Interviews

Interview With . . . Effy

Interview with... Effy Grapgic

Inside the Ropes’ Liam Alexander-Stewart recently sat down with ‘The Weapon of Sass Destruction’ Effy following his appearance on the much-discussed GCW Outlaw Mudshow event. Effy would discuss a range of topics with Inside the Ropes during this 90-minute interview, including fleeing from the police with Ricky Morton, his experience working with Shotzi Blackheart, the incredible influence Eddie Kingston had on his career and the development of LGBTQ+ wrestling and its rise outside of just Pride month.

Fans were recently treated to seeing yourself take on Warhorse at GCW’s much-discussed Outlaw Mudshow event in Laramie, Wyoming, can you talk to me a little bit about how that match came to be and your reaction to seeing the police arrive during the shows main event.

“Well, so I think we’ve Laramie, there’s sort of a, there’s a preconceived notion of Laramie. Now, to understand like where it is, it is like a two and a half hour drive directly from Denver. So you can be in the Denver area, which is a little more, you know, freedom oriented, a little more drug oriented, music oriented scene and so some of that, like liberalness runs off in the college scene there. But historically, we have things like Matthew Shepard in Laramie, where gay people have not been treated well in those areas. But as we kind of entered into town, this split was pretty apparent because you’re seeing bars with pride flags, you’re seeing, you know, a very diverse crowd out in the nightlife, but you’re also seeing like the locals of Laramie participating and being a part of this, and outside of this little tiny Oasis, it is land and land and land and land as far as you can see, surrounded by mountains everywhere. And so there is sort of a sense of like, hey, it’s good right here. But if you went out 10 miles, who knows? And being in the room like that, you don’t know what to expect.

But I started looking at the line I started looking at my line at my merch table and there was such an overwhelming amount of Support there specifically for what I was doing gay wise, and a lot of excited people that were chanting for daddy and Effy. Being in Laramie, Wyoming and having that reaction during a pride month, it’s like, Okay, well, things may not be perfect, but we’re getting somewhere.

Luckily GCW did kind of successfully come in, in a way where we had a little excess, our cup did run a little over and we were able to give back to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which not to highlight, oh, here we are giving to charity. But if you’re in Laramie, they don’t really want to make too much noise about what happened. They’re really trying to move away from it. There’s a small bench as a tribute as a sort of reminder, but other than that, everything is sort of been washed away.

You know, for the match, it was awesome and there’s a reason it was me and Warhorse out there and I wanted it to be a match with someone I was comfortable with and someone that I knew would be up for a while last time no matter what. And if things got weird, you know, I’m showing up puffing my chest and things got weird. It’s also a guy who you want in your corner, you know, things go wrong, he’s 4000 pounds of heavy metal.

It’s, it’s magic to see kind of in a bigger picture that the internet has reached everywhere and when people are coming up to you from Salt Lake City in Montana and Idaho and, you know, Denver and Fort Collins they’re driving from all over and from Laramie, you know, specific when they’re coming up to you to say we know about Warhorse, we know about GCW we know about this stuff. It’s like magic

But there’s the other side of that coin, which is what you kind of brought up which is this was promoted traditionally in Wyoming, you know, kind of how they would in the old days with the posters with radio ads, or Ricky Morton with radio ads or Joey Janella. With you know, hey, we’re bringing wrestling down to the Jubilee rodeo and those fans were in for a big night.

During Allie and Jimmy’s match, I was outside the door and this is an intergender match and she is bleeding and it is very intense and I saw two couples leave and they go “it’s not for us” and I was like okay, we’re getting started here.

But as you mentioned, by the end of the night, Mance Warner and and Nick Gage are pretty crazy and things are getting very violent, a lot of barbed wire and pizza cutters and fire and doors and chairs and violence. And yeah, they called the police. They said there was a riot going on up there. And these men were going to kill each other and what people don’t understand and I have to back myself up a little bit because it sounds like we just ran from the police which is entirely true. My car load it was me Warhorse, AJ Gray and Ricky Morton and we all made eye contact with each other when we saw the Cops pull up, got to the rental car and got the hell out of there.

So all those pictures of everybody sitting there looking at the cops, we were not there, Ricky Morton knew to get out, I need to get out, AJ Gray knew to get out and Warhorse damn sure knew to get out, he’s been to enough concerts to know when when that many cops show up, it’s not ending well. What they didn’t know when we pulled out is they had these cops at the door talking to them, they had five more patrol cruisers hanging out at the entrance another 200 yards from where this building was waiting. I saw them and I kept driving.

So someone thought it was very, very real and what a beautiful time to be in where you can go into this town, you know, draw in a town where they don’t even really know who you are, draw people from out of town who are coming in, and then still have that air of kayfabe where people don’t know what you’re doing whether or not it’s real. It was a bananas experience overall, like, how many people say they wrestled in Wyoming. I mean, Ricky Morton was just getting around to it. He’s been wrestling 71 years, you know.

I think there’s a little like the bigger story for me as a business brain is that, okay, here’s this weird outwest small town out in the middle of nowhere.

When you put those traditional promoting methods behind it, and when you kind of go back to the street and when you kind of go outside of social media, there still is a chance to get people on your team that may not know about you and I think about where wrestling is right now and I go all over the place in the United States all over the place little towns big town’s everything in between.

The population has never dictated the draw anywhere where I’ve been, it’s obviously a little easier to draw in Chicago but these promotions they get stuck online and in the social media of “well we got 100 retweets for our match, why aren’t the buildings full.”

When you put that effort into actually let people know in the communities and in these neighbourhoods, Hey, there’s a thing going on that you know, maybe you don’t know every name on the card, maybe you don’t care about you know if they’ll go to NXT or not or who the next hot prospect is, but it’s not that expensive and there’s a lot of cheap beer.

That audience for us in indie wrestling is like we haven’t even dug into it at all yet and the promotions I see doing well: Party hard in Arizona, you know, Freelance in Chicago, GCE wherever they want to go, Hoodslam on the west coast. Even FEST Wrestling in Florida, they have expanded beyond hey, here’s these little dream indie personalities, or here’s an ex WWE guy, and build something that is more on the entire show atmosphere and the entirety of, hey, just come enjoy yourself whether you remember everyone’s name or not.

Losing our ego in that way is like it’s the next big key because it isn’t weird that we drew in Laramie, Wyoming, it would be weird if we didn’t when we follow these kind of like, traditions of showing up in town and putting up the posters and doing the work. Like we have the ability in indie wrestling, there’s not really a ceiling on it, you know, so it’s, it gets me excited when we do shows like this, because I go over just scratching the surface, and especially coming out of lockdown. It’s like people are hungry for some wild fucked up shit.”

You are a performer who has been a part of many successful and much-beloved partnerships, be it Gaytanic Panic with Danhausen, BUSSY with Allie Kat or The Dirtiest Daddies with Chris Dickinson. What is it you look for when working with partners like these and what’s the secret to making it work as well as you do?

“I think it kind of goes back to like my, there are a few reasons. There are a few reasons. So first and foremost, a lot of people always say, like going back to Trixie Mattel. Obviously, they’re like Drag and Wrestling are so similar and I’m like, I wish they were more similar because the similarity we do not have with drag queens is that a drag queen is performing as the drag queen.

They go on stage and that is the performance it is look at this drag queen, here is this drag queen, they’re going to do an entire number or performance or song or routine for you by themselves and there’s a one-person stand up comedy kind of aspect to that. Whereas in wrestling, I am always reliant on juxtaposition, whether it’s in a singles match where I have an opponent, or in a team like setting where I may be a part of someone else.

So when I’m looking at Effy, I look at it in almost this not necessarily parasitic way but in a way where, okay, I know Effy as an individual. I know what Effy is trying to get forward. How does that juxtaposition with this character? and how am I going to work with this character?
There’s never the thought of like, I better make sure Effy gets Effy over, I better make sure this makes sense.

To me each match, each moment, each time that we are together It’s its own one-act play. So when I’m thinking of how my character would interact with these people, I want it to come across in a very unique and genuine way. That would make sense and I think secondary to it, like beyond me looking at wrestling in this sort of like I need you a way which not a lot of cats have done traditionally and I think there’s a bit of a split now of guys who say hey, you know, we both spent $300 on stupid outfits. Could we maybe work together on this stupid thing that we’re both so stupid for being here for, like explaining it to people that way it makes a little more sense?

But I think also when I look at kind of the people you’ve named, they’ve all done very good and very well for themselves on their own and I want to make sure that as our careers continue, and as we go on, that they have me to look for, for that sort of opposite reaction, because I don’t want to say I’m gonna play devil’s advocate, but I’m never going to give you the answer that the traditionalist is going to give you about what to do next in your career.

And I’m not saying any of them, listen to me all the time. But if they are coming to me with things, I think they know, they’re going to get an honest opinion from me, whether it be in regards to match work, or character, or moveset, or, you know, visual direction, that when we are together, we trust each other’s ideas more, because we don’t bullshit each other and we treat each other with respect.

And if I say, Hey, you know, Allie Kat, I think this would be sick and she says, Hey, that’s stupid to me and here’s why. We have that respect to be able to do that and you work better with those people who you honour their, you know, you honour what they are telling you and they at least consider you with honesty, when you are giving them the same, there’s, there’s a much better way to do that. And like, obviously, it’s easy to get defensive about your own stuff. But sometimes when we open up to each other, we get a lot more done. And so I think that’s why those teams like really grip like that.”

Was this mindset of, “Hey I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass, here’s what I really think” something you developed outside of wrestling or is it something you were exposed to early on during your time in the industry?

“Here’s the thing, people say, Oh, how did Effy come in here and just started making noise. I, I like ran a business for a long time and I came right out of college, I had been working on moving trucks.

You know, by the time I graduated college, I think, you know, through high school and college, I probably moved well over three to 4000 houses just in that time span of like, every summer, every week, every day, six, seven days a week, moving people’s houses, you learn customer service in a way that is so fucking weird. Because you’re taking everything a person owns, sticking it in a shitty box truck and getting it to the other side and if even one thing breaks in that process, you have failed at your job.

When you deal with those people at a customer service level, you really learn how to kind of like negotiate, making sure things are done well for people, you learn what is a good business practice, you learn that sometimes being honest, and losing your ass a little bit is a better long term strategy.

When I got out of this, and I was starting to move into wrestling, my first thought was like, shut the fuck up, keep it to yourself. This is not your world, you’re entering as a stranger. This is not your space and now, you know, eight years later, I’ve left this job and I keep these same management tactics in wrestling.

If I see things in business that are not good for customer service, if I see us treating labour poorly if I see us treating our supporters who are giving us the money and coming in, if I see them being taken advantage of like, I go immediately back to this person who is like, Hey, I’m a manager, first and foremost, and I’ve dealt with the employee relations, I’ve had to fire people for screwing up, I’ve had to hire a lot of people. I’ve dealt with crazy customers, I’ve dealt with not crazy customers who have valid complaints and when you take this real-world advice and bring it into wrestling, you’re not here to play a game anymore.

I’m not here to make sure I you know, rub elbows and play the high school hierarchy like everyone wants to and what you find out is when you become a loud ass voice who actually knows what they’re talking about, for the most part, because business translates along business and entertainment translates along with entertainment.

When you come in and start saying the shit that you’re going, Why is no one else saying this? This is crap. This is bullshit. They’re pulling you aside going? Damn, I’m glad you said it and the higher up and the more of these people that I deal with and the more people who are legends in our business or who are you know, stationed in our industry or you know, their monopolies that will never be touched, the higher you get up, the more there are of these people going I’m glad you finally said something and you are going “you so in so you have so much clout here you can do whatever you want, and you do nothing.”

I think that builds the trust and like as I’m looking forward not to jump ahead of myself, but they’re going to have to kill me because I’m not going to be quiet and the more I have been loud and the more I have so and so lost my mind and moved into pointing out bad business practices and moving independent wrestling in a direction that these corporations are going to have to follow because they’re not doing very well. It’s very invigorating, and it should scare a lot of the people and that trust with our wrestling crowd and with the wrestlers who are participating in it.

None of it exists without us the fans showing up the wrestlers who are wrestling everyone else who is not bumping and making money better get ready to show their you know, verification, I need a thesis statement and I needed in my office by five because once we make these shifts and once that trust is made with our fan base, we’re going to create a better business and I think that’s why most people keep me close right now. No bullshit. I’m ready to Tear some motherfuckers up,business-wise.

Where’s the consequence for me to do the right thing in the business world who’s not gonna book me right now, if I point out that, you know, hey, the biggest indie company in the world that disappeared for a while that sells more DVDs than anyone pays everybody 50 100 bucks and says Shut up, you’re going to get the clout, when we start having those conversations out loud, when I don’t give a fuck about the clout of your company because my organic clout is better, then we get real out of whack and out of line for a lot of these cats, and they’re not going to be able to stay alive afterwards.

That was long, but y’all needed to hear it.”

You mentioned there the much-discussed issue of promoters trying to use clout or exposure to pay talent, over the past five or so years on the independents is this something you have seen a decline in since talent began to call it out or is it still as prevalent as ever?

“Well, I, you know, I’m always surprised a little bit because like, first of all, I had some of the other day, and I have to be a little careful because I don’t, I don’t want to be disrespectful. But of course, it’s the same thing as like, I come from a very religious family, I speak very plainly and Matter of fact about where I stand with religion, which is, I don’t have one and I think it’s, for the most part, negative and I don’t think we need it. But for me to act like me running around and going, your churches in a ninny and your pope is an idiot is going to help anything, it’s not and I have to sort of take that same approach here.

When I have called things out like Gabe Sapolsky, not paying any talent for EVOLVE, and, let’s do the ticket math real fast for America. When you sell 200 tickets to your show at $25 a ticket. That’s what five grand let’s do the math. I don’t want to say this wrong. So we’ve got I’m just gonna stop here. Because this is we’ve got time 25, let’s say so 200 tickets you to five grand, we will say you had to sponsor too. We’ll say got six grand out of it, even though I know he didn’t. Now, let’s say earlier in the day, you hosted a seminar for 30 wrestlers, and it costs $300. Now hold on a second $9,000 for the seminars a lot more than you sold in ticket sales and if we can promise you a dream, you’ll pay us everything out of your pocket.

But this is sort of everywhere. And we create these hierarchies where the second I put my foot down and go, I will not sign with a TV company, you do not offer me what you promise. Everyone is looking at rose coloured glasses at the fact that you still don’t have health care, you still are being paid less than your counterparts 10 15 20 years earlier and now the contracts being offered are being given in a sense because indie wrestling has been allowed to treat as a stepping stone.

Well, yeah, of course, we can pay this guy 100 bucks and send him on his way, he’ll be signed in a year and that’s why he’s coming to us in the first place. When you put your foot down and go, No, I’m going to be independent. I’m going to keep running independent shows I’m going to continue drawing more and more people, which will increase my pay by my own volition. Then they go “wait a second”, you can do that and you go… yeah.

Then when you find it out, okay, well, NXT signing guys for 30 Grand 40 grand, which if you’ve never had a real job, if you’ve never had real money, if you’ve never tasted that amount of cash, holy shit, that feels great, that feels beautiful, you’ve got a chance you’re going to be on the network. But when I can do that, you know, in six months, and I can go hey, this is how much of it was from wrestling. Here’s what I did in shirts. Here’s what I did, working through my stream. Here’s what I did working through my cameos. Here’s what I did, working through other deals that I can figure out for myself, because that’s what my hustle is towards, then it starts to go, Okay, well, you’ve got to make the choice.

So you’re going to do the work over here and risk it and say this is the startup that could work, even though it’s not a startup and it’s all of us being freelance together. Or do you say I’m going to take the guaranteed money same as the guy at the circle, okay, is making no shade to the guy at the Circle K, but you’re trading in benefits at a real salary that all your friends have in their real jobs by getting to say you’re a performer? We shouldn’t have to make that choice anymore.

They shouldn’t be paying you partially and telling you you’re a star. Oh, you’re a star, honey. Well, the advertising revenue we’ve seen, it’s a hell of a lot more than they’re paying out to run into talent. So where’s the cash darling? And they don’t want to ask, they’re happy to be there. I get it. If that’s your path, that’s your path.

But there’s no reason I can’t sell 5000 tickets. There’s no reason I can’t sell 20,000 tickets. There’s no reason I can’t sell 100,000 streams. Distribution is the only issue we have. There’s not a difference in talent anymore. There’s not a difference and you know passion towards the product really. On the indies, I’ve seen a lot more passion towards what we’re doing anyway, all there is, is the problem of we have not been able to properly tell people where we are. We have to bring them to us and to do that you have to tell a wrestler to tuck their ego a little bit.”

I want to ask you about the response to independent wrestling by traditional fans of companies such as the WWE, the sort of fan who take to social media and criticise anyone who offers an alternative to what they consider the dream path. Do you think it’s possible to capture these fans, to change their mindset or do you think there are some fans that will just simply never see it the way you do?

“You know, I don’t want to be a conspiracy theorist here. But there’s a lot of times where if you tweet anything that is company-centric, and I’ll use it in the WWE in more of regard than I’ve seen with anything AEW, there are sort of these nameless, faceless profiles that that will attack you or will say, you know, your crap or you know, love them forever. And a lot of them I do believe is like Stan fan accounts that you know, really want to get behind their superstars.

But historically, you know, ECW, WWE they’ve all got the same people kind of in the room now. Yeah, they have done a lot of that sort of astroturfing, of their product and of their thing. And I don’t necessarily think that if you really look at the viewership out there that we’re sweeping America with wrestling right now, whether we want to believe it or not.

Now, we can say, Oh, look at the giant Peacock deal, look at AEW another cable company, and there are these growth positions. But I’m of the belief that these growth positions are sort of rooted in the 90s like 1998 this would have been very exciting news. But right now, it’s sort of like you’re repeating the past, and you’re repeating what was already there.

COVID did something very interesting to the actual product of both of these companies and to all companies, which is we could not have fans for a while we could not have real buildings for a while. Wrestling is a sport built on that. So when everything was sort of torn away, and everything was sort of set to zero and you saw the different products. I think it started to become a little easier to say Hey, wait a second. If I’m used to seeing WWE I’m used to seeing these companies that look just like WWE now IMPACT looks really similar to web Ring of Honor looks like WWE, AEW looks like WWE.

All the Indies now look like WWE because everything is set in a warehouse and when you can get those sort of crossover moments as we’ve seen on Tik Tok. I know MV Young had one I’ve seen Ninja Mac get it I’ve seen Dante Leon another guy who GCW has worked with recently, where when you get that slight crossover into these Tik Tok markets or enter these Twitter markets where they get viral in other circles in wrestling, it’s not because they’re WWE that they get over and it’s not because they’re not WWE because they get over.

The fandom in the United States is more in tune with lower quality standards of entertainment and instead of going well it’s not in 4k with 100 cameras in an arena the screaming fanbase, they’re going all entertainment it’s entertainment if it makes me laugh or makes me excited or makes me pumped I want to learn a little bit more. Now are all 6 million people that MV Young throwing Harlow O’Hara to the floor going to find him and look up that he’s a wrestler and come to a show no. But a 1% win rate at 6 million is more than the viewership of all of NXT.

So start rounding at real numbers and it sounds silly but it’s like this is where we’re at is you know I did a show in Brooklyn last year there were 50 60 fans in attendance. It was done in a private residence. They had influencers on the roof and those videos on Instagram that we’re getting tagged in are doing 500,000 to a million views. The way we distribute is so different that for me to say like oh cable television is the goal like I can almost not laugh when I say that to think of what a baby little goal that is.”

Let’s pivot back to your career on the independents, over the past five years we have seen you take on an array of incredible talent from Alex Shelly to Homicide to Chris Dickinson, is there any one opponent or match that you look back on and go ‘wow I learnt so much from that?’

“The one that springs forward to me immediately is Eddie Kingston, and I fought Eddie Kingston in Los Angeles, and we had never met before this moment and he, you know, already knew a lot of my guys from AIW that, you know, these are my road buddies, these are my hang out with.

You know, I’m like, I’ve been watching any wrestling for a long time, and I’m familiar with Eddie Kingston and the story’s of Eddie Kingston so I am very, very hesitant.

But the approach from Eddie Kingston was like, Hey, man, they know me, and they kind of know you. What are we going to show them that isn’t you necessarily, and we got to have those moments together and it was magic for him to be thinking in that regard of like, they already know what they’re going to get from Eddie Kingston. I’ve given them Eddie Kingston, they’re familiar with Eddie Kingston. They think they’re familiar with Effy, what is the Effy that they’re going to become familiar with? T

hat isn’t the one they know already and that was like, it was such a cool brain moment to figure out and it’s like, it’s, it’s very gracious to have a performer like him, you know, step up and take that role of, Hey, I’m clearly the power person in this role right now. I can take this situation wherever I want. Let me take it in a positive direction for you. and it was really awesome. Like, it’s just it feels magic.”

As you have developed and become a more permanent fixture of the independent scene have you taken the same approach as Eddie Kingston when it comes to helping develop less exposed or younger talent?

“I think in some ways, I think I still fall into somewhat of a category where I may be doing it subconsciously. Because, you know, a lot of guys, when you meet them for the first time, they’re like, Hey, I know what match I’m going to have like they know what you’re gonna have.

I sort of pull them and go, you’re not because we’re going to have this and sometimes I get that push back a little bit of like, I don’t, I don’t know what you’re talking about here. This spot doesn’t make sense to me. But that’s not going to work. And getting them to put that trust in and build their juxtaposition to me. I think maybe I am doing it a little subconsciously.

It’s one of the reasons recently that I bonded so much with Jordan Oliver because you know, we’ve been around each other a lot and Jordan like when he’s with his crew. He’s like nose up to the world like walks and dick first like bratty as fuck, and I get what he is because there are motherfuckers that have tried to come for him forever and ever and they talk shit about him.

So why be open to the world when they’ve been shitty to you a little bit not in a negative way but in a sort of like I’m gonna check you first and so I think it took us a little longer to get more connected but what I realised with him, he was like, Yeah, I did these shows that, you know, and I won’t give away the shows or anything but I did the shows here because I knew these guys have talent, I wanted to make sure they had matches with good footage.

When I’m hearing that, like, Okay, he’s only 22 or 23, 23 right now, maybe 24? I don’t know, young still, already has the veterans mindset of, hey, if I can get these guys good footage, I know they’ll get over and maybe he’s not even thinking this but down the line? Are they going to be able to, you know, give me better matches or, or when they’re in the right place to remember me giving them these good matches, but it’s sort of that mindset of like, yeah, we’re no better than our opponent, we have to, we have to make sure that the people who are there for us are going to be able to meet our expectations and meet the crowd with that, because like, you can’t have a match with yourself. It’s impossible.

Well, Joey Janella did it but still…”

You mentioned Jordan Oliver receiving abuse and it’s something we see often online particularly for performers of a certain style be it comedy wrestling or – as it has been dubbed online- ‘flippy sh*t’, does it frustrate you to see particularly retired veterans make a career out of monetising what is basically sh*tting on the product? Or do you simply look at it as, well they are just trying to make some cash?

“Yeah, I mean, there’s, there’s always that they are just making money, I think that the secondary problem has sort of come with like, they can plant the seeds of abuse and then if their followers sort of grab the flowers and throw them at you. It’s not on them.

Yeah, so I’ve always been kind of fine with it and I know, it’s sort of a kayfabe work but when it comes outside, and these people are starting to attack, sort of others or sort of vulnerable populations in wrestling, and they’re coming with hate that, you know, let you know, let’s say somebody throws their hands and says, Well, I’ve never said anything homophobic. I’ve never done anything abusive, but everyone in their entourage is throwing this, this hate around and throwing this crap around.

It’s, it’s not really acceptable anymore and it’s sort of I hate to say that like we’re resorting back to violence, but it’s like, it’s kind of on-site. When it comes to us being the sort of outlaws that are outside of TV wrestling, and outside of this world, and outside of like the corporate hand, necessarily, I feel almost more of an independent spirit to like the 60s 70s, early 80s. of, Hey, man, if you want to come to play around, you can, but we’re not really we don’t really have the time or the energy to sit here and educate or fix your incorrect opinions.

We’re gonna bring the heat and I think what these people are finding out like in person is, we aren’t standing down as much and I refer to we as kind of the LGBTQ talent because it seems like there’s a testing ground right now, still, of will they won’t they and I’m here to let you know, you know, will they? They will. And I don’t want to run any of these things. I hope none of it happens. But it’s we’re all kind of fully prepared and like, if we’re not going to change somebody’s mind, at this point, post-Trump, you’re not really changing minds with a wise conversation, it doesn’t happen. So we are sort of in preparato, of making sure buildings know, making sure we know, making sure companies know that like, if it goes it’s going and I’m not stopping until someone pulls me back.

Do I think everyone else should have to have that same mindset? No. But if we can get out in front of this shit, then, you know, consequences will never be the same, you know?”

I want to speak about your 2019 RISE promo when you arrive for the promotion, you talked about the capitalization of LGBTQ talent from promoters during Pride month, two years on from that promo how do you feel things have changed and are we on the right track?

“I think there’s more of a queer apathy from the consumer now w like, we’ve seen all these corporations step up, and like, Colgate is prideful, when you clean your teeth and like, there’s, there’s this sort of like, we kind of know what you’re going to do the thing where the consumer is starting to be able to sniff out the bullshit before even we can sometimes.

I think there is still always going to be people looking and saying, Okay, well throw the rainbow on it. Throw a couple of gays on it, we can get us a queer show and we’ll be okay for the year.

But now the expansion I sort of seen as like, there isn’t enough room in Pride Month and if the expansion is going to continue to pay queer talent and move them outside of it, that was the goal of the whole RISE promo, which was basically me saying, you can, you can yell and you can scream, but you can’t get rid of me, I’m going to be booked, and I have money to make sure I stay where I need to stay. None of you has control of that. The people upstairs that you booked today are not going to tell you that they’re happy, they’re pumped, you gave them a job today.

Since that moment, I’m not saying it’s been perfect, but there’s been a lot more opportunity whether we have afforded ourselves or not to take things into our own hands to take the bookings that are fair and to point out the things that are, hey, this company still works with so and so and wants to have a pride show. That’s not really the way things should go. It’s kind of heartwarming. It’s like delegation in a business, right? Where if you yell loud enough, at first, everyone else will yell behind you And luckily, they were ready to yell.

I’m not saying I was first ever it’s just, it’s nice to know that I grabbed the mic And like we’ve seen real progress. I joke the other day that I made a little GIF, I broke through a photo thing and I said ‘make it gay’ and I said how are we doing two years. They said we’re pretty gay, we could get gayer.

But even like the other night, we did Fear the Gay Agenda where even some of the gay community at first the opening video, this thing was like, hell spewed hate speech from pastors of you know, the gays are gonna burn and within three or four matches of this show, it was trending over Smackdown it was trending number one in sports, they kept trying to pull it down and it was this weird blend of people really getting behind the show, but also have this morbid curiosity of like, What the fuck is Fear the Gay Agenda, to the point where like, the next day, people are still arguing about it in the comments that have nothing to do with wrestling.

For us to take these really aggressive gay moments that will catch on on a national scale. It’s using sort of the skills that the gays have had all along that people have told them like it’s too gay for the paying audience, and going, is it now and showing them that it’s not? Sometimes we have to hold that torch and run through the jungle first.

But like when we get there having the corporation’s catch up to us? It seems really stupid at first. But like now we’re sort of like, I hope you hate me and have to pay me a lot of money. I hope you hate every $100 bill that leaves your pocket when you’re handing them over to me because I don’t give a damn because now you require us.”

You have mentioned in previous interviews that as a voice shouting from the outside there is only so much of a change you can incite when it comes to altering what happens within some of wrestling’s biggest companies and that it needs to be voices inside them that will really help make a change. Do you think we are seeing an improvement on this front and what do you think of how this has played out over the last few years?

“I think it’s these baby steps, right. So like the official WWE NXT account is tweeting about how Toni Storm is bisexual and made this announcement and, you know, you’re telling me three years ago, the official television show of the NXT account would be announcing someone’s coming out during Pride, I’d be a little surprised.

You know, based on my conversations, it does seem that there is still sort of the guiding hand, the corporate guiding hand to say, we don’t know how this is gonna turn out or we don’t know, you know how to measure whether or not this is a success.

So we’re not really sure how much we want to jump in on it. But when they’ve taken these little baby steps now, I think they’re starting to see that the water is not as cold as they once thought or as it may have been before because when you make these mistakes, and when you are criticised for the way that you treat the gay community or the way that the gay community has been portrayed in your shows, it can be a little daunting to jump back right in, because you’re going to they’re going to judge us if we do it right.

They’re going to judge us on our side and if we do it wrong, they’re going to judge us on their side and I see the fear of that. But my sort of wink to talent is like you are in the most wonderful time of confusion where corporations don’t know what to do with us and by taking small risks and knowing that sometimes you’re on a live television show and sometimes you can do whatever you want, they are going to have to make the decision on whether or not to be in the room on their own.

When they do, it’s sort of going to be your decision of how you grab onto that light and how you grab on to what that affords you. It may send you in a wonderful direction that you never expected and they may try some things that they never thought they could or you may be back out here with me and in that case, even more evidence to the beauty that is freedom. I’ll help you get some bookings pal.”

I want to tie those last two questions together talking about your time in RISE and WWE NXT, someone we have seen you take on for RISE as well as on several other occasions who now resides in WWE NXT is Shotzi Blackheart. How was your time working with Shotzi and did you ever expect her to reach the heights she has in the Black-and-Gold brand?

“So I think with Shotzi like, when you when you meet Shotzi and when you’re experiencing her for the first time you’re expecting kind of like a big star feel and I think you get all of that. But it’s not in a way that is scary or sends you know away there’s not a standoffishness to Shotzi.

She’s sort of like exists everything you expect her to be and she has this magic where like you said, she can host she can do commentary, she can do the matches, she can do the backstage vignettes and it all makes sense and it all feels like Shotzi. And like that, was there on the Indies. I don’t think anybody was like, Oh, yeah, Shotzi you will be on the Indies forever and I was there for the last night of Shotzi on the Indies, which was at a GCW show.

There was a stunt show spectacular after, that featured partially naked people doing stunts and i looked at her and I said, “so you’re going to miss the Indies aren’t you Shotzi” and she goes “not quite, not quite”.

But I think sky’s the limit over there with them and you know, when I look at what they’ve been able to do with characters, even beyond their sort of ring life, like we’re not anywhere near that, but I think they’ve got Shotzi for 20 or 30 years if they really want to make money.”

Finally, we are halfway through 2021. What does the rest of the year hold for Effy?

“Well, okay, so here’s where I’m at And this is like, I this isn’t an explanation to people, but it’s at least in understanding I think of… people have been pulling me aside lately. They’re like, you don’t need to do all this crazy stuff.

You know, I just did tournament survival, we had a crazy sixth person the next day, I did the blood match, I just fought Ace Romero which is filmed for later, I did hardcore matches, I’m out in Wyoming going crazy bumping my ass off.

Where I am at emotionally is that I have some really big shit coming, like really big shit and I can’t talk about any of it. Because of that, I’m sort of like litter, quite literally creating the metaphor of banging my head against the wall, which is, I want this to be the summer where people don’t know exactly what’s going on yet but when they look back at like, all my matches, this summer, they go, there was no reason that dumbass had to do any of that.

I’m going to say I did it because I needed you to know that I’m still 100% to the game of wrestling when this shit comes to the table. And when this you know, information is out there. Beyond that, like the other big things is like ‘Wrestling is Gay’ is going through a transition which I started a little clothing company in January out of a joke I woke up I was like wrestling is so gay, I love it. Tell my friend this and he was like, let’s go. You know, so far, we’ve been able to raise $4,000 for just charity, I’ve been able to sponsor wrestling shows, I’ve been able to, you know, step up and put the money back into not only the independent scene but like into real life, Atlanta, charitable LGBTQ centres and that is about to expand to be nationwide and a lot bigger and a lot more open to people.

What I figured out like the big thing for Effy to sum this up is I have to take myself and look at myself, like what are the things that you are weak at? And it turns out shipping orders… I’m not great at it, it turns out keeping up with all the money I’m not great with and it turns out, you know, like representing myself I’m not great with. So like taking these things where I know I’m weak and focusing on my strengths.

That’s the goal of the rest of 2021 and into 2022. Just keeping it as gay as possible. I have some big show announcements coming. Obviously, Effy’s Big Gay brunch has become a part of the ‘Mania week scene, but I want to see it more often and elsewhere. So we’re going to be working towards those expansions now.”

Big thank you to Effy for taking the time out to speak with us, you can support him via EffyLives.com or via his social media!

If you use any quotes from this interview please provide a h/t and link back to Liam Alexander-Stewart of Inside the Ropes.