Kennadi Brink wrestled her first singles match for Ring of Honor, one of the most well-respected wrestling promotions in the country, two weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale. Her immersion into professional wrestling began at a wrestling show in Baltimore where, she says, “I was helping out in a skirt and high heels, and I was doing more work than any of the guys.” After Ring of Honor producer Mark Davis recognized Brink’s enthusiasm, she started traveling with the company as a member of the ring crew.
But Brink had been interested in wrestling for years before she started working for Ring of Honor. “It was something that was always a passion of mine growing up… It was my emotional vice, because as a kid, I’m 240, 250 pounds,” she divulges. “I wasn’t an athlete.”
Wrestling offered Brink an escape that “got me through bullying, got me through my parents splitting up for a year.” When she was a senior in high school, Brink shifted her sights from a career in writing for professional wrestling to one as a professional wrestler. She decided to lose the weight and got a personal trainer — her namesake, Pat Brink.
Many women who go into wrestling originally envisioned modeling careers. Though she didn’t enter the wrestling world with that mentality, Brink has always been aware that wrestling is “an aesthetic business” — a polite way of saying it frequently values looks over substance, especially where women are concerned.
Brink started her career in professional wrestling in 2009. “At the time, Ring of Honor didn’t really have women’s matches — not many,” she says, but a lot has changed since then. Promotions like WWE and Impact Wrestling have thriving women’s divisions, and Ring of Honor has started focusing on its own female talent, which it has dubbed Women of Honor. “Rhonda Rousey, I feel, is really the trigger. I think so, because people say, ‘Wow, there’s money in women athletes.’ It’s a whole movement going on for women in fitness and in combat and wrestling and fighting. There’s more opportunity.”
Even with recent advances for women, Brink thinks we might still be too fixated on the past. “I think it’s still a challenge, because I don’t know if it’s just the audience tonight, but people maybe aren’t as emotionally invested in the women’s wrestling because I think we’re so saturated — or were so saturated — with the bra and panties matches or the lingerie and pillow fights, things like that.”
Perhaps the most revealing look into the reality of women’s wrestling comes once I turn off my recording device. I tell Brink that as someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, I admire her determination to lose weight and become fit in a healthy, productive way. She responds that it’s still a struggle and soon begins to cry — not enough for others around to notice, but it’s clear she’s genuinely upset.
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She tells me about one man in the audience that night who yelled a comment about her weight — something about her needing to do more sit-ups. After all her hard work and all she has achieved in a field dominated by men, a comment about her weight or appearance still hits hard.
Brink says she knows she can bench press more than the handful of people who shout derogatory comments at her, that she can go to the gym with any of her male counterparts and keep up with them, but it doesn’t matter. One slovenly fan can dredge up the insecurities she still harbors.
This isn’t a sign of a woman’s weakness or a gender’s inability to compete with the boys; rather, it’s an indication of how far the wrestling community still has to go before it values ability over appearance, strength over sexuality. It’s a slow process, but people like Brink are working to make sure we get there.
Kennadi Brink will be wrestling for Shine Wrestling in Tampa on Friday.