On June 26th, 2015 history was made in the United States. Same-sex marriage was legalized in all states, marking a symbolic victory for the entire LGBTQ+ community. This has resulted in increased awareness and education on the subject of homosexuality and other issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Although same-sex marriage had already been legalized in other countries, such as Canada, its legalization in America represented another significant step forward.
Widespread acceptance of homosexuality is steadily increasing, as our culture’s view of homosexuality has evolved. Prominent celebrities and public figures have started to “come out of the closet” more and more frequently over the years. This trend has slowly started to find its way into the wrestling industry as well.
The wrestling industry is still one built off the stereotypes of men being “macho” and perhaps many wrestlers unfortunately worry about career repercussions if they come out during their careers. As previously mentioned, hopefully the growing acceptance of homosexuality will lead to wrestlers not fearing about how their sexual orientation will affect their career. The same holds true for those in other entertainment careers as well.
This has not stopped some wrestlers from being openly homosexual though. As we are about to find out, some wrestlers came out during their wrestling careers – even at a time when it wasn’t as widely accepted. By contrast, some wrestlers choose to hold off coming out until after their in-ring careers have ended (if at all). Let’s explore eight of the most prominent wrestlers to bravely come out during their respective wrestling careers, and seven who chose to “stay in the closet” and come out after their in-ring wrestling careers.
15 CAME OUT: DARREN YOUNG
Darren Young is one of the most notable recent wrestlers to come out as gay while being an active wrestler. He made his debut with the WWE in the first season of NXT before later getting called up the main roster. He was in an on and off tag team with Titus O’Neil as the Prime Time Players, but was used sparingly as a singles wrestler. He was recently released from his WWE contract after he couldn't catch on as a singles competitor.
It was during an interview on August 15, 2013, that Young publicly came out as gay. This made him the first professional wrestler to publicly come out while being signed to a major promotion. Young said he came out because of the love he felt for his boyfriend, though he later admitted he was nervous about how it would affect his wrestling career. WWE and various wrestlers did in fact support Darren Young after he revealed that he was gay.
14 CLOSET: PAT PATTERSON
Pat Patterson was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996, and still works for the company as a creative consultant. During his wrestling days, between 1958 and 1984, Patterson wrestled for many companies before signing with WWE in 1979. He became the inaugural Intercontinental Champion and is credited with creating the Royal Rumble match.
There was much speculation about Patterson’s sexuality during the 1970s. The rumors even made their way into some WWE storylines and commentary made some jokes about it – it was a much different time then compared to today. It wasn’t until the season finale of WWE Legends House in June 2014 that he finally publicly revealed that he was gay. The fellow legends on the episode were supportive of Patterson. Patterson was with partner Louie Dondero for 40 years until Dondero passed away in 1998. He spoke more about his time as a gay man in the business in his book, Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.
13 CAME OUT: PAIGE
Paige has wrestling in her blood, and it shows in her in-ring skills. She quickly earned a loyal following during her run on NXT and captured the Divas Championship from AJ Lee on her first night on the main roster. Though she was quickly hotshot to the top of the women’s division, Paige has consistently demonstrated her top-notch wrestling ability.
Paige has also been prominently featured on Total Divas, which allows us to see another side of the gritty superstar. Paige was seen kissing fellow WWE wrestler Rosa Mendes during an episode of Total Divas. Paige publicly acknowledged that she had previously “been with another woman”. Paige has also previously dated men, such as A Day to Remember guitarist Kevin Skaff between May 2015 and February 2016. Paige is now engaged to former WWE wrestler Alberto Del Rio.
12 CLOSET: CHYNA
Chyna, who had always been known as “The Ninth Wonder of the World”, left a lasting legacy for female wrestlers. She was one of the first women to prove that she can match any male wrestler in the ring. With the combination of strength and beauty, Chyna became the first woman to participate in the Royal Rumble, and the first women to win the Intercontinental Championship.
Her relationship with Triple H during the late-1990s has been well documented, and also dated fellow DX member X-Pac. Following the end of Chyna’s wrestling career, she entered, shall we say, a second career. This was what first left evidence Chyna might have been bisexual. In many of the films she appeared in, it featured Chyna being involved with both male and female partners.
11 CAME OUT: ORLANDO JORDAN
Orlando Jordan has carved out quite a successful career in the wrestling world. He made his debut in WWE in 2003, when he defeated Jamie Noble. Jordan would go on to wrestle legends, such as John Cena and The Undertaker. He left WWE in 2006 and spent time on the indies, where he publicly game out as bisexual.
When Jordan joined TNA in 2010, he proposed a bisexual angle that would blur the lines between reality and fiction. The angle was a success for TNA and it eventually became a critical part of who his character was during his time in TNA. Jordan married an Australian woman in 2013, with whom he had a daughter in 2014. This was one of the first instances where a wrestler who was publicly bisexual had that used as part of a wrestling storyline.
10 CLOSET: THE FABULOUS MOOLAH
The Fabulous Moolah will always be remembered as the longest reigning Women’s Champion in WWE history. She is a WWE legend and a deserving WWE Hall of Famer. In addition to her in-ring career, she was a prominent trainer and promoter for women’s wrestling. There have been accusations of financial and sexual exploitation levelled against her by the women she promoted.
Regarding her orientation, we will likely never know for sure. It is known that she was marred twice, to Walter Carroll and Buddy Lee. The Fabulous Moolah also lived with Mae Yung in 1999 in a South Carolina home until her passing in 2007. Any other details surrounding their living arrangement would be pure speculation, but it does hint that she might possibly have been bisexual. For what it’s worth, WWE legend Jim Ross had previously stated that The Fabulous Moolah was bisexual.
9 CAME OUT: SONYA DEVILLE
Sonya Deville competed in the 2015 edition of WWE Tough Enough under the ring name Daria Berenato, where she finished eleventh. Deville has wrestled for NXT since 2015 where she has competed against other prominent female wrestlers, and has recently been involved in storylines for the NXT Women’s Championship.
Days before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in America, Deville took a huge risk during her first interview with WWE. The job interview panel, which included Triple H, asked Deville if she was in a relationship. Bravely, and without any premeditated notion, she told them that she had a girlfriend. Upon being signed by WWE, Deville became the first openly lesbian performer in WWE. Daniel Bryan, who mentored her a while, was proud of Deville for taking that risk.
8 CLOSET: MAE YOUNG
Mae Young was another pioneer for women’s wrestling during a wrestling career that spanned 9 decades (August 1939 – November 2010)!! She is quite simply a wrestling icon who was a joy to watch even as she entered the later years of her career. Mae Young was frequently involved in comedic storylines with The Fabulous Moolah. Even after Moolah left wrestling, Young continued entertaining WWE fans with her comedy. Mae Young is, of course, a very deserving WWE Hall of Famer.
As we previously noted with The Fabulous Moolah, the two friends lived together for over a decade. While that may suggest Mae Young could have been bisexual as well, we may never know for sure (and that’s okay). There never was any record of Mae Young having been married, which adds to the speculation.
7 CAME OUT: ROSA MENDES
Rosa Mendes started with WWE during the WWE Diva Search in 2006. She broke onto the main roster in 2008 and aligned herself with Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella. Mendes was primarily used as a manager for Primo & Epico, Adam Rose, among others. She has stepped into the ring, albeit mostly in tag matches. Mendes seldom appeared on WWE television for the last few years of her career due to her pregnancy and various injuries.
Mendes appeared on the show Total Divas where, in 2014, she came out as bisexual. In one of the multiple revealing segments, Mendes came on to fellow wrestler Paige and said that she was “her type”. She retired in February 2017 and is engaged to Bobby Schubenski, with whom she has a daughter.
6 CLOSET: ERNIE ROTH
“The Grand Wizard’ Ernie Roth was one of the early professional wrestling managers. He dressed quite flamboyantly and really paved the way for the next generation of great wrestling managers – Paul Heyman and Paul Bearer, to name a few. He was a pioneer of the heel manager, as he often tried to interfere in matches to gain a victory for his wrestler. He gained a reputation as a great mouthpiece for wrestlers which included, Billy Graham, Sgt. Slaughter, and Bob Orton. The Grand Wizard was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.
Roth passed away of a heart attack in October 1983. His sexual orientation was never questioned too much during his days in the wrestling world, though that discussion was taboo back then. Following his death, however, Roth’s family revealed that he was homosexual.
5 CAME OUT: MATT CAGE
Matt Cage is not one of the most well-known wrestlers on this list, but that’s because he has spent most of his career wrestling on the indies. The 29-year-old wrestler has started to see a spike in his popularity in recent years, and has wrestled for mid-sized promotions such as Dragon Gate USA.
In June 2015, Cage revealed his sexual orientation in a Facebook post entitled “Here goes nothing”. He shared that he had always feared rejection since childhood and feared it even more in the wrestling industry. Prior to the post, Cage would tell some people that he was bisexual. In his post, Cage set the record straight once and for all. Cage wrote, “…I have no real intentions of pursuing females at this stage of my life. I still find beautiful women beautiful…But I think that to continue to claim something that’s not true is just continuing a streak [of] dishonesty and I don’t want that.”
4 CLOSET: CHRIS KANYON
Chris Kanyon made his wrestling debut with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1995. He was involved in a prominent storyline with Diamond Dallas Page. This ultimately led to his inclusion in the Invasion angle that occurred when WCW merged with WWE. Kanyon continued wrestling until he was released from WWE and subsequently retired.
Kanyon briefly tried to convince the public WWE released due to his sexuality. He later insisted that it was all just a publicity stunt and he that he was not actually gay. He later retracted this, and acknowledged that he was in fact gay. Kanyon had been working on a book that was released posthumously in 2011, as Kanyon tragically committed suicide on April 2, 2010. The book, Wrestling Reality, detailed Kanyon’s struggles as a closeted gay man.
3 CAME OUT: TERRY GARVIN
Terry Garvin was a professional wrestler who wrestled for various small promotions in the southern United States. He is perhaps best known for being involved in the successful tag team with Ron Garvin, his kayfabe brother. They won several tag team championships together. By the time he joined WWE in 1985 in a backstage role, Garvin had already retired from the ring. Garvin unfortunately was terminated from WWE in 1992 because of allegations that he sexually harassed and accosted male wrestlers.
Throughout his wrestling career and during his backstage role with WWE, Garvin was openly homosexual. In spite of this, Garvin was married to his wife, Christine, whom he met in 1975 during a visit to Australia. Together they had two children, and Garvin also would have been a grandfather.
2 CLOSET: TYLENE BUCK
Tylene Buck first started wrestling in 1999 for World Championship Wrestling as one of the nWo Girls. Buck spent some time as a valet and backstage interviewer. The peak of her success came when she went on to become “Major Gunns” as part of the Misfits in Action stable, before being released by WCW in February 2001. When the WWE purchased WCW, they elected not to bring her on board despite being in an era where performers like Buck seemed to be in high demand. She briefly appeared on Xtreme Pro Wrestling as a valet for Sandman, but chose to retire shortly thereafter.
Following the end of her wrestling career, Buck came out as bisexual. The 45-year-old’s sexuality led her to pursue another type of entertainment... and it's exactly the one you're thinking of.
1 CAME OUT: CASSANDRO
Cassandro is an American-born Mexican luchador who has wrestled all over for independent promotions. He is perhaps best known for his work as an exotico on the indies. This is where Cassandro, and other male exotico wrestlers, dress in drag and display feminine characteristics as part of their wrestling gimmick. Although this type of wrestling persona has not yet made it to America, it was popularized in Lucha Libre where Cassandro wrestled between 2005 and 2008.
Cassandro is openly homosexual and has been throughout his entire wrestling career, which started in 1988. Though he dresses in drag, not all exotico wrestlers are homosexual. Despite being a wrestling veteran, Cassandro has not wrestled for any prominent American promotion. This is likely because of his wrestling character, which would probably not be too popular with American wrestling fans right now.