I was in the crowd for Veda Scott’s seventh match. It feels like a lifetime ago at this point, my first Absolute Intense Wrestling show, my third independent wrestling show, a three day weekend that finished with a match between Sara Del Rey and Claudio Castagnoli, but I still remember Veda’s match, her seventh, for two things: how annoyed the crowd was by her theme music (“Riot Rhythm” by Sleigh Bells), and how she finished the match despite her head getting crushed into the turnbuckles by her opponent.
At the time, I thought nothing of it. Lots of wrestlers eat moves that look like death and keep working. But as I got involved with AIW as a play-by-play announcer and called a lot of Veda Scott matches, I came to recognize her as someone who is all heart in the ring, a woman who persists in her field because it’s something she loves.
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Scott has been open about that love, and the heartache that comes along with it. In a recent video uploaded to YouTube, she speaks to that dynamic, citing the three years she’s spent traveling the world to hone her craft, and the limited amount of time that she (and every wrestler) have left in the ring. It’s half-promo, half-confessional, and proof that Scott is one of the more underrated promos in wrestling.
After watching the video, I reached out for an interview. What follows is a conversation about the seismic shift in how women’s wrestling is perceived in this country, intergender wrestling, and her place in the scene now and moving forward.
[The below interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.]
Colette Arrand: Let’s start with the video, which, among other things, goes into detail about your name maybe not being as hot as it was a couple of years ago. It’s a lot more personal, more raw than most content wrestlers at any level produce. What motivated you to create and release it? How have people responded?
Veda Scott: I see it less as not being as hot and more that I made a decision to perform in places that I’ve found personally fulfilling but maybe don’t have the accessibility or distribution needed to stay super relevant these days. I have a timeline in my head for how much longer I’ll keep performing and, selfishly, I’d like the opportunity to do it in front of some bigger or wider reaching audiences. I say selfishly because I’m happy with my work right now and I would be happy if it was in front of five people. But there’s a certain sort of narcissism and self-indulgence that comes with saying “I want more people to see my work because it validates me,” and I’m certainly guilty of that too.
CA: The places that you’ve gotten to travel as an indie wrestler—Japan and Europe and points beyond—tend to be big goals for wrestlers on the indies, a kind of “if I wrestle here, I’ve made it” sort of thing. You wrestle overseas so often that I wonder if those wider-teaching audiences exist somewhere else for you. Is there a difference in how you’re perceived in Japan and Europe, compared to the United States?
VS: I prefer to seek out longer tours so that I get the time to experience wherever I am—living in the area and training and all that. So for me, it’s more about the very cool chance to dip my toes a little further into a local scene. I don’t want to be viewed as an “import” or a guest or anything special when I travel. That doesn’t serve my particular goals at all. If nobody really notices how long I’ve been hanging around England and just get used to me being there, that’s perfect. I want to actively pursue more relationships with developing pro wrestling scenes around the world. DIY pro wrestling is the absolute best.
CA: In a lot of ways, women’s wrestling, particularly in Europe and Japan, has never been more accessible to American fans. If someone were interested in your recent work overseas, what would you point them towards?
VS: I guess the main issue with me doing most of my work in Europe or Japan last year is that while streaming does make it more accessible, you still have to seek it out with more effort than, say, a bunch of shows that are all on IWTV. That’s something I anticipated when choosing to go away for a while, so I try to stay on top of promoting what’s available to stream, even if it’s just through an individual promotion. And honestly, it’s worth the effort to seek out and support some new places you may not have heard of. Anybody can completely blow up overnight in ways I still don’t quite understand, particularly in England.
CA: Pivoting a little, the subject of intergender wrestling continues to be an issue for many fans. In AIW, as a member of the tag team Hope and Change (with Gregory Iron), you found yourself wrestling men more often than women for a solid year in that promotion. It’s something you’ve continued to do since then, and have recently mentioned wanting to do more of in 2020. What’s the appeal of intergender wrestling for you as a performer? Is it something you see ever making an impression in the mainstream?
VS: The main appeal to me is that it means—from a booking perspective—that I can potentially work with anyone. It’s unlimited potential matches. And it’s something I would obviously love to see work on a larger scale. That said, I do also believe that women’s wrestling is important and needs to exist in it’s own right. My main concern with mainstreaming intergender wrestling completely (as in everyone can wrestle anyone all the time) has roots in the absolutely garbage treatment of and lack of opportunities for women in wrestling historically. It’s great if I can get signed and wrestle everyone on the roster! It’s less great if I’m still paid less.
CA: Yeah, the idea that anybody can wrestle anybody is one of the main appeals to me, and it feels like that kind of wrestling has moved beyond a lot of the “I’d never hit a lady” style storytelling that used to be the norm. One thing that hasn’t changed a lot since then is that women, whether featured in intergender competition or in a women’s match, still feel a little special feature-y in that many cards have one women’s match or one woman in a sea of dudes. Why do you think that is?
VS: You’ll hear about women’s matches not being as good as the other matches on the show. Sometimes that’s true, but more often there’s a bunch of mediocre and forgettable matches on the show and then that women’s match with the shortest time and the least attention. The fact is, if promoters and other wrestlers automatically devalue female performers then the matches won’t be given time or attention. And it bothers me a lot to see a whole slate of bad or boring matches presented with zero consequences for the male performers in them. Becky Lynch spoke on this recently when one of her main events was criticized as “see that’s why the ladies shouldn’t headline shows!” It’s not the only problem, but it’s definitely part of the problem. On a positive note, I’m seeing more and more indie promotions highlight their female performers as Good Wrestlers with no further qualifiers, which helps. You can have two or three matches involving women on a show, it turns out!
CA: There has totally been a shift in expectations with the way WWE now highlights women, like a lot of the pressure on performers like Lynch, who are at the top of the wrestling world at the moment, is not there for their male counterparts, who’ve been the focus of professional wrestling for over a century. Do you feel any of that pressure, wrestling as a woman during a time when there’s more focus on women’s wrestling than ever? Do you feel like there’s some historical significance to what you and other women are accomplishing right now, or is it all just wrestling?
VS: The main pressure for me is that right now more people than ever are 1) good and/or 2) In high profile positions. Usually both? Not always but usually. I feel a lot of pressure because I like to try different things and throw out a million ideas—and they don’t all hit the mark. But because of GIFing and streaming and the high level of competition, there’s not always wiggle room to try something creatively and miss. Sometimes you get one shot and if you mess that up, there’s 15 other talented performers lined up behind you. I don’t see it as a women’s wrestling thing so much as it’s higher stakes all around.