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Ladies Wrestling Article

Roller Derby in Austin
By Ki Gray

In 2001, what started as an idea at the smoky 6th street club Casino El Camino, quickly gained steam among like-minded women of Austin, and the roller derby was reborn. Though many of those who started up the comeback hadn't skated for decades, the gung ho spirit spawned one of Austin's favorite new events.
The original roller derby league, under the name Bad Girl Good Woman (BGGW), had their first bout at Skate World in 2001 to 400 fans. By the end of the first season, they were skating to a fan base of 1300. BGGW was guided by four She-E-Os (derby talk for CEOs), but after one player had a serious injury in 2003, 80% of the BGGW broke off from the league to start their own. The new league, now known as the Texas Rollergirls, ran a democratic organization with each player having a say in decisions. The original Bad Girl Good Woman players regrouped as TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls, resulting in Austin being the proud owner of two separate Roller Derby Leagues.
Though the rules in each league vary slightly, both are based on the roller skating endurance race created by promoter Leo Seltzer in the 1930s. There are four 10 minute periods with two teams racing around the track with flashy outfits, tough-girl names, and tons of attitude and antics, which sometimes include impromptu pillow fights and spanking line penalties. In keeping with the punk attitude of the event, rock and roll bands play during every half time. The main difference between the two leagues is the track itself. The Texas Rollergirls race on flat tracks with audience members lined up inches away from the track, which can result in many rollergirl/audience member collisions. The TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls purchased an original roller derby banked track used in the 70s and 80s, making them the first all-girl league to ever skate on a banked track (the original roller derbies were coed.)
The buzz of the roller derbies made for exciting news stories, and soon rollergirls were on the radio, television, and in local papers. A couple years later, Austin's roller derbies became national news, and an article from the New York Times spawned interest among TV production companies who wanted to tell their story. In 2006, the Lonestar Rollergirls were featured in a 13 part series on A&E called Rollergirls, which followed team members and showcased the dichotomy between their roller skating personas, and their normal, every day lives. Local film company Crashcam Films also documented the rollergirls and released a movie titled Hell On Wheels, which has played at over 10 film festivals worldwide.
Soon, women from around the country began to show interest in starting their own leagues, and contacted the Texas Rollergirls for guidance. The Austin women created a United League Committee to set the groundwork for a national flat-track league, and personally shared tips and ideas with budding leagues to help get them up to speed. In 2007, Austin hosted the Women's Flat Track Derby Association Championship Tournament. Three thousand skaters and fans came from all over the world to watch as eight U.S. teams battle it out on the track. Though the Kansas City Roller Warriors took home the prize, it made Austin's Rollergirls proud. What was just a fun idea started by a group of friends had blossomed into a revived national goodtime sport.
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