For a long time, professional wrestling was a ring-based, technical spectacle based around the talents of performers like Lou Thesz and Ed “Strangler” Lewis.
However, as we modern fans know, professional wrestling would not be what it is today without the element of showmanship. To that end, one cannot write about the most influential performers in pro wrestling history without mentioning the career of “Gorgeous” George Wagner.
At 5’9” and 215 pounds, Wagner was not the most physically imposing or fit performer; looking at pictures of him, he was not particular “gorgeous” either. He was, however, the first performer to truly gain the ire of the fans.
He came to the ring to the tune of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” (which would later become the entrance theme of Randy Savage), wearing a frilly robe and spraying perfume.
He would cheat liberally, and after winning he would often admire his still-gorgeous features in a mirror, a tactic which would be most famously adopted by Muhammad Ali (an admitted homage to Wagner).
Additionally, Gorgeous George’s prime coincided with the birth of a newfangled device called the television. George’s television appearances were instrumental in the rise of television (arguably as much as performers like Lucille Ball), and established professional wrestling as viable programming for the fledgling medium.
Wagner’s televised antics would garner him national attention as well as an AWA World championship.
Many purists such as Thesz dismissed Wagner as simply a gimmick wrestler and nothing else, but the fact remains that if it weren’t for Gorgeous George then professional wrestling might not have become as successful as it ultimately did.
Heck, if it weren’t for Gorgeous George, television might not have become as successful as it ultimately did.