MORE THAN A MONTH! LOVE + PRIDE 365! THE FREEST FIGHTER: ANTHONY BOWENS
EDITOR IN CHIEF: COREY GUEVARRA
PHOTOGRAPHER: DYLAN PERLOT
AT EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS
WARDROBE STYLIST: ANDREW PHILIP NGUYEN
GROOMING/SFX: KELLY GOLDSACK
AT EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS
It’s always incredible watching the good guy win! Anthony Bowens is easily one of the nicest people you’ll ever cheer on in triumph! While he towers in both height & stature, his character is what seems to leave the largest impression as equal parts admirable and amiable alike. He’s one of those people that you’re confident deserves their success, ever more satisfying is seeing him manifest his dreams as his absolute, authentic self showing the world (& anyone able to see a version of themself through him) that this CAN be done! Carrying a light as a queer athlete of color is no easy feat, yet he shows up for both himself and others in a rarely seen capacity of healthy balance, authenticity and a genuine excitement you can literally feel from his presence. In a million ways he’s a real life super hero on a journey that all began when he showed up to empathetically save himself! With athleticism covered & acting in foresight, we’d PROUDLY follow him anywhere, celebrating & [signatory] scissoring every step of the way!
TOP - ROBALT, PANTS - JAGNE, BOOTS - PSKAUFMAN, GLOVES - ASTA RAZMA, NECKLACE - LOUPN, BOA - ADOLFO SANCHEZ,
HAT - GLADYS TAMEZ MILLINERY, SUNGLASSES - ZEROUV
ANTHONY WHERE ARE YOU FROM, WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I was born and spent my first few years in northern New Jersey, my family eventually settling in Nutley, New Jersey, where I grew up for most of my life until I moved to Los Angeles in 2022.
HOW HAS ADJUSTING TO L.A. LIFE BEEN?
I knew it would be a different way of living, but I'm pretty good at adjusting to my environment. I think I'm a pretty easygoing guy so I sometimes prefer the West Coast vibe of being a little bit more chilled and relaxed. But there are times when I do miss the super-fast pace of the East Coast or more specifically, the tri-state area. As I said, I was born and raised there and it's kind of ingrained in me, so surely it’s normal to miss that ‘pulse’ from time to time!
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE GROWING UP FOR YOU WHILE NAVIGATING YOUR IDENTITY?
It was both good and bad? It was a struggle at times because I was also trying to figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and how it all intertwined. Originally I was a baseball player and there definitely weren't any out major league players, so it's like, who do I look to as an example here of success that would make me feel inspired to continue to do this? So that would always weigh heavily on my mind. Later, the same scenario occurred with professional wrestling as well. There weren't that many, outside of Fred Rosser (wrestling moniker Darren Young) at the time either. Add in a general confusion of trying to figure out who I was as a person and I had a lot of tough moments. It became so overwhelming at one point that I remember one day driving into my garage, turning off my car, and just sitting there crying for 30 minutes or so hoping to get all of that confusion and frustration out of me! Carrying it around during those days literally felt like the weight of the world was on my shoulders.
Outside of that, outside of those pointed sad moments, I was generally happy otherwise. I had extremely good friends, an incredible group that I love so much who helped me a ton to become a lot more comfortable with myself. I’ve always had a great family as well that supported me through everything, especially in my career. My parents and my aunt and uncle, when I was playing baseball and beginning wrestling, would travel everywhere to make sure they were there to see every second of what I was doing, super proud, super supportive! I don’t take for granted that I'm very privileged in that sense. But it was a very back-and-forth time internally, especially during my college years!
BRIEFS - ASTA RAZMA, COAT - CIRENE, BOOTS - DR. MARTENS
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND WHO YOU WERE?
I think it was in high school that I started to “notice”. I started to see things a bit differently but I did all I could to suppress it. Once I got to college however everything became a lot stronger and eventually I just took the leap to begin my personal self exploration. Eventually it would lead to me understanding who I was, though it took a little longer to become fully comfortable with myself if I’m being honest. I was able to find levels of comfort with myself as a closeted gay man but it took a little bit more adjustment & honesty to came out officially and own my identity!
HOW DID WRESTLING SHOW UP AS SPORT & EVENTUAL CAREER FOR YOU?
I was always a fan of professional wrestling since I was about 6 or 7 years old, it's always been one of my biggest loves. I had all of the action figures, maybe too many action figures [lol]. I was a true core fan, tuning in every single week growing up. After I stopped playing baseball in college however, I found this sort of emptiness of no longer having anything to do athletically and creatively. That void along with a series of [interesting] events led me to the idea of wanting to actually pursue professional wrestling! It all happened very serendipitously, meeting some WWE wrestlers who would lift at the gym I also attended. As a fan asking to take a pic with Santino Marella, he stops me and says ‘hey, you're pretty big, you look like you could be a professional wrestler yourself, have you ever thought about becoming one?’ Unbeknownst to him, I coincidentally had just started looking into wrestling schools to train! So the experience of that moment felt like a sort of confirmation for sure! Expressing my plans, Santino referred & gave me Pat Buck’s number, I called Pat and by the following week I was in training. 11 years later, here I am! -The cool thing is that Pat Buck is now one of the producers at AEW where I work, so now he gets to produce my matches which is such an incredible, ongoing full-circle moment for me.
BALACLAVA - GLADYS TAMEZ MILLINERY
WOW! ALL SO TRULY KISMET ANTHONY!
WHY WAS EVENTUALLY “COMING OUT” NON-NEGOTIABLE FOR YOU AS AN ATHLETE?
Well, at the time it was the fear of the unknown that kept me closeted more than anything. You just don't know what is going to happen. Professional wrestling yes, is a form of entertainment, but at the end of the day everything hurts because what we do in the ring is very, very physical. As fellow athletes we still make sure that we can all go home to our families when it’s all over. I truly didn’t know what the landscape was in terms of how people felt about LGBTQ+ athletes. The only fleeting examples I had coming up was “locker room talk” where sometimes people might drop the ‘f’ word or other slurs that of course were less than encouraging! So it was unknown terrain imagining how people would truly react. Would I have to forcibly defend myself in the ring because of it? Are guys going to try and purposely injure me out of spite? Will fans turn on me? So a lot of those thoughts would come to mind & they’d honestly keep me from living out loud. All Elite Wrestling didn't exist at the time so WWE had a monopoly as the primary option on everything until Tony Khan came around in 2019 to create AEW.
There was really only the one place to work back then and it was like ‘would this company even do anything with me’? -Because once Darren Young came out, it didn't seem to do him any favors. So worry for my career was probably the biggest thing that kept me closeted. Otherwise, my friends and family were already supporting me! I was lucky, very lucky, privileged and grateful to have that.
ON DECIDING TO “COME OUT”:
I met my boyfriend Michael in May of 2016 and that has been my first and only relationship. At that time I absolutely wasn't ready to come out and that was definitely a part of our conversations when we first started dating. I was like, ‘hey, I'm not out right now because of X, Y, and Z and I would really appreciate it if you just gave me the time to be ready for it. It won't be forever, I promise you, but I just need to be ready’ and he was so understanding. To this day, I'm forever grateful for that. So we dated secretly (short of my friends and family) for about six months. Now Michael had always wanted to make a YouTube channel and just create fun, entertaining videos. One day, we were sitting in his room and he was like ‘hey, let's make a YouTube video together’. At first my answer was ‘no, I don't think we should do that’ and he understood, but I saw his disappointment and honestly, it broke my heart. I think he might have had 200 subscribers at the time, so I thought to myself, you know what? Noone's gonna see this, so I reconsidered and said ‘let's just have some fun and make it’ -and so we did. It was a video called The Laughing Challenge, we posted it and I really didn’t think much on it after that. Maybe 3 or 4 months later, I got a text from one of my wrestling friends saying ‘hey, I just saw the video, why didn't you tell me?’ and INSTANTLY I knew what he meant! Of course I tried to pretend that I didn't and he continues with ‘we've seen it, all the other wrestlers saw it, we don't care, we love you, we respect you, you're a great performer, you can tell us anything!’
It was such an interesting, scary and liberating moment all at once, like someone had just come in and flipped on a light switch. Once I had that experience there was this realization that I had everything that I needed now. As I said, my friends supported me, my family supported me, I have this wonderful relationship (that I was hesitantly keeping secret) But now my co-workers knew and supported me as well! Now I also have this opportunity to try and make a change in professional wrestling because, again there weren't that many out athletes that I could look or turn to, so maybe my story would be able to be that for others! With this new found courage (and peace) I decided it was time. I didn't tell anybody that I was going to do it. I didn't tell my family, my friends, not even Michael, largely in part because I wanted, I needed, the decision to still be mine completely. So one night Michael and I were at a couples game night and I don't know why, I was just sitting there, and I felt it. I picked up my phone, I typed up a little Facebook status and I hit send. I also sent him an official relationship request on Facebook (because if it wasn't Facebook official back then, it wasn't official -lol). I shut off my phone for 45 minutes and continued the night. Eventually, I asked Michael to go check his phone. -I’ll never forget watching his face just light up with the biggest smile when he saw my relationship request. It was a really, really nice moment. We sat down that night and read through all of the reactions (which were 99% positive) and that's when me showing up in the world as my ‘100% self’ began.
AND NOW YOU’RE ABOUT TO FOLLOW IN ONGOING GREAT WRESTLER FOOTSTEPS! HOW EXCITED ARE YOU ABOUT YOUR FIRST ACTION FIGURE?!
Oh man!!!! I’ve literally cried multiple times about it. I still haven't even held it in my hand yet, only seeing the mock ups and photos so far, but I'm BEYOND excited! As I mentioned earlier, I was a HUGE wrestling fan coming up and I had (almost literally) EVERY action figure! ...I was an only child, I got good grades, so my parents sort of spoiled the shit out of me as long I kept everything up. So every wrestler and all the figureheads, that's how I would spend most of my free time other than video games. I still have my first Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s action figure. It was my favorite, his skin complexion was closest to mine, so I was able to see myself through him as well. I would pretend this Dwayne Johnson figure was me. I would beat everybody and win the championships. It still sits on my desk today, so when my action figure comes out, I can't wait to put it right next to that one. It's going to be a very, very surreal moment!
DO YOU BELIEVE IN HAVING A “PLAN B”? IF SO, WHAT’S YOURS OR WHAT’S THE ‘LONG GAME’ IN SUCH A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING CAREER LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
Just as much as I believe in taking risks, I definitely believe in having safely nets for those plans. For wrestling in particular, my early sentiment was, ‘hey, I'm going to do this until the wheels fall off, but at the same time, I'm going to make sure I finish college and get my degree’. Because I’m working with my body in such a physically demanding way, just in case some sort of freak thing happens, I’ll always have something to fall back on. So there’s some sort of safety net, but I never really thought about plan B, if that makes sense. In many ways I decided that winning at this was the only real option and outcome that I desired.
As far as what’s beyond wrestling one day, being that we're in the entertainment capital of America here in LA, I think the natural thing is to start diving into TV and film and follow the path of some of the people I’ve mentioned like The Rock, Batista, John Cena and Chris Jericho. I like being creative and I’d also like to see how I exist and fare in other forms of entertainment. I love professional wrestling, and I'd love to do it as long as I can. But everybody, no matter who you are, at some point, reaches a point where their body is just going to tell them it's had enough. So building that TV/film resume, that whenever the time does come of enough falling on my head every week, I’d love to just go full force into that world and continue my creativity in a different form.
CORSET - ASTA RAZMA, GLOVES - WEISHENG PARIS , SHOES - DR. MARTENS
DO YOU SEE A POSITIVE CHANGE IN THE PROFESSIONAL SPORTS WORLD IN REGARDS TO EMBRACING QUEER IDENTIFYING ATHLETES?
I wouldn't say so for most sports, but I think professional wrestling has come a long, long way in a very short time in regards to LGBTQ+ representation and allyship. As I said earlier, there weren't many out people before I came out and the culture was solely hyper-masculine (though it still is to a degree). But everyone's very accepting, I don't go to work at AEW and worry about how I present myself or have to water down my life in any way. Everybody welcomes me as I am. They WANT to hear about my life, what we did this weekend, they’re genuinely interested, they’re my real friends at this point so it’s something that I never even think about anymore. I think that in whatever large or small part, those experiences are in fact a testament to where professional wrestling has come. The people who are in it are making sure that it's a more accepting and inviting place for EVERYONE which was also one of the biggest things that drew me to AEW in general. Before I was signed there, I went to a tryout type of event and the roster was so diverse. There's Sonny Kiss who's gender fluid and Nyla Rose, who's the first trans woman to win a major national women's title in professional wrestling. The roster was so diverse and everyone was just being themselves, it was so impressive! And it’s all authentic, there’s no directive from AEW management for anyone to be a certain way or play up on any narratives or stereotypes. We all just go out, perform, be ourselves and now I get to go out every week and scissor people [Ha!]
THAT IS SO AMAZING. I THINK MAYBE PEOPLE FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, WHO MAY NOT BE REGULAR WRESTLER VIEWERS, WOULD EXPECT THE AUDIENCE TO BE SUPER AGGRESSIVE, MALE-DRIVEN, AND ULTIMATELY TOXIC IN THAT WAY. IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR EXPERIENCE JUST OVERALL, EVEN WITH THE AUDIENCE/FANS HAS JUST BEEN SUPER CHILL. IS THAT IS THAT ACCURATE?
Very true. I've only had one incident (that I wasn’t even aware of until after) where some idiot yelled out a homophobic slur. People immediately hopped in and dismantled the whole situation. -That was the only experience that I've had. My interactions with the AEW fan base have been overwhelmingly positive. In fact one of my favorite things to do with my tag team partner are the meet and greets because everyone is so genuinely excited. Whether you're gay, whether you're straight, whether you're a man, whether you're a woman, whether you're non-binary, it really doesn't matter! Everybody's excited to come up and take a picture scissoring with us. It's really incredible to positively connect with people from all walks of life like that!
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ONE DAY BE REMEMBERED FOR?
Oh man what a big question, multiple things I hope? I just want to leave a legacy of being a good person. Even as a kid in high school, there were times when I was able to show up as an ear or role model for some of the kids in earlier grades & you could sense the appreciation of someone showing them that they believed in them. But these were acts of kindness that others had shown to me and I was just happy to pay it forward. So I hope to leave a legacy where I’m remembered for doing that. From a career standpoint, I hope to be remembered as being one of the best professional wrestlers to ever do it! I also hope someday for the same sentiment with my future acting. I just want to be remembered as someone who was a good person and somebody who was loved and was genuinely good at what they did!
ANY MANTRAS OR AFFIRMATIONS THAT YOU LIVE BY ANTHONY?
‘Patience and persistence’ are big ones for me because trying to achieve these things isn't always easy. I think a lot of today's thinking, considering how our attention spans are getting shorter, I think people want things a lot quicker and faster, and that's not always how it works. So, my motto to people is always ‘you got to be patient with the results, but persistent in getting there’. If you think that it's going to come in a month and then you just give up because it doesn’t, you'll never end up achieving the things that you want. So put in the work, be persistent with it, keep going and just know and understand that as long as you keep visualizing it and putting it into action, you'll get to where you need to be! -Just add a little patience.
WHAT BRINGS YOU THE MOST PRIDE/ARE YOU THE MOST PROUD OF ANTHONY?
There are so many different things to answer in this question. I'm proud of a lot of things. I guess from a career standpoint, being AEW's first gay Champion means a great deal to me because the messages I received after that were some of the most heartfelt, sometimes gut-wrenching messages that I've ever read in my entire life. People were so happy for me and so inspired that someone like them was able to make it to the top of their respective industry. That was one of the proudest moments of my life, especially since I was able to share it with all of my friends and family who’ve been there with me all along, in front of about 15,000 people! Through that entire sea of faces, I was able to look up and find my dad cheering for me. -It was one of the most emotional moments, even right now, I'm getting choked up just talking about it. So between the wave of positive energy coming from the community and being able to have that moment with my closest people, that's probably one of my proudest moments ever.
COAT - CHARLES & RON, SHORTS - DAVID GIAMPICCOLO, SHOES - DR. MARTENS
WHAT SONG DO YOU KNOW WORD FOR WORD WITHOUT FAIL?
That one I definitely can't answer because I'm like a song lyric enthusiast. Probably every song that's on my playlist, I can sing word for word. And I have thousands upon thousands! 😅
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD?
Besides my couch lol, I guess I could say relaxing on a beach and honestly just laying out. Everyone likes to be on the water and running around on the sand but I like to just lay, put on my music and either drift off into a creative space or just enjoy the weather and the beauty of the ocean. It's a place where I've thought up some of the best things that have truly changed my life in pro-wrestling.
YOU'VE MENTIONED A CREATIVE SPACE NUMEROUS TIMES. WHAT DOES THAT ENCOMPASS? DO YOU SING? DO YOU WRITE POETRY ON THE SIDE? CAN YOU DEFINE THAT CREATIVE SPACE FOR US?
For sure! -Creative space as a pro wrestler is what I’m referring to! You see, it’s more than just the athletics and the fighting, it’s the entertainment and the story of it all that a lot of the fans are drawn to and often invest into emotionally. So, creatively, it's about drawing on your own experiences and trying to figure out those storylines, figuring out what's the next thing (like scissoring) that's going to be a fun connection with your audience. What's a story from my life that I can tell in the ring that hasn't been done before and that people can feel genuine emotion from? That's what I’ve meant by creativity. -Now I did use to write poetry back when I was in high school and college as a way of venting and channeling my energies. I actually completely forgot about that, so thank you for bringing that back to the forefront of my mind, now I’ll have to see if I can go find any of it!!
SHORTS - BOHEMIAN SOCIETY, GLOVES - DAVID GIAMPICCOLO, BOOTS - LIDIA TALAVERA
ANY MESSAGES OF HOPE FOR THE QUEER KIDS COMING UP BEHIND YOU?
Yes. Please hang in there. I feel like things ARE getting better, though today's political landscape seems a bit scary. So first thing; vote!! Secondly, just know that there are people like myself out there that are trying to make the world a better place for you in industries like my own and beyond so hopefully, you don't experience what I did all those years with all that fear and anxiety of what's going to happen with your future. Finally, how ever you can, find hope and positivity and ways to live your life to the best of your ability. Do your best to be intentional about bringing all the happiness that you deserve to you and your daily life!
WHAT’S YOUR DEFINITION OF LUXURY ANTHONY?
My definition of luxury is surrounding yourself with people that support you, who have your best interest in mind, and who clearly express love to you. I love being around my friends and my family, they are my happy place and the available experience of that alone is a life of luxury!