The wrestling industry has changed for the better in so many ways since the turn of the century. After being treated solely as eye candy in the past, the women in both WWE and the indies are now treated with more respect. WWE, after scripting the first-ever women’s Hell in a Cell and Ironman matches, have also made them compete in the first-ever Royal Rumble bout recently.
Similarly, WWE and the industry as a whole have lately been more accommodating of the LGBT wrestlers. After being reluctant to sign openly LGBT wrestlers and allegedly firing a bi wrestler in 2006, WWE have now come a point where they’ve not just brought on board LGBT wrestlers but have also decided against incorporating their orientation in storylines in a very un-wrestling-esque move.
TheSportster salutes the wrestling industry and WWE for electing to go in the direction they’re moving in.
The following articles lists eight wrestlers who have come out and seven wrestlers who were rumoured to be in the closet. As we traditionally use 15 entries, we have a host of notable mentions. We’d like to give shout-outs to late Ernie Roth, Tom Zenk and Jim Barnett, living legends Cassandro and Sandy Parker, and youngsters Matt Cage, Mike Parrow, Anthony Bowens, Sonny Kiss and Jack Sexsmith, who all came out at various points during their careers.
As far as the "rumored" names you'll see on this list, we'd suggest taking them for what they are; speculation initiated by some peers, likely in a case of spite. Wrestlers throw out some wild accusations in heated moments, and you'll see plenty here.
15 Came Out: Darren Young
Very few things show how the wrestling industry – and the world, by extension – has evolved in the recent years better than an openly gay wrestler performing for the biggest wrestling promotion, WWE. Darren Young’s sexuality has been widely discussed since his coming out in August 2013 in front of a TMZ camera. Although WWE never made his being a orientation a part of his on-screen character, they’ve mentioned it more than a few times.
Many reliable accounts also suggest that their acknowledging it wasn’t just a PR tactic, for it’s widely believed that everyone on the roster, including Vince McMahon, John Cena, CM Punk, Big Show, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were fully supportive of his decision to come out. Four years and numerous serious injuries later, he’s no longer a WWE employee, but his release had more to do with his being less talented than his peers than anything else.
14 Rumored: Mae Young
You don’t earn a WWE Hall of Fame ring for being nothing short of exciting or excellent. Mae Young was a true trailblazer, and nothing attests to it better than WWE’s naming their all-female wrestling tournament Mae Young Classic. She’s the toughest female wrestling has seen, as she’s known to have got into fights with burly men at shady pubs. While she fought men both in the ring and outside of it, she never fell for anyone, as she, who died at the age of 90 in 2014, never married or had children.
Many insiders allege that she was attracted only to women, and by some accounts, she was in an on-again, off-again relationship with fellow wrestling legend The Fabulous Moolah. If she was in fact in the closet, her coming out would have truly been inspirational, given her repute in the professional wrestling circuit.
13 Came Out: Sonya Deville
With Darren Young recently future-endeavoured, WWE now has only one current employee on this list: Sonya Deville. One important thing that one should note is how her coming out made fewer headlines than his coming out did. Although a part of the reason why he received widespread media attention was his wrestling on the main roster at the time of his coming out, it’s safe to say that being open while working in a convoluted industry like professional wrestling is no longer considered uncommon. It’s surely a huge welcome sign.
With her partnering Mandy Rose and Paige on Raw and WWE seemingly having plans in place to introduce tag-team championship titles for their women, she’s all set to become the first openly lesbian person to lift a major WWE title.
12 Rumored: Shawn Michaels
While there’s no concrete evidence to prove Shawn Michaels was, ever in fact, in the closet, some professional wrestling insiders seem convinced that he’d at least slept with Vince McMahon in the ‘90s on a few occasions. With Bret Hart tweeting on the back of Darren Young coming out that the wrestling industry has been accommodating of homosexual persons since forever, one wonders if there’s any truth to the insiders’ conviction.
Both men are in long-term heterosexual marriages, though, with The Heartbreak Kid in his second marriage now. They aren’t just rumored to have slept with each other, for they are believed to have slept with a host of their colleagues, including but not limited to Sunny, Mike McGuirk and Sable.
11 Came Out: Pat Patterson
Most wrestling fans knew of Pat Patterson's orientation before he came out in June 2014 on an episode of WWE Legends’ House. He, who’s Stephanie McMahon’s godfather, received overwhelming support from numerous big names such as Jim Ross although the legendary commentator claimed that it was already common knowledge in the wrestling circuit. His sexuality and accomplishments in wrestling is chronicled superbly in his autobiography Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE. In the book, Patterson goes on to explain his career in the business and how he had a long-term partner who passed away in 1998. While Patterson said he was widely accepted in the business, it didn't come without its challenges. In fact, it led to some serious allegations against him that caused him to temporarily step down in the early 90s.
10 Rumored: The Brooklyn Brawler
Talking about Pat Patterson brings us to Steve Lombardi, whom many fondly remember as The Brooklyn Brawler. In case you started watching wrestling only after Ronda Rousey’s pointing at the WrestleMania sign, here’s a description of his career: he put on his ripped shirt and jeans to lose every time he put it on. While WWE careers of such wrestlers are usually short-lived, as evidenced by James Ellsworth’s career, he hung around for a long time. In fact, he remained with WWE for 33 years.
Many insiders claim that the only reason he managed to be on WWE’s payroll from 1983 to 2016 was his ‘close association’ with Pat Patterson. Reliable personalities such as Bret Hart and Jake Roberts have in shoot interviews left breadcrumbs of their being an item.
9 Came Out: Rosa Mendes
It’s unknown if Rosa Mendes is bi or she merely experimented during her youth, but Total Divas fans and hardcore internet wrestling fans who spend most of their time scouring Twitter and message boards know that she’d been with women more than a few times. In an episode of Total Divas, she revealed that she’d “been with women before”. She, a mother of one child, has been with a man, musician and clothing company owner Bobby Schubenski, with whom she’s engaged to, at least since 2015.
At the age of 38, it’s safe to say that her wrestling career is over; however, she wouldn’t have regrets, as her 11 years with WWE ought to have made her lot of money, friends and the opportunity to come out.
8 Rumored: Sylvain Grenier
Here’s yet another Pat Patterson-related entry. Many inside sources from the 2000s have claimed that the legend only signed Sylvain Grenier, a supermodel-turned-wrestler, in exchange for certain favors. Neither party have commented on the rumors, so the Interent Wrestling Community folk, to this day, seem to believe it may have been true, though we have our doubts. The four-time WWE World Tag Team Championship winner had a six-year stint with WWE before being sent home after a scuffle with an unnamed agent.
Given the fact that not many care whether a 40-year-old forgotten wrestler slept his way into a contract, the rumors will stay rumors. As we said before, Patterson's orientation has perhaps enabled people to continuously make wild claims.
7 Came Out: Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan is easily the most popular openly bi wrestler today. Now living in Australia, he even recently tweeted out his support for the Australian government’s legalizing of same-sex marriage; his Twitter feed, in fact, has a lot of LGBT advocacy, unlike most other LGBT wrestlers. While his coming out while he was still fairly relevant is truly inspirational, some of the things he’s done irks many. Many allege that his career didn’t reach the heights it might have – on the back of his winning the WWE United States Championship title – because of his refusing to stop bringing an underage boy backstage.
That said, what we do now is that in recent years, he's opened a gym, co-owns a wrestling promotion and became a father in 2014, a year after his heterosexual marriage.
6 Rumored: Hulk Hogan
Here’s one rumor that certainly wasn’t spun by an internet user. It was Hulk Hogan’s ex-wife, Linda Claridge, herself who told the media that The Hulkster, arguably the biggest professional wrestler of all time, had relations with one of his colleagues, Brutus Beefcake. In her book Wrestling the Hulk - My Life Against the Ropes, she’s openly claimed that they’ve both engaged in such behavior. If all that he’s gone through since his divorce wasn’t enough, he had to tell the media that, despite his ex-wife’s allegations, he wasn’t actually attracted to men.
The wrestling legends' whose friendship goes back over 30 years both threatened legal action against the former Hogan Knows Best star. Despite this debacle, they managed to remain friends until recently, with a very personal Twitter rivalry showing us they’re no longer in good terms.
5 Came Out: The Dupree Brothers
No other gay wrestler from the territory era was as popular as The Dupree Brothers, a ‘60s tag team. What makes their case curious is the fact that they performed as brothers, while, in real life, they were a couple. Ron Dupree met 18-year-old up-and-coming wrestler, Paul Dupree – who was billed as Magnificent Maurice Chevier – and they both began dating not long afterward. Although their becoming tag team partners sounds poetic, their relationship wasn’t always smooth as the younger one went on to become Chris Colt later on in his career. Their health deteriorated, and they both died prematurely. Although they’re not as popular as Pat Patterson or Darren Young today, they ought to have served as huge role models to closeted wrestlers back in the day given how successful they were then.
4 Rumored: Rene Dupree
Professional wrestlers take costumes, gimmicks, moves and names from wrestlers whom they’d grown up idolizing, so when a wrestler chooses to call himself, who was born René Emile Gougen, Renee Dupree, one reckons he’s either inspired by the courage The Dupree Brothers had shown to come out or he’s subtly underscoring his orientation.
However, it turns out that he’d only inherited his wrestler father’s ring name’s second name. In fact, he’s been married to a Japanese woman named Kanako for over nine years now. However, that hasn’t stopped the internet gossip-mongers from spreading rumors about him. Given the fact that he walks down the aisle wearing pink trunks and faux-fur robe and teamed up with Sylvain Grenier, whom we’d discussed earlier, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from, even if they are in fact ridiculous speculations.
3 Came Out: Terry Garvin
Although late Terry Garvin never ‘came out’ in the traditional sense, the common knowledge is that he was out to his coworkers. However, unlike most other inspirational LGBT wrestlers, he was a horrible human being who just happened to be gay. While he was working for WWE, he often molested novice wrestlers, offering them a push or money in exchange for sexual favours. When they turned down, he either engineered their release or made them languish in the undercard forever. Randy Orton’s uncle Barry Orton raised his voice against his debauchery, and many other former WWE employees, including wrestlers, ring assistants and referees joined him, sharing their Terry Garvin stories. Due to widespread criticism, he quit WWE but, unlike his parter-in-crime Pat Patterson, who was also accused of using their power to molest men and young boys, he didn’t return to the company.
2 Rumored: The Rock
Here’s a rumor that’ll likely produce a chuckle. One may even say that rumor is actually wrestling rumors’ answer to the ‘moon landing is fake’ theory. It’s so absurd, but a good number of wrestling fans choose to believe it. Apparently, they strongly believe that Dwayne Johnson is in fact in the closet. They only got further fuel when Kevin Nash made inappropriate jokes implying something about The Rock. As for the fans who choose to believe it, they don’t link to him a Brutus Beefcake, either; they just flat out claim he is, with little evidence to back up their claim. However, the same set of people seem to believe that he got it on with Trish Stratus while working with her.
Funnily, the same set of people also seem to believe that Trish was in a romantic relationship with longtime WWE announcer Lillian Garcia. It’s strange how people sometimes seem to believe different sets of contrasting information.
1 Came Out: Chris Kanyon
While most of the wrestlers we’ve discussed seem to have overcome the bullies and homophobes, here’s a sad case that saw the wrestler end his life, overdosing on antidepressants. Chris Kanyon, former United States Championship winner, came out in 2006, after wrestling for WWE and WCW for eight years. While coming out usually liberates people, his coming out didn’t help matters greatly, as he continued to suffer from depression.
A book chronicling the struggles he faced as a closeted man was posthumously released, and no one would ever wish what he’d gone through upon their worst enemies. His book ia a good way to understand what LGBT persons, despite society being more accommodating of them than ever before, go through.