T-shirt Heat

The clothing he wears to the ring is a brief opportunity for a pro wrestler to tell us about himself — to explain his personality and let the audience know if he is lovable or despicable.  One way for the Heel to generate some “cheap heat” is to wear a message T-shirt — especially a message T-shirt with a cocky, insulting, or inappropriate comment.

This Greek God tied a knot in his shirt to display that hard midriff, but we can still clearly read his arrogant message.  I suppose some folks in the audience would find the superior tone of his message a bit insulting, but others may consider it a welcome invitation.  The difficult job for any Heel is to convince certain men in the audience to hate him instead of worshiping him.

Perhaps the first great wrestling T-shirt was this iconic boast written across the broad chest of Greg Valentine — proud of the fact that he had injured a fellow athlete.

When I first saw this image in a magazine as a youngster, I was quite outraged (and maybe a little excited).  Why is this bad guy allowed to wear that shirt in public?  Did he seriously injure Wahoo on purpose — and is that legal??  Isn’t Wahoo going to read this insulting shirt and try to take revenge on this cocky bastard? (And where can I go to watch that happen???)   I was full of questions as a youngster…

That satisfied grin on Valentine’s face, his blond locks spilling down to his shoulders, is what really makes that T-shirt work for me!

I’ve noticed that the modern message T-shirt often uses irony or double-meanings to reveal some of the underlying homo-eroticism of pro wrestling — the sexual appeal of the sport.

These attractive Tag Team partners are apparently well aware that we’re staring at them — at their bodies — and they’re perfectly OK with that per the T-shirt.  They’ve granted permission to the audience (which is about 85% male by the way) to leer at them.  Thanks guys!

But it’s not the audience that is staring at this moment — it’s one partner staring directly at the other partner.  And the recipient of that intense Male Gaze is apparently OK with this attention according to his T-shirt — his Playboy magazine notwithstanding.

Here are a few more message T-shirts designed to explain the wrestler’s philosophy in a nutshell, while teasing us and turning us on at the same time to grasp our attention.  And these wrestlers will need to remember that the most important thing about wearing a T-shirt to the ring is peeling it off before the bell rings and the wrasslin’ starts.

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