LGBT in WWE: Can They Tell Good Stories?

Nick Paglino
lgbt in wwe

(Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)

According to NBC News, while speaking at a “Beyond Sport United” event, everybody’s favorite scary lady Stephanie McMahon mentioned that the WWE has always been considered a safe-haven for “out” superstars. Mentioning Pat Patterson’s coming out on the WWE Network she told NBC OUT that “when it makes sense … absolutely we will integrate LGBT storylines into our programming.”

Now, with current attitudes toward the LGBT* community, this on the surface seems like a good thing. Even acknowledging that there are indeed gay wrestlers is kind of fantastic – it’s WWE knowing that there’s a group that hasn’t been really well-represented in the wrestling community, and looking forward to possibly including them within the fold. But is it really a positive? Let’s dwell a little on this.

The WWE isn’t new to having LGBT-themed storylines… they just haven’t been good. As a bisexual man myself I remember watching the lesbian-tinted “stalker” feud between Trish Stratus and Mickie James (complete with crotch grab at Wrestlemania XXII), the whole Billy & Chuck offensiveness, the insinuations Cena has made over the years about Rock being “a fairy with a tooth” or his fights with Mix and Alex Riley (watching the notebook actually sounds quite lovely, with the right company), and… anything to do with Rico.

*shudder* Pretty sure Rico’s the reason I waited so long to come out myself. I like foods, but c’mon, his flirting with Charlie Haas was just gross.

LGBT* awareness and acceptance on the rise in the US and many countries around the world, and current wrestlers like Darren Young (whom I’ve been lucky enough to interview in the past) and Orlando Jordan opening their closet doors, it seems like only a matter of time before LGBT* characters are introduced to a WWE audience. I for one would welcome a wrestler that can openly be gay or lesbian, even if it’s woven into a discriminatory angle where they can overcome, something to that extent. Orlando Jordan was able to explore his own bisexuality as a character when he went to TNA, but all I honestly remember about that run was glittering decor and caution tape around himself while he posed with a model of either gender. Ugh.

The concern is, WWE hasn’t really been a company interested in any nuances or subtlety. I do get the nature of wrestling storytelling, complete with over-the-top personas and exaggerated… well, everything. Ric Flair was the “Dirtiest Player in the Game” (trademark, patented, wrapped in shiny robes); Hulk Hogan had to flex everything all at once every time he SAW a camera (whether or not it saw him); Damien Sandow acting out every move as Mizdow (in some FANTASTIC physical comedy).

But when it comes to both sexual orientation and race, the WWE has a checkered past. Roddy Piper dressing up in half-blackface, the Kai En Tai stable, and just about everything in the 90s having to do with Goldust in fetish gear is all wrapped in outdated and downright offensive stereotypes that we all cringe at today (and Hot Rod should’ve seen it easily enough at the time, c’mon now). I know the argument can be that it was a different time, with different sensibilities, but in the past decade we’ve still seen some remnants of this. Can we really expect the WWE won’t go full-camp mode with a wrestler like Darren Young into a parody of a gay person? Should we expect another “obsessed lesbian stalker” competing for the Women’s Championship?

I don’t know. I want there to be a well-done angle were a wrestler can be openly out, have it be PART of their character but not ALL of their character, maybe even let it drive some of their actions, without diving too deep into “GLITTER ON EVERYTHING OH-EM-GEE” territory. Fans like to identify with their favorite wrestler in some way, just like they identify with a character in any movie or book or TV show. Why SHOULDN’T wrestling be the same way?

I realize this is tempting Internet fate, but if you know of any LGBT* storylines you would like to see, or if you have any thoughts about this subject, I look forward (both with anticipation and a little fear) to reading your comments below.

Kevin Schaller is a guest editorialist who regularly contributes to WZ’s sister site

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