Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gorgeous George

Professional wrestling is filled with colorful, larger than life characters. Few, however, have parlayed their unique characteristics into as much fame and success as today’s inductee into the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame. Today we induct the Sensation of the Nation. The Human Orchid. One of wrestling’s most famous stars and memorable characters, the incomparable Gorgeous George.

Gorgeous George was born George Raymond Wagner in 1915. He grew up in Texas, and began his wrestling career in his teenage years. Wagner was a small man by wrestling standards, standing well under 6 feet tall and weighing a little over 200 pounds. Wrestling under his real name Wagner had very little success. From the 1930s to the late 1940s, he was an anonymous wrestler with sub-par skills. However, Wagner would soon prove that in pro wrestling, image is everything.

In the 40s, Wagner sought a way to gain himself more notoriety. It was at that point he developed his famous Gorgeous George character, one of pro wrestling’s first larger than life gimmicks. He bleached blond his hair, grew it out into long curly locks, and pinned it back with bobby pins. He wore extravagant robes and made theatrical ring entrances to “pomp and circumstance” 40 years before Randy “Macho Man” Savage. He would be accompanied to the ring by male valets who pushed the audience’s buttons, and later a female valet. He would spray the ring with perfume, decorate it with rose petals, prance around the ring, stall for minutes on end and act in a cowardly manner. Audiences had never seen anything like it, and given the conservative nature of American society at the time, it drew a real rise out of them.

The Gorgeous George persona was an immediate hit, but it was the advent of nationally televised professional wrestling that made him a legend. Pro wrestling first began to be broadcast on national TV in the late 1940s. Gorgeous George’s unique persona made him the biggest star of the period. He would become a big star in the late 40s and would stay that way until the late 50s, particularly on the west coast. He was incredibly hated, and would draw large crowds of fans who desperately wanted to see him get his comeuppance.

Over the years, pro wrestling has become more reliant upon television to maintain its popularity. WCW was forced to close because of the decision of a television executive. Viacom pays WWE a substantial annual sum to broadcast its programming. It was Gorgeous George that first proved wrestling could be a force in attracting television audiences. He was not just one of wrestling’s biggest stars; he was one of television’s biggest stars.

In the 50s, George not only enhanced his stardom, but he improved his performance in the ring. In 1950 he captured the AWA World Heavyweight Title by beating Don Eagle. He lost the belt to the legendary Lou Thesz. In the late 50s he had a major feud with Whipper Billy Watson, which culminated in Watson beating George in a 1959 hair vs. hair challenge.

The end of the Gorgeous George story was not a happy one. George was a big draw, and made a lot of money. However, he did not save his money. Worse, he did not take care of his body. He partied hard and was an alcoholic. As a result, George’s body gave out on him at a young age. He suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 48 on December 24, 1963.

Professional wrestling has undergone numerous changes over the years. The popularization of wrestling on television, and the evolution from sport to sports entertainment are two of its most important changes. Gorgeous George played a very important role in each. Because of his national prominence, he not only influenced numerous future wrestlers, but he influenced many other celebrities. Most notably, Muhammad Ali credited George as one of the biggest influences in his flamboyant style. Wrestling would not be wrestling were it not for the presence of people like Gorgeous George. ITSC is proud to induct him into its Hall of Fame.


Anonymous the masterbater said...

Quick question, do you know when the WWE will be releasing the AWA DVD??

10:28 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

I'm glad you asked. I keep a little note with upcoming releases of DVDs and music I'm interested in, but I didn't have that on it, and when I went to Amazon, it says it will be released November 21. So soon, apparently. I'm looking forward to that one. Should be better than Piper (prepare to be bullshitted) and Hogan (hours upon hours of Hogan matches? yuck!).

6:25 PM  
Anonymous the masterbater said...

LOL, why do you say that I should prepare to be bullshitted with the Piper DVD??

5:37 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Because Piper, while entertaining, is full of shit. And if they let him "tell his story," there's going to be all sorts of fabrications abound. And it's not like they can count on Hulk Hogan or Vince McMahon to set the record straight.

10:39 AM  

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