It’s often a good idea to have posts with tie-ins that are current and/or relevant, and seeing as October is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) History Month, this week’s Art of Gimmickry will focus on the effeminate wrestler. What’s that? Halloween’s also this month? Shit.
Since the Golden Age of Television, pro wrestling fans have been indoctrinated to boo anything and everything that’s remotely gay…or at the very least laugh at it. Granted, it’s rare that the wrestler is actually referred to as being gay, but the insinuation is usually there. For example, when Vince McMahon would throw around the phrase “mind games,” whenever referring to a feud involving Goldust, what he really meant was “gay shenanigans.”
Every so often a new or repackaged wrestler will emerge with feminine traits and try their hand at playing the effeminate card. Sometimes it works (“Exotic” Adrian Street) and sometimes it fails miserably (Orlando Jordan). There’s always a slight variation as there is with most gimmicks that have been around a long time, but at their core they usually consist of the same traits. Whether he kisses his fellow opponent, grabs him inappropriately, dresses flamboyantly, or dances, some of these characteristics can be traced back to Gorgeous George.
Gorgeous George was the first wrestler to really develop a gimmick and take advantage of this little invention called the television. You thought wrestling was popular during the Monday Night Wars? Back in the 1940s it was one of maybe 10 shows that aired during that time. And George was at the center of it all. He was pompous, flamboyant and the crowd ate it up. In reality, George mostly paved the way for wrestlers like Buddy Rogers, Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, but he also created a dirt trail off the side of that paved road for other wrestlers who were just as flamboyant, but perceived to have little preference for the lady folk.
One of those wrestlers just happened to be “Exotic” Adrian Street who also decided to adopt Gorgeous George’s idea of having a female valet.
While often confusing face paint for make up, Adrian Street was the first to really embrace the “alternative” lifestyle. Aside from being an accomplished rapper, Street also employed the useful tactic of kissing his opponents in order to secure a victory. While never really acknowledged on a national level it was Street who set the tone for the modern effeminate wrestler. You can learn even more about him in this documentary about some indy wrestler trying to change perceptions of gay wrestlers one VFW hall at a time.
While Adrian Street was making waves in the territories during the 80’s, another Adrian was playing the role in the WWE. Thus, enforcing the rampant 80’s rumor that all Adrians were indeed gay, or “gayish.”
Despite gaining a shit ton of weight, Adrian Adonis kept using the same moniker, and even so far as adding “Adorable” to the front of it, because “chubby” wasn’t as sexy. For reasons that were never quite explained, the bad ass, leather jacket-wearing Adonis from the East-West Connection began dressing in pink, wearing make up dying his hair blonde, and putting bows in his hair because apparently that’s a gay fashion staple. This persona didn’t last long as Adonis was shaved bald after his feud and subsequent Wrestlemania III match with Roddy Piper (which some dude compiled a 3 hour “history of” compilation here), never to be heard from again. Piper, on the other hand, stuck around long enough to inflict more homophobic rage on another effeminate wrestler, but more on that later..
The inclusion of Johnny B. Badd is mostly due to the fact that he was a caricature of Little Richard. They had him in make up, sporting the pencil-thin John Waters’ mustache, and curled eyelashes. While his sexuality was never in question, nor was he the type to play “mind games”, Johnny B. Badd was more like a black version of Gorgeous George, only turned up to 11. Which more than likely went over well with the predominantly Southern WCW audience. And actually did once he turned face. He was a steady mid-card wrestler who enjoyed some success as the WCW TV Champion, with no real notable feuds aside from one against Diamond Dallas Page, and had a devastating left hook finisher aptly titled the Tutti Frutti. And to their credit, WCW never made Johnny B. Badd’s sexual preference a focal point of his gimmick. He was just a dude who happened to look like a more feminine version of Little Richard, which apparently was possible, and decided to run with it.
However, fast forward a few years later, and a hinted at sexual preference was the driving force behind Goldust’s “mind games.”
The “mind games” that Goldust played on his foes were simply him exploiting their insecurities and phobias, and pretty much everyone else’s watching at home. Coupled with a female valet to further “complicate” things, when broken down, the point was simple: mess with your opponent’s head and therefore win. Or, which was generally the case, fuel every wrestler’s homophobic rage.
Having not quite grasped the concept of “Not that there’s anything wrong with it” since Wrestlemania III, Roddy Piper set out to set Goldust straight (cheap pun very much intended) at Wrestlemania 12. In the process Piper made out with Goldust before beating him because, well, Roddy Piper clearly had some issues that needed working out. Later, the Goldust character evolved to include a fetish phase, then became the comic relief when he was electrocuted and developed a case of Tourettes.
Then WCW introduced this guy…
In attempts of adding “depth” to the character, Kwee Wee was another in a line of androgynous type wrestlers who acted very feminine, but always had a female valet. In this case, it was Booker T.’s wife sucka. According to his wikipedia: “Contrary to popular belief the Kwee Wee was not a homosexual, as demonstrated by his physical interactions with manager Paisley.” I believe the understatement there is popular belief. I guess there are videos of him on youtube, but really, why bother?
As with every great tag team in history, Billy & Chuck was a thrown together team of two singles wrestlers who were floundering and well past the point of being “future endeavored.”
At first, Billy & Chuck were just best buds, then like something out of a romantic comedy on the Logo channel, they starting growing more fond of each other (which was great considering the fans could give two-shits about them). However, The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) had become fans as well, helping the WWE secure mainstream media coverage regarding the wedding that was to take place between Billy & Chuck, because apparently they thought Billy & Chuck were actually gay. Of course, the wedding didn’t go through when Billy & Chuck (apparently acting as mouthpieces for the WWE) admitted it was all a publicity stunt. Thus, began the long
love hate relationship GLAAD has with the WWE.
Before all that went down, the WWE apparently felt that the Billy & Chuck gimmick wasn’t “gay” enough and decided to add Rico to the mix.
Looking like a stereotypical gay stylist, Rico had no choice but to become the manager for Billy & Chuck. He was the one that was used as a scapegoat to make you believe that the Billy & Chuck wedding was his ratings ploy and not Vince McMahon’s. After the wedding flopped as did Billy & Chuck as a tag team, Rico went on to gain some tag team success of his own, but not before channeling the spirit of “Exotic” Adrian Street. Face paint and all. He even took on a female valet in Miss Jackie, and partnered up with an initially reluctant Charlie Haas, which of course translated into typical odd-couple hilarity.
While things had become a bit more tame and playful in terms of gay wrestler depiction, the West Coast’s answer to ECW, Xtreme Pro Wrestling (XPW), decided to go the hardcore route with Angel the Hardcore Homo.
Oftentimes making ECW look like WWF during the New Generation Era (by the way, when’s that version of the WWE video game coming out?), XPW was not only more hardcore because it spelled extreme without “e”, but it was also run by someone even sleazier than Paul Heyman, Rob Black, a porn producer who actually went to trial for obscenity charges. Among XPW’s colorful roster of overhyped backyard wrestlers was Angel, who, for the most part, went all out with the gay gimmick. As for being hardcore? From what’s available on youtube you can see that Angel never shied away from deathmatches given the amount times he almost legit-died in XPW.
Having arrived on the scene at TNA during an unnecessary mass exodus of former WWE talent that included Val Venis, the Nasty Boys, and Hulk Hogan, Orlando Jordan was planning on incorporating some real-life aspects of himself, which included his bisexuality.
Obviously playing the role of a bisexual heel wrestler, because within the context of professional wrestling, is there really any other kind? The gimmick itself flopped to the surprise of absolutely no one, maybe because OJ was a subpar wrestler and even shitter on the mic, or maybe because it hit a little too close to home with everybody in locker room, including Ric Flair. The character wasn’t ahead of its time and making him bisexual certainly wasn’t groundbreaking, it was simply a rehash of other effeminate gimmicks that was given to a second-rate wrestler and handled by an uncreative, creative team. They could’ve at least made him funny.
However, there is one visionary who has supposedly broken the phallic-shaped mold of the effeminate/gay gimmick by having a “gay” wrestler not act effeminate. Enter: Chase Walker.
Sometime in 2011, Jeff Katz, former VP of Production of 20th Century Fox who greenlit such cinematic masterpieces like Freddy vs. Jason, and a former WCW something or other, had proposed an interesting Kickstarter project that was going to revolutionize the way pro wrestling was presented on TV. One particular storyline was going to feature Joey Ryan as a closeted homosexual wrestler, Chase Walker, who was going to be found out by his rivals, eventually own up to who he really was and continue to fight the good fight. All without succumbing to the usual stereotypes. Seeing as it’s now October 2012, wrestling fans are still waiting for this revolutionary wrestling product, but instead have been let down thanks to precursor episodes of something called “The Underground” which is, at best, horrible. Here’s hoping this is them getting all the crap out of their system before owning up to the promise of the Wrestling Retribution Project. And more importantly, the promise of a more modern take on a wrestling gimmick that’s been set on repeat since anybody can remember.
Then again, this is pro wrestling. Where fans are overwhelmingly xenophobic and trained to chant “U-S-A” in the face of anybody who’s remotely foreign.
While this post generally focused on American pro wrestling gimmicks, that doesn’t mean we can’t shed a little light on how our puroresu and lucha libre brethren are handling these gimmicks.
For example, in Japan they have…
Razor Ramon HG
While there’s quite a bit of information about Razor Ramon Hard Gay on wikipedia, you can simply skip ahead and watch him in wrestling action here, while he does his best to portray American gay stereotypes (okayed by Japanese censors, because apparently that’s not how the Japanese homosexual community behaves itself). However, an even better video of HG can be found here where he performs the best move since the bronco buster or the stink face.
And, in Mexico…
Wrestling in gear usually reserved for Divas, and using probably just as much make up, the Exoticos have been around in Lucha Libre for quite some time. Aside from Cassandro (the most famous of the Exoticos) who has publicly stated on Colt Cabana’s “Art of Wrestling” podcast that he is, in fact, gay it doesn’t mean the rest of Exoticos’ personas actually reflect their personal sexual preference. Either way, leave it to the progressive-thinking ways of Mexico to create an entire subgenre of wrestler based on this gimmick, which exists within both of the two major wrestling organizations South of the Border (AAA and CMLL) and their various indies.