Professional wrestler Anthony Bowens, who is gay, says his recent championship win can serve as a reminder that hardships get better.
On Sept. 21, Bowens and Max Caster, a tag team in AEW (a rival of WWE) known as The Acclaimed, won the company's world tag team championship for the first time. The victory made Bowens the first openly gay wrestler to win an AEW championship.
Soon after his big win, Bowens, 31, celebrated the milestone while also extending a heartfelt message to anyone struggling internally.
“I'm going to take a second to speak on something that I don’t really talk about much in front of a camera,” he began in a video recently posted to his social media accounts, becoming visibly emotional. “Some of you know, some of you may not know, but I never thought I’d be able to have a moment like this. I never thought I would be able to live my dream because there was a time where I was very confused, and I didn’t know how to accept myself. But I fought through that bulls---. I fought through all that bulls---. And now I cry because I’m a champion.”
“So if you’re someone, if you’re someone who feels like me — and it doesn’t even have to be about your sexuality; it could be you’re depressed, you’re bullied, if life sucks in general — just know that everything gets better. We’re living proof of that," he added. "I love you. We love you. But most importantly, everyone loves The Acclaimed.”
Bowens has been a spirited flag bearer for the LGBTQ+ community, vocalizing the importance of inclusivity.
Speaking to the Asbury Park Press prior to his championship win, Bowens touched on his previous fears of potentially being mistreated in the wrestling community for being gay.
“I struggled with my self-acceptance and identity, and that was always a huge fear. ‘Will the locker rooms accept me? Will national audiences on television accept a successful gay man as a professional wrestler?’” Bowens remarked.
Bowens added that while the wrestling industry has a ways to go in ensuring inclusivity, he no longer carries the burden of his old fears.
“We still have a ways to go, but AEW has an extremely inclusive roster in the sense that I never have to worry about that all,” he explained. “As a matter of fact, if it ever does come up, it’s in a very positive, supportive way. And that’s one of my favorite things coming to work, that I don’t have to worry about that.”
A day after the championship win, Bowens celebrated on Twitter with a nod to his late grandmother and by highlighting his win as a momentous moment for the LGBTQ+ community.
“When my Nana passed in 2015 I promised her I’d be a success. Nana, I made it!” said the tweet. “AEW’s first Gay Champion. Most tag team wins in AEW. Most popular team in wrestling.”
On Twitter, Bowens' emotional speech post-win received messages of support, appreciation and pride from fans.
"Words will never explain how much this video meant to me," one user commented. "I’m in one of the darkest times of my life right now. AEW has been a great distraction for me lately. Watching you guys win those titles was the biggest moment on Grand Slam for me. Keep it up brother! You inspire many!"