Professional wrestling has long been a spectacular performance that has drawn people from all over the world to witness the spirit of conflict resolved in the arena of a squared ring. Centuries of competitors have walked the long aisle in several avenues to forge legacies that would be remembered long after they have looked up at the bright lights and taken that last walk to the locker room. From the originators of yesteryear such as Frank Gotch and George Hackenschmidt, to the headliners of today such as Roman Reigns and Sasha Banks, fans of this great entertainment will tell their children about the heroes that paved a part of their childhood in great detail.
This series, however, is the story of the untold heroes that don’t get their recognition.
Jazz: The Realest In The Room
There’s an unfortunate period of wrestling that depicts women in the worst way possible. Women were often used for sexually provocative storylines, or on the portion of the card when it was bra and panties, to fulfill the fantasies of their target audience of teenagers and young men. If you weren’t privy to the Joshi style of wrestling in Japan, you were ignorantly lead to believe that women were not an important part of the show or were not competent wrestlers. There were glimmers of what could become with the underrated classics in WWE (then WWF) between Alundra Blayze and Bull Nakano, but for reasons unknown, American promotions refused to promote women’s wrestling seriously.
As the nineties came to a close, we were introduced to a woman in ECW who instantly stood out to me because she was something that you never saw in wrestling: a strong, beautiful, dominant Black woman who was throwing around the men of the promotions and getting the reactions of praise and respect. She wasn’t for the bells and whistles, but rather that power style that can fit with any gender in any promotion. Her name was a perfect depiction of who she was and her style, as it was stunning in essence but it made you pay attention when that bell rang.
Her name was Jazz.
Everything she did was believable and never made you think that she didn’t belong there, among the best. Her time in ECW was a prelude to what she accomplished in WWE where she was the first rival for Trish Stratus and the WWE Women’s Championship. While many see Lita as Trish’s greatest rival, I believe that Jazz was her most important feud, as Jazz brought the best out of Trish while she was growing as a competitor. She was essential in title defenses against other women that were also trying to improve the status quo that was placed on them. Jazz wrestled with such a devastating style that it made you take notice of everything she did. While she was released in 2004, she was not forgotten as she expanded her expertise all over the world, competing against the now evolving women’s wrestling. New and hungry athletes were now showing they were more than a five-minute bra and panties match and were arguably having the best matches on the card. Jazz carved her name in the record books with a 948-day reign as NWA World Women’s Champion.
Age has long been proven not to be a factor when it comes to true talent. Jazz has re-emerged in the last few years as a legend in the game who is now witnessing women’s wrestling being presented in the manner that should have been a long time ago. When she was announced for the Casino Battle Royal for AEW in 2019, the response was met with jubilation. It hadn’t been since 2004 that we saw her on the big stage, and from the moment she entered the ring, she quickly reminded everyone that she was still in charge of her domain. While that appearance for AEW was a one time deal, it is her recent work in Impact Wrestling that we are seeing her brilliance.
She showed up as the mystery partner for Jordynne Grace in the tournament to crown the new Knockouts Tag Team Champions. It was the perfect sight seeing Jazz team with one of the best and dominating in her division – as Grace complimented Jazz’s style perfectly. While they did not win, the respect between the two set the stage for a match of the year candidate as they wrestled against each other at Genesis. It was poetic to see how far the evolution of women’s wrestling has come, and Jazz, being the legend she is, showed that she can keep up and perform at a high level. The recent talks of her retirement has reminded me that she is truly a once in a lifetime athlete and her placement in my Hall of Fame has her rightfully as a first round ballot.
It’s often said that the most disrespected group of people on this Earth are Black Women and the truth in that statement is correct. From workplace discrimination due to a variety of factors, to constant stereotypes that are perpetuated by ignorance, to a mass influx just not listening to what they have to say, it’s a frustrating realization, yet seeing Black women come together to lift each other and be their biggest supporters is beautiful to witness in all aspects of my life. As we prepare for the historic match at WrestleMania 37 between Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair, there are homages that we need to pay to the Black women that sacrifice for this moment. Jazz was in the forefront as a beautiful portrait of the strength that Black women endure and they will forever be immortalized for making the contributions they have made.
Jazz didn’t just change the industry. She made it better.