Chaotic Wrestling Raising Ceiling With Pan Optic Championship

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NESN celebrates Pride Month — honoring the impact, influence, and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community in sports 

Pro wrestling throughout its history long has been seen through a gender-normative lens, but that slowly changed this century.

Fans are used to a certain format when they go to a wrestling show. The men wrestle the men and the women wrestle the women. Any deviation from that was seen as a gimmick and primarily existed within the realm of comedy.

However, the lack of historical support for women’s wrestling in the United States meant there were limited opportunities for women, especially when there was only one women’s match on a card. It meant a competition for spots, which also meant a lot of pressure on those who got those spots. That pressure gets elevated at the independent level.

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The foundation of Chaotic Wrestling women’s division was created by former Shimmer and TNA star Nikki Roxx, who won the inaugural women’s championship in 2011. Roxx was a veteran who helped rising talents in the ring and lent credibility to the next generation. TNA star Alisa Edwards and AEW star Mercedes Moné, f.k.a Sasha Banks in WWE, rose to fame in Chaotic as the promotion continued its growth as one of the top independent promotions New England.

Belmont and Davienne were among multiple local wrestlers who helped grow the Chaotic women’s division, but there still was a limit when it came to opportunity. Top female talent in the indies often gets signed early by WWE and other national promotions since they also are trying to grow their women’s divisions. It’s why wrestling schools like the New England Pro Wrestling Academy have mixed-gendered training.

A push to further the limits of Chaotic didn’t come until the COVID-19 pandemic forced massive changes for everyone, including pro wrestling. Becca won the Chaotic Women’s Championship in 2021, but a training session with Puerto Rican wrestler Riddix inspired more for the promotion.

“It kind of came up in conversation, like, aw, they’re having these awesome matches in class in front of nobody, but on shows, they’ll never get to do that because shows were so gender normative,” Chaotic Wrestling owner Chase Del Monte told NESN.com. “Guys wrestled guys, girls wrestled girls, and there was very little intergender wrestling to be had, which, in talking to my female roster, they thought was very limiting because there was only so few women that you could really — in general on most shows, there was really one women’s match a show, and that was it.”

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There had been intergender wrestling in Chaotic. Davienne is a former tag team champion, but Del Monte’s further discussions with his roster fueled a huge shift for the women’s division: The Pan Optic Championship.

‘Pan Optic,’ it forces the question: ‘What is that?’ And that’s kind of what we were looking for,” Del Monte said. “We wanted to start the conversation. We wanted people to kind of question what this is.”

The title features four flags representing the LGBTQ+ community in different ways, and the normative male and female sex symbols. The response from fans largely was positive, but there was natural confusion and criticism as one can expect from the social media age. Del Monte credited Becca for coming up with the name. “Pan” represents all genders, and “Optic” is meant for the representation Chaotic was striving for. It represents that anyone of any gender can fight for any title at Chaotic; Davienne in 2021 became the first woman to win the Chaotic Heavyweight Championship, and Shannon LeVangie this year became the first woman to win the New England Championship.

“Chaotic is so genderless in the way that there really is no divide between who wrestles who,” former Pan Optic champion Aaron Rourke told NESN.com. “… The Pan Optic Champion, by definition, is just a belt that could be defended by anyone and can be put online against anyone of any gender, sexual background. I think it’s a gesture in the right direction where they’re showing that everyone on the roster is on an even playing field. There’s no discrepancy based on gender, which I think is really wonderful and a super positive message to put out to the community.”

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Del Monte had no problem with anyone who was confused by the title change, but when it came to bad faith arguments and decries of Chaotic going “woke,” the promoter and wrestler had little patience. But he also didn’t want to feed the trolls and let Chaotic continue to be a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I remember the day after the Pan Optic Championship. We announced it and had it on a show, and a fan had sent me a very long message about how much it meant to them,” Del Monte said. “How they had been kind of dealing with their own non-binary ness and not knowing how to address it. Even with the LGBTQ popularity or at least gaining some traction in this world in this day and age, non-binary is still really misunderstood and joked about. So to have a company like Chaotic that has been at the top of the New England independents for over 20 years come out with that, they told me it was just so nice.

“They said they were in tears at the show and basically went home and wept with happiness how finally this was something that people not only would have on a show but you have queer, straight women, men, non-binary people fighting for something that is worthwhile, that is worth fighting for, that is worth going through these arduous situations to win. Really doing it in such way while highlighting it and making it something special and representing that realm we are looking for. It wasn’t treated as different. It’s not just for the gays. It’s not our LGBTQ title. It’s another title that is sought after in Chaotic Wrestling.”

The prestige of the Pan Optic Championship was increased after Paris Van Dale’s 510-day reign, which was one of the longest reigns for any title in Chaotic — Del Monte holds the record for his 1,000-plus day reign as heavyweight champion. She’ll look to regain her title this Friday after losing it to Aggro.

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Pro wrestling still often is viewed in cis-gendered and hetero-lens shows, but the Pan Optic Championship shows the platform can go further and promote representation for everyone.

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