This week, The Thread Count returns with a look at the long, sometimes fun, and sometimes super offensive history of pro wrestling weddings. The bad news is that I couldn’t find a picture of four-year-old Danielle sporting a lace applique dress and an accidental mini-mullet* at my mother’s 1989 wedding. The good news is that the following pages contain more of those two things than you could ever possibly need in one lifetime.
Roddy Piper says there’s no room for romance in wrestling, and while most of these ceremonies prove him right, they’ve at least provided us with more than enough memorable fashion moments over the years. Click through for Part One very best and very worst looks of pro wrestling weddings.
*I had super cute long hair, but for some unknown reason decided to give myself a “trim” the day before. It was…not a great idea. Thankfully, as a child of divorce, they don’t get carted out too often.
December 18th, 1984: Paul Vachon and Ophelia Tuesday Night Titans
Tuesday Night Titans, or TNT, ran on USA from 1984-86. The premise of the show was a kayfabe talk/skit show, featuring interviews by Vince McMahon and his pal Lord Alfred Hayes, and accompanying skits, like the one where Roddy Piper knocked Jimmy Snuka out with a coconut, and the forever incredible Fuji Vice. TNT provided the stage for the first televised pro wrestling wedding between “Butcher” Vachon and Ophelia.
Everything about this wedding is amazing. I’m almost a little sad that I’m only writing about what people are wearing, because from start to finish it is everything that is weird and wonderful and intensely problematic about pro wrestling. I could write about it for hours. I mean, the reception turns into a food fight after David Shultz interrupts the cutting of the cake to yell at the bride about how her role in the marriage is basically indentured slavery, becomes enraged when she says she doesn’t eat cake, then smashes a pie in her face. Y’know…normal wedding stuff.
We’re greeted by the Howard Finkel in a brown tuxedo with matching ruffled shirt. Someone has thoughtfully decorated the ring better than most ceremony spaces you’d see on TLC, including an admittedly gorgeous wedding arch, greenery wrapped around the ring ropes, and giant ass eighties-sized bows on anything that would hold one, including the Fink’s hanging microphone.
I mean, if this isn’t any indication that something amazing is about to happen, I don’t even know what is.
In the crowd we have The Wild Samoans in their best tropical prints, Jesse Ventura looking like he just stumbled out of a Bladerunner-themed leather bar, various members of the WWF roster, and the heel gallery: Captain Lou Albano and Classy Freddie Blassie. Albano has his trademark rubber bands, Blassie looks like most people’s grandfathers still do (if not much more glittery), and until the point where Albano grills Ophelia about being a virgin (???), they’re pretty fantastic. At one point, Blassie trips ring bearer Sky Low Low with his cane, causing panic that he’s lost the rings. They’ve both got such natural heel charisma, and Maid of Honour Fabulous Moolah walking down the aisle to be met with kisses on the cheek from both managers warms my heart. It’s also important to note that Sky Low Low dons a red jacket to roll out the red carpet. Lovely little detail in something that’s completely absurd.
The wedding party itself is just a mess, and I mean that in the very best way. Mad Dog Vachon begrudgingly throws on a suit jacket as he’s going down the aisle, but not even one that matches the Butchers – it’s a tweed number with honest-to-goodness brown corduroy arm patches. More an affectation of academia than traditional wedding attire, it’s fitting for someone who probably just grabbed the first jacket they could find in between finding rules to break and wrestlers to murderize.
I’m almost 100% sure that Diamond Lil’s dress was featured in every wedding photo album from 1982 to at least 1989. I mean, we were somewhat behind the times when it came to fashion in the Maritimes, but I’m pretty sure my mom’s bridesmaids used that pattern for both her first and second weddings in the eighties. Moolah looks more like a Mother of the Bride, though that’s mostly due to the retro coat and matching dress ensemble than her age. Matching coat and dresses were extremely popular during the late sixties, and it’s entirely probable that Moolah just put on one of her own dresses for the occasion. For some reason they paired her robin’s egg blue dress with an orange calla lily bouquet, though there are no orange calla lilies anywhere to be seen. But hey, it looked good enough to prompt Lou to ask for a double wedding ceremony. Get it, girl.
In 1956, Grace Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco inspired bridal fashion for the rest of the decade. In fact, her dress is still considered to be one of the most iconic wedding dresses of all time. The pill box hats, clean lines, and minimal embellishments of the sixties were heavily influenced by the weddings of Jackie Kennedy and Priscilla Presley. The seventies were a mish-mosh of styles, ranging anywhere from pant suits to boho chic. In 1981, however, wedding culture was once again united by a single dress: Diana, Princess of Wales.
Ophelia’s dress is that classic trickle-down style from Princess Diana. Diana’s dress featured yards and yards of ivory taffeta, antique hand-made Carrickmacross lace, puffed sleeves and a train for days. Within hours of her wedding to Prince Charles, replicas were already being manufactured to high demand. Even if a dress wasn’t the exact replica, the economic boom of the eighties meant a request for more opulence, more crinoline, more ruffles, more more more. In some way or another, most dresses from that time period contain some aspect of the original Diana design.
The surprising standout is Butcher. Of everyone in attendance, including open-shirted Albano, his look is the most timeless. In the nineteenth century, the the single breasted cutaway coat became the fashion for the upper crust, the name morning coat originating from the practice of riding horses in the morning. This simple coat gave way to the Morning Suit, whose hallmarks include a Morning Grey top hat, striped or checked trousers, a bold striped tie and matching pocket square, a short waistcoat, and a white shirt, usually with detachable turn down/winged collar. The Morning Suit went from the casual suit a gentleman would start his day off in, to more occasion-specific attire reserved for weddings and races. It’s one of the most timeless and enduring aspects of men’s fashion, and Vachon’s variation seems to be the only well-thought out outfit in the entire wedding.
While it may not be my very favourite wedding (we’ll cover that in Part Two), it’s pretty close. It’s such an interesting transitional period for McMahon and the WWE. Most of the legends in focus during the wedding had already passed their prime, and the time of people like Low Low Sky and the territorial mindset were about to give way to Hulk Hogan and the eighties boom of the WWF we know so well. I also love it because there’s a relaxed air to everything, less casual but moreso genuine. Sometimes when you watch an old I Love Lucy episode you catch these glimpses of Lucille Ball “breaking,” reacting organically and laughing simply because it’s funny, and not because the scene calls for it. There are moments during the food fight at the reception where you can see the same thing on the face of Vince McMahon – real human happiness. There’s a warmth and authenticity to this big fake wedding, like we’re watching someone’s incredibly weird and carny home movies instead of a televised wrestling show.
Seriously, I just want to write about this wedding forever.
October 3rd, 1985: Uncle Elmer and Joyce Saturday Night’s Main Event
Uncle Elmer and Hillbilly Jim featured prominently in the very first edition of The Thread Count: A Fashionable History of Wrestling Hillbillies. As it turns out, their formal wear wasn’t much different: Jim managed to put on a shirt this time, and even wore a striped tie that matched Elmer’s.
As we go through more weddings, you can almost see a steady decline in the decor. This was only the second televised wedding, so things had yet to shift to the plain white lattice archway with some tulle tied or draped around it. This wedding arch is surprisingly quite beautiful, which is nice when you consider that this wedding was actually real. See, Elmer told Vince McMahon that he wished to marry Joyce Stazko, his long-time sweetheart. McMahon, who would obviously never, ever use a real-life situation for the personal gain of his company, showed a rare lapse in character convincing Elmer to have an on-screen wedding to further a few kayfabe angles. Despite Roddy Piper’s interruption, this is very much the ceremony for Elmer and Joyce.
Joyce’s dress is again one of those dresses that is so very clearly from the eighties. While it may not have the mutton sleeves of Diana’s dress, the cathedral train and pearl-laden tiara are pure Princess of Wales. The rest, however, harkens back to the first royal dress mentioned – that of Grace Kelly. The cinched waist, and sweetheart neckline under a lace overlay are two of the most recognizable elements of Kelly’s dress. Just like the innovation of a finisher or style of wrestling has ripple effects through it’s history, so did these two legendary dresses. Even the flower girls’ puffed sleeves and flower crowns are straight out of Diana’s wedding photos.
Like the previous wedding, the guest list boasts some prestigious guests. Andre the Giant (in red trunks and boots) and Hulk Hogan served as ushers, and Captain Lou made his second wedding appearance. Lou sported a full tux this time, unlike Leaping Lanny Poffo, who was basically just naked the whole time:
I was tempted to give Hogan the Best Dressed nod for his sleevless tuxedo shirt-bowtie combo that he paired with extraordinary not-quite-tights-but-still-so-shiny pants and his best formal weight belt, but then this guy showed up:
Tiny Tim is no stranger to televised weddings, nor the WWF. His speech is actually really sweet, and like Elmer’s hands shaking during the ring exchange, just a nice little genuine moment from a guy in a satin baby blue suit covered in balloons toting a ukulele.