Gorgeous George. The name is synonymous with the sport of Professional Wrestling, for it was Gorgeous George who caused it to flourish as a nationwide spectacle on network television. The Gorgeous One’s influence has been felt by athletes from Muhammed Ali to Ric Flair and should continue to be felt in the future.
Real Name: George Wagner
Stats: 5′ 9″ 210 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Gorgeous George is truly the original showman of professional wrestling, and his flamboyant theatrics have unquestionably forever changed the “sport” of professional wrestling. During his heyday (which began in the late 1940’s and lasted through to the early 1960’s, a more famous or controversial entertainment figure could not be found. It has been said that during his prime, George was even more well known than the President. He influenced generations of future wrestlers — from Buddy Rogers to Adrian Street, “Superstar” Billy Graham to Ric Flair, “Adorable” Adrian Adonis to Goldust…even Mohammed Ali, Little Richard, Liberace, and numerous other figures in both sports and entertainment. One is hard pressed to think of a more influential public figure, let alone a professional wrestler…
Gorgeous George was born George Wagner in Seward, Nebraska and began his wrestling career during his teens. He competed for over a decade simply as George Wagner, with very little success. Physically unimposing at just 5’9 and weighing only 215 pounds, Wagner was a plain, less than average wrestler. But that would change as the resourceful Wagner, who contemplated giving up on trying to make it as a wrestler, developed the gimmick that would forever change both him and the “sport.”
He grew his hair out so it was long, could be curled and pinned back with gold-plated bobby pins, and dyed it platinum blond. He wore elegant robes, dubbed himself “The Human Orchid” and was always escorted by one of his male ring valets (Geoffrey or Thomas Ross) who would spray his his corner of the ring, as well as George’s opponents, with disinfectant and perfume. He was the originator of using entrance music, and was always accompanied by his theme “Pomp And Circumstance”…which would again be used some 40 years later by Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Gorgeous George’s ring entrances were legendary, and often took nearly as long as his matches. The effeminate grappler worked people into fits of laughter, curiosity, and outright rage with his pageantry and theatrics. The consummate villain, George would cheat at every possible opportunity, infuriating fans to the point of rioting on several occasions. So riveted were they by George’s theatrics, fans would flock in droves to see him wrestle, and even more importantly, they tuned-in in record numbers to watch Gorgeous George on the brand-new medium of television.
In a very real sense, Gorgeous George single-handedly established the unproven new technology of television as a viable, entertaining new medium that could reach literally millions homes all across the country. Pro wrestling was TV’s first real “hit” with the public — the first programs that ever drew any real numbers for the new technology, and Gorgeous George was was directly responsible for all of the commotion. It was a turning point for Wagner, wrestling, and the country itself. Gorgeous George was probably responsible for selling more television sets in the early days of TV than any other factor. There was once a well known saying that Frank Gotch may have put wrestling on the map, but Gorgeous George brought it to the world…
George, although a showman first and foremost, eventually became quite an accomplished wrestler as well. On May 26,1950 he won the A.W.A. (Boston) World Heavyweight title by defeating Don Eagle. He later lost the World Title to another wrestling legend, Lou Thesz. Nearly 10 years later after losing the AWA strap, he ended his remarkable career and retired from wrestling.
“Gorgeous” George Wagner died in 1963. Although his legacy can be found everywhere you look in the world of professional wrestling, we at The Ring Chronicle believe this startlingly original performer and champion should once again be honored as the innovative legend he truly was and is. Surely, without Gorgeous George, the entire landscape of the wrestling business would be radically different from what we know. Simply put, he changed the “sport” forever. With that in mind, we are proud to induct Gorgeous George into T.R.C.’s Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame…