Sometimes it’s tough being a pro wrestling fan.
For starters, everyone assumes you’re a moron who thinks it’s a legitimate athletic contest despite the fact that wrestling has been out of the closet (so to speak) since the mid 80s. Then there’s the ridiculous number of wrestlers who have dropped dead over the years due to drug use. And you can follow that up with storylines that sometimes border on the idiotic.
Not to mention the subtle (and not so subtle) racism, xenophobia, and homophobia.
Well, for every borderline racist gimmick like Cryme Tyme there are performers for whom race isn’t an issue like The Rock. For every America-hating foreigner like Wade Barrett there’s a beloved Ghanaian like Kofi Kingston. And for every evil, gay stereotype like Adorable Adrian Adonis there’s…
Sure, there are wrestlers who are open about their homosexuality outside of the ring (WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, Chris Kanyon, etc.) but it’s never been a part of their in-ring WWE personas.
The WWE did seem to be going through a bit of an evolution (if you could call it that) regarding how homosexuals were portrayed in the late 90s/early 2000s…
The original Goldust character was a movie-line-quoting, Oscar-look-alike who would suggestively grope his opposition to make them feel uncomfortable. As you’d imagine, he quickly became the most hated man in the business. Worse than that? His admission that he wasn’t actually gay and was only using his grope-based offense to gain a psychological advantage helped turn him into a good guy.
Basically if we were doing an evolution chart of gay wrestling characters, Goldust would be to the far left, picking bugs out of his fur.
Billy & Chuck
This hated “Ambiguously Gay Duo” rip-off made headlines in 2002 with their “Life Partnership” ceremony. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation even bought them a gravy boat as a wedding gift. However, in the storyline, Billy and Chuck admitted that they weren’t gay and were only getting married as a publicity stunt. In fact, they were tricked into it by their evil, gay stylist Rico. This, much like in Goldust’s case, helped turn them into good guys.
But, in a small step in the right direction, Billy was quoted as saying, “We got nothing against gay people. As a matter of fact, if I was gay I probably would marry Chuck.”
The aforementioned Rico started out as a vile villain but was eventually turned into a good guy. Better yet, he didn’t have to admit to being secretly straight to get the fans on his side. It wasn’t ideal though, his grope-based offense was similar to the one Goldust used, but this time the fans were amused by it rather than appalled.
Since Rico was released in 2004, there haven’t been any openly gay characters in the WWE.
In the past seven years, there have been the occasional gay jokes meant to be shots at an opponent’s masculinity. But in a majority of the cases the comments were followed by the “Seinfeld” quote, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
The major exception to that rule took place this past spring when John Cena revived his battle rap gimmick to take shots at The Rock…
“That’s your material, you can have you joke back.
But don’t go racing to Witch Mountain, Rock, cause your mountain is Brokeback.”
Now, I’m not here to say what’s funny or unfunny or what gay people should or should not be offended by, but it did strike me as odd coming from a company that had recently joined the Be a Star (anti-bullying) Alliance.
GLAAD called them out on it, (perhaps they were still upset over the gravy boat incident). The WWE was quick to respond saying, “WWE takes this issue very seriously, and has already spoken with our talent about these incidents. We are taking steps and working with GLAAD to ensure that our fans know that WWE is against bullying or discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We strongly value our fans in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and apologize to them for these incidents.”
But why stop there? Why not create a good guy superstar whose homosexuality isn’t his dominant characteristic? Wouldn’t creating a beloved gay character go a long way toward boosting acceptance with wrestling fans?
Whoa, hold it right there, Gordon. Would it even be possible to get an audience that has traditionally been anti-gay to cheer for a homosexual?
Call me crazy, (and I am the one asking myself questions) but I think it is.
Quick Note: I know fantasy booking is the worst, but bear with me for a minute.
OK, there used to be a very popular tag team in the WWE known as the Hardy Boyz. The team consisted of the charismatic, high-flying Jeff Hardy, and his older brother Matt. The dynamic between the two was always interesting, in that Jeff was viewed as the free-spirited daredevil while his brother was more grounded and business oriented.
Now imagine if Jeff was gay.
And I’m not talking about some big revelation that I’m sure the writers would be tempted to tease. It could be as simple as a villain tag team thinking they have a psychological advantage because they know his big secret.
Villain: “We know your secret, Jeff Hardy!”
Jeff Hardy: “Is it that I’m gay? Cause that’s totally not a secret.”
Matt Hardy: “Yeah, we’re all cool with that.”
Villain: “Curses! Foiled again!”
Once that’s out in the open, Jeff would have to take a Jackie Robinson approach to his job. He probably would have to put up with quite a bit of grief from the fanbase. Anytime there’s too much beer and testosterone in an arena things are bound to get testy. He’d just have to keep wrestling in the same style that made him a superstar. It’s to be hoped that eventually he’d stop being “The Gay Wrestler” and start being “The Great Wrestler Who Happens to Be Gay.”
Matt’s purpose would be equally important. In a way he’d be the audience’s surrogate. It’d be his job to allay any fears the audience may have about gay people. (Wow, it feels ridiculous to even write that.) So, when the bad guys allude that if Jeff is gay, then Matt must be gay too, Matt could laugh and say something like, “Fine, then that makes me one more gay dude capable of kicking your ass.”
Would it work? I’d like to think the audience wouldn’t turn on a popular wrestler based on his lifestyle choice. I’d like to think the people wouldn’t stop cheering for the Rock if he stopped professing his love for “pie” (his euphemism for the female anatomy) and instead showed an interest in strudel (his euphemism for the male anatomy).
But, it’d take an awfully brave talent to be the first.
And it’d take a wrestling organization that’s truly interested in putting a stop to bullying.