The woman known as the Princess Diana of British wrestling is nervous. She’s pacing the ring with a stern expression and clenched fists. Her hair is long and mousy, and she wears a black leotard that’s cut to look as though there are bars across her chest. Quiet chatter is punctuated by loud, harsh thuds as she throws herself dramatically to the floor, acting out a move. I’m the only one in the room who flinches.
“Fifteen minutes till doors open,” a voice announces on the speakers overhead. She shoots her opponent a look. “One more time,” she shouts, throwing herself against the ropes to propel her into a clean lunge towards her partner.
Tonight, she’s headlining at Eve, an all-female wrestling show in east London, and is intent on making sure her act is perfectly executed. But Victoria Owen – stage name Jetta – needn’t have worried. The reason the audience loves Owen is not for her technical ability, but for her talent for getting them riled up like no other wrestler can. She’ll tease them, stopping mid-performance to pick on someone in the audience or work playful interludes into the fight.
Tonight’s show sees her opponent drink a pina colada while Owen squirms, breathless at the side of the ring after a beating – her own idea. In wrestling, the moves are pre-planned and the wrestlers act out stories crafted to outrage their audience.
At 30, Owen has been in the wrestling business for 16 years, but the Princess Diana moniker is a new addition to her roster of nicknames (Mouth Of The Midlands, Sh*t Talk Queen). She took everyone, including the show’s producers, by surprise when she asked to be introduced as it in 2017. “Ha!” she laughs, when I bring it up. “At first they booed me for it, but now they chant it.” It’s a rowdy, rhythmic “Ohhh Princess Di, Princess Di, Princess Di.”
The reason behind it? “I guess it’s because the audience loves her,” says Dann Read, cofounder of Eve. “Even when she’s being a brat, they’re rooting for her.”