Best Wheels (2009)

Roller Derby

Word to the wise: You don't wanna to piss off Ann Thrash or any of the other fierce-looking females who populate the Valley's roller-derby scene.

Like many in the roller-girl sisterhood, the punky 36-year-old has become skilled in hand-to-hand combat as captain of the Arizona Derby Dames' Runaway Brides squad. Wielding hands of stone and the ability to land her elbow in some uncomfortable places, Thrash can not only put your lights out but can do so while wearing a pair of Riedell track skates.

Said skills are of vital importance to the gals and grrls who've dished out ass-kickings aplenty over the past six years as amateur flat-track roller derby has exploded in popularity in the Valley. Once a staple of '70s fringe culture, the all-female sport was revived by California punks and feminists in the early Aughts and has since spread nationwide. (There's even a Drew Barrymore-directed roller-derby flick coming out in October).

Since migrating to Phoenix in 2003, it's become an infamous part of the local alt-culture landscape. Three different leagues (the Derby Dames, the Renegade Rollergirls, and Arizona Roller Derby) have sprung up, each holding monthly matches at venues such as Tempe's Surfside Skateland and Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

It isn't hard summing up roller derby's allure: Tough-as-nails women (many of whom are of the tattooed-and-pierced bent) clad in fishnets and miniskirts batter each other while circling an oval track and soaking up the cheers and jeers of bloodthirsty crowds. What's not to love?

Best of Phoenix 2009 In Photos

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