Wrestling: one of the world’s greatest contradictions. On one hand you have truly massive men with arms like tree trunks and an encyclopedic knowledge of bone-crushing moves ready to be unleashed upon some unwitting victim, while on the other you have face-paint, tights and spandex. Just as humankind has never found answers to such perennial questions as “Does the Jersey Devil really exist?”, “Is there a monster lurking in Loch Ness?” and “Who keeps giving Piers Morgan airtime?” so we shall never know why wrestlers have such a misplaced penchant for wearing eye-watering attire that is not only horrifying but often hopelessly impractical for fisticuffs.
While professional wrestling has never really been at the cutting edge of fashion, it seems that the 1990s were a particular low point for the World Wrestling Federation (now known as World Wrestling Entertainment) and the individuals that performed upon its international stage. Clothes that would normally be met with howls of derision on any street corner were suddenly de rigueur for the rippling muscle men and risk-taking acrobats. Spandex was ubiquitous and neon colors the norm. With a high turnover of ‘talent’ it seemed that every wrestler wanted a gimmick that would get them noticed. Many of these dreadful outfits ensured that their memory lives on in fans’ hearts, although perhaps for all the wrong reasons…
The dubious honor of kicking off what will undoubtedly turn out to be a rogue’s gallery rests with Goldust. Real name Dustin Rhodes, Goldust’s extravagant outfit was originally based upon the Academy Awards’ Oscar statuette. While the Oscar’s build is that of streamlined art deco perfection, Goldust’s physique was more fatty boom batty, so the whole image didn’t exactly start well. Since then it evolved into something more akin to Auric Goldfinger’s sex-mad cross-dressing younger brother.
Apart from his wardrobe, Goldust was also infamous for combining wrestling with behavior that would nowadays land him squarely on the sex offender’s registry. A notable match (the Hollywood Backlot Brawl) between the gold-lamÃ©d one-man freak show and Rowdy Roddy Piper included the visual delights of Goldust fondling Piper’s behind and a spot of kissing. Eventually, though, Piper prevailed, but instead of a darned good thrashing he decided that the best way to teach Goldust a lesson about inappropriate touching would be to knock him unconscious and strip him of his ludicrous outfit. Underneath, Goldust was wearing a basque, stockings, suspenders and a g-string…
9) The Warlord
Introduced to the murky world of professional wrestling by none other than Goldust’s real-life dad, Dusty Rhodes, The Warlord somehow came to the conclusion that the best way to augment his 6ft 5inch frame would be with The World’s Crappest Armourâ„¢. Made from what must have been the cheapest black plastic known to man and topped with a helmet blatantly pilfered from the Phantom of the Opera’s pound shop, The Warlord’s costume was eclipsed in the do-it-yourself stakes only by his absurd ‘W’ stick. At least the helmet hid some of his revolting face. Indeed, his armor was so shoddy that rather than use it for protection he actually had to remove it before his fights lest it get scuffed. The Warlord retired in 1996 after a car accident involving a Pizza Hut delivery guy left him with a serious neck injury.
8) Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Ah, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, a man to whom a wrestling costume consists of nothing more than a plank of wood and a cross-eyed stare. Oh, and a thumbs up. His outfit may have been entirely devoid of creativity but what Jim lacked in spandex he made up for with impenetrable facial hair and a madman’s howl. A regular face in the WWF, Duggan quickly became a fan favorite and racked up numerous titles across several wrestling federations, even becoming the winner of the first-ever Royal Rumble. Even kidney cancer couldn’t put the gravel-voiced, blue-panted patriot out for the count and after a few years on the independent circuit he returned to the WWE in 2005.
7) Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake
Unlike The Warlord’s poking stick, Beefcake’s props were actually quite useful. After subduing his opponents with his trademark sleeper hold he would grab his personalized ‘barber’s’ garden shears (or electric clippers) and lop chunks of their hair off, throwing ‘handfuls of hair into the air to the delight of the crowd’. Fans loved the non-consensual haircut malarkey and the man who was billed as hailing from ‘parts unknown’ soon became a firm favorite. His costumes, however, were nothing less than low crimes against high fashion. Bow ties without shirts, zebra prints, rips, ribbons and a highlighted mullet ensure Brutus’ entry into sartorial infamy.
Not everything was straightforward for Beefcake, though. A parasailing accident in 1990 left his face ‘caved in’, and surgeons had to use 8 titanium plates, 32 screws and 100 feet of wire to reconstruct his head. The by then semi-retired wrestler was involved in a bizarre terrorist scare in 2004 when he accidentally left a large bag of cocaine in a Massachusetts subway station phone booth (oh come on, we’ve all done it). A commuter came across the white powder, mistook it for anthrax and contacted police. The station was evacuated and Beefcake hastily owned up before promptly checking into rehab.
Made up of the imaginatively-titled Ax and Smash (joined later by Crush), the Demolition tag team enjoyed a costume that was something of a confused mixture of styles. Black leather waistcoats (liberally coated with studs), spiked gloves, leather masks and red-and-white, Kiss-style face paint were intended to be redolent of the fictional inhabitants of the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, crossed perhaps with the followers of the New York punk scene. However, couple the fact that Ax & Smash were already balding and a bit fat with the addition of crotchless chaps, and suddenly what could have been a ‘well-hard’ look became rather like two aging BDSM aficionados caught backstage at a sex club in an impromptu police raid. The appearance of the Legion of Doom (who used spikes far more effectively) exposed Demolition’s unintentional imperfections and their popularity soon waned.
5) Ultimate Warrior
While most wrestlers milk their entrances for all they’re worth, The Ultimate Warrior did away with all the high-fives and muscle-flexing and simply put his mad little head down and sprinted as fast as he could into the ring. Obviously intoxicated with adrenaline (perhaps among other things), he would then randomly thrash about on the ropes for a bit. Happy with his thrashing, the fight would get underway.
And with an outfit mainly consisting of day-glo string, The Ultimate Warrior was a sight to behold. Fluorescent Speedos, wristbands brighter than the sun and unnecessarily substantial tasseled boots mirrored his high-energy persona. Indeed, James Hellwig (real name) actually became so intertwined with his WWF character that in 1993 he legally changed his name to Warrior. With his massive lion’s mane hair, face-paint and a wide-eyed stare that seemed to have originated from the very deepest level of crazy, Warrior resembled some kind of escaped mental patient who’d broken into the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s dressing room.
4) Brett ‘The Hitman’ Hart
Brett Hart’s WWF story is one of greatness and betrayal. Hart was probably the most famous of the Federation’s competitors during the mid 1990s. His motto was: “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.” It was a sentiment that was echoed by WWE chairman Vince McMahon who described him as: “The greatest technical wrestler and storyteller in the history of the business.” But Hart and McMahon were not always on such amicable terms.
His final match after 14 years with the WWF saw him pitched against rival Shawn Michaels in Montreal. Hart was understandably reluctant to lose the match (and championship title) while in his native Canada, so he and McMahon decided that Hart would win the match but submit the title soon after. However, McMahon, Michaels and referee Earl Hebner had conspired behind the Hitman’s baby-oiled back and the upshot was that Hart lost to a ‘screwjob’ in front of an audience aghast. An angry Hart promptly smashed up a few things backstage (like McMahon’s already dreadful face) and left the WWF. Reconciliation would follow more than a decade later.
While Brett Hart might have been a gifted and consummate professional, his clothes were a different matter. Any other color choice would have been forgivable but noooooooooo, he had to go and dress as a bright pink and black spandex atrocity. And what would be the perfect icing for such a homo-erotic cake? That’s right, a Freddie Mercury-style PVC military jacket, discounted wrap-around shades and hair oilier than a BP rig.
3) High Energy
When Owen Hart teamed up with “Birdman” Koko B. Ware a fashion disaster was born. Known as High Energy, the two men’s chosen attire was the physical embodiment of all that was wrong with early 90s fashion. Black and white chequered braces, liberal use of blindingly bright, Day-Glo colors and trousers with more spare room than Norman Bates’s motel were essential for the ‘high flying’ twosome. The intense and clashing colors of their outfits outshone even the unfortunate blue-and-yellow macaw that accompanied them.
Alas, the mismatched duo only competed in a single pay-per-view match which they lost to The Headshrinkers and by early 1993 High Energy had been ‘quietly dropped’. While they were certainly not the most successful tag team in the WWF they were undoubtedly the baggiest.
2) Ric Flair
Ric Flair was synonymous with a lot of things: stunning charisma, notable promos and massive arrogance to name just a handful. But it is his fondness for gowns that ensures his inclusion here. These weren’t normal, plain gowns like you or I might wear upon exiting the bath or shower. Oh no. Flair’s robes were like works of art, incorporating frills, floral motifs, elaborate stitching and sequins by the bucket load. In fact, they often had so much stuff stuck to them that it looked like a child had covered his mother’s dressing gown in super glue and thrown it in a transvestite’s trash can. The self-styled ‘Nature Boy’ seemed to have a special love for feathers. Sometimes you could barely see him for the amount that where sewn onto his gowns. “Woooooo!” As a side note Wikipedia reports: “In September 2007, Flair opened a financial business called Ric Flair Finance. In July 2008, Ric Flair Finance filed for bankruptcy.”
1) Macho Man Randy Savage
In a world of drug-addled, colorful personalities Randy Savage was up there with the most eccentric and crazy wrestlers that have ever entered the squared-circle. Not only did his sartorial flair seem to be inspired by a particularly bad LSD trip, but his wardrobe appeared to be never-ending. Unlike some other WWF stars, Savage had total control over his clothes and even owned each item personally. So he’s totally to blame.
Never short of a word or two and with a voice that sounded like a chainsaw on razor wire, watching Savage’s interviews was like looking through the door grill into a padded cell. It’s true that he may not have always been coherent or even able to face the right way, but the incandescent cowboy embraced his ‘macho madness’ and he exuded the feeling that sanity (and normal clothing) were for wimps. Where many of his colleagues would settle for one or two items of fashion faux pas, Savage insisted on dressing himself head-to-toe in clothes that would dazzle a mole.
Wacky stetsons, sunglasses that were quite possibly opaque, bandannas, brightly-colored biker jackets, leopard-prints and tights would all be rounded off with a few million tassels. And that was just ONE of Savage’s outlandish outfits. This year, toy-maker Mattel announced that Savage would be immortalized with a new action figure as part of a “WWE Defining Moments” range. Good news if you would like to own a diminutive tribute to the neon insanity that is Macho Man Randy Savage. “Ooooooooh yeah!”