Faux Phobe?

As previously reported, Brandon Espinosa, 5'10", 190#, has been feuding with "out and proud" Paredyse since October at Ohio Valley Wrestling. In pro wrestling, the boundaries between reality and fantasy have always been a little blurred. Paredyse is a character played by a man who identifies himself as straight on MySpace, but he's become something of a touchstone for equal rights in the Louisville-area gay community. So if Paredyse is a faux gay, does that mean Espinosa's vehemently anti-gay slurs are kayfabe, too? It would appear so. Espinosa is playing the heel in this spat and generating a lot of heat off the kinds of remarks that only recently (i.e. last year) were regarded as innocuous, commonplace even (especially) for wrestling's "good" guys.

In mid-November Espinosa broke into Paredyse's dressing room and wrote "Go Home, Queen!" on the mirror. A week later Paredyse returned the favor, scrawling "I'm Here, I'm Queer, Get Used To It" on Espinosa's mirror. For several weeks Espinosa and Paredyse took turns as ringside commentators on each other's matches, during which time the two also confronted each other directly, and twice Paredyse planted a big wet kiss on Espinosa, infuriating the purported homophobe.

On Christmas Eve, the city of Clarksville, Tennessee (just over the border from Kentucky) crowned Paredyse the King of Clarksville. Paredyse redubbed himself the "Queen" of Clarksville, leading Espinosa to butt in, complaining about the use of the feminine noun. The resulting altercation put both men in the ring for their first televised fight, which ended when Espinosa sneakily attacked Paredyse from behind.

Paredyse then challenged Espinosa to another match, and Espinosa accepted. On January 7th, as previously noted on this blog, fans of Paredyse and members of Louisville's gay community formed a cheering section, brandishing a sign that read, "Gay Is The Way, Paredyse." In what might appear a nod to the idea that homophobes tend to be severely repressed homosexuals, Espinosa entered the ring in pink zippered trunks emblazoned with a shiny heart, though apparently clueless about the nelliness of his gear. Paredyse won the match with a low blow and a neckbreaker submission to the fans' evident delight. After the bout, Espinosa attacked Paredyse from behind ... again.

At the beginning of February, Espinosa defeated "The Prime Cut" Nick Cutler in a dark match and then humiliated him by putting him in a dress and smearing his lips with lipstick. Later, in an interview, Espinosa explained his bizarre action by bluntly expressing his dislike of the gay community, calling it unnatural and weird, adding that he is sick of people like Paredyse.

WWE and Impact Wrestling also brought up the problem of bullying in its storylines last year, but more ambiguously without using the word "gay," to my knowledge. Of course, the effort is partly hindered by the fact that key players in these promotions, like John Cena, Triple H, and AJ Styles, have sometimes uttered homophobic slurs in the process of challenging the masculinity of their opponents. Impact's Bully Ray represents bullying in a negative light, revealing the insecurity and cowardice that lurk beneath the false show of masculine power, but neither WWE nor Impact has attempted anything as direct or startling as Espinosa's gimmick at OVW.

What happens next? I wonder. If Paredyse continues to gather fans (initially, two or three years ago, he played the typical gay gimmick, i.e. the flamboyant, corner-cutting heel), could he seriously upset seventy years of anti-gay stereotyping in wrestling? And could homophobia, so long a given in all US sports, even as glittery a one as pro wrestling, become nothing more than a pose to generate boos from the fans? I don't know. But that would be fabulous!


  1. I think Espinosa is playing out this gimmick very well. One wonders if a man who routinely wears purple and pink trunks is simply threatened by Paradyse due to the fear that he will himself be portrayed as homosexual, or that he is desperately denying his homosexual tendencies. Espinosa seems like a nice guy and I hope they play out this storyline more hopefully in him coming out!


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