SACKVILLE, N.B. – Anne Lautenschlager is slowly but surely moving up in the world of professional wrestling.
The 27-year-old Sackville woman – known to her fans as superhero Lilah Dare – has been traveling all over New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine for the past year, taking on opponents and making a name for herself on the pro wrestling circuit.
An avid athlete most of her life, Lautenschlager decided a couple of years ago she wanted to take on this new challenge.
“I watched some pro wrestling when I was younger, and I liked it, but eventually stopped watching as I grew older until I got back into it in my early 20s,” she says. “I'm somebody who can't really watch anything without wanting to do it, so I quickly decided to have a go at becoming a pro wrestler.”
What drew Lautenschlager to try it out?
“Well, it’s a very cool sport,” she says. “It also brings together a bunch of things I enjoy and have really dedicated myself to, like martial arts, boxing, theatre, gymnastics, and modeling.
“I like challenging myself whenever I can, and pro wrestling seemed like a great opportunity to do that.”
In addition to being fairly solid athletically and having modeled on and off for years, Lautenschlager has a passion for cosplay – dressing up as characters – and creating her own costumes. She’s dressed up as various heroes and villains for comic book conventions, and has worked as an online comedy writer. She hoped to use all those experiences to make the jump into wrestling.
Lautenschlager spent a few years searching for a training school, then learned of one opening in Moncton – the Maritime Wrestling Academy.
“In wrestling, it's so cool to be able to really push the limits athletically and bring life to scenarios that would be considered impossible or unrealistic. Almost anything can happen in pro wrestling.”
– Anne Lautenschlager
“It was really hard work but also fun and rewarding,” she says. “And the trainers there, wrestling veterans Titus and Julien Young, are absolutely top-notch.”
With training school behind her, she and several of her fellow students hit the road for wrestling shows to “set up and tear down,” with the hopes they'd get booked. Her first break came last summer with a July 2 match. The rest of the year proved fairly slow but has started to pick up significantly in 2018 – she’s had more than 20 matches this year.
Professional wrestling, she says, is a combination of spectacle and incredible athleticism and takes a lot more physical and mental strength than she ever imagined.
“In wrestling, it's so cool to be able to really push the limits athletically and bring life to scenarios that would be considered impossible or unrealistic. Almost anything can happen in pro wrestling. Having gotten into it, it's absolutely one of the toughest things I've ever done but very rewarding.”
Drawing heavily on her love of cosplay, superheroes, and martial arts, Lautenschlager wrestles as Lilah Dare, a superhero wearing a full-body bodysuit that she reveals with a tear-off skirt and jacket as she makes her entrance.
“I really enjoy the cheesy old phone booth Superman transformations, so I wanted to pay a little tribute to that with outerwear that I rip off to show my super suit underneath,” she says.
Lautenschlager defines her alter ego as a fun superhero that wrestles to bring a little hero-style justice to the bad guys of the pro wrestling world.
“I think of her as being a lot like a female Spider-Man – cool and capable, but also excited to take on the villains and always ready with a good quip. She's like a more intense version of me – but with more suplexes.”
She says she’s enjoying the connection she’s been making with fans.
“I've had a really great response, especially from kids, and it's really neat to be able to embody a 'real-life superhero.' A lot of little girls especially have been excited to see more women up there giving their all alongside the guys – and knowing that they're watching helps inspire me to keep learning and pushing myself. The local fans especially have been just amazing to work in front of.”
Lautenschlager says the wrestling landscape is booming in the Maritimes but she personally feels the shortage of women in the sport is a bit disappointing. She and her classmate Jasmine Hawkes brought the numbers up to four when they joined the Maritime circuit, with only two other female pro wrestlers on the scene before them – Maddison Miles and Miss Gia Mae (aka Ally Zwicker).
“So we're still a bit of a rare breed,” she says. “Women's wrestling in general has really been coming into its own recently, though, so I'm really looking forward to seeing how things progress in the future.”
And what do family and friends think of this new endeavour?
“My family is amazing and always support me and they've been really great throughout this journey,” she says. “I can imagine other parents being a little skeptical when their child says 'hey, I'm going to sink a lot of money and time into pursuing an incredibly dangerous sport', but mine have always had my back, even through the injuries.”
Her mom comes to all her matches in the local area and her father is dedicated to helping promote Lilah Dare on social media.
And it’s also a fun icebreaker with strangers, she adds.
“Overall, people seem to think that it's a really cool thing to do, especially for a woman. I get a lot of people saying I don't look like a pro wrestler, but then I flex and they go 'oh okay, now I see it!”
For more info on Lilah Dare, visit her on Instagram at superherolilahdare or check out her Lilah Dare Facebook page.