Being a WWE fan has never been 100% easy.
I have been in love with wrestling ever since I was a kid. Naturally, it was the campy, dramatic side of things that got me interested in Sports Entertainment. The first ever episode I watched involved Stephanie McMahon marrying a wrestler called Test. However, during the ceremony, it is revealed she was secretly drugged by McMahon Family nemesis Triple H who married her in a Las Vegas drive-through. It was pure soap opera and I was hooked.
“Being a gay WWE fan means that you often have to forgive a lot of previous transgressions.”
However, as the kids say, WWE has been quite “problematic” over the years. Being a gay WWE fan means that you often have to forgive a lot of previous transgressions. The Attitude Era was defining for WWE. It was when you had Stone Cold drinking beers, DX tormenting the boss Vince McMahon and there were half-naked ladies for the eye to see. It was rude, obnoxious and outrageous; it was everything we wanted to be. It was also pretty homophobic. WWE has never shied away from a gay joke throughout its time. I remember a scene when my favourite wrestler Triple H went looking for Shawn Michaels in a restaurant. He mistakes a long-haired waiter for Shawn explaining “well, that’s certainly a different look to the chaps I usually see you in there, Sexy Boy (Shawn Michaels’ nickname)”. The waiter then visibly checks Triple H out and, after Triple H apologises and tries to leave, the waiter tells him “I get off at seven”. Triple H retorts “yeah, I bet you do”. For a wrestling fan, it’s good bit, pointing out the homoerotic undertones of the Shawn Michaels/Triple H dynamic. This, though, was 2009. Not the attitude era but the PG era.
WWE’s homophobia hasn’t always been a “subtle” joke. WWE commentator Michael Cole got in trouble for calling his then-colleague a faggot on Twitter. Even favourite John Cena was under fire for gay jokes made towards The Rock in 2011. The most vivid example I remember was watching Raw with my brother in 1997. On it, Jerry Lawler was cutting a promo on Goldust telling him his father hated him because he’d married a gold digger and was now kissing men like a “flaming faggot”. This was not beeped out, this was deemed perfectly acceptable. Now sure, Lawler was playing heel (a wrestling term for ‘bad guy’) and Goldust got the win but it was particularly biting for a 7-year-old to take in.
Men who kiss men are faggots. That was my take-away from that.
One thing I have always felt as a WWE fan, though, is under-representation. WWE has always had relationship storylines. They have actually been some of my favourites. From Triple and Stephanie, Stone Cold and Debra to Zack Ryder and Eve, they are the soap opera stories that have had me interested in WWE for so long. But WWE has never had a gay-centric storyline (for any WWE fans reading this, Billy and Chuck do NOT count). We’ve had “hot lesbian action” but nothing ever gay. And let’s face it: WWE is pretty gay! It’s fit men in underwear grinding on top of each other. Yet WWE has never pulled the trigger.
Then, in recent years, WWE has launched initiatives such as Be A Star which is an anti-bullying programme of events which promote tolerance and inclusion. Many WWE Superstars even got involved in the LGBT charity campaign No H8. This was, for me, pretty remarkable as it was the first time WWE really ever gave a nod to its LGBT fans. And to have two executives like Triple H and Stephanie McMahon do it sent a clear message that WWE was becoming more inclusive. This was then reiterated by support now-released wrestler Darren Young received when he came out. However, it was given a caveat that Young’s on-screen character “is not gay” but that there may be a change in future. This, however, did not happen and sadly Young was released 4 years later (likely due to a lack of creative ideas for Young rather than his coming out).
Cut to: Wrestlemania. Prior to the event, WWE Superstar and Twitter Thirst Trap Finn Balór announced that he was releasing a new t-shirt. This shirt would colour his logo with LGBT colours and a percentage of the funds would go to GLAAD, an American LGBT charity. This was the first time WWE would be showing pride colours (no, the Ultimate Warrior’s rainbow tassels don’t count). I marvelled at such an amazing gesture and was thrilled. Then… Wrestlemania. There was a pre-show Women’s Battle Royale match in which up and coming superstar Sonya Deville took part. Her usual outfit is all-black as a symbol of her fierce aggression. However, this time, she had donned white with rainbow colours. Sonya had previously tweeted praise Finn Balór’s t-shirt initiative and also came out as the WWE’s first openly-lesbian Superstar.
Then came Finn’s match. Finn was joined in his entrance by local New Orleans LGBT community members. He was wearing the rainbow shirt, had the rainbow logo on his trunks and a rainbow running down the back of his boots. This was something WWE has never seen before and it was remarkable. Finn is a hugely popular talent and to support LGBT in a brand like WWE has worldwide significance. Let alone, it was his Wrestlemania debut. I am not afraid to say, it got me emotional because I thought about how it would’ve felt for 7-year-old me to have seen Finn entire in rainbow colours rather than hearing the word faggot.
I truly hope this is a turning point to how WWE approached its LGBT fans. We are a valid part of the WWE Universe and to have this representation on their biggest show is a monumental step forward and an overwhelming gesture. I truly hope Finn, Sonya and the WWE know what an important moment that was for LGBT fans. I hope this continues and doesn’t get sidelined into a gimmick. We need an openly LGBT character, LGBT storylines and a commitment from WWE that is will continue to show its Pride.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.