Readers of Manhattan Digest, I have a confession to make.
I’m a wrestling fan.
As late as Wednesday night, all of my wrestling related focus was devoted to the awesome potential that this Sunday’s Summerslam card would have, with an intriguing double main event (Indy poster child Daniel Bryan vs. mainstream champ John Cena and a similar mirror in CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar) and an enjoyable undercard. However, some news broke Thursday morning that seems to have taken off: that Darren Young (real name: Fred Rosser) had announced to world via TMZ that he was gay.
Now normally I would be of the sort of person that would brush this sort of news off; after all, I watch wrestling to enjoy glorified stage fights, so needless to say I judge my favorite wrestlers by how they entertain me, not whatever is going on in their personal lives. To do so in this case, however, would be an affront and to completely ignore how traditionally backwards and unenlightened the sports entertainment industry in sensitive matters like these. This is an industry that has had no problem milking effeminate male gimmicks in caricatures for massive heat (see: Exotic Adrian Street, and more recently the very earliest incarnation of Goldust). This trend has continued into today (I don’t know what TNA was aiming for with their booking of the bisexual Orlando Jordan, but whatever it was it made me cringe), as even the smallest of federations have figured out that sending out two guys and dress them like the Backstreet Boys is the easiest way to get the fans to hate them.
Worse yet, this trend has followed into some locker rooms, as one former champion of a major promotion has as recently as May posted a very strongly anti marriage equality tweet that caused a stir within the wrestling community (for being backward, nonetheless). This locker room frat boy attitude is a key part as to why it also took until 2013 for an active athlete in a major league to come out as well.
When you consider the potential hostility of the environment that Rosser had made his announcement in, the announcement suddenly becomes a bigger deal. While attitudes nationally are changing, this announcement is the first step in determining exactly how far professional wrestling has come to combat it’s less enlightened past and how far attitudes have changed in a few short years (the aforementioned Orlando Jordan gimmick was in the way back year of 2010).
Luckily response from WWE brass (and even Cena) has been positive, but it still falls on them to follow up. Furthermore, anyone whom has watched their programming in the last couple of years knows about the company’s strong push of it’s anti-bullying initiative: B.A. Star. However, If Rosser’s sexuality is turned into gimmick fodder for the writing staff, then it will ultimately mean that attitudes towards homosexuality in pro wrestling haven’t changed all that much. Further complicating matters is that Rosser is currently part of the heel tag team “The Prime Time Players”, so it should be an interesting time to see where the fan base falls, as the wrong boos and the wrong catcalls could easily ensure that the wrestling fan base maintains its’ backwards reputation for another generation.