Sexual orientation is a touchy subject in society, and in the wrestling business it’s definitely what some would describe as an interesting subject. Professional and Amateur wrestling have both gotten flack from non-wrestling fans for being “too gay” due to the tights and close male-on-male contact. An insult to fans no doubt, you can imagine how people in the business react to that stereotype. Yet, there are numerous occurrences where when this stereotype has been taken advantage of.
Prior to 1941, George Wagner was just your run of the mill professional wrestler. He was only 5’9″ and 215 pounds, and in my opinion, resembles current Superstar, Wade Barrett. He grew up in a rough Houston, Texas neighborhood, where he was quite close to his mother, who was a seamstress. Sadly, his mother was very ill, and George was often responsible for her care. However, this relationship would later aid him in his career as Gorgeous George.
George’s first wife, Betty, was the one who originally concocted the idea of an overly-feminine wrestler. As I mentioned, the relationship with his mother, it allotted George to masterfully pull off the character, as he was already in touch with his feminine side, and her seamstress background positively affected his creativity and eye for fashion. He designed many of his flamboyant outfits, he would only come out to the ring once perfume (Chanel #10 to be specific) had been sprayed in the ring, and was escorted by his own personal valets, which he referred to as Jeffries. His entrances took up more time than his actual matches in most cases.
With his new character, George was quickly antagonized by fans. He became a huge draw, as fans would come out in droves to ridicule him, and of course, see him get beaten up by an opponent.
Gorgeous George was a true revolutionary. He not only introduced the world of professional wrestling to over-the-top gimmicks, but also to gay-oriented ones, all at once. It would be several years before another revolutionary would come along. This person was “Exotic” Adrian Street, who, where the Gorgeous One never came right out as “gay,” Street most certainly did.
When Adrian Street first began his career, he wanted to go with the popular “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers look. So, he came out with a head full of blond hair, and in powder blue attire. However, the crowds didn’t quite react exactly how he thought they would. Fans belittled him, shouting out derogatory remarks and calling him a “she.” Naturally, this upset the man, however, after further thought, he decided to not simply roll with it, but yet, to turn up the notch.
Street turned the fans reactions right back at them, by taking his once gallant Rogers’ character, and turning it into the over- the-top, flamboyant, outright gay gimmick. He decked himself out in some of the most outrageous attire ever seen in the wrestling business, put his hair in pigtails and bows, and would even go so far as to kiss other wrestlers right in the ring, during matches. Which at the time, was truly shocking to fans watching.
Perhaps the best way for you to get the full perception of “Exotic” Adrian, is with video:
Then came “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, who was the WWF’s first “openly gay” wrestler. Adonis’ career had gone stale in 1985, and his character was revamped…or rather, “came out.” Adonis was practically a carbon copy of Gorgeous George. He dyed his hair blond, sprayed about fragrances, was accompanied by Jimmy Hart, and was even forced to shave his head after losing a Hair match against Roddy Piper, at WrestleMania 3. He would leave the company soon after, and would be tragically killed in a car accident, in 1988. Needless to say, he was not the revolutionary type; his run was short, and consisted of nothing the wrestling world hadn’t seen before. That’s “Adorable” Adrian in the top banner with the “Mouth of the South.”
A decade later, someone more familiar to fans today, Dustin Rhodes would make his debut as “Goldust.”The character was to resemble an Oscar award, and brought sexual orientation to the forefront of the WWF. The idea came from the imagination of Vince McMahon, who vigorously aided Rhodes in perfecting the character, and also in fending off some of his more homophobic peers behind the scenes.
One of the most unique characters in WWE history, Goldust preyed upon the “macho” on the roster. Two wrestlers in particular who significantly helped the character get over, were Razor Ramon and Savio Vega. Ramon was Goldust’s first target, his own character being that of a “machismo,” while Savio, being of Dominican decent, was a perfect person for The Bizarre One to work against.
After Goldust’s prime, a duo would be formed in 2001, consisting of Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo. The latter, after being removed from the WCW/ECW Alliance, would team up with Gunn to aid the WWF in the Invasion storyline. Once the storyline came to an end, however, the two were turned into a heel tag team, who progressively became more affectionate toward one another. Eventually, they dyed their hair blond, and wore matching ring attire.
The duo would capture the World Tag Team Championships twice. They would also bring in their own “personal stylist,” Rico.
While it was never actually said that the two were gay, it was made blatantly obvious when Chuck proposed “life partnership” to Billy, who accepted. Their ceremony was quite the spectacle, and created quite the memorable moment in WWE history. For one, the two announced that their entire partnership was nothing but a publicity stunt, which is true, as GLAAD had partnered up with the WWF to not only consult them with the entire handling of the Billy and Chuck duo, but also aided in gaining the team mainstream media attention. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for GLAAD, as apparently WWE fell through on their end of the agreement, to have Billy and Chuck wed on Television. The other reason the ceremony was a spectacle is, because well…wrestling weddings almost always (like all but once) go awry:
Rico, who you saw in the video, basically became Billy and Chuck’s manager. He remained a heel for the better part of his time with the WWE (2002-2004), however, towards the end of his tenure with the company, his over-the-top, flamboyant character actually became a favorite amongst fans. Not to long after Rico, came Vito. The Vito character was not flamboyant, nor over-the-top. In fact, Vito would often explain that he’s not gay; he simply had a thing for cross-dressing, as he would wear, and compete in, a dress.
The idea for the character is said to have come from the hit Television show, the Sopranos. In which one episode, one of the characters, named Vito (oh WWE was oozing creativity here), was outed to be a homosexual, but was never actually seen in women’s clothing. The wrestling Vito, was originally a member of the Full Blooded Italians alongside Nunzio, until Vito’s cross-dressing tore them apart.
The most recent gay-oriented character we’ve seen, was in TNA, with the bisexual Orlando Jordan. He’ll be covered in the second part of this mini-series, though.
The second article in this mini-series will be taking a more in-depth look at the affect of gay-oriented characters in wrestling has on the business and on the fans. It will also take a look at actual gay wrestlers opposed to just the characters. It should be posted up a week from today, unless of course, something came up on my end. Anyway, be sure to check it out, whenever it is available.
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