On 9/30/19, my favorite Vlogger — Wrestle Shrine — posted a new episode on his YouTube channel called “The Evolution of the Gay Pro Wrestler (Past, Present, Future.) He recaps how pro wrestling promotions have presented queer characters in the context of society’s growing tolerance over the past half-century. His concise commentary is thought-provoking and intelligent, delivered in his deep dulcet voice. The video paired with his narrative helps to tell the story and underscore his points with clips demonstrating gay characters in action over the years. The images in today’s gallery and captions beneath them are copied from Wrestle Shrine’s latest vlog.
Wrestle Shrine begins with the classic depiction of gay wrestlers as sketchy cheaters who would molest their victims to confuse or embarrass them so they could be easily pinned. Some audience members would laugh at the naughty sissy’s antics and some would cry out in homo-phobic outrage, but I always found these intimate sexual moments kind of hot.
The traditional gay wrestler archetype was meant to inspire fear in the primarily straight male audience: fear that one of them sissies might molest or rape YOU — and fear that you might enjoy his attentions and turn sissy yourself, playing off the Gay Panic felt by many straight dudes.
Next we visit the 1980’s and 90’s when queer characters such as Adrian Adonis and Golddust were depicted as ridiculous lisping clowns in garish make-up and flamboyant costumes. During that era, the queer fighters were meant to be either laughed at or creeped out by
Then in 2001, wrestlers Billy and Chuck fell in love and the audience loved them in return, cheering for them rather than spitting on them and calling them the “F” word.
Wrestle Shrine emphasizes this turning point as proof of the audience’s growing acceptance of gays as potential heroes and fan favorites. (Of course, WWE would go on to mishandle the story-line by having Billy and Chuck come out as straight on their wedding day, causing GLAAD to denounce the WWE as liars…)
Then pro wrestling entered a long phase of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” paired with “Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That.” The flamboyantly gay stereotype was seen less often in the ring as it became Politically Incorrect to mock queers. Wrestle Shrine reminds us that, when Darren Young unexpectedly came out as legit gay in 2013, he was treated like a normal person — they did not paint his face, dress him in pink leather chaps, or show him trying to relentlessly hug or hump his opponents. It was a new day.
After Adrian mocks Tommy for being so gay, the audience is split over which wrestler to support: the gorgeous, cocky frat boy, or the chubby gay dude he had insulted. Clearly gay bashing had gone out of style and for a heroic Baby-Face to remain admirable to the woke audience, he’d need to show tolerance toward any gay opponents.
So where does the gay wrestler archetype go from here? Wrestle Shrine foresees a world where gay wrestlers can choose to highlight or downplay their sexuality (just as straight wrestlers may do.) Gay wrestlers will be respected for their skills in the ring regardless of their sexual choices. The audience (including the straight males) can choose to like and support a gay wrestler if they want to, even if he entered the arena with a whole entourage of drag queens.
Gay wrestlers present a welcome alternative in pro wrestling and often add spice to the in-ring performances. They may also turn you on if you’re open-minded, so it’s nice to see them included in, and now celebrated by, the mainstream pro wrestling universe. Thanks Wrestle Shrine for the ongoing quality of your Vlog and for the informative and thought-provoking history you presented in your latest episode! Bravo!