Gorgeous George is often documented as the person who first transformed from a wrestler into a performer. He was one of the most popular performers during the first golden age of pro wrestling during the 1940s and '50s and he became a media magnet, gathering massive attention at times due to his flamboyance and his charisma.
He wasn't the tallest nor biggest of talent, nor was he the best in-ring worker; however, he realized during a in-ring segment of the real marriage of the two in the picture was a hit.
He then thought he could tap into a part of professional wrestling which wasn't big at the time: Entertainment.
Around the same time he saw a spread in a magazine which featured a pro wrestler being accompanied to the ring by two ladies while wearing a velvet robe. This was the start of the formation which "Gorgeous George" Persona.
George felt he could use this and make it even bigger and more entertaining, so he asked his mother-in-law to make him some glitzy robes and by chance during his entrance to the ring in a match, a lady exclaimed "oh isn't he Gorgeous."
George felt that would be the final part of the puzzle of his new persona and then Gorgeous George was born.
A event in 1941 saw the debut match of Gorgeous George; he entered with the now usual confrontation of fans but at the time was rare.
Once the ring announcer announced "Gorgeous George" the fans recognized a showmanship which as never in the pro wrestling at the time.
From then, crowds flocked to see him, to see his new Glamour boy persona and fans would love to hate him.
George Wagner was soon to locate to LA after he was scouted by a promoter; the promoter loved this image and helped Wagner groom it more. George grew long blond locks of hair putting fancy pins in them.
George reconsulted his ring entrance to a show in itself; it was a spectacle to simply put it. It is often ridiculed as people said his entrance took longer than the match. His music was "Pomp and Circumstance" (I never knew the name but search it and you will recognize the tune).
Wagner had a bright purple Spotlight and was always accompanied by his valet (he called Jeffries) and even a red carpet was laid for him. Jeffries would sprinkle rose petals and carry a mirror.
And get this: once he would remove his robe, Jeffries would disinfect the ring with Coco Chanel perfume; in addition he required his valet to spray the ref's hands before checking him for illegal objects, this would be referenced to his cry of "Get your filthy hands off me!"
Amongst of this he became the industry's first real heel. He would cheat anyway possible followed by a motto "Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat!"
All of this drew major success when he was on television as his flamboyant style and his wonderful ability to work the crowd made him the one of most famous wrestler of this time; forget Miz, Gorgeous George was the real guy with major heel heat.
Television stations were looking for cheap profitable shows, and wrestling soon became that. This was how George turned into a media hit. His showmanship and style brought Pro Wrestling to the each living room in the county (providing they had TV).
His first television appearance on Nov. 11, 1947; this match was named among the top 100 acts on television of the 20th century by Entertainment Weekly) that top fact showcases how he really did change pro wrestling. That was the moment that turned him into an media icon.
George changed pro wrestling forever; that day in November showed that professional wrestling was no longer just about in ring skill although he was a solid worker. Wagner showcased a whole new way to elevate himself: entertainment.
Some people have said Gorgeous George sold as many television sets as Milton Berle (a major TV star at the time) If somewhat true, that is astonishing.
George was an accomplished freestyle and amateur wrestler which back him up as many other wrestlers claimed he was a gimmick wrestler.
However, another early legend, Lou Thesz who was marked as the best legit wrestler (in terms of skill and ability) said:
Wagner "could wrestle pretty well" but added "Wagner could never draw a fan until he became Gorgeous George."
Thesz was thought to have not liked Gimmick wrestlers.
In 1949; he was booked to as the feature wrestler in the return to Madison Square Garden in which was the return for pro wrestling there in 12 whole years. During the 50's he was the highest paid athlete in the world! (yes, a pro wrestler the highest paid athlete!)
During a match in 1959; he was wrestler one of his long time rivals: Whipper Billy Watson. George lost the match and resulted in his iconic golden locks were shaved off in front of 20,000 fans and millions more on TV.
One of his final matches were against Bruno Sammartino, an up-and-comer at the time.
In 1962; his final match was a mask vs. hair match against The Destroyer; Wagner lost and ultimately his hair was shaved again.
His doctor told him to retire, as alcohol abuse, and later liver problems and age, took their toll on Wagner's body.
George Wagner/Gorgeous George was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame class in 2010 an award which was accepted by his former wife Betty (as seen in the top pic), a 97-year-old lady at the time, was open to questions and how George Became Gorgeous.
Wagner died at the age of 47, which now wrestlers see as their heyday, sadly he died the night before Christmas in 1963.
So before Miz, before Chris Jericho, before Shawn Michaels, Before all of these heels there was the original heel: Gorgeous George Wagner.
He is the sole reason why wrestling is what it is, he was the pioneer and in my mind he is one of the top wrestlers in the world for that.
(Actor Bob Hope is said to have given Wagner a few robes.)
I actually put him at four but during the making of this slide, I put him first.