Ahead of 2002, two WWE Magazine writers pitched Stephanie McMahon the idea to introduce a character that would combat gay stereotypes.
According to this week’s issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, those writers eyed Brock Lesnar as the candidate for the gimmick.
Per the story, Lesnar would have been introduced as a dominant, main-event-level character who openly professed his homosexuality. The character would have directly confronted stereotypes about the masculinity and toughness of gay men.
Lesnar’s character would have been presented as a strong babyface; the heels would wage insults based on his sexuality only to be proven wrong when he defeated them in the ring. Since homophobia would have been associated with the villainous characters, WWE would have been communicating a positive message about tolerance.
The likelihood that such a message would potentially resonate with the mainstream media—and thus gain WWE valuable brand cachet—was certainly recognized.
At the time, one obvious concern was the fact that Lesnar, himself, was not homosexual. Since his true sexuality would have surely gotten out, it may have undermined the credibility of the character—and risked exposing it as a branding stunt.
Whether that was a contributing factor remains is unclear (according to the Observer, “some of the veterans in the [writers’] room felt the very idea was crazy”), but the writers never received a direct response to that pitch. Brock Lesnar did not debut as a homosexual character, and Billy & Chuck, the wrestlers who did perform as gay characters, were not presented as stereotype-crushing main-eventers.
“In last week’s issue, regarding the note about debuting a gay character in 2002 who would be a tough guy, that would out himself as being gay, do none of the stereotypes and be portrayed as a kick ass main eventer, we were told that the idea was for the person to be Lesnar when he made his debut that year.
The idea originally came from two of the magazine writers, one of them Brian Solomon (who just wrote a book about pro wrestling history called “Pro Wrestling FAQ”), who pitched the idea directly to Stephanie McMahon that year. The pitch was that it would blow away the fan base and everyone to have an unstoppable hyper-masculine ass kicker revealing himself to be gay, and be pushed as a top babyface.
The idea was to make sure he never did anything in or out of the ring that would make fans uncomfortable. It would be the anti-gay stereotype instead, and instead it would be the heels that would use his being gay in their promos and get their asses kicked, and making everyone using negative terms as far as being gay come across like heels.
The idea was also thinking it would get huge support from the gay community (the problem of course is that eventually it would come out Lesnar wasn’t gay, so it would only be a character and not an admission the real person was) and get positive support from the media as a progressive character. What’s notable is that the people who pitched it first, never heard another word about it, and didn’t know until this past week that it had gotten into the writers room where some of the older agents thought the idea was terrible and it was dropped, and eventually that led to the Billy & Chuck thing.
As it turned out, the Lesnar character ended up doing pretty well for itself.”