Smiling With Kylie Rae

Kylie Rae and Orange Cassidy, Beyond Wrestling
Photo Courtesy of Jon Washer

She Said Yes

June 4th, 2019. A chant breaks out at the Electric Haze in Worcester, Mass. “SHE SAID YES! SHE SAID YES!” the admittedly humble crowd intonates. Yes was Kylie Rae’s answer. The question, posed by Orange Cassidy – wrestling’s laziest man-child – was simply “…want to?”

Cassidy had inquired about putting his IWTV title on the line against wrestling’s most beloved smile, a girl who was just happy to be there.

This was not the first match of Kylie’s I had seen, but it is unforgettable to me. Two of my favorites squared off for a title belt on a show I loved – Beyond Wrestling’s Uncharted Territory – at a venue I adored. What ensued was about twenty minutes of folksy intergender wrestling bliss.

Wrestling is most fun to me at two points: when it takes itself very seriously, and when it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. This match, for what it’s worth, somehow did both. It had just about everything I’ve ever needed from the business. The crowd was about my preferred size, and it popped at all the right times. Kylie was her goofy but bubbly self, and Cassidy worked his indifferent schtick as he is known to do.

These juxtaposed characters at their core are both tremendous workers, and that is often more than enough to get you through a match. The two of them did not just get through this one, however. Through a series of wonderfully tongue-in-cheek spots and near-falls, they tore that humble house to the ground.

By the end of that match, I was all aboard the Kylie Express, and I wanted to see her rise to the top on a mountain of glory.

No longer just happy to be here, at Double or Nothing Kylie showed a major pay-per-view audience the qualities that would soon set her up as one of the prominent female workers in the business.
Credit: All Elite Wrestling

All Elite Kylie

In May of that same year, All Elite Wrestling put on its first Double or Nothing show. Considering this was their inaugural PPV in their first year of operations, it was an unapologetically loaded event. Some of the biggest moments to me were the notorious table-spot during Jericho vs Omega, Cody and Dustin battling through their crimson brotherhood, and the debut of the Lunatic Fringe, Jon Moxley, hell bent on unscripted violence.

Toward the top of that list was Kylie Rae’s debut.

The alumnus of Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling had long been the most darling of my indie darlings. She was far and away the AEW signing I found myself most excited about. While she did not stick around for long, I understand that everything happens – or doesn’t happen – for a reason. Life, whether we always want to admit it or not, supersedes wrestling.

Kylie lost her first and only AEW match that night. However, in doing so, she did everything she needed to do and more. She led with the grace and fervor that got her there. Her infectious smile was shared with everyone watching at home. Not the least of all, however, she (and her bow) took Britt Baker’s superkick like a goddamned champ. I’m a sucker for the art of working a match, so while I didn’t necessarily love seeing a favorite take a boot to the face, I dearly appreciate that she sold it to absolute perfection.

Kylie Rae, Bound For Glory
Credit: Impact Wrestling

Making an Impact!

While Kylie’s run in AEW was short lived, she nevertheless made an impact on the crowds who adored her winning smile and eager intensity in the ring. Stepping away from the bright lights and roaring crowds, Kylie took a moment to reflect on her path in life, and recenter her goals and personal mission. Speaking about her departure on Instagram, she said, “AEW took my career to new levels and I’m beyond grateful for every opportunity and experience that has come along the way…I’ve always tried to be a good person but I make many mistakes along the way. I needed to get my mind, body, and soul right with God.”

That level of honesty and vulnerability should always be enough for us as fans.

As Kylie found her grounding in life, she once again delightfully surprised the world with her debut on Impact Wrestling. She first showed up in October as a surprise entrant in the gauntlet match at Bound for Glory.  In March of this year, we learned she had signed a contract with the company.

Since then, she has skyrocketed to a top-card position.  She is 10-3 overall in Impact matches which have aired on either TV or pay-per-view, dating back to that initial appearance. This Saturday, Kylie will once again forge a new path in her career at Impact’s Bound For Glory PPV. Here, her successes and hard fought bouts will culminate in a Knockouts Championship match with current champion, Deonna Purrazzo.

This is a program which has been built around Kylie’s personality wholly clashing with that of her opponent. Purrazzo’s character has lived up to her Virtuosa moniker – she’s good, she knows she’s good, and you are not. Kylie on the other hand, has been that of the woman who is just happy to be here – she is also good, but she wants to enjoy herself and make friends.

The disharmony between the two can best be summed up in a recent exchange on Twitter where Purrazzo referred to herself as a “dignified champion” and to Kylie as an “anime character.”

Kylie Rae will not only go after that championship to cement her own story of triumph amidst adversity, but now she’ll have fans of the anime genre behind her, rooting for her every step of the way.

Kylie Rae and Orange Cassidy
Credit: Beyond Wrestling

Intergender Wrasslin’ Rules, Ya’ll

While Kylie has found great success in Impact Wrestling, she has been no stranger to the independent scene. Here, she’s breaking barriers in intergender wrestling, becoming a force of strength in positivity for opponents all across the board.

While historically, women in wrestling were relegated to the roles of managers or supportive talent, we have begun to enter a renaissance in women’s wrestling that sees their strength in merit as performers, wrestlers, and athletes. Kylie Rae is a prime example of the strength women hold in this role, as she shows her prowess in the ring while facing opponents of all backgrounds in her highly regarded intergender matches.

I cannot overstate how important women are to our community, and how important it is that those women be represented as diversely as the men are. The recent taste changes in wrestling have allowed for top billing by women, including Kylie Rae.

This is a good thing. It is 2020, women can and are kicking ass.

Every time Kylie mixes up with a man, be it Cole Radrick, Orange Cassidy, or even the potentiality of a Chris Dickinson match someday (fingers crossed so hard), a woman in the fandom is being told that their opinions are valid, and a young girl is being told “not only can you do this someday, but you can hang with the boys, too.”

While Kylie lost both of the intergender matches I outlined above, wrestling is a dance. Both the winner and the loser need to perform, or nobody gets over with the crowd. In that regard it is just as important that Kylie lose a good match than if she had won.

At the end of the day, wrestling is meant to tell a story amidst a mesmerizing display of athleticism. Wins and losses only matter as much as any one fan needs them to. The reality of it is, a loser of a match matters just as much as the winner, and arguably more. The loser has to work well enough to make the winner seem like A WINNER, and Kylie excels at this.

MDKylie

MDKylie, GCW Keep In Touch
Credit: Twitter

No matter how bad things get in wrestling and in life, there is always a silver lining. This year, a ton has changed for us as wrestling fans: some good, some bad, some indifferent. There have been two irrefutably promising things to come out of wrestling in 2020. One has been our resolution as fans. The other has been the adaptability of independent wrestling. As has been the case for as long as I have been a fan: the business is only as healthy as the independent promotions.

As go the indies, so goes the business.

In August, Game Changer Wrestling resolved to put on their Keep In Touch event in Indianapolis. Featured on this card was another intergender gem starring Kylie Rae. This time, her opponent was the highly-talented Cole Radrick. Radrick was initially slated to wrestle Nick Gage, who had to pull out due to injury. Gage is a legend, but Kylie filled in for him beautifully in her own right.

From her Pokémon theme music, to repping her “homie” – the aforementioned Nick Gage – Kylie had me geeking from the beginning. Just like her bout with Cassidy last year, this one was a prime combo of work-rate and schtick. Kylie tried to put her bow in Radrick’s hair toward the beginning, which seems simple enough on its face. Alas, she struggled so much with it that the crowd gave her a fleeting “holy shit!” chant upon her success.

After that moment, the whole ordeal played out like a love letter to Gage. In true Nick Gage-deathmatch fashion, MDKylie powerbombed Cole through an open chair and table at ringside. Cole, however, hit Kylie with Gage’s signature Choke Breaker for the win. Despite the loss, this match is going to be a shining moment of Kylie’s dedication to the craft, that we will look back on fondly for years to come.

Kylie Rae and 5u5ie (Su Yung)
Credit: Impact Wrestling

It Gets Better

Kylie Rae, despite her astounding talent, is one of us in her most basic form. She is a wrestling fan and a nerd, with merchandise callbacks ranging from Pokémon to Space Jam. Starting with her humble beginnings under the employ of the mecca of wrestle-fandom that is Pro Wrestling Tees, to her time being trained by the aforementioned Booker T, she has worked her way up to being one of the biggest female draws for not just Impact Wrestling, but the entire business.

I personally believe Kylie’s rise happened through a combination of multiple factors. For one, she is good. Her technical prowess, ring awareness, and charisma immediately bring people into Kylie’s world, where gritty determination is served with a beaming smile. Being one of us has also made her extremely relatable, which is a more important element than I feel we give credit sometimes.

Wrestling is sometimes referred to as a “murder ballet,” and honestly, that really alludes to its nature of being as weird and wild as it is at times. Wrestling can be a strange and theatrical world, full of storytellers who blur the lines between reality and kayfabe. Every so often you find someone genuine, and you can tell Kylie is genuine.

You can see it in her eyes, and in her smile. She is sort of like wrestling’s go-to hoodie, both warm and welcoming to fans of all ages. Wrestling is as real to Kylie as it is to any of us watching from home who need someone to look up to. She is a kicking, smiling reminder that it can and is getting better.

Despite her struggles – she has been, like myself, very open about her mental health – Kylie has made a serious name for herself in this business literally from the ground up. In a male-dominated environment, she has remained determined, and has not given up. There was a time not too long ago that it seemed like both the voices internally and externally telling Kylie that, “No, you can’t do it” had become too much, and that negativity would win out. Anyone who has watched Kylie perform should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.

Instead of listening to the “no’s”, Kylie overcame the odds as she normally does, and gave the same answer she did to Orange Cassidy at Beyond Wrestling all those months ago. She has said yes – yes to herself, to wrestling, and to her fans.

And as usual, she did it all with a smile.