The Southsea gay pro wrestler proving that 'no matter who you are' you can follow your dreams

Jensen Ryan has one message: No matter who you are or where you come from, never be afraid to do what you love.

In 2019, 38-year-old Jensen Ryan, from Southsea, joined Quality Wrestling Academy based in Havant, finally deciding to act upon his long-held fascination with the sport.

‘I’ve always been a big fan since I was a kid, I remember my mum and dad watching it and thinking it looked really interesting,’ says Jensen.

Originally from Southampton, Jensen has lived and worked in Southsea for 15 years, so when an article in The News drew his attention to the opening of a new wrestling academy ‘round the corner’, providing a place for budding wrestlers to keep fit and learn the skills of the sport, he was hooked.

Jensen Ryan on Eastney seafront. Picture: Sarah Standing

‘Other than going to the gym I’d never done any sports since I left school. I got in contact and turned up, very nervously, for the first time and loved it.

‘I’ve been there ever since,’ he says.

Trained by Kapow heavyweight champion and founder of the academy, Rishi Ghosh, Jensen - known professionally as The Dark Prince - performed his wrestling debut in January 2021.

‘Obviously the pandemic kicked in, I’d been training for a couple of years and then, when we were allowed too, I got out there and started doing some shows,’ says Jensen.

Professional wrestler Jensen Ryan, at Quality Wrestling Academy.

He has since performed shows professionally all over the country – bringing his ‘quick pace and agility’ to the ring each and every time.

Alongside wrestling, Jensen has years of experience as an event manager, performer and actor running a theatrical events including murder mysteries and award-winning Supernatural Tours and Events across the South coast.

‘The acting side of things comes into my wrestling too, there’s transferable skills there.

‘It’s a bit of a performance art as well, you get to be someone you wouldn’t be in your normal daily life,’ adds Jensen.

Jensen Ryan on Eastney seafront. Picture: Sarah Standing

As a keen entertainer, Jensen – who also works as a learning and development manager – always found ways to bring performance into his roles.

‘I’ve always liked entertaining people, when I do training at work I’ll always perform it in a fun or interesting way, same with the supernatural tours.

‘There’s a story to go with it. With football and rugby, you don’t have the character development you do in wrestling,’ he says.

While performance is a key factor in the sport, Jensen warns that the moves involved in the sport including his signature – the 'seal of solomon' – can be dangerous.

‘When you're doing a match with someone, you have work together otherwise it will go wrong, in the same way when you watch Strictly Come Dancing you know those two people have to,’ says Jensen.

‘You have to have a lot of trust, like any sport it can go wrong and can cause serious injury.’

However, Jensen didn’t always find it so easy to be centre stage and held off from starting a career in wrestling for years, worrying he wouldn’t be able to share his true self due to his sexuality.

‘Wrestling is quite different, it is very much a contact sport, you’re getting close to people and that’s probably what made me think “is this something that people would welcome?”

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As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Jensen wondered if he would be openly accepted into the world of wrestling.

‘You worry about people’s reactions, are they going to make comments, are they going to think “I don’t want to work with him.”

‘That’s what put me off for a long time,’ says Jensen.

Even after joining Quality Wrestling Academy, Jensen hid his sexuality from friends and wrestling partners due to a fear of judgement.

‘I didn’t say anything at first, I went along and just avoided questions about it and carried on.

‘If people asked if I was married or had kids, I just bypassed the subject,’ he says.

In 2022, following a social media post by the Academy falling on National Coming Out Day, in which they embraced equality and encouraged everyone to be themselves, Jensen was inspired to share his authentic self with the rest of the wrestling community.

‘A lot of people had responded so positively and that was the catalyst to do this.

‘No one has made any negative comments, everyone’s been really welcoming and it’s been a really positive experience - it really is in your own mind,’ he says.

Along with the recent news that Blackpool footballer - Jake Daniels - has come out as the UK's first gay male footballer since 1990, Jensen wants to help break down barriers in all sport, starting with wrestling.

‘I remember when I used to watch wrestling when I was younger, there were certain characters that were made into a bit of a joke – it was all very stereotypical, dressing up in pink and I think it was quite detrimental.’

‘When people think of wrestlers they think of Hulk Hogan or The Rock, masculine big guys - that’s not me at all,’ adds Jensen.

Jensen’s hope is that no one is discouraged from trying something new due to the stereotypes surrounding it, that are often not the whole picture.

‘That’s what it’s been about from day one, sharing my story to help to make a positive change in any sport,’ he says.

Jensen’s journey has since been shared by the BBC and ITV to help spread awareness of his message:

‘The key is to go out there and do what you want to do, no matter who you are, no matter what your background.

‘Don’t hold yourself back, not just because of sexuality but anything,’ he says.

‘You can do it, you just need to give it your best shot.’

Jensen says feedback from both the academy, and people worldwide, has been nothing but supportive.

‘I’ve had comments and people contacting me from around the world saying “we really love what you’re doing!”

‘People have really gone out of their way,’ he says.

One particular instance – a parent from Quality Wrestling Academy Juniors reaching out – stood out to Jensen.

‘A dad from Quality Junior’s contacted me. I’d never met him, but he sent me a message to say “I’m really glad there’s someone like you doing this, it’s really good to see.”

Jensen hopes by sharing his story, it will help future generations to be unapologetically themselves and feel confident that they will be accepted into whatever sport they hope to enter into - just as he has been.

‘You may worry that people are not gonna work with you, not gonna sponsor you or not gonna support you because of it and that really shouldn't be a factor.’

Alongside two other professions, Jensen – who trains two or three times a week – is available for bookings at a range of wrestling events and has wrestled for promotions including Quality Wrestling, SWF, Kapow Wrestling as well as being part of the Savage Pro Wrestling roster.

‘You form friendships, everyone’s really supportive of each other, it’s a real community,’ he says.

‘If you want to go because you like the sport, or want to meet like-minded people, it doesn’t matter about your age, your background, or your activity level, just give it a go.’