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AEW Heels Aims To Make Wrestling More Inclusive

Brandi Rhodes wants to level the playing field in the male-dominated sport of professional wrestling. So she created a community for female fans.

Professional wrestling has long been a sport dominated by men. Male athletes tend to be the biggest stars, like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or John Cena for example, and a large majority of professional wrestling’s audience are men.

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According to a 2017 demographics report, approximately two-thirds of professional wrestling fans are male. All Elite Wrestling (AEW) hopes to balance this out.

In an effort to make pro wrestling more friendly for both female athletes and viewers, All Elite Wrestling launched AEW Heels in the summer of 2020. AEW Heels is a female wrestling community for female wrestling fans who want to support the women of professional wrestling. Members can attend virtual events and chat with other like-minded fans about wrestling, as well as other women’s issues such as equality in the workplace. 

The initiative was spearheaded by AEW CBO and wrestler Brandi Rhodes, who says she got the idea for Heels while watching people interact on social media.

“I saw women getting bashed for having an opinion just because they were a woman having an opinion,” Rhodes told Sports Illustrated. “That inspired me to create a place where female fans can voice their opinions.”

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The project is something that has become deeply personal for Brandi Rhodes. Despite being one of the biggest stars on AEW’s roster, Rhodes explained that even she doesn’t always feel at home in the sport.

“I still don’t feel comfortable in wrestling, and I’m the Chief Brand Officer of a major organization,” Rhodes explained. “Wrestling has a really long way to go with women.”

The community will host a variety of webinars featuring Q&As with women in the wrestling industry, discussions on mental health and female empowerment, and open conversations and chat boards where women can freely discuss wrestling and femininity. While the initiative is still young, Rhoades believes in its success. 

“Everything is a little bit different, but with Heels in particular, there’s been consistent growth every week, and growth beyond us having to market heavily, which goes to show there’s great word of mouth. It’s really a satisfied-customer thing,” She said in an interview with Forbes. Heels ends up selling itself, which is great, and I think it will continue to do that as we put time and energy in, and it’s gonna continue to grow.”