Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” pumps through the speakers as a figure steps into view. He’s draped in a glimmering turquoise and violet floor-length coat with tights in the same color scheme, and holding the Gateway Heritage Championship belt.
The costume is Chris Estell’s creation come to life on its wearer, Jeremy “The Monarch” Wyatt. He was one of the first pro wrestlers to wear ring gear from Estell’s business, Daingersnake Designs.
“He’s been my wrestling hero for the longest time,” Estell, a wrestler-turned-wardrobe-artist from Kansas City, Kansas says. “He kicked me in the back, knocked the wind out of me, and said, ‘Welcome to the business.’”
Last month, the gear maker landed a role on the wardrobe team for All Elite Wrestling (AEW), barely two years into teaching himself to sew. Before that, he worked overnight security and made gear during the day.
“With AEW, that was just luck,” Estell says. “Right place, right time.”
Having previously been introduced to Sandra Gray—one of the foremost gear makers in the industry—Estell attended a November 2021 AEW show in Independence, Missouri, portfolio in tow, with the intent of asking her for advice.
“[Two days later], she called me and asked if I’d like to come to New York City and do the show there with them,” Estell says.
He’s been working with AEW ever since and was officially signed in February.
From wrestling to sewing
Estell broke into the wrestling business a decade ago, initially training as an in-ring competitor. But the combination of COVID-19 and the deaths of his father and a tag-team partner stalled his in-ring aspirations.
In the meantime, he asked National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) competitor Marti Belle (of KCMO) if she would wear gear he made for her.
Belle said yes.
“It’s easy to do stuff for her because we can have frank conversations about her likes and dislikes,” he says. “How she wants it cut and stuff like that.”
Belle, who is currently the NWA World Women’s Tag Team Champion with Allysin Kay, said that the first set was “obviously a work in progress.” But she still wore it on TV, and the two continued working together, perfecting her look. She now has 15 sets from Estell and refuses to go to anyone else.
She was decked out in Estell’s gear when she and Kay won the NWA women’s tag team titles.
Growth of a designer
Wyatt said Estell profusely apologized for the quality of the first set of tights that he sewed for The Monarch.
“He encouraged me and said, ‘Find the right stuff, do it again, and I’ll wear it again,’” Estell recalls. That support and communication brought a new level of creative freedom to their working relationship. “Now he has some of the best gear out on the indies,” Estell says.
One of the latest designs is a black and gunmetal gray set in the guise of Batman—the most recent in a line of themed gear. Belle’s gear, similarly, evolved to include knee-high custom socks and extra panels.
“He definitely has gotten a little more confident in finding himself and finding himself as an artist,” Belle says.
Finding a niche in AEW
Other wrestlers and companies soon started to take notice of Estell’s high-quality products. His workload has been increasing through word of mouth.
Since that trip to New York City, Estell has worked with AEW’s Shawn Dean, Fuego Del Sol, Ruby Soho, and Butcher and the Blade.
Getting to make Soho’s gear, Estell says, was fate. Her normal gear maker couldn’t complete her costume for the January AEW TBS title match against Jade Cargill. She sent Estell a photo of what she was looking for, said she trusted him, and let him do his thing.
“I took elements from the picture she sent me and basically just freehanded it all the way until we got to the finish,” Estell says.
When he started making gear, he had no goal of signing with a big company.
“[Making gear is] something he would’ve never fathomed even two years ago,” Wyatt says. “Here he is, traveling and working for one of the biggest companies in the world, and making people on TV look good.”
Estell wants others to know it’s possible to have a place in wrestling without physically competing.
“You don’t necessarily have to be an in-ring talent to be successful,” Estell says. “If you have a passion for writing or making gear—you can still love wrestling and still be part of it.”
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