Filipina wrestler Nina has outed Alex Cuevas, a former trainee of ours, for sexual harassment, as the #speakingout movement gains momentum.
Some context. Nina, a female talent on the Philippine Wrestling Revolution roster, tweeted about her uncomfortable experience with Alex Cuevas (“Five Star Flyer” / “La Estrella” / “Quicksilver”) when he wrestled in Manila. You can read her story here.
Normally I don’t discuss social issues. When Black Lives Matter was trending after George Floyd’s death, I empathised but withheld comments, even when I’ve been a target of racial discrimination. When a survey in Singapore called artists “non-essential” and riled up the community, I was unmoved, even when I’m in the business of physical theatre. But when a former trainee I’ve coached personally gets exposed for inappropriate behaviour, the connection is too direct for me to remain silent.
Especially when I launched this blog as a platform to discuss how to be a better wrestler.
We get it on some level, right? We’re athletes who keep ourselves in top physical shape. Exuding performer’s charisma on show day. Peacocking in head-turning wardrobes. Riding high on endorphins post match. It’s true, all optimum conditions for finding a mate, I’ll give you that.
But there is a line that exists between flirtation, and sexual harassment. And that line is not a fine one. Unlike flirtation, where the signals may be ambiguous and mixed, sexual harassment is unmistakable. You are sexually harassing someone when it is persistent, and when it is unwanted. It is deliberate behaviour that is aggressive, non-consensual, and knows no boundaries.
Alex Cuevas trained with us for about a year, but despite his undeniable potential we chose to cut the young recalcitrant loose in March 2019. While this incident 4 months after we parted ways confirms our suspicions that led to the decision, proving that we had read his character correctly is not the satisfaction I seek. I’m disappointed we could not give him the guidance he needed to avoid this situation.
Cuevas was a gifted wrestler. He worked hard to get himself booked worldwide. But does any of that matter? Now he is just another name in a Reddit thread compiling the scumbags of pro wrestling, the far-reaching international allegations ironically the result of him being so conscientious about taking his craft global. Sorry, which craft?
I don’t think his ambition was to make a name for himself because of sexual misconduct, but he is certainly more famous for it now than he is for wrestling. A painful lesson.
Workplaces should be safe and free of harassment so that we can do our jobs productively. The locker room, backstage, the ring – all of these areas combined is the office. The wrestlers and crew, they’re co-workers. Putting on a great show with the entire team, that’s the job. You’re not special because you’re flown in as a guest performer. You abide by the rules; you’re not exempt from the rules.
It’s 2020 and I can’t believe we’re still not doing better than this. If a co-worker feels threatened, denigrated, or humiliated, the problem is not how sensitive they are, the problem is you. Boys will be boys? Slut-shaming? Blame culture? Man, all that has got to go. If you think it’s okay to feel entitled to someone else, or to abuse your position, then you’re wrong, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
I caught up with Nina, known among fans as PWR’s Rebellious Princess. Many women, emboldened by her courage, have submitted their own personal experiences with Cuevas. She speaks up for the women who don’t have a voice as commanding as hers.
Breaking it down for the boys so even the dumbest ones can understand, she explains, “Listen. If it’s not reciprocated, it’s harassment. If it’s not consensual, it’s harassment. No woman owes you anything. Ever.”
As for pro wrestlers specifically, she adds, “Be respectful. If you don’t have this basic requirement, then don’t expect to be booked anywhere else. In fact, don’t expect people to like you at all. Because the truth will always, always prevail.”
Are you a budding sexual predator? Consider that a warning.
Photo by Mike Yap.