World Wrestling Entertainment pro wrestler Darren Young came out to a TMZ reporter as gay, which WWE.com has confirmed, issuing a statement supporting Young. Young is the first active pro wrestler to publicly come out.
The wrestler was stopped at the Los Angeles International Airport baggage claim Wednesday by the reporter and asked if a gay wrestler could be successful in WWE.
“Absolutely,” Young responded. “Look at me, you know? I’m a WWE superstar, and to be honest with you, I’ll tell you right now, I’m gay, and I’m happy. Very happy.”
Young, whose real name is Fred Rosser, was arriving in L.A. to perform at WWE Summerslam at the Staples Center on Sunday.
He added, “To be honest, I don’t think it matters, you know? Does it matter? Does it matter to you? Does it change what you think about me?”
Other pro wrestlers have been gay, but this is the most public declaration of being gay in WWE, the largest company in the mixed entertainment and sport wrestling industry. The Wrestling Observer notes that “such a thing would have clearly been a non-issue internally for decades,” with the number two most powerful person in the company for many years being Pat Patterson, who was widely known to be gay.
“I see it as a non-story,” the Observer’s Dave Meltzer tells KPCC. “Openly gay people have been in wrestling for as long as there has been wrestling. Many have come out. I can’t say it’s never been an issue in history, but it’s never been a serious issue in decades.”
It was also widely known that wrestler Orlando Jordan was bisexual during his time with WWE. There have also been several prominent gay executives in the industry in addition to Patterson, the Observer notes, including WWE’s Jane Geddes, who works with their talent relations department.
WWE issued a statement praising Young. “WWE is proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar.”
When asked how some might respond to the news, Young told TMZ, “Some people might not like it, some people will like it, but I’m here to please myself. I’m here to be happy.”
The Observer’s Bryan Alvarez tells KPCC, “It’s hard to say how the public will react. I think the key is to promote it as a big deal in a positive way, treat him as a … role model. I don’t expect them to do the old-school pro-wrestling gay heel schtick, at all. It’s 2013.”
The WWE's biggest star, John Cena, also told TMZ that he fully supported Young. "I know Darren personally. Darren's a great guy. That's a very bold move for him. And congratulations for him for actually finally doing it," Cena told TMZ. Cena also has a gay brother.
The circumstances of Young coming out to a TMZ reporter were questioned by some. Pro Wrestling Torch editor Wade Keller wrote in a Q&A regarding Young, "My hunch is WWE was looking for a way for Darren to come out (I'm assuming it wasn't a surprise to upper management), and finding the right setting and situation was the key. Having TMZ ask him the way they did seems contrived, but whatever the situation was, it doesn't ultimately matter."
At press time, Young's Twitter bio read, "Darren Young’s life revolves around three things — money, women and wrestling." There's no indication on whether that will change and how WWE will affect the announcement in their storylines. Young also made one tweet since the announcement that seemed to be about his coming out:
Never b bullied n2 silence.Never allow yourself 2 be made a victim.Accept no ones definition of your life; DEFINE YOURSELF- Harvey Fierstein— nodaysoff DYoung (@DarrenYoungWWE) August 15, 2013
In their statement, WWE also touted that Young would be participating in an anti-bullying rally in L.A. as part of WWE’s Be A STAR anti-bullying campaign, which aims to teach kids “how to create positive environments for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation,” according to WWE.
Young told TMZ that he hopes to make a difference and that someone’s sexual preference shouldn’t matter. When asked about how being gay affects being doing something athletic with close contact, Young said that all sports are physical, and “When I come to work, I come to work. Business is business. I’m a WWE Superstar and I’m there to entertain the WWE Universe. That’s what my job is to do and I do it well.”
The daughter of WWE chairman Vince McMahon and head of WWE creative Stephanie McMahon tweeted her support:
Congratulations to @DarrenYoungWWE for being the first openly gay WWE Superstar!— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) August 15, 2013
Her husband, pro wrestler and company executive Triple H, also publicly supported Young coming out:
Young also received words of encouragement from his on-air tag team partner:
Other WWE wrestlers, former wrestlers, referees and announcers tweeted their support, including pro wrestling legend Bret Hart, wrestler and Jennifer Hudson's husband David Otunga and others:
Im more than proud of Darren Young for having the courage to come out. The trust is that WWE & Pro Wrestling in general have long been ahead— Bret Hart (@BretHart) August 15, 2013
.. of the curve when it comes to accepting sexual orientations— Bret Hart (@BretHart) August 15, 2013
Darren Young the gay, I respect him for he honest— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) August 15, 2013
@itsmilesbrah .. Darren Young's sexual orientation is a non issue to me. Same for his ethnicity.— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) August 15, 2013
History in our business will remember @DarrenYoungWWE as a pioneer with the courage to say proud, this is who I am. Hell of a talent & a man— Drew McIntyre (@TheDrewMcIntyre) August 15, 2013
Proud of you bro @DarrenYoungWWE— Zack Ryder (@ZackRyder) August 15, 2013
Wow! @DarrenYoungWWE is fearless. This is a historic day for the sport of professional wrestling. Good for you D-Young!— Curt Hawkins (@TheCurtHawkins) August 15, 2013
@DarrenYoungWWE I'm so proud of you!! See you this week!!— Rosa Mendes (@LaRosaMendes) August 15, 2013
Woke up this morning in LA and saw the news about @DarrenYoungWWE and i am very proud and happy for him. It was brave and i respect him.— Charles Robinson (@WWERobinson) August 15, 2013
This story has been updated.