Indie star AJ Gray has appeared in such promotions as AIW, GCW and is currently the Black Label Pro Midwest Champion. He's also not afraid to speak his mind when it comes to the treatment of people of color (POC) in the wrestling industry.
Gray talked about if pro wrestling has become more inclusive of POC when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"We're taking a gigantic step with [For The Culture]. We've been taking steps, but every time we take a step forward, we take a step backward," Gray said before citing Jordan Myles' shirt controversy as an example that is openly racist and offensive.
"Kofi Kingston wins at WrestleMania and then he has the carpet pulled out from under him in nine seconds. There's always a positive and always a negative to pull it back. I'm hoping to get some momentum going where it's positive, positive, positive, positive."
Perhaps no wrestling promotion has focused on diversity and inclusion as much as AEW and Gray was asked about them putting out a more progressive product.
"They have a lot to learn but they are a brand new company. So, you have to give them time to show their true intent," said Gray. "I can't write them off now because they've only been on TV four or five shows. I'm not writing them off, but again, I'm not sitting here saying that they're on top of the point in being progressive."
Pro wrestling hasn't always made its best efforts at engaging POC and Gray talked about what can be done to engage minority fans.
"We need better representation at all levels. I'm gonna use African American kids as an example. What do they relate to the most – hip hop and athletics. Why… Because we see ourselves in them," stated Gray.
"In wrestling we don't have the representation. We have The Rock but even then every time we wanna claim The Rock as one of us, we're told, 'Oh no. You can't claim him as he's half Samoan.' We don't have that representation."
Gray's profile has steadily risen over the last few years and he talked about being on the bubble of breaking out during this vibrant pro wrestling time.
"Oh I love it because when I started, this wasn't a thing. The way this is moving so fast, this wasn't a thing. A lot of the young kids would have to eat sh*t. A lot of the kids who were in my position in 2015 would have to eat sh*t because there wasn't the same amount of opportunities. There were way more guys on the indies that are now fully, contracted workers," said Gray.
"So, it's beautiful to me. It's beautiful that there's so much opportunity in wrestling right now. That's a beautiful sight because we haven't seen something like this since the 90s. So for the past 20 years, we've been stuck where if you want to make money in this, you have to go to one place. Now, if you wanna make money, there's so many different outlets."
While there are many different outlets, what Gray wants out of wrestling is the same thing that most people in the business want out of it.
"When I end up having a family and having a wife and having a child, [what I want out of wrestling is] to make sure they're fully taken care of and never have to worry about wondering where their next meal will come from. They won't have to struggle through wrestling. I want wrestling to provide that platform to make sure my family is well off," said Gray.
AJ Gray and GCW present For The Culture this coming WrestleMania weekend in Tampa, FL. For more information and tickets please follow GCW on Twitter @GCWrestling_.
AJ's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In the full interview AJ discusses who AJ Gray is, teaming with GCW to present "For The Culture", the Jordan Myles - ACH controversy, why FTC will be different than other GCW shows, WWE pulling the carpet out from under Kofi Kingston, how pro wrestling can better engage people of color and more.