Nyla Rose on What Being AEW Women's Champ Means for Her & Trans Representation
There was a time when Nyla Rose didn’t feel truly comfortable in her own skin. Yet through the experiences of overcoming adversity and some soul-searching, she stands empowered. A fierce force in All Elite Wrestling, Rose recently became women’s champion in a dominating performance against Riho.
Rose was clearly emotional during the live Dynamite episode last month broadcast on TNT, realizing the high-profile win wasn’t just for herself. It was a victory for representation or anyone who has ever felt less than. She held the gold with pride making history as the first openly transgender pro wrestler to achieve such a pinnacle. The “Native Beast” remains driven, knowing the work has just begun.
Here, the barrier-breaking star reflects on the past year since signing with AEW, and where this whirlwind journey has taken her.
A week after winning the championship you cut a promo on Dynamite expressing what winning the title meant to you. You were fired up. Take me through what you were channeling in that moment?
Nyla Rose: Some of the motivation came from a lot of the online flak you see out there. A lot of pushback. That added fuel to the fire. I was trying to wrap everything up and have it make sense. I wanted to keep it short and sweet and to the point. I wanted to put all the competition on notice that I’m not going to take this lightly. I’m not going to take anything lying down.
It’s remarkable to think that AEW has only been on regular weekly television for a matter of months. A lot of the performers don’t have the experience of such a schedule. For you, what has the transition been like in slowly defining your character?
It has been a lot of fun if you approach it a certain way because there is definitely a lot of room for creativity. Especially, in AEW where the powers that be allow us to be ourselves. There aren’t these marching orders of someone telling you that you have to be something. They are embracing what you bring to the table and helping us finetune the little things. As someone who loves to create, I find that incredible. It’s a beautiful medium.
There is definitely a learning curve. A lot of us haven’t had experience working on TV, let alone on a weekly basis. I would love to think we are all doing wonderful. I can’t speak for anyone else. I think though everyone is doing a great job and knocking it out of the park. We only seem to be getting better each week.
Kenny Omega has reportedly been very involved in developing the women’s division. What is it like to collaborate with guys like Kenny and others who’ve had success? What have you taken from their feedback?
It’s a dream come true. As an independent wrestler, any time you have someone who has been on the show that has done these great things, you always want them to watch your match and get feedback. Having so many great minds in the business right there at the ready in AEW. Not only that, but they are eager to share and are invested in the overall product. I don't’ know if I can put into words what that feeling feels like. It’s just so amazing to have these people that you’ve looked up to wanting you to be the best you can be.
You made history as the first transgender wrestler to become women’s championship or win a prominent title. However, on commentary it wasn’t really mentioned. What are your thoughts on how the company has presented you?
For me, it has been welcoming that they don’t make it a spectacle. They don’t make it a checkmark. It’s one of those things that is there. Everyone knows about it, but nobody talks about it. That’s not a matter of us wanting to be hush-hush or hide this. They’re not making it a thing because it shouldn’t be a thing. You are a person and a performer first. That’s what I love so much and makes me feel so proud to be part of this company because they are helping normalize these ideals. We don't even have a sense or consensus of how many trans people there are because so many people are afraid to speak out and speak up and live so openly.
That’s because there is such a stigma of what being trans is. With representation on weekly television and with AEW being the company that it is on the scale that it is, with TNT and the scale they are on, they see me as a person. They see me as someone going out there and doing their job. The transness being secondary or even third to anything else. That is a beautiful statement. It shouldn’t matter and doesn’t. Hopefully, we can get to the point where people stop making it be the frontrunner.
Looking at your background, you were part of a show called The Switch on OutTV. You broke barriers in that realm as well. How did this experience prepare you being the public figure you are now and all the scrutiny that comes with it?
In probably one of the weirdest was you wouldn’t even think about. When you go from being a little miss random person on the street, especially as trans. When people are staring at you, it’s like what are they staring at? Does this person think they know what is going on with me? Do they think I’m cute? Being in the public eye like that, you can’t be so defensive. Maybe they recognize me? Maybe they want an autograph. It’s a weird thing, but it has been something to get used to because I have been getting recognized randomly in the grocery store, out on the street. As crazy as that sounds, it is a very new thing for me.
One thing you’ve done an admirable job doing is juggling the world of social media. Being a champion, how much extra pressure do you feel in providing positive representation? I’m sure there are times where you want to turn off Twitter, but there is also a want to be there as a voice for others and not let the haters win.
At the risk of sounding a bit cocky, I don’t feel any extra pressure because I’m going to be authentic and myself no matter what. I spent so many years living in the closet I’m not trying to do that again. It’s not a very comfortable place to be. What you see with me is what you get. So in that regard, I don’t really feel this pressure to be a positive role model because I’m just going to live, be free, speak out to injustices and be myself. Some are going to love it. Some are going to hate it, but I can’t be worried about these people and their negative attitudes. I can’t let them dictate how I live.
What is the feeling in the women’s locker room now? There are many who argue the women should be getting more TV time. They want to see more story-telling. How do you feel the division has evolved?
Overall there is excitement. We’ve gotten this TV extension. Our hours are potentially going to be stretched there. We are all excited that we can get an equal chance to be showcased and really put ourselves out there. With winning the women’s title, the other women are my competitors. They are my co-workers, but at the end of the day they are my competitors. They realize it’s not going to be a game or cake walk. They realize they have a challenge ahead of them. It has helped me step my game up. I think we are going to turn up a lot of really good matches here.
As we’re moving forward and the push for gender equality becomes more prevalent, do you think there will be a time where men and women have one title to fight for? One AEW champion. It won’t just be an AEW women’s champion or an AEW men’s champion? Do you feel they should be separate or is that something you want to see?
There’s pluses and minuses to each of those options. I love having a women’s division and giving us the power to create our own brand. Then in the same breath, you want to see everyone as equals and on the same playing field. There is some beauty in that in itself. Wrestling is such a beautiful industry and forever evolving. I don’t know if I necessarily want to see one division, but I wouldn’t shy away from it if that is the natural, organic development of how things go.
AEW Dynamite, Wednesdays, 8/7c, TNT