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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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