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“I wanna get fucked up somewhere crazy,” my out-of-towner friend pleaded through a mouthful of gas station fried chicken, holding a daiquiri the shape of a rooster. 

Careful what you wish for, I thought, as I flagged the taxi. 

We sped away from the tourists of Frenchmen, down a dark street with a dirt sidewalk, to a dilapidated warehouse. It was missing half its roof and its walls were shaking with music and cheers. We paid a cheap cover and walked into chaos and body heat around a wrestling ring. 

A huge projection above the crowd played a jerky, cable access-style video welcoming the mistresses of ceremonies: a green goblin named Gorleenyah, a space witch with three noses  (“possibly three sets of genitals”) and a buxom blonde named Visqueen in a futuristic S&M rubber suit. They traded banter, effortless and razor-sharp as a divey drag show. The line to a makeshift bar was half a block long, but I’d been fucking the bartender, so he let me cut with four PBRs and wink. 

We chugged them like Tulane students and climbed on top of a speaker to watch. Among the many things that make this show special, the storylines are always out of this world: A real estate investor tries to evict an alien-bug squatter with the help of a white cop in dreads and tribal tattoos. The cop sprays the bug with a gigantic can of Raid that spits out real fog, the bug sniffs it like poppers and body slams the fuck out of the cop. The crowd screams cathartically — predominantly queers feeling the ways Airbnb gentrification was swallowing the city (and illegal warehouses like this). 

A drunken haze of screaming, raunchy jokes, giant props, the boom of bodies hitting the mat. I can’t remember the last time I lost my shit like this at a drag show. And I wouldn’t even call it a drag show so much as a Lovecraft neon K-hole. A wasted bear handed me a nitrous cracker and told me he’s “leaning into his bisexuality.” We made out. 

My friend’s eyes widened like saucers. “Welcome to Chokehole, bitch!” I yell, as we crack a hundredth beer open. It was the worst hangover of his life.


Chokehole is not as simple as “drag queens wrestling.” It’s a nesting doll of subversions, a call-and-response to American queer and drag history. The first and obvious inspiration is the World Wrestling Federation era of the 1980s and 90s. WWF (now called WWE) was a revelation for many queers. For some, it was the first time we saw muscled, sweaty, same-sex theatrics. 

But being birthed in a city as old as New Orleans, Chokehole’s roots go further back: to 1800’s Mardi Gras, circuses and vaudeville. At the turn of the century, the classicism of Greco-Roman wrestling was subverted by the wrestling shows of American traveling carnivals and Mexican Lucha Libre, employing the use of staged matches, costumes, and personas. It was, in its way, drag. 

Chokehole takes wrestling and drag a leap forward. For better or worse, today’s drag is marked by competitions and winners, thanks to the RuPaul Industrial Complex. Chokehole has no prize or judges, giving its performance and politics the freedom to spin into any direction within its queer-club-punk-art-protest universe. 

And Chokehole is a horny little show, too. Much of modern drag, particularly the TV kind, may have sexy gags but it’s rarely sensual or focused on the sex-energy of the audience. Whereas the WWF cloaked their homoerotica behind campy theater, Chokehole puts it front and center. Skimpy outfit reveals, fake genitals, plenty of dry humping — a burlesque show nestled inside sensational violence. 

Chokehole belongs to the bisexual nympho clown fantasies of early 2010’s New Orleans, like the DIY strip contests at Big Dick’s House of Big Boobs. At the first Chokehole in 2018, a noise complaint brought cops to the door just as three wrestlers infamously pulled dirty condoms out of each other’s asses. During that first show, they kept the cops at bay with a forged permit. A few years later, they had to get an authentic Louisiana permit for professional wrestling. 

As Chokehole gains fame and accolades, it’s subverting its own illegal roots too. Chokehole’s final subversion is that its chaos is actually meticulously planned. Chokehole is led by three producers: Jassy, Visqueen and Ellery, who split the responsibilities of creative and production. Preparation for a new show requires at least a month and an expansive team. There’s craft days for the huge paper mache props (most of which are demolished during the show), shoots for the intricate video-animation sequences, and of course, wrestling practice. Working with a gang of drag queens and queer artists can be like herding drunk kittens, so Chokehole’s traveling shows are a true testament to their organization. 

GERMANY, 2022.

I got a gig in Berlin and was desperately searching for a last-minute summer sublet (along with every queer in Europe). Finally, a cool German lesbian reached out. She was a film editor, leaving on vacation for the exact dates I needed. She was jubilant as she gave me a tour of her giant pre-War apartment. “I just finished a documentary short!” she said. 

“What’s it about?” I asked, expecting a refugee crisis I’d never heard of. 

“A drag wrestling troupe from Louisiana. It’s called Chokehole.” I shrieked as she raised a skeptical eyebrow. 

“I’m from New Orleans!” I said, showing her my phone videos of a slutty real estate agent breaking a foam flip phone on a cockroach’s head as Gorleenyah screamed, “Make that call gurl!” 

She was screening the short after Chokehole had debuted in Hamburg through a German art’s program to a puzzled and dazzled audience. Chokehole has been a hit everywhere it travels. Last year the troupe was commissioned by the fucking Met

The coincidence was too good, and the cool German lesbian gave me the keys on the spot. 


This Carnival, I took another out-of-towner to their first Chokehole. The tickets were more, and the venue was legal: a massive brewery with a fancy lighting rig and sound system. The PBRs were replaced by limited edition Chokehole seltzers. There were adult games and giant slot machines. The jokes were even sharper, the choreography, tighter and more intricate. The crowd erred on the side of polite. A venue staffer yelled at me for standing on a table. 

The culture-appropriating dreadlocked cop was still there, but this time, so were the Airbnb gentrifiers he roasted six years ago: at the edge of the stage, a straight couple looked dumbfounded and bored waiting for the show to start, probably wondering what they were doing so far from The French Quarter. They were in tourist garb, him in a pastel polo, her in a novelty t-shirt (“I got Bourbon-faced at shit-street”). Maybe they got a random tip from the internet to come here. Evidently, it’s hard to be bored when a church lady is using a giant foam tambourine as a cock ring. It didn’t take long for Chokehole to seduce the couple into wall-shaking cheers — everyone deserves to get choked out.