting down to her reveal with the support of her wife Priscilla Tuft on her Instagram account. Gabbi's transition, which was spoken about during her interview with Extra TV on February 5, sparked the inspiration to many watching. Gabbi is now the first-known WWE wrestler to come out as transgender, but she isn't the only trans wrestler that has participated in wrestling promotions as an out individual.

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Gabbi Tuft's journey

Gabbi took to Instagram to reveal herself writing, "This is me. Unashamed, unabashedly me. This is the side of me that has hidden in the shadows, afraid and fearful of what the world would think; afraid of what my family, friends, and followers would say or do."



 

 

Speaking of being intimate, in the interview Gabbi said that Priscilla had had a hard time with it -- "It's been a very interesting … progression," she said. "Our intimate life has changed quite a bit. We're not active in that way right now, and what we've discovered is a whole different part of our relationship." Answering the many questions on people's minds, Gabbi also said that the duo do not have partners outside of their relationship. "I was a virgin when we got married 18 and a half years ago — we had never kissed. Our first kiss was on our wedding day," said Gabbi. Speaking about the transition, Gabbi admitted that there was a "lot of very difficult, traumatic emotion" when it came to trying to figure out how she was going to "present" herself to the world. "Having Priscilla by my side as huge support has changed that. And she has been such a rock for me," Gabbi added.

The former wrestler also spoke about how this experience has affected the couple's nine-year-old daughter saying, "It's an ongoing conversation. 'Sweetheart, I'm not going to go out in public right now and go outside', and she goes, 'Why, daddy? I'm afraid that people might make fun of me and it might affect you'." Turns out Mia is a supporting daughter as well because Gabbi revealed that she gave her a hug saying "Daddy, I will never make fun of you." Recently Gabbi posted her coming out video and part of the caption read, "This was my original coming out video that I recorded almost two months ago. In full transparency, I’ve made so many physical changes since then that I encountered a moment of internal turmoil."



 

 

Besides Gabbi's inspirational journey, there are a few trailblazers that have come out with their true selves, inspiring many in the LGBTQIA+ community. From Nyla Rose to Harley Ryder, meet five iconic trans wrestlers.

Nyla Rose



 

 

Nyla Rose, born on August 3, 1982, became the first openly transgender wrestler ever to sign with a major American promotion in 2019. When she won the AEW Women's World Championship she also became the first trans wrestler to win a title in a major American promotion. She is signed to All Elite Wrestling. Rose who is known as 'The American Kaiju' in Japan, and 'The Native Beast' and 'The Barbie Breaker' in America has won titles such as Warriors Of Wrestling Women’s Championship (twice), the Covey Promotions Women’s Championship (thrice) and United Pro Wrestling Association Women’s Championship. While Rose dominates the wrestling game she is also an actress -- she was seen in 'Tofo Pro Wrestling', and played the role of Sü in 'The Switch'. 'The Switch' was the first trans-themed TV series, produced in Canada, and Rose's character plays an IT manager who ends up losing her job and apartment after she comes out as trans.

Leilani Tominiko aka Candy Lee 



 

 

In 2017, Tominiko, also known as Leilani Tominiko, had won the Women’s Champion of Impact Pro Wrestling New Zealand at 22, and became the first trans woman to win a major indie title. The match titled 'Nightmare before Christmas' was held on December 16 that year and saw Tominiko go up against Britenay. Reports reveal something fans of the wrestler may already know -- her "finishing move" is titled 'The Candy Crush' and she uses a lariat titled 'The Gobstopper'. She is a Samoan wrestler who and went through training at the IPW Training Academy. Speaking about the reactions to her transition, Tominiko said in an interview with the New Zealand Herald, that she didn't face as transphobic discrimination mentioned that IPW was “pretty accepting with a family feel the vibe."

Mariah Moreno aka Amanda, the Bloodthirsty Vixen 



 

 

Moreno has been a huge name when it comes to the wrestling industry having won very significant titles such as NTW/NTLL Women’s Championship, G&T Hardcore Championship, the 2012 Luna Vachon Lunacy Cup Award, and the 2010 Miss LuchaLords title. The talented wrestler trained at Santino Bros. Wrestling, a California-based school/promotion before she made her debut in 2009. In a 2013 interview, Moreno said that the "ladies of wrestling" had gotten her interested in the sport -- namely Lita, Jazz, Luna, Ivory, Molly. "Watching them every week over time made me want to kick some butt," she said.

She also shed light on her experience as a trans woman in wrestling saying, “For me, a trans woman in wrestling, it’s even harder. I’ve been rejected as a wrestler from a few wrestling promotions because of it. Since when did indy wrestling join the WWE/TNA bandwagon with the whole ‘We don’t allow man-on-women violence policy?’ I know I sound like a complainer right now, but I want everyone to know that it hurts. I live my life as a woman every day, therefore I’d like to be treated as one at all times.” Speaking of what sets her apart from her other female co-wrestlers, Moreno said, "The fact that I’m a transgender women, I mean how many people can say I know a transgender person, not many. I’m a rare breed indeed, on top of that I can kick some serious butt."

Drew-Ashlyn-Cunningham aka Harley Ryder



 

 

Cunningham is known to be Britain’s first trans wrestler and has competed in the UK Wrestling promotion. A 2013 Daily Mail article revealed that Cunningham used to be "obsessed" with female wrestlers when she was a teen, and even though she was born a boy she decided to become a female wrestler. "Wrestling has always been a passion of mine and I grew up with it for many years. I’ve been inspired by Lita from WWE, she was my idol as a wrestler and it’s who I want to be like," she said. The Wakefield resident said that while it is "tough" and has sustained bumps and bruises, "at the end of the day if it’s not in your heart you’re not going to make it." She added, "I think it takes a strange breed of person to get into this business. You have to be a bit different to jump into a ring and say ‘I’m going to beat myself up today'."

The wrestler also spoke to her experience stating that the men have been very comfortable with her. "They’re all nice and make sure they care for me. Every time they give me a move they will ask me if I am OK. They do make sure I am in safe hands," she revealed. "It’s not an issue for them. The guys are really supportive and in a way it’s really surprising because that world, the wrestling world, can be masculine and macho." Besides being on the reality show 'My Transexual Summer', Cunningham is also a makeup artist that works in Leeds.



 

 

The report revealed that the wrestler who was diagnosed with gender dysphoria when she was just 18 years old first begin her transition in 2007. That process, she had revealed, was challenging -- "I used to get bullied a lot. People would shout at me in the street just randomly, saying that I looked like a man or yelling ‘tranny’ -- just really horrible things. I didn’t look like I do back then. I had braces, my hair was white and I didn’t know how to do my make-up." She also explained that because her childhood was "quite open" she didn't comprehend why she was being bullied. "People would always put me down and call me gay and poof," said Cunningham. Her transition journey saw her suffer from depression, and self-harm as well.

"I used to stop myself from eating and starve myself and hope that I wouldn’t wake up and hope that I would die in my sleep. When I was eight or nine years old that’s when I really got this feeling that I was trapped in the wrong body." she revealed.

Since then though, things seem to have tapered off with the wrestler revealing at the time that she was planning a few surgeries that are "kind of cosmetic". "Hopefully by the time I’m 30, I will be fully complete. It has been an amazing journey for me. It’s been a crazy experience and I am very thankful."

Asuka



 

 

Asuka is a Japanese wrestler and according to reports became the first trans woman to hold a women’s championship title in a major indie company, titled Japanese promotion Pro Wrestling WAVE. The wrestler competed in intergender matches for DDT Pro-Wrestling in Japan. 

In an interview in 2017 (that has been translated), Asuka revealed that her inspiration for becoming a wrestler was seeing Ayako Hamada matches when she was in elementary school. She also revealed her journey of coming out saying that on her 16th birthday she told her father that she was attracted to men and not women during a trip to Yamagata. According to the article the now wrestler had cried saying she didn't want to wrestle for the duration of her life after her father had asked her if she wanted to wrestle in college. She revealed though that after having come out to her father she no longer felt "trapped" and could leave the sport. Turns out that Asuka ended up joining WAVE even though her family supported her in all her other endeavors -- her mother even told her, "I already knew" when Asuka had returned to her mother after joining the promotion. Asuka made her debut as a transgender wrestler in the year 2015 revealing that she wanted people to know and hopes that people like her don't give up but rather become motivated. 

A Twitter thread speaking about the translated interview revealed that Asuka had dropped out of high school and was then accepted to WAVE. As a young child she had also learnt nihon kenpo. She also spoke of how she had learned about Sexual Identity Disorder and was encouraged by seeing others such as Matsuko Deluxe & Ai Haruna. The Twitter thread speaks more to Asuka's story, you can read it here.

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