Girl Fight Wrestling ran its first show back in 2013. The goal was to help young women breaking into the business network with, and learn from, seasoned veterans. One of the joys in following this promotion has always been seeing new faces burst through the curtain and watching them come into their own.
When Girl Fight returned to The Arena in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in April, a number of young women made impressive debuts before the home base crowd. Rachel Armstrong wowed the fans in her debut against Girl Fight champion Billie Starkz. And everyone was impressed when 6’2” Sawyer Wreck made her entrance. My eye was also drawn to the five-foot lady with the faux Russian accent who was — dare I say it — squashed with style by Miss Wreck.
Anika, aka The Big Boss, looked like a Russian oligarch’s trophy wife at a Christmas party with her flashy, red outfit adorned with feathers and rhinestones. She quickly made enemies with every fan at ringside, running her mouth with her condescending remarks. That mouth never stopped flapping, even as she clung to Sawyer Wreck’s ankle, begging for mercy moments later. It was obvious to everyone that Sawyer looked like a mega-star, but you couldn’t help love (or, love to hate) the plucky, obnoxious girl she left lying in the center of the ring.
I caught up with Anika — real name Christiana Cabrera — a few weeks after her second Girl Fight appearance, a much more competitive match against the daring young aerialist Rachel Armstrong. Anika once again came up short, but in professional wrestling, it’s not who wins or loses that matters. It’s whether or not you can make the fans remember you.
The fans were the reason Cabrera chose to become a professional wrestler, specifically the young girls she saw at ringside while attending shows with her boyfriend. “I moved to Indiana and started dating a librarian who also happened to be a pro wrestler,” she told SlamWrestling.net. “I started going to the shows, and I noticed a bunch of families who went to the shows and brought their little girls along. The girls had nobody like them to cheer for, and it really bothered me. So I said, ‘I’ve gotta fill that gap.’ This was after I’d gone to college and received my master’s degree.”
Yes, fans, you read that right. Ms. Cabrera became a fan and chose to become a wrestler after getting a bachelors in theater and a master’s degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University.
Although Cabrera grew up in a non-athletic household, she always felt she wanted to do something athletic. She completely missed the “Attitude Era” of the WWF as a kid, and when she got into pro wrestling years later, it killed her to see what she missed. “I discovered my favorite wrestler, Eddie Guerrero, after he died! That really hit home with me.”
Cabrera trained and wrestled for ACME Championship Wrestling in Indiana, working under the fan-friendly name Daisy. She spent six months in Indiana before the craziness of life sent her to Cincinnati. She was enjoying wrestling too much to leave it behind in Indiana, and she wanted to prove to everyone, including herself, that she was doing it for herself and not just her boyfriend. She started looking around for some place new to work. That’s when she found Northern Wrestling Federation.
“I went to a training session, and they were willing to work with me exactly where I was,” said Cabrera. “They helped me reprogram myself about what wrestling is. They do a great job training you in the basics: how to work safely, proper locker room etiquette, ring psychology. But they also give you a lot of leeway to be creative and make it your own.”
Former WWE referee Roger Ruffen runs the NWF’s BoneKrusher Training Center. Cabrera gives a great deal of credit for her own development to the NWF’s most senior lady, Big Mama.
“Big Mama and Sin-D were the first two ladies in the NWF,” said Cabrera. “They were the only two for 15 years of so, and they’d wrestle the same match over and over. In the past three years, the NWF women’s division has really grown.”
“We currently have nine homegrown women that were trained by Roger Ruffen at NWF,” said Elizabeth Johnson, who wrestles as the straight-jacketed psycho Ella. “It’s awesome because we are able to have matches and barely even talk because we all train together and know each other so well.”
The NWF’s women’s roster includes an impressive array of talent, including Ella, Salena Dean, and Nikki Victory, who recently made her AEW debut. Cabrera describes the NWF women’s division as a tight-knit group, and she praises the leadership they receive from Big Mama.
“They train us how to wrestle like women,” said Cabrera. “The moves are all the same as the men’s, but how you take them is different based on your anatomy. That’s something you don’t get when you just train with the guys.”
It’s very evident when you see the women from NWF that there’s something unique about them. As the Proverb says, “Iron sharpens iron,” and the ladies have clearly developed an environment where they bring out the best in each other. Big Mama is boisterous and powerful, a force that demands fans get loud and cheer. Ella puts everyone off balance with her crazy eyes, her manic “insane asylum” demeanor, her creepy doll, and her blood-curdling scream.
“Being able to train together and see each other every weekend really creates a strong bond,” said Johnson. “It really is like a family. We have our ups and downs but at the end of the day we all have each other’s back.”
It was in that environment that Cabrera had help finding her own in-ring persona as the Big Boss. “The NWF had a seven-foot monster called Big Cuz, who claimed to be from St. Petersburg, Russia,” she said. “For years, he had claimed he was affiliated with another Russian mobster, and they were going to take over the NWF. That storyline was getting stale, so they decided it was time to bring in the Big Boss. Everybody was expecting this humongous giant to come in. Instead, they got five-foot-nothing me!
“I never would have picked that for myself, and I wasn’t loving the idea of being a heel because I liked being a hero to the kids. But I ran with it. I had done work on dialects and language in my theater education, so I developed my accent and the character, and Anika slowly started to evolve from there.”
Anika’s rise to glory was put on hold when Big Cuz eventually left the business. Anika went on hiatus for six months, but the NWF decided to bring her back because they needed another female heel. Cabrera did not expect the fans to remember her, so she was shocked at the reaction she received.
“Anika just exploded,” Cabrera said. “I was a nobody when I started out, and it was amazing how many people remembered me. They were cheering me. Well, they were booing for me in the way you cheer for a heel. That’s when I knew I had a direction that was working for me.”
Unlike many pro wrestlers, Cabrera doesn’t have specific goals of wrestling for WWE, AEW, or even traveling the world. She takes it one day at a time and one match at a time, and she’s exceedingly grateful for the doors that have opened and the people opening those doors. Once again, she gives credit to Big Mama for opening many of those doors.
“I didn’t know the first thing about booking myself,” said Cabrera. “Big Mama uses her connections to get us all booked other places. I’ve been to West Virginia, to Canada, and so many places I would never have been to if it wasn’t for the NWF and Big Mama.”
One of those places is Girl Fight Wrestling, a promotion founded and run by deathmatch legend Mad Man Pondo. “Big Mama brought Anika to one of our shows,” said Pondo. “She always brings a few students with her. I liked watching her work. You can tell she puts her heart into every match.”
Added Johnson, “Anika is very passionate with her gimmick.”
Big Mama gets the nod as Cabrera’s favorite opponent. “I had never actually wrestled her until last month. She is so polished. She keeps you calm. She makes sure you can hear her when she’s calling the action, and she knows how to use the ref to communicate with me. Working with her is a dream, and taking all of her moves feels like nothing.”
Cabrera has entrenched herself in the wrestling business with more than just her in-ring talent. After discovering how expensive wrestling gear can be, she decided to dust off her old sewing skills and create her own gear. Those skills have sharpened just as much as her in-ring maneuvers, and she now earns part of her wrestling income by making gear for others.
The gear-making business has boomed so much, Cabrera recruited some family, specifically the four-legged kind, to assist with her work. “I trained my dog to pick up my sewing scraps in exchange for treats. No regrets.”
Cabrera is proud of what she’s accomplished and very proud to be a part of the NWF. In fact many of her travels to other promotions have made her realize how lucky she is to be in such a positive environment as her home promotion. “I would be thrilled to just wrestle for them the rest of my career,” said Cabrera. “But the more opportunities I’ve had, the more I realize the sky is the limit. I’m willing to do whatever the world throws at me, whether that’s wrestling, managing, traveling the world, or even just making gear.”
The most important thing to Cabrera is to continue having fun. As new as she is to wrestling, she hasn’t lost that initial joy she found in becoming a wrestler. “I want to wrestle people who are fun. I like people I can be crazy with and do the unexpected. That’s not always easy to find, and I think that’s because a lot of women had to work so hard to break into the business, they forgot this was supposed to be fun.”
Going back to Girl Fight, Cabrera had praise for the woman who squashed her in her Jeffersonville debut. “I definitely had fun with Sawyer Wreck. She had never really done a comedy match, but when I told her that’s what I do, she was totally down with it. We had a lot of fun.”
Anika’s a truly unique personality, the comedy character you love to hate. She’s hit on something special with the Big Boss personality, and she’s proven that even in defeat, she can make the fans remember her name. Is it enough to get her to the next level? Time will tell. She certainly has the grounding, the drive, and the talent to make her mark on any stage that welcomes her.
The next scheduled Girl Fight Wrestling show, presented by International Big Time Wrestling, is scheduled for Sunday August 21 at Trixies Bar 2656 Carpenter Ave. Hamtramck, Michigan. Details here.
TOP PHOTO: Anika by T and T Wrestling Photos