Is professional wrestling afraid of gays?

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Although grown men dressing up in tights and rolling around on top of each other half naked may seem like the perfect back drop for a gay athlete to emerge from, professional wrestling is far from what many think of as a gay friendly sport.

After two years of retirement, Chris Klucsarits, known to the wrestling community as Chris Kanyon, decided that he needed to help change that image and wanted to leave the façade of the of the characters that he portrayed in the ring behind.

Early this year Kanyon announced that he was tired of “living in the closet” and went public with his homosexuality – creating a scandal for himself and for professional wrestling.

Born on January 4, 1970 in Queens, New York, Chris has always been extremely active in sports and even earned a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Buffalo.

After graduation, the 6’3 Kanyon moved to Manhattan and begin training for a career as a professional wrestler in 1992. He quickly acclimated to the techniques and was soon receiving job offers.

His first major outing was with the former World Wrestling Federation as a “jobber”.

If you weren’t aware already, Professional wrestling is a mostly scripted sporting event, which often has little to do with the Olympic level sport that bares the same name. Jobber’s are athletes hired to “take a dive” to the more established characters on the circuit. Kanyon, however, thrived in his loser status and was quickly seen as a potential future superstar who could win matches and headline the shows.

After intense training and as scripted, Kanyon was repackaged and became a regular player in the World Championship Wrestling Circuit, eventual winning the Tag Team title with his partner Diamond Dallas Page. The duo went on to claim the top prizes at The WWF championships as well, and Kanyon became an identifiable face to wrestling fans.

With his substantial wrestling background and growing success in the ring, Kanyon soon found his way to Hollywood where he began working as a stuntman and stunt coordinator.

Assisting on such films as The Jesse Ventura Story and Ready to Rumble where he played stunt double for Oliver Platt, Kanyon’s star seemed to be on the rise. As a performer he had gained many successes, but his personal life was forced to take a back seat to his ringside persona.

In February 2003, that story began to change when organisers set up a match between Kanyon and the Undertaker, in which Kanyon would come out of a closet dressed as “Boy George” and sing in an effeminate voice in front of the entire audience before becoming the fall guy in the match.

At the time, Chris Kanyon himself had mentioned that he was thinking about coming out of the closet and felt that the mockery showcase that he was being portrayed in was a way of silencing him. In 2004 after his story lines began to diminish, Kanyon was officially released from his contract and forced into retirement. Behind the scenes, however, there were speculations that he was, in fact, let go from the wrestling world because he was gay.

Free from the restrictions placed on him by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) who had helped create him, Kanyon held a press conference early this year to publicly announce that the character he portrayed was in fact a homosexual. Again Kanyon separated his public persona from his private life by refusing to confirm that he, himself, was gay.

It wasn’t until a month later that Kanyon would confirm those rumours at a separate event. Kanyon quoted that the “main reason for the month long ambiguity between the sexuality of the character, Kanyon, and the sexuality of me, Chris Klucsarits, the person portraying the character, [was] to get the buzz started and to try and get some anticipation built up. I was hoping to sign with Vince McMahon’s WWE or Spike TV/ Jeff Jarrett/Panda Energy’s NWA TNA wrestling group before making the official announcement that I, Chris Klucsarits, was gay, so that I could possibly get more publicity.”

Many fans criticised the decision to use “coming out” as a way of gaining publicity, but in a world where you are only as relevant as your last story line, Kanyon felt that this was his only remaining move to get back into the sport that he loved.

The publicity stunt didn’t work and no offers were made to sign him to any of the wrestling formats. Many members in the WWE community, whom he was close to, maintained that he was not made any offers because he was a homosexual.

Kanyon said that “(he) didn’t want to believe that (he) was fired for being gay,” however, “I have made several attempts to contact Vince McMahon,” the head of the WWE, “to find out if what I have heard was true or not. If I found out from him that it was true, I would have to move on with my life. I would really have no hard feelings.”

For now, McMahon and the WWE are not responding to any allegations and have generally remained firm that Kanyon was let go because his contract had ended and his character had run its course. Currently there have been no plans to reinstate Kanyon into the WWE, but in the constantly dramatic and spectacle filled world of professional wrestling, things can change at the drop of a knee.

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