AC Mack on facing homophobia in wrestling

AC Mack on facing homophobia in wrestling
AC Mack on facing homophobia in wrestling

Despite having only been in the wrestling industry for a little over five years now, AC Mack has already made his presence felt and his voice heard at every opportunity.

By entering the industry in 2016 after he had already came out, AC Mack has had a front row seat for the lingering bigotry in professional wrestling while also experiencing the major steps that have been made as LGBTQ+ talent have pushed the business forward to becoming more accepting and inclusive.

For Pride Month, I spoke to AC Mack about the Cassandro Cup, the upcoming Scenic City Invitational, and facing homophobia in the wrestling industry.

AC Mack is known as “The Mouthpiece” and is a self-described “loudmouthed pro-wrestler,” and there’s no doubt that some of that confidence stems from being able to live openly and publicly as an out wrestler. That journey to coming out has to start somewhere for everyone, and I asked AC Mack about his own experience coming out when we spoke.

“I came out on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. I was a senior in college, and it went a lot better than I thought it was gonna go. The only person that took it hard was my father. Took it extremely hard actually, but other than that everybody still accepted me,” he said. “My friends were still there. Some of them were even mad that I didn’t tell ‘em sooner. My mom still loved me. That was the first person I came out to, at least in the family. It went a lot better than I thought it would.”

AC Mack Scenic City Invitational Nashville Pride

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – JUNE 22: Participants in the Nashville Pride Parade are seen on June 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

With it being Pride Month, this time of the year can impact different members of the LGBTQ+ community in different ways. When I spoke to AC Mack earlier this month, nearly seven years after his coming out, I asked what Pride Month means to him today.

“Pride Month is very important because now we’re able to be happy, open, and expressive about who we love and about who we are. A lot of us, obviously, were in the closet at first and it was hard to be able to walk down the street and express your love. Things like that, the smaller things for us to be considered normal with everybody else. That’s why it’s a big deal for me,” he said.

Of course, there’s also an equally important and difficult history that connects Pride Month to historical moments like the Stonewall Riots where LGBTQ+ people had to actively fight against cops for the rights we enjoy today. Last year, that fight helped unify two marginalized communities in a time of need.

Even with the global pandemic preventing Pride Month in 2020 from looking like it had in recent years, the murder of George Floyd sparked widespread protests against a long history of police violence against Black people. That fight melded right into Pride Month, and I asked AC Mack how it felt to see all of that happen last year.

“Mixed emotions, I wanna say. Mainly positive, that’s for sure. [I felt] pain that it still has to come to that. It took all of this to get people to be like ‘oh, okay, well what is this? What’s happening? Why is this an issue?’ It sucks that it took all of that,” he said. “At the same time, you look at the power. You look at the reach that it has. You look at the history that comes with it. That part is cool. So for me, it’s kind of a mixed bag, but overall positive.”

From homophobia to EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch in four short years

There’s an entire LGBTQ+ wrestling movement in the industry today, but that hasn’t always been the case. The first EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch event didn’t take place until October of 2020, and it was one piece of the fight to drag the industry forward and make inclusion the new normal.

Unfortunately, pockets of that bigotry still exist today, and they were still being felt when AC Mack entered professional wrestling back in 2016. When we spoke, I asked if there were any specific instances of homophobia he’d faced since coming out.

“Yes, from somebody in the wrestling industry. Once I started training in 2016 like I said I was already out by then. I talked to him and told him who I am,” Mack said. “He actually told me ‘hmm, you don’t wanna say that here. Actually, don’t mention it at all.’ So in my mind, technically it felt like having to go back in the closet for pro wrestling.”

“It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but Pride specifically within pro wrestling, that’s kind of a relatively new thing. We didn’t have EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch back in 2016,” he continued. “So, at that point in time, it was kind of crushing to finally start training and finally start chasing my dreams but then be told ‘oh, but you can’t be yourself anymore.’ It’s crazy when you think about it that only a few years ago it was still an issue or a bigger issue than it is today.”

EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch happened just four years after AC Mack had faced that kind of treatment as he entered professional wrestling. I also took a moment to ask how it felt watching this kind of progress happen in the years since he started wrestling.

“I’m almost in disbelief, to be honest. I’m only a little over five years in, and within that five years to see us go from not having any shows catered to us at all to now where we have multiple shows catered to us. And the numbers do overwhelmingly well during something like a ‘Mania weekend or during Pride Month or something like that,” he said. “Disbelief. I mean, I’m happy. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s crazy to kind of sit back and see how much can change so fast unless you know that the marching and the protesting and all of that is working.”

We also touched briefly on Out in the Ring, which is an upcoming documentary about LGBTQ+ wrestlers by filmmaker Ryan Levey. The first teaser trailer for the project can be seen below.

AC Mack is one of many LGBTQ+ professional wrestlers who will be a part of this documentary, and you can help support the project by donating directly to their final fundraising campaign, following Out in the Ring on Twitter, or subscribing to their Patreon.

The Cassandro Cup & The Scenic City Invitational

Back in March of 2021, another big step was taken for the LGBTQ+ wrestling movement as Butch vs Gore presented the Cassandro Cup with LGBTQ+ wrestlers competing in a tournament that honored pioneer and legend Cassandro. AC Mack discussed his experience participating in that show and meeting Cassandro in the months before it took place.

“That was a lot of fun. We flew up to Pennsylvania, and there was a whole day of filming. Hats off to Billy Dixon, he knows how to put on a show and make people feel welcome and bring out the best in people, make people get fired up and want to perform,” AC Mack said.

“Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Cassandro before, but being able to meet him at the first EFFY’s Big Gay Brunch at The Collective in Indiana, that meant a lot,” he continued. “It was really cool to just kind of pick his brain and see him perform, and it was great. And in turn, in that quick turnaround to be able to perform in his name [at the Cassandro Cup], it was just really, really cool. Again, something that happened so fast.”

Finally, as our conversation wrapped up, we looked to the future where AC Mack is set to compete in this year’s Scenic City Invitational on August 6th and 7th in Red Bank, Tennessee. The 16-competitor tournament, which was named for Chattanooga, Tennessee’s regional nickname, has been around since 2015 but wasn’t held in 2020 due to the global pandemic.

“I said I am either winning it or I’m burning it all,” were AC Mack’s first words when I asked him about his preparation for the 2021 Scenic City Invitational, and he went on to discuss his excitement about the event and the arena that will host it this time.

“Scenic City is one of my favorite places to perform and work because I feel like they really were instrumental in getting my name out there outside of the southeast. So they will forever have my heart, and I’m really, really trying to go all the way this year,” he said.

“I’m excited. It’s gonna be in the TWE Arena. It’s a smaller arena, but in some ways, I prefer that because it’s more intimate. That energy is right there. It’s a lot closer to you. This is probably the most I’ve been excited for an SCI, especially since we didn’t have one last year,” AC Mack said.

Tickets are still available for the Scenic City Invitational and the Futures Showcase taking place earlier that day, and they can be purchased here. Make sure to follow AC Mack on Twitter to know when “The Mouthpiece” will be performing next.

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