ATHLETE APPRECIATION/WHAT PRO WRESTLING MEANS TO ME: LuFisto

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Editor’s Note: While we’ve rightly celebrated a fair number of outstanding athletes and talent on this site, I confess to holding off writing this most overdue spotlight. Specifically, I didn’t even know where to begin in telling the story of arguably the most important woman in the modern wrestling era.

Yes, I understand this a bold statement. And many might lean toward more prominent names in WWE circles featured on WrestleMania stages as holding this mantle. But no one can deny the incredible impact LuFisto continues to have on the global pro wrestling landscape, independent or otherwise. There are literally hundreds of wrestlers – both men and women – to whom LuFisto remains a mentor, favorite opponent, and – importantly – friend.

Thus, we felt this the appropriate opportunity to end this piece with word’s directly from LuFisto herself, as it wouldn’t seem right any other way. These appear at the article’s conclusion, and put her incredible career into the perspective it deserves. Even athletes and talent ‘mark’ for the true greats. And we’re guilty of that in bringing you the story of LuFisto. A big ‘thank you’ to her – akin to others on this site – who chose to share their innermost thoughts.

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The incredible journey of LuFisto began at the age of 17, when Quebec’s finest first entered a ring under the (what else?) demon moniker of ‘Lucifer.’ Twenty years later, she’s a virtual belt factory: 19 championships – 11 men and 8 women – across 14 different promotions.

LuFisto’s likewise literally wrestled all over the world, and famously fought the Ontario Athletic Commission in 2002 after its commissioner banned her from wrestling men.  Specifically, she argued for changes to an old law prohibiting men and women being in the ring at the same time for combat sport and/or wrestling matches.

To put things into perspective, when WWE and TNA pushed bra and panties, LuFisto was legally fighting for wrestling parity, gender be damned. In her early-mid-twenties, no less.

Does it surprise anyone she pinned Kevin Owens (Steen) to become CZW’s first female Iron Man Champion? Won the first deathmatch tournament in her home country via absorbing light tubes and the Necro Butcher in consecutive rounds? For contextual purposes, take a look at Dean Ambrose (Jon Moxley) CZW classics featuring similar matches and opponents. Then fathom a 5’3’’, small framed woman taking that abuse…and walking away a winner. As if that wasn’t enough, LuFisto subsequently entered the CZW Cage of Death event later that year.

Let me be crystal clear: this isn’t a sanctimonious piece celebrating a female pro wrestler willing to mix it up with the fellas. That’s only one aspect of LuFisto, arguably its most well-known…and not surprisingly having held 11 ‘male’ titles.

To explain, her entire 20 year career is literally one of trailblazing. When Canada tried to legally prevent LuFisto’s push toward integrating women athletes, she literally fought back. And endured a light tube beating to make a point. That was only step one.

Her next hurdle was helping Shimmer get its legs in 2006. Today, we take it for granted women can headline a PPV, let alone a hardcore match. After forcing her way through the CZW ranks to equal footing, she worked alongside greats like Mickie Knuckles, Cheerleader Melissa, and Allison Danger to keep women’s wrestling on the map. Shimmer, of course, now shares talent with Shine, and Stardom a mainstay on the Japanese wrestling scene (one anything but friendly to female talent over the years). Saraya Knight, Paige, you know the rest.

Almost unfathomable was this tiny female athlete next integrating with Mexico’s premier AAA promotion, where she debuted in 2012. Fans of the promotion will recognize this timeframe for when the terrific Taya was displaying her talents. There, in tandem, was CZW’s Iron Man as the most unlikely luchadora. In AAA, LuFisto fought in several high profile women’s matches, including the La Reina des Reinas finals, one where Fabi Apache and she were the last two standing.

AAA was not LuFisto’s first stop in Mexico, however. When Ontario pushed back, she headed south from 2002 to 2005 toward Lucha Libre Feminil and Nueva Generacion Xtreme, serving as the latter’s Extrema Campeona. Seven years later, LuFisto stood as a championship finalist, a AAA star.

Push forward 24 months, and LuFisto’s next ladder rung was as a foundational talent for aforementioned Shine, likewise NCW Femme Fatales. When they needed a championship foil, there was LuFisto. Someone to hold together a show, LuFisto again. Anyone crazy enough to go careening off of Orpheum balconies and bars, not afraid to showcase an equally powerful Jessicka Havok at Shine 29? It was always LuFisto.

To summarize: LuFisto – as a teenager – was already personally fighting to integrate wrestling. Then took on intergender extreme matches only Candice LeRae would find sane. Helped stabilize perhaps the premier women’s wrestling promotion. Showcased women’s wrestling, sans mask, in lucha only AAA. Facilitated cementing the current independent wrestling scene’s prominence, one that empowered male and female talent migration into NXT, ROH, and TNA, among others.

To be honest, I knew almost none of this before writing this piece, with it requiring a fair bit of research on LuFisto’s backstory. And a fair bit, mind you, isn’t even readily available information. All I saw was an insane, tiny woman, willing to do the unthinkable to entertain an audience. I’ve literally watched welts and cuts the size of her back form from tremendous bumps/stunts, and no beats missed. I saw a woman with a wonderfully entertaining character and well developed persona. One – watching from a distance – admired by her peers. Always kind to fans (Huracanrana adores her!), even the youngest, and at promotions she’s not even wrestling in.

She’s hardcore. Luchadora. A grappler. A high flyer. And the epitome of modern women’s wrestling. Truth be told, we try to make every Shine when LuFisto comes through Tampa. Because we’re seeing a living legend.

Most importantly, what has LuFisto’s career meant to HER?:

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“To the question “What has my career meant to me?”, I don’t know what to answer. Some say I had an extraordinary run as a wrestler even if I didn’t sign with any major company. Others say that I’m a failure because I did not “make it.” One guy even said after reading the piece ESPN wrote about my 20th wrestling anniversary that my story was “laughable at best.”

As for myself, it’s always a mix of emotions. I am proud to have fought so hard alongside some of my sisters, for women to have their place in the ring. And that today, it seems it wasn’t in vain: women’s wrestling is more popular than ever. Women are almost part of every wrestling car and even have many promotions featuring them as the main attraction. That’s definitely a win.

Not achieving my goal to work for a major company hurts. I can’t lie about it. I’ve always heard that if you want something bad enough, that if you fight for it and you sacrifice everything for it, you will achieve anything you want. Unfortunately for me, it is not the case. Hard work and sacrifices did not give me my dreams. It’s something I must mourn and accept. Some days are good, some are very bad.

When I was getting ready for my first match, a local wrestler threw water on me and told me that “I was a little shit that wouldn’t do anything good in wrestling.” He was not the only one, as the same kind of comment has been repeated several times as – back then – women did not belong. Well, the “little shit” wrestled around the globe, won numerous men and women championships, won death matches tournaments, was the only woman in the Cage of Death, and has wrestled for some of the best independent companies against some of the best wrestlers on the planet.

No, I didn’t “make it”…but, in the end, this “little shit” did some pretty cool and bad ass things in wrestling. That also, a win.”

-LuFisto

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