In August of 2013, Darren Young became the first active WWE superstar to publicly come out as gay. He’s hardly the first gay wrestler in history, as several retired superstars came out after leaving the company, but Young’s announcement was still a historic moment for LGBT rights in sports entertainment. While the world in general is thankfully changing to become more accepting to all sexualities and orientations, professional sports are still often seen as heavily macho displays of masculinity. This, too, is slowly fading away in favor of more broad understandings of equality, but for decades, wrestlers and promoters utilized that misconception to craft some deeply questionable and often outright homophobic characters based on the allegedly absurd/hilarious/villainous idea of a gay wrestler.
There are millions of gay people in the world, and to pigeonhole them into any category is extremely limiting and offensive. That hasn’t stopped the wrestling universe from doing so, as gay characters are often highly effeminate and sexually predatory, and generally became some of the most hated heels of whatever era they rose to fame. WWE has been repeatedly guilty of this, but they were hardly the only company to feed on the homophobia of their fans, as WCW and major British and Japanese promotions have had just as many controversial gay based gimmicks. The vast majority of the wrestlers to portray some kind of a gay character aren’t gay themselves, adding an extra layer to the insensitivity involved with the idea. Keep reading to discover 15 wrestling superstars who tastelessly pretended to be gay in order to get wrestling fans to boo them.
Goldust has grown far beyond his eerie beginning as a disgraced Hollywood movie critic and turned into one of the most enduring characters in WWE history. His role these days is more of a chameleonic journeyman comedy character who gets into character specific wacky antics with the various superstars he chooses to associate with, but in his early days, Goldust was far more open about his interest in other male superstars’ bodies. Goldust creepily groped and hovered over the bodies of men like Razor Ramon and The Undertaker, with his actions always described as mind games, and thus never a sign of any true homosexual desire.
Despite the fact Goldust once flat out said he wasn’t gay, fans certainly thought he was, and would hurl every homophobic insult imaginable at him as a result. Today’s WWE crowds can manage some inventive chants, but luckily they’ve haven’t resorted to chanting “faggot” at a wrestler in a very long time. They chanted it at Goldust, though, and the fans weren’t the only ones—wrestlers like Bret Hart, Jerry Lawler, and Ron Simmons all called Goldust names like “fag,” “fairy,” and “queer.” The lengths Goldust went to prove he wasn’t actually gay showed the company had to know it was a questionable idea all along, and thankfully those elements of Goldust’s character were dropped as he descended into silliness.
14. Mickie James
The idea of men pretending to be gay to get fans to boo has been around for decades, but the prospect of a woman portraying a villainous gay character is far less common. The idea of the women pretending to be gay is hardly a rarity—there’s jut a slight catch when the trope crosses the gender line. The lads over at OSW Review call it “lesbian pollen,” and the idea is that while male characters are either gay or not, females can often turn gay at the drop of the hat if the writers are horny or bored enough. At least once, however, a long-term lesbian angle played a huge role in WWE, and it was arguably the only entry onto our list that wasn’t patently horrible.
Trish Stratus is a WWE Hall of Famer, and her reputation as the best women’s wrestler of her era was already solidified halfway into her run. In late 2005, Mickie James debuted as Trish’s biggest fan, and very quickly it became evident she was interested in more than just Trish’s wrestling skills. Mickie started to emulate Trish to a creepy extent, and made her feelings known near Christmas when she kissed Trish under mistletoe. Mickie won the WWE Women’s Title from her object of affection at WrestleMania 22, driving the men in the crowd crazy when she blocked an attempt at a bulldog by groping Trish in her crotch area. Stratus retired soon after, but she wasn’t the only object of Mickey’s affection—she also kissed Melina at the 2007 Survivor Series.
13. Danshoku Dino
Danshoku Dino is a Japanese wrestler, and not very much information about him is publically available in America. There’s a chance the man behind the gimmick could actually be gay, but there’s no way he actually acts like his outrageously over-the-top character, which is less gay and more of a serial sexual abuser. Dino and the Japanese commentary present it as essentially normal gay behavior, though, and that’s where the gimmick starts to get extremely questionable.
Dino’s offence can be acrobatic and intense like many Japanese wrestlers, but deviating far from the norm, his two primary modes of attack seem to be hitting his enemies with his own crotch and butt, and grabbing and pulling on his opponent’s genitals. The weird sexual assaults are often played for laughs in Japan, and quite frankly, it’s hard to say if that’s better or worse than doing it to get booed. It’s hard to understand what’s so funny about a supposedly gay man shoving his opponent’s wrestlers down his pants to executive finishing moves, and removed from the context of comedy, it’s clearly just offensive and disturbing. Regardless, Dino has been one of the biggest stars of the Japanese promotion Dramatic Dream Team since it was formed in 1997. Thanks to the success of that company, Dino actually became a big enough star to attract national attention…
12. Joey Ryan
Joey Ryan isn’t as well known as most of the other wrestlers on this list, unless you’re a huge fan of memes, in which case he might be the most noteworthy of all. Ryan made headlines when he performed the very not gay act of actually proposing to his girlfriend during an intergender match for an independent promotion they both were regulars for. If all of your Facebook friends forgot to share that one, you might know him from another, weirder video, in which he defeats Danshoku Dino by dramatic hip thrusting in his direction, or as the news reported it, he won a match with his penis.
While both of these incidents made him famous, neither are the gay gimmick Ryan made the list for, but it’s worth mentioning them to paint the picture he’s always been a particularly sexual wrestler. He’s also one of the few wrestlers with actual ties to the adult film industry, as YouPorn is his official sponsor. He also appeared on an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race, teaching the contestants how the basics of sports entertainment. Earlier in his career, Ryan also had perhaps the first respectful gay gimmick in wrestling history, portraying a normal wrestler who just happened to be gay. Perhaps as a sign the world wasn’t ready for that, the promotion he created the character for never got off the ground, and closed before they ever released an official show.
11. The West Hollywood Blondes
Virtually everyone on this list caused some level of controversy, but Lenny Lane was the only wrestler we know of who almost immediately got kicked off TV once it was apparent he was becoming popular for being an offensive gay stereotype. Lane was a cruiserweight jobber in WCW for nearly four years before he decided to form a team with Lodi. Lodi had also primarily been a jobber cast off as a “weirdo” by announcers, and once the two started teaming together, that alleged weirdness turned into flamboyantly offensive homosexuality from both him and his new partner.
Both men revamped their ring attire to primarily be bright, pink, and flashy, and they renamed themselves The West Hollywood Blondes. Lane fashioned his hair in pigtails, covered himself in glitter, and ate lollipops on the way to the ring. Amazingly, the gimmick translated to brief success, when Lane won the WCW Cruiserweight Title. Unfortunately for Lane but understandable to those in favor of good taste, GLAAD protested and threatened to boycott WCW for using the Blondes’s fake orientation to promote homophobia and condoning the notion of hate crimes. The Blondes were quickly taken off TV and repackaged as partying rockers, but fans paying attention can’t forget the offensive way they first caught our attention.
10. Billy and Chuck
Every one of these gimmicks is at least on a small scale an affront to gay rights. Activists and protests groups have recognized this and complained about the wrestling industry’s portrayal of gay people for years, and it’s usually fallen on deaf ears outside of extreme circumstances. For all of about one week, however, there was a moment when GLAAD was actually staunchly in support of what WWE was doing, but of course, the company threw it away in epic fashion before they even acknowledged what they could have had.
Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo started teaming under the same precipice of Gunn’s earlier team The New Age Outlaws—they were both decent enough wrestlers with nothing to do, so why not form a tag team? Of course, that wasn’t nearly enough in the character drive of the WWE Universe, so the two started to adapt and grow closer as a team in ways that started off subtle, but eventually became borderline aggressive.
At first, they simply wore matching ring gear and dyed their hair peroxide blonde, but as the team progressed to multiple World Tag Team Championship reigns, lingering glances and particularly phrased sentences gave the implication the two were in a gay relationship. Chuck eventually proposed and Billy accepted, which is when GLAAD got on board and helped promote the wedding. It was all for naught, as Billy and Chuck got cold feet and revealed it was a publicity stunt all along, and neither of them were gay. GLAAD were furious WWE mislead them, and most fans felt the same way. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop the company from keeping the third member of their team around for years…
Rico entered the world of sports entertainment as a regular contestant on American Gladiators, after which he was trained by Tom Prichard and Terry Taylor to become a wrestler for WWE. He debuted in 2002 as Billy and Chuck’s stylist, and his managerial influence was what inspired Chuck to pop the question to Billy. Rico turned on them when they revealed their publicity stunt, and started painting his face with glitter and making kissy faces towards his opponents, going further with the gay undertones than he ever had before.
Paradoxically, he also had a girlfriend during this time in Miss Jackie, but plenty of offensive, stereotypical gay gimmicks have been paired with women to make them slightly more palatable or controversial to a mainstream crowd. Many critics related this change in Rico to the popular Mexican exótico style of wrestling, which is an almost always offensive exaggeration of feminine and stereotypically gay actions in order to make a crowd laugh. This chapter of Rico’s career was actually somewhat popular, and he even won the World Tag Team Championships with Charlie Haas, but that doesn’t change the fact he was using hurtful misconceptions about gay people to get the crowd to react to him.
8. Pimpinela Escarlata
Pimpinela Escarlata, named after The Scarlet Pimpernel, is simply one of many Mexican exótico style wrestlers who continues to perpetuate an offensive culture in lucha libre. Pimpinela primarily works for Asistencia Asesoría y Administración in Mexico, where he became one of the most popular exótico wrestlers in history thanks to his higher than average charisma and ring skills. He has won a variety of both male and female singles titles, and that starts to explain the problem between Escarlata and other exótico characters. His popularity is based on comically kissing other wrestlers and acting like a woman, which is inaccurately presented as normal and hilarious gay behavior.
Pimpy has recently become fairly well known in America thanks to his appearances on Lucha Underground, but many fans feel his character is extremely backwards and offensive in its mere conception. Lucha Underground is a celebration of lucha libre in it’s many forms, and fans love the variety and differences between those styles and more familiar American versions of wrestling. Escarlata’s actual orientation isn’t known, but most exótico wrestlers are straight, and as the most popular, he stands as our representation. In general, many feel that the exótico style of wrestling is very outdated, and needs some serious reconsideration.
7. Allan Funk
Allan Funk went by several strange names in wrestling, competing as Kwee Wee in WCW, Bruce in Total Nonstop Action, and then Chi Chi on MTV2’s Lucha Libre USA. Funk’s characters were all flamboyant, but despite initials appearances, the Kwee Wee character he used when he debuted was patently not gay. Part of Kwee Wee’s deal was that he was aggressively physical with Paisley, who retained her name despite the Prince connotations of her gimmick being long gone. That said, Funk absolutely belongs on this list for his tenure as Bruce in TNA.
TNA had initially intended to reunite Lenny Lane and Lodi as The West Hollywood Blondes, proving that the company history of ridiculously bad decisions goes back to their first year of existence. Also proving that they don’t give up on bad ideas, when it was discovered Lodi was too injured to play the role, Funk stepped in as Bruce and the team with Lenny was renamed The Rainbow Express. Lenny returned to his offensive stereotypes with Bruce, matching them to an extent he arguably became even more offensive than the original. Once the team with Lenny ended, Bruce won the Miss TNA Championship, promoting the awful stereotype that gay men are somehow women.
6. Sable And Torrie Wilson
Sable was the first WWE superstar to pose for Playboy in 1998, and Torrie Wilson became the third in 2003. In between these two events, the relationship between Sable and WWE went through a veritable roller coaster ride, with Sable going from the top female star in the company to blackballed and suing over sexual harassment in just a few short years. Most people assumed Sable was done with the company for good, but she returned in light of Wilson’s cover shoot in order to feud over who the hotter Playboy model was.
Torrie won most of the wars between the two blonde bombshells, and in order to prove she had no hard feelings, Sable passionately kissed Wilson at Judgment Day. One year after Torrie’s first Playboy shoot, she and Sable would both go back to Hugh Hefner’s mansion to create a dual pictorial. In the shots, the women are in lightly sexual situations, kissing and caressing each other, and the fact they’re naked paints the rest of the picture. Both women have been married to numerous high profile men, but that didn’t stop them from playing up the lesbian angle to sell magazines and build storylines. Sable wasn’t the only girl going after Torrie, though…
5. Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson
Almost immediately after ending her questionable relationship with Sable, Torrie Wilson started getting stalked by Dawn Marie. Dawn Marie was a popular act in ECW thanks to her ditzy persona, but when she arrived in WWE, she became much darker and more conniving, prepared to enter mind games with who she saw as the top female star on SmackDown. Naturally, this meant the lesbian pollen struck again, and Dawn aggressively attempted to seduce Wilson, despite the fact she wasn’t a lesbian herself. Dawn obviously had cause to believe Wilson was, but in fact she was also heterosexual.
We can’t deny there’s a certain appeal when viewed in screenshot form, but the whole ordeal between Dawn and Torrie is considered one of the lowest points in wrestling history. It isn’t really either of the girls fault, though—in order to convince Torrie to sleep with her, Dawn began dating Torrie’s father Al, and promised to break up with him if Torrie gave in to her advances. Al Wilson was basically the least charismatic presence in WWE history, and the underpants wedding between him and Dawn was almost enough to take away any good will the other images from the feud created.
4. Kimona Wanalaya And Beulah McGillicutty
There was a time in the early 90’s where the “lesbian kiss episode” was the most controversial and talked about trend in television. Network programs like L.A. Law, Picket Fences, Roseanne, and of course Ellen, all utilized the idea of guest starring lesbians entering the show’s universe and leading to a female lead questioning her sexuality. That wasn’t quite the case when ECW pulled it off in early 1996, but the controversy the moment caused in the wrestling world was comparable to that of television at large.
The crowning jewel of ECW to many fans was the decades long love triangle between Raven, Tommy Dreamer, and Beulah McGillicutty. Beulah dated Tommy at summer camp and then moved on to Raven when he dumped her. Raven and Beulah reunited in ECW and dated for about a year, until Beulah announced she was pregnant, and the baby wasn’t Raven’s, it was Tommy’s. The fake lesbian part comes in why Beulah in turn told Tommy she was lying about the baby all along, and she was cheating on him, too—with Raven’s new girlfriend, Kimona. Tommy memorably responded to the betrayal by saying that since he was hardcore he’d take them both, and the rest is ECW history. The moment is more fondly remembered than most on this list thanks to the era and the atmosphere, but when it comes down to it, there was nothing particularly less offensive about a beautiful Asian woman pretending to be gay than any of the men on this list.
3. Razor Ramon Hard Gay
A name like Razor Ramon Hard Gay can only exist through a bizarre translation, and indeed, Hard Gay is one of the more popular Japanese examples of the exótico style. Inspired slightly by the American wrestler Razor Ramon and heavily by outdated and limiting gay stereotypes, Masaki Sumitani is both a wrestler and a comedian, and as such, his antics are viewed as even funnier than the other wrestlers on this list, despite being just as offensive. Hard Gay primarily performed in the comedy-based Japanese federation HUSTLE, and retired in 2009 after suffering a serious injury and deciding to return to comedy.
The interesting circumstance behind RRHG do a lot to explain how offensive everything on this list is. The Japanese wrestling press know that stereotypes like this are harmful and offensive, so they go out of their way to pretend he’s acting like an American gay person, and not a normal Japanese gay person, doubling down on the stereotypes for a densely layered concoction of prejudice. Despite his name, Hard Gay is actually married to a swimsuit model. Hard Gay had a partner named Real Gay, who mimicked his offensive behavior while adding a confusing Rastafarian stereotype to the mix, showing they were equal opportunity offenders of the highest degree.
2. “Adorable” Adrian Adonis
“Adorable” Adrian Adonis wasn’t the first gay gimmick in wrestling history, but he may have been the first and most legendary in WWE. Despite his questionable trailblazing, Adonis wasn’t always quite so flamboyant, and he actually spent about ten years as a leather jacket-wearing biker before he started flaunting his vanity. While a biker, he teamed with future legends like Jesse Ventura and Dick Murdoch to win the AWA and WWE World Tag Team Championships, respectively. Adonis started to gain weight and fall out of shape as he became more successful, and instead of getting back into shape, he chose to go all in on an extremely flamboyant and offensive gay stereotype that made him one of the most hated people in the WWE.
Adonis wore makeup and dresses, carried around perfume, and proudly hosted a program from and effeminate, and therefore unfit for masculine wrestlers, flower shop. Adonis was so despised that Roddy Piper, who is often referred to as the greatest villain in wrestling history, became a hero after years of battling Hulk Hogan by focusing his energy on attacking Adrian. Adonis was treated as a serious contender during his time in the company, but he was also deeply criticized by the wrestling press at the time, winning the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Award for Worst Gimmick the first two years of that publication’s existence.
1. “Exotic” Adrian Street
“Exotic” Adrian Street never became a big star in America, but he is one of the biggest stars in the history of British professional wrestling. The Welsh grappler started wrestling in the 1950’s acting pretty much like himself, the hardened son of a family of coal miners. Legendary Americans like Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers inspired Street to join the profession, and these influences in turn caused him to cultivate a reputation for himself as one of the toughest and most legitimate wrestlers in the sports entertainment industry. It wasn’t exactly getting him over, though, so he started dying his hair blonde, painting himself in glitter, and getting fans to call him every homophobic name in the book.
Street was one of the most well known and most hated wrestlers in British history, and those standings only grew when he added Miss Linda as his valet. Despite a real life relationship with Linda that lasts to this day, a big part of Street’s act was kissing his opponents and covering them in his makeup after he defeated them. Street was interviewed for a documentary on gay wrestlers in 2006, and his words in that film explained what was so wrong with virtually everything on this list. Street clearly believed his actions were in line with normal gay behavior, when in fact virtually no gay men paint their faces random bright colors, cover themselves in glitter, or use unwanted kisses as a weapon against heterosexuals. It could be even worse now that every rational person knows that those things don’t happen, but certain wrestlers like to perpetuate the stereotype anyway.