The conversation about equality and representation in wrestling has been greatly amplified throughout 2019
Aja Perera was a guest on a recent edition of the Women's Wrestling Weekly podcast. During the interview, she discusses her struggles in trying to be a positive force of change, and shares advice for younger wrestlers.
The following highlights were passed along to Fightful by the Women's Wrestling Weekly team:
AJA PERERA SHARES HER STRUGGLES FOR EQUAL REPRESENTATION IN THE WRESTLING WORLD
As black women, we are basically still back there cause, if you look on major promotions. I don't want to get heat for this but it does need to be talked about. If you look at major promotions, there’s not many women of color. In my opinion, there’s still not enough women signed, it should be half women and half men, an equal number, that’s what I believe.
And even now it’s a sprinkle of women and nothing but men and then even within that sprinkle of women it’s like maybe one or two African-Americans. You can look at any promotion, of course, WWE is larger, there numbers are larger, but when you get down to ratios, it’s still the same.. And then that leaves someone like me having to retrain the way I thought because someone would get signed somewhere and they are a women of color and I was like, “Crap, I’m not going to get signed now, they’ve already reached their quota…” It sucks that we have to think that way… I’ve trained myself not to but that’s still a fact, you know, I’m just not letting it keep me down, it should be something that should be discussed...not discussed, it should be something that should be changed, it’s not a discussion, it's a fact. We all see it, we all know it, we all talk about it. As black women, we have that bigger target on our backs. As even as far as it goes... There could be two girls with the exact same gimmick and more likely their not going to get the African-American because she’s doing something different ...They swallow us differently. I was a superhero for literally five years. And I was literally told, I can’t put you in anything because no one really takes you seriously, no ones really going to believe in you. Why because I’m doing something serious? There’s been plenty of superheroes in professional wrestling and they get belts, they get pushes, they get looks. Probably even signed but because I’m a black girl that’s doing something different it’s not palatable for some reason.
AJA PERERA TALKS ABOUT PUSHING THROUGH AGAINST ADVERSITY
I would sit back and I would tell myself that, you know, when I get to a point where I’m getting things, I’m going to speak on this, like this won’t be in vain. So it propelled me, if it hinders me from getting stuff, I’ll be that person, just so it’s changed later. It literally motivated me. I always told myself, even my trainer would tell me , “You’re special, you’re going to make it.” So, it was never a question about when. It gets frustrating, I feel like my journey has been longer for a reason and now me and Aerial and I we’re always talking about it, always pushing the agenda because there’s not enough people that do. So that was one of those things, I would always tell myself, you know, I would tell myself, times are going to change. If I just sit here and I wallow in the now, then when the time is changed, I’m not going to get anything because I’ve been too busy wallowing in pity. So I would literally change myself thinking about the future. Man, one day when I’m on Shine this moment won't even matter. And now I made it to Shine.. I’m finally here...
AJA PERERA SHARES THE MOMENT SHE KNEW SHE WANTED TO BE A WRESTLER
It actually wasn't training for me. It’s funny, I’ve been a fan my whole life, I love wrestling. I was okay being a fan. I wasn’t trying to take any bumps, wasn’t trying to get hit, I was cool sitting in the crowd and just cheering for people. My sister, she wanted to be the wrestler, so she drove me there.…. When I had my first match, when I stepped out into the crowd, I was like, “Oh my god.” I’m on the other side of the screen, like that's how it felt for me. And I was like, “This is so freaking cool!” Not only did I have like first match jitters but I also had “Oh my God, this is my dream job” at the same time. That realization for my match. It was a really weird feeling... That’s when I really knew that this was it, there's nothing else I could ever really do in life that would give me this much happiness.
AJA PERERA SHARES ADVICE FOR FUTURE FEMALE WRESTLERS
Be kind. This sounds terrible, don’t be stupid. And when I say stupid, I mean, like, I’m about to say some stuff that people don’t like...be loyal to yourself because I came up, and I mean I feel old when I say this but, when I came up, you’re loyal to your trainer, you’re loyal to your promotion, yes do that, but like you have to migrate and you have to train different places, you have to meet different people and you have to go to different shows you know you can’t just stay right there. As much as people don’t want to admit it, every trainer is not a good trainer, every trainer does not care about your well being. You know, like just be smart. If you think someone is taking advantage of you, leave. If they’re going to blackball you, who cares, leave because it’s not going to do anything for you, if you’re going to just sit there for who knows how long and then be bitter and you’ve missed your time. And people always love to say, “You’ve got to be loyal.” I've been through, luckily with my first trainer, he pulled me to the side one day, “There’s no more I can train, there's no more I can show you.” He’s like “You’ve got to move forward and move on.” I’m taking that to heart and if I hadn’t of done that I wouldn’t be right here...if I stayed loyal to people who I knew weren’t good for me, I wouldn’t be here right now.
You can see the full interview embedded above.