Mark My Words · mark my words

Going Down: Jack Sexsmith Stepping Off The Pedestal

With a name like Sexsmith, the intercourse-related innuendos rather write themselves, but that seems to be half the problem that we see in Jack Sexsmith’s new ‘interview’ video. The interview itself is rather short, only stopping to tell us that Jack favours clarinets and orcas, before he stops it short, clearly tired of being asked fluff questions. Being asked if he’d ever wrestle in the US, when, of course, he accompanied Progress over there last year, makes his eye twitch, and his mouth move just a fraction. From a seemingly cheerful start, Sexsmith reaches for anger very quickly, asking if there are going to be any real questions. When he spits “everyone welcome” at the camera, it seems as if his ire is aimed at one promotion in particular, and yet, he addresses the vitriol at “britwres” as a whole.

Looking at his past year, one might at first think he’s had a pretty good go of it. He’s been seen at IPW, Fight Club Pro, and Riptide, not to mention wrestling for Progress in the UK at Wembley, and also in New York, Seattle, Chicago, and Detroit. He’s held the IPW Z-Force title and shared the IPW Tag Titles with Rob Sharpe. He’s even started his own clothing brand, Proud Apparel – so what has he got to complain about?

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Sexsmith with the IPW Z-Force title last September.  Credit: Ringside Perspective/@OliSandler on Twitter

Well, there’s how his actual wrestling has gone. Looking him up on Cagematch, you’ll see that he’s given the appellation of a comedy/gimmick wrestler, and that was certainly true when we first started seeing him at Progress’ ENDVR shows, and later on main chapter shows. He was a comedy wrestler, all rainbow hoodie and Ugg boots, all condom gags, forced kiss spots, and on occasion, his own gimp to come to the ring with him. Plenty of people found him amusing where they might have found a more Tom of Finland queer man to be threatening, or an issue – but being able to laugh at him made him something the entire crowd was happy to swallow. And at first, there was no indication that he wanted to be considered as anything more than a comedy figure.

But over the years since his 2015 debut, Sexsmith has quietly grown into his own skin, into his sexuality and the place of importance he gives it when he’s wrestling. He makes it clear in the video – he’s tired of being a pansexual wrestler, and wants to be a wrestler who is pansexual, and his in-ring work absolutely reflects that. The gimmicks started to filter out until, at the start of this year, we saw them vanish completely. That doesn’t mean there’s no longer any fun to Sexsmith; that would be to erase his character, and watching him interact with David Starr, who clearly enjoys the relationship they share in-ring, always brings a smile to the face. But it was visible when, at Wembley, the Uggs were gone, and in their place were a pair of proper wrestling boots. The Uggs haven’t returned, and though some have mourned them, they’ve been part of a bigger change in Sexsmith’s attire, going from trunks and pink shades to black tights with a small motif in the colours of the pansexual pride flag – pink, blue, and yellow. You can see his love for the audience who are supporting him when he enters the ring, but there’s a sense of despair there, too, that they can’t see what he’s becoming. They don’t want him to be a person, just a pretty little token to hold up and wave at the world.

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The comedy wrestler Sexsmith seems to want to leave in the past. Credit: Head Drop/@RobBrazierPhoto on Twitter

And talking of tokens, it was this year that Progress decided to give some of the proceeds of their rainbow “Everyone Welcome” t-shirts to charity, the year we saw David Starr chastised for a rainbow shirt that didn’t give to a queer charity due to his apparent non-queerness, and Proud Apparel started off giving 25% to Stonewall. This didn’t stop people saying that Sexsmith was profiting from his queerness, despite the clear point that wrestling companies had been doing the same thing for years, and the fact that we all connected with him because of this queerness, and how much it defined his character. It’s been suggested now that Proud Apparel gives so much to charity that Sexsmith’s lack of profit may cause his full-time wrestler status to waver, and yet, that’s still not enough for the critics. One can be seen to be queer; and take the negativity and misery that one encounters when openly queer in a male-driven community, but when seen to profit from the same queerness, it’s considered unacceptable. No wonder he says that the game has bled him dry.

However, some of the things Sexsmith says in this video are absolutely tone deaf. He talks about being “the first”, without talking about Christopher Saynt, who was an out gay wrestler before Sexsmith was on anyone’s radars. Fred Rosser, then WWE’s Darren Young, came out the year before Sexsmith debuted, with a much higher profile and a lot more to lose. Sexsmith talks about how his life was turned into a brand by wrestling, and yet – we know this couldn’t happen without his say-so, without him agreeing to it, because he thought that was all he was worth. While that doesn’t take away from the exploitation, he’s played that game because it’s the only game in town, and there’s a damn sight more women who can say they’ve done the same thing to get where they are today. To say he’s the most exploited wrestler of a generation fails to strike a chord in comparison to what we know female wrestlers and trainees in britwres have been through to get to somewhere not even as good as where Sexsmith is, and in some cases, have been so exploited that their only choice was to leave the business. When we look at Candy Lee, and the abuse she faces, it can seem very difficult to believe Sexsmith ever had it that bad.

But then, ego has never been far from Sexsmith’s wrestling, whether bawdy and overtly sexual, or that which has driven him to change his style in order to pursue greater heights – perhaps it is this that blinds him to the struggles of others and allows him to carry his hypocrisy whilst accusing others of the same.

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Sexsmith appearing before huge crowds at Wembley SSE Arena. Credit: Progress VOD at Pivotshare

When it comes to his wrestling, Sexsmith seems to have been unlucky in every way. And yet, some of these things are because he’s chosen to do things he thought would assist his career. Think of Progress, and how Sexsmith said that it was WALTER’s time to have the title. Now, Sexsmith sees how stepping aside for WALTER’s title run was the mark of meek, eager-to-please boy, still desperate to be accepted by everyone – and looking back at that decision as a man who doesn’t care what people think of him, Sexsmith can see that doing people favours just gets you walked all over. Even in Riptide, where he’s supposed to be their precious pet unicorn – the promotion’s in Brighton, even – he can’t seem to pick up a meaningful win, constantly betrayed by those he trusts and harried by Spike Trivet, it was Chuck Mambo who ended up as their first championship holder, not Sexsmith, who many thought would have been a shoe-in.

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Sexsmith and Starr are a popular pair, whether as a tag team or against each other, but is their relationship grounded in silliness? Credit: Head Drop/@RobBrazierPhoto on Twitter.

So he took those lessons, and ran with them, testing them out in IPW where he attacked teammate Rob Sharpe. And for a little while, that seemed to be doing him some good – but he still missed out on the IPW World Championship to Kip Sabian. Perhaps a little twinge of conscience stopped him from really being who he thinks he needs to be in order to win.

So to go back to the beginning – with a name like Sexsmith, the innuendo really does write itself, and so this video, this mood change we’re seeing is Sexsmith realising that it’s called a blowjob, not a blow-hobby, and that there’s no point in continuing to hurt your jaw over someone who doesn’t even kiss your arse in return. No more comedy, no more amusing little spots because he desperately wants to be loved, no more stepping back to let someone else take his place. He’s done with being expected to conform to everyone’s personal views about how a queer wrestling role model should be, and he’s instead going just be the best fucking wrestler he knows how. If we see that as a heel turn, if we don’t want to continue to support him now he’s no longer up on that pedestal and changing himself to be more palatable for us? He thinks that says more about us than it does about him.

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