The LGBTQ pro wrestling movement is alive and well in the Golden Lovers’ wake

Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi’s journey of love was neither the beginning nor the end of LGBTQ pro wrestling’s rise.

It’s been 18 months since pro wrestlers Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, collectively known as the Golden Lovers, reunited with a tearful embrace in the middle of a New Japan Pro Wrestling ring. The moment was 10 years in the making, bringing two men with a unique love and history together in one of the industry’s most positive portrayals of coded same-sex relationships.

The time since the aptly titled New Beginning event has been a whirlwind for both men.

Ibushi signed what he describes as a “lifetime contract” with NJPW before winning the company’s most prestigious tournament, the G1 Climax on Monday. Omega left NJPW behind to form All Elite Wrestling after finally capturing the company’s top championship, the IWGP heavyweight title.

But the industry as a whole has seen a change in terms of LGBTQ visibility in that span. The Golden Lovers still stand as an important accomplishment for LGBTQ representation in the traditionally hyper-masculine world of pro wrestling despite neither publicly identifying as LGBTQ. But before that streamer-covered hug in Sapporo, there were out wrestlers working various circuits, and more have seen their profiles grow in the time since.

Out wrestlers like Jake Atlas, Effy, Anthony Bowens, Parrow and Jamie Senegal, among countless others, have lit up audiences across North America in that timeframe. And that effect hasn’t been contained to the continent. New Zealand’s Candy Lee and Japan’s ASUKA are recognized as trans trailblazers within the industry.

Cassandro and Pimpinela Escarlata continue to represent Mexico’s long history of exoticos 30 years into their careers. Jack Sexsmith carries the flag for pansexuality in the U.K. even after his forced early retirement. Charlie Morgan does the same for the lesbian community in Britain under similar circumstances.

The non-binary community are also solidly represented by Still Life with Apricots and Pears and Sophie King.

Companies like New York’s A Matter Of Pride have provided a home for a number of LGBTQ wrestlers while receiving tacit endorsements from former WWE champions like Melina.

Independent groups like Battle Club Pro, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and RISE have continually opened their doors to LGBTQ talent and allies alike.

The industry’s heavy hitters have also opened their doors to LGBTQ talent. Sonya Deville still rocks the rainbow from time to time during WWE events as the company’s first out lesbian competitor. Fred Rosser continues to use the clout of his time in WWE as Darren Young to promote positivity through his Block The Hate campaign. Impact’s Kiera Hogan an