‘Empire State of Mind’ was a show co-promoted by local companies Tier 1 Wrestling and Warriors of Wrestling and featured some of New York’s top Indy workers.
A highlight of the event, promoted well in advance, was an intergender match between ‘Bonesaw’ Jessie Brooks and ‘The American Villain” Marc Hauss. Intergender matches are commonplace in pro wrestling and although some individuals have had issues in the past, progressive minds have prevailed over past misconceptions regarding the equal rights for women in pro wrestling. Brooks’ said “I wrestle for Warriors of Wrestling all the time in Staten Island and intergender matches, that’s the majority of my matches...never had a problem up until now.”
On this night, there was a problem. Less than a minute into their match, a representative from the New York State Athletic Commission, identified as Mr. Robert Orlando, came out to declare that the match must stop on the grounds that a man and woman cannot legally compete in a wrestling match in the state of New York.
Tier 1 Wrestling owner Dennis Long shared his recollection, “It was the New York State Athletic Commission. They said that a man cannot wrestle a woman or cannot fight a woman and that was in their rule book but they looked in their rule book and it was for boxing only and not professional wrestling. There is a difference between boxing and professional wrestling.” Mr. Long was asked if the NYS Athletic Commission knew of this match in advance to which he responded “To my knowledge, they check everything that we post. They have to follow a certain protocol but the match card was up in the locker room and everything was advertised in advance with graphics. They should have known well in advance what was going to happen.”
The declaration by Mr. Orlando that the match needed to stop resulted in awkward confusion as some fans thought that this was just 'part of the show.' But this was very real and referee Kris Levin responded immediately by grabbing a microphone and declaring that this is an example of sexism.
“I was incensed. This was a big moment for Jessie, a big match for her. This was her return to her home borough of Brooklyn; she hasn’t been here in a while. It was a big match against a friend of ours who she was looking forward to competing with. Not only that, but the blatant sexism of it,” said Levin after the show. Levin added, “I’ve promoted all women’s events in the past. I was the promoter for VALKYRIE Women’s wrestling and in 2014 we ran our first event and that was the first all women’s event to ever happen in NYC. I got pretty emotional [about this incident]. It’s no secret that Jessie and I are in a long term relationship but even before that I have really tried to champion women’s wrestling. I hate how women have been treated as ‘second class citizens’ and I thought we were at the point where we are past that, I mean, it’s disgusting.”
After reviewing the official NYS rule book, multiple phone calls and some legal advice, the event promoters and workers witnessed justice prevail as the NYS Athletic Commission representative admitted that there was indeed a misinterpretation of a rule meant to prevent men and women from boxing each other in the state of New York.
‘Bonesaw’ Jessie Brooks gave her recollection, “We were all ready to go and have the match and the guy came out and said that I was not allowed to wrestle a man. The commission was looking through their rule book and they couldn’t find where it said a female cannot wrestle a man so they had to call a lawyer to make sure that they could okay the match so basically what they originally said was wrong, completely. They found that it said that in boxing, females and males cannot be in the same ring but in wresting it is fine.” The NYS Athletic Commission finally granted permission for the intergender match to happen around the time of the scheduled main event. Mr. Darius Carter and Jeff Cobb prolonged their scheduled main event contest giving Bonesaw and Hauss some time to rework their match which was now placed as the impromptu final match of the show.
‘Bonesaw’ Jessie Brooks came out to the ring to a standing ovation and came away victorious over Marc Hauss to the delight of the crowd. What followed was a special moment as all of the wrestlers from backstage came out to the ring and banged on the ring mat as a sign of respect to Bonesaw and equal rights.
Marc Hauss shared some insight about the way the night ended. “Dennis Long and Joe Bellini were nice enough to let us perform and work the main event and it was one of those things that was good, to prove the point of what wrestling is nowadays, you always hear this stuff that everybody’s selfish and out for [themselves] and there is no brotherhood left and you go to a lot of shows nowadays, half the roster gets their money after they wrestle and leave, they don’t stick around. [Tonight], the rest of the roster stayed in support and got around the ring and let her know that she’s appreciated and let the state of New York know that they can’t just sit here and bully people and make up fictitious rules that don’t exist anymore. It’s 2016.” His manager, Jackson Smart agreed, "This was ridiculous. It's the 21st century."
After the show ended, an emotional Brooks’ stated that she is “frustrated that it happened to begin with but I am happy that I was able to have a good match and I loved working with Marc. Great talent. I feel like we are past that as females in the business. We are past that to happen. That really upset me but hopefully this opened a lot of people’s eyes about women’s wrestling in New York City. Hopefully a bad thing that turned into something good.”