An indie wrestling star talks
Harvey Weinstein is in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The number of sexual assault accusations levied against him seems to grow by the day. While more and more women come forward with their stories, the more people realize how far-reaching the effects of the crime are.
Unfortunately, this isn’t relegated just to the movie industry. In fact, it’s prevalent in the wrestling world as well.
is a former independent star turned documentarian. Though she’s retired from the industry, her first film Ballerina I’m Not has a positive outlook of her wrestler career, but she admitted it wasn’t always a fun time.
There were many nights where she barely covered her transportation the events, suffered countless injuries, and eventually retired because falling on your back every night starts to hurt after a while. But there is one story that stood out to her.
“I have experienced my share of ‘Harvey Weinstein’ promoters in the industry,” says Zappitelli adding she wouldn’t name names. “I talked to a few of the other indie girls, and he harassed them too, basically [saying] if they gave him sexual favors he’d make them champion.”
Zappitelli admits that this promoter contributed to her desire to leave wrestling, at least in part. She tried to rally the performers to file a lawsuit against said promoter, though it was no use - they didn’t want to risk getting blackballed in other promotions. There is a solution to this issue, but it’s one that’s been shut down any time it’s brought up: a union.
“There’s no union...even at the highest levels… so what do you do if you experience something?” says Zappitelli.
Interestingly enough, the WWE almost had a union on their hands. Performers are actually considered “independent contractors” in WWE, meaning they don’t get normal benefits or protection like with many “regular jobs.” One star, Jesse Ventura, actually worked to change that, but the movement was famously shot down before it picked up steam.
To this day, performers have no real protection from getting underpaid or harassed by a superior, so it’s important to Zappitelli that women speak out when they’re faced with sexual harassment in the workplace.
“I think you find those people in any industry,” says Zappitelli speaking about Weinstein. “I’m proud of the women that came forward because I think that the more women that come forward, there are no more shadows for these kinds of people to exist.”
Though she’s left the industry, Zappitelli speaking out on this situation to the extent that she has couldn’t have been easy. While she didn’t name names, it’s eye-opening to hear that predatory behavior is so prevalent in an industry beloved by so many. An actual wrestling union will probably never happen. It remains important for wrestlers of both genders to speak out against sexual harassment in order to prevent it from becoming even more common than it already is.