Much was made of this year’s WrestleMania being the most inclusive that we can recall. We even wrote about it ourselves, and the standout moment for a lot of wrestling fans was Finn Bálor’s entrance, which featured a group of people on the stage celebrating LGBT inclusivity, while Bálor himself was decked out in rainbow gear and the stage and lighting rig lit up in the rainbow flag.
It was a big moment for a lot of people, and when we had Fred Rosser (formerly known in WWE as Darren Young) in the studio this week to have a conversation for the With Spandex Podcast, we wanted to make sure to ask the first openly gay WWE Superstar his thoughts on the moment.
To our surprise, Rosser told us that rather than feeling uplifted by the moment, he found himself devastated.
“Finn Bálor is one of my favorite guys,” Fred started off by saying. “Him, Sonya Deville — I remember watching her in NXT. I’ve seen her at the Performance Center. She showed me so much love. Finn showed me so much love. So to see those guys represent the LGBT community meant the world to me.
“But I’ll be honest with you, man,” he continued. “When I got released, I was okay with it, but when I’m seeing them do that [LGBT] representation, I was devastated, because I wasn’t invited. I would’ve loved to have been invited just to see that we’re making moves, but I wasn’t invited to something that I begged and pleaded to embrace.”
He explained that his frustration dates back to last year, when WrestleMania 33 was in Orlando, and there was no show of solidarity with that LGBT community, even in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting. “WrestleMania, it was in Orlando [last year] and I had asked were we doing anything of the LGBT community? Were we doing anything for Pulse? And nothing.”
Moving back to Bálor’s entrance at WrestleMania 34, Rosser said it moved him to tears not to be included in that moment. “It is what it is, but I cried like a baby, man,” he told us. “The next day, Monday, after watching it back, I cried like a baby. When I got released, it’s okay. It is what it is, but when I’ve seen that [entrance] and I wasn’t [even] invited just to sit in the crowd and see the moves that we’re making, it broke my heart. They know that. They know that, but hey, it is what it is. Life goes on.”
Rosser reiterated that he thinks the world of Bálor, and that he once had a close call with nearly being one of Bálor’s first main roster opponents in a last-minute dark match, but not being included in that groundbreaking moment still stings. “Finn’s a great guy,” Rosser said. “But to not be invited to such a amazing celebration amongst the LGBT community, it just broke my heart. Even to just be on the stage with everyone — like rah, rah, rah. I don’t care. I just want to be able to experience it. It means the world to me [to be included in that representation].”
He elaborated on why it hits so close to him, beyond being a gay man and being known as WWE’s first openly gay active wrestler. “People contact me all the time on my social media, direct message, saying that they want to commit suicide, or something like that. I send messages [to them], audio messages, I talk to them. I talk to them. I say, ‘Hey, don’t do that.’ Like I said, everyday I wake up, I know someone’s counting on me, whether they’re LGBT or they’re just not LGBT and they get bullied for various reasons. That means the world to me.”
You can listen to the With Spandex Podcast to hear the full conversation with Fred Rosser.