The commentary and opinions expressed on this column are strictly Bambi Weavil’s. They do not represent anyone else, including former, current, or future employees of Out Impact, Inc.
I recently read Dragos Polovina of The Bleacher Report‘s column, “Homophobia: A Serious Issue Plaguing John Cena and the WWE” and felt I couldn’t be silent in my reply or simply leave a comment; I wanted to address some points.
First, I’m glad Dragos wrote about this issue because sometimes it feels like a uncomfortable elephant in the room. I want to point out that John Cena the PERSON could be different than John Cena the CHARACTER. It’s very easy in pro wrestling to blur or mix-up the two. I’ve never met John, but I’ve heard only great things about him. I have generally mixed feelings on this topic, because I have an extremely unique perspective on this issue.
I have been around the pro wrestling industry since I was a teenager in one capacity or another. I have been writing pro wrestling columns for roughly 15 years for various sites like SCOOPSWrestling.com, MarkingOut.com and PulseWrestling.com, and I have been managing pro wrestling/sports-entertainment talent since 2008. I currently co-host my own pro wrestling radio show, Shoot Finish, on the only 24/7 pro wrestling internet station online, PW247Radio.com.
Besides my job as a publicist/manager with Out Impact Productions (Twitter), I am also the founder of a national non-profit and gay omnimedia org, Out Impact, Inc. since 2007. I have always been openly bisexual and I realize not everyone is out in the industry, but there are some of us that are out like pro wrestler Chris Kanyon was who sadly died last year.
It is also important to point out that in the pro wrestling industry, there are vocal advocates of gay rights including, but not limited: pro wrestling legend Mick Foley who has been outspoken on The Daily Show about bullying and protecting a brave young boy in Arkansas has been refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school, because gays and lesbians are being denied equal rights, as well as his blog, to former-WWE superstars Maria Kanellis and Lilian Garcia, as well as my client pro wrestler/glamour model/fitness model, April Hunter. Most notable is The Rock (Twitter) being publicly outspoken from OUT Magazine in 2005: “I know a lot of gay actors in Hollywood who don’t want to come out, and whatever the reasons are I respect that. But I think if people love you now, and if you came out, they would love you more, and if they didn’t, then they weren’t real people to begin with.”
Pro wrestling has had a mixed bag when it’s come to gay storylines as well, the most famous being the flamboyant Golddust character in the WWE, as well as the Trish Stratus/Mickie James hinted-lesbian overtones WWE storyline that caught some attention. Pro wrestling has not shied too far away from lesbian-based overtones for ratings. If you watched the WWE in the late 90s/early 2000s, “HLA” is short for “Hot Lesbian Action”, which the WWE had no issues of doing to poke fun at censorship.
In pro wrestling’s history, there has been a history of gay-related characters either in hinting or just over-the-top characters such as Rico, Chuck and Billy, “Exotic” Adrian Street and others. Most recently, TNA’s Orlando Jordan’s (who has been openly out as bisexual for years) character gets TV airtime though as a person who identifies as gay, I’m not a fan of his character or storyline.
TNA has been the most vocal about supporting the gay community as a company with their “Eliminate the Hate” campaign, aimed at ending bullying of all kinds – move I have always applauded, but I also wonder how deeply it is believed. I was recently at a Fayetteville, NC TNA taping last week, and witnessed a top TNA superstar who participated in the campaign respond to a fan off-camera by calling him a “faggot.” I learned by researching for this that this is not the first time this has happened. I don’t believe there is a excuse for that, character or not, off-camera or not. He said it in front of military personnel near me as well as children within earshot.
In the pro wrestling industry, “heels” (industry term for bad guy) attempt to get “heat” (industry term to achieve a negative reaction) whenever they can, but using hate speech is a cheap way of doing it. To be fair, I do not know what the male adult fan had said to him, but I know what I heard.
Chris Jericho also got some heat in 2009 from GLAAD for saying “fag” in a candid moment during a film festival appearance, but did apologize if it offended anyone. Do I believe every person in the pro wrestling industry is homophobic at heart?
Just like any industry, I do believe there are always some bad ones but overall, I don’t believe that’s the case among the professionals in the pro wrestling business.
I do believe that there are definitely pro wrestling fans who identify as being part of the gay community. Are they offended every time John Cena makes a gay-innuendo joke? Do gay people quit listening to all rap for instance, because rappers do far worse in their lyrics?
I don’t believe in being hyper-sensitive but I’m conscious of how the gay community is portrayed in an industry I love deeply, work in and care about.