From Introvert to Athletic Entertainer: A Woman Changed By Pro Wrestling

As someone who’s stepped into the ring many times, I can tell you it is hard to be a professional wrestler. The simplest bumps onto wooden planks over steel ribs feel similar to being rear-ended in a car crash over and over.  You have to be mindful of protecting your body and your opponent’s while delivering hard-hitting strikes and slams. With each crafted move and gesture, you have to control the crowd by making them love you or hate your guts. Being a close-up stunt person and theatrical actor involves a great deal of mental and physical pressure. It can either break you, or make you into something better than you ever expected. The latter has been the experience of local rising star and female athlete Isana Alarun, who has been transformed by the sport.

Over nearly six years, Isana (real name Liz, and that’s all I’m giving you) started off as a ringside photographer and then progressed into training for in-ring action. Watching the male-dominated roster entertaining crowds inspired her to push herself to new limits. “I’m learning how to force myself out of my shell,” she said. “Wrestling has definitely helped me with my depression issues [and] made me more of a mature person.” In addition to this change in attitude, Isana has lost 80 pounds through her training and increased her fitness and overall endurance.

However, not all has been a series of victories. In a business that is physically punishing, Isana has suffered a massive hematoma, a fractured wrist and a torn ACL, which almost ended her new passion. Never letting go of her new dream, she continued to attend several shows while rehabbing and finishing school.

Since her return, she’s worked with several local promotions such as RWA, XWA, MAW, RICW and House of Bricks, with many more looking in her direction. Along the way, she has worked with the boys and the girls, including her idols Mistress Belmont and recently signed NXT star Kimber Lee (who is credited as the first female wrestler to hold the top title in a major male promotion by winning the Chikara Grand Championship). However, even the pro wrestling world remains a “boys club” in pay gaps and talent booking.

Addressed in a May 2016 article in Time Magazine, from the business world to pro sports (soccer in particular), the wage gap between men and women continues to be an issue in the US. The sexes are separated similarly in the “business of bumping.” While the money talk remains behind the curtain, the perception of women’s capabilities can be seen in promotions that use “inter-gender matches.” World Wrestling Entertainment uses it as both an attraction and a way to separate storylines and merchandising. The recent WWE “Women’s Revolution” has created two distinct women’s rosters with their own championship belts – each having their own showcase matches at this year’s WrestleMania 33, which a great way to display the many talented female stars. Meanwhile, in the independent circuits, it’s either an integrated roster of both genders or it’s separated. Both methods can be argued for or against, depending on the promoter, workers and even the fans.

As Isana points out, it depends on if “the fans are willing to believe.” Promotions such as the Renegade Wrestling Alliance already have a fanbase accustomed to integrated matches, while others still believe that women are physically weaker than men. I argue that comic book fans won’t refuse a Black Widow or Wonder Woman throwing male baddies around. What are pro wrestlers other than living, breathing comic book heroes and villains? Although entertaining, they also teach right versus wrong and social equality to a younger generation looking for inspiration.

“The whole concept of men being more dominant simply because of what they have between their legs really pisses me off,” said Isana. Her hope remains that other promotions will see matches less of woman versus man, and more David versus Goliath, much like a 5’6” Rey Mysterio keeping up with a 7’1” Great Khali. Isana explains, “If they can do it, why can’t I use my speed and agility to beat up a bigger guy?” Nevertheless, Isana will do what needs to be done to entertain the fans.

In the long run, she hopes that with both the WWE’s “Women’s Revolution” and the continued support of local independents, female wrestlers will continue to grow and expand in the business. “It’s a matter of perseverance,” she said. “It’s hard work and takes dedication.”

Isana has very little social life between a full-time day job and training at night, but she does it to see how far she can push herself. “You can do anything you want if you try hard enough. You can find out what works for you and push yourself as far as you can. It will hurt a lot.” But as she’ll always say, with a twisted grin on her face, she has personal partnership with pain.

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