Arts in Context

Austin's women-first wrestling show puts stereotypes up against the ropes

Austin's women-first wrestling show puts stereotypes against the ropes

Editor's note: CultureMap is proud to present the latest installment in our partnership with KLRU's documentary series Arts In Context. The series explores the process of creation and what it's like to be a working artist in the Austin area. You can watch more stories at

As a child growing up in Mexico, Cervantes spent hours watching wrestling with her family. “Lucha Libre is ingrained in our culture. Like you watch that on Sundays. It’s like going to church,” says Melissa Cervantes aka Thunder Rosa, co-owner and star of Sabotage Wrestling, Texas' first mixed-gender wrestling show. 

In high school, Cervantes dabbled in theater, but she eventually found wrestling was a better fit. "It's like painting, you have an empty canvas," she explains. Cervantes eventually left acting behind and embarked a journey that would take her from California to Austin, all the while doing wrestling promotion that prioritized female wrestlers and supported them on their journey to wrestling stardom.

Working within an industry that is predominantly male-focused, Sabotage has become a powerful venue for Austin women to explore the art of wrestling, disrupt stereotypes regarding female wrestlers, and showcase their immense talent to fans everywhere.

KLRU-TV, Austin PBS is dedicated to telling stories that entertain, inspire, and change our lives. KLRU highlights what makes Austin unique — whether music, arts, or public issues — by creating and distributing award-winning original content. KLRU produces several series including Austin City Limits, Arts In Context, Central Texas Gardener, Decibel, and Overheard with Evan Smith. As a nonprofit educational organization, KLRU also prepares children to succeed in school and creates lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Thunder Rosa
Thunder Rosa want to empower women wrestlers in Austin and beyond. Courtesy of KLRU Arts in Context