In the midst of one of the most controversial angles that WWE ever produced, Billy Gunn has revealed that there was one particular segment that made him uncomfortable.
Towards the end of 2001 Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo began teaming together on WWE television. With the invasion angle now a thing of the past, the new team appeared to represent a new start for both men.
As the weeks passed the team began to become increasingly affectionate towards each other, and were given a “personal stylist” in the shape of the flamboyant Rico.
The subtle hints that Billy and Chuck were a gay couple quickly became less and subtle and a “commitment ceremony” between the two was set for September 2002. However, on SmackDown it was revealed that the whole thing had been a publicity stunt that got out of hand, and both men were straight.
The angle received significant media coverage at the time and was heavily criticised by many in the LBGTQ community upon it’s conclusion.
Speaking on a recent episode of The Sessions with Renee Paquette, Billy Gunn discussed the origins of the angle and how it’s success relied upon he and Chuck fully committing to their roles.
“So the ideal pitch was at that time we had all the Trish’s and the Stacey’s and all the super hot girls that just had everything they had makeup people they had, you know, they really didn’t wrestle they wrestled to rip their clothes off kind of thing. And it was hey, we have this idea that you guys are like divas. Like we’ll give you the hairdressers, the blow dryers and all that, it started like that.
Then it went, how about… I tell it like everybody goes ‘Well what was out about?’ and I go ‘It was awesome.’ You know, it was awesome. Because at that point in my career if you’re not, like I love challenging myself to do different things, right. And at that point in my career, I was looking for a challenge. Maybe not that I was looking for a challenge. But I wanted something to challenge me and to try to pull that off and make the WWE Universe think that I was gay is good, like, that’s really good.
So when they came and said ‘Okay, now we want you to do this…’ Literally, me and Chuck had like I was saying before, we had a conversation. ‘Hey, if we do this, we have to go all in, like we have to go [all in].’ Like it’s not going to be anything disgusting or raunchy, so we don’t have to worry about that. But I’m sure that we’re going to do some crazy things just to plant it in people’s minds. And we did. But we had to be on the same page. And we both had to be invested and we both had to do it 100% whether we fall flat on our faces or not.”
Gunn went on to recall one segment on SmackDown where the pair competed in a bikini contest against Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson. The segment featured Billy and Chuck in a series of increasingly homoerotic poses in an effort to out-do their female counterparts. Reflecting on the segment, Gunn admitted that it made him uncomfortable.
“Luckily, at first, the people were a little off kilter of what was going on, especially when I you know, did the thing in the ring and asked him to be my life partner. Everybody just went ‘Oh my god, what is wrestling? This is ridiculous.’ But the funny thing is about two to three months in, I think people realised holy cow, this is pretty good and they’re having a lot of fun.
We did this swimsuit thing with the girls where we did the pose. Oh my God, it was so, I will not lie, it was so uncomfortable. That was one of the things that we went, ‘Hey, this is this is a sink or swim,’ because we had to practise that, they made us do a little rehearsal. Every and I mean, it wasn’t just a few, they all came out, that was the most nerve wracking thing. It wasn’t so much doing the poses and how we were doing it, it was all the boys like, I think that place was full of there wasn’t one person in the back, they all wanted to watch.
But luckily for us, it worked. And we had fun and nobody took it that serious. This business is made to be fun, like it really is. Come on, like, really, you get paid to travel around the world and do something that you love. Like, how stressful can that be?
Yeah, some of the backstage and all that stuff and trying to jockey for position is too much, and I’ve never been into that. I’ve always just said, Hey, my work either speaks for me. And I do it that way. And I’m not gonna go in there and start doing all this politicking and jockey and stuff. It’s too much work for me. I’m having fun. I get a pay check every week,. I get to travel around the world, I get to act like a complete goof. Like where am I gonna find that job? Well, I’m not gonna find that job. So we were having fun.”
Billy Gunn added that it was their performances which pulled people in, before discussing the mainstream coverage that the storyline received.
“We were playing characters that were so outside of us, but people bought in, because it was like, holy cow they’re doing a really good job, so let’s get into this. So you know, so it was it was a lot of fun. It really was, and it was very challenging. And luckily, you know, Chuck was on board, and we pulled it off. And it was something that was really good.
I’ll tell you a funny story, Chuck had told me ‘Oh, my God, you’re not going to believe this.’ And I went what and he goes ‘We’re in Time magazine.’ I said ‘What do you mean?’ I open Time Magazine.
[Chuck says] ‘You know, that’s the President’s magazine, right?’ I didn’t even know the President had a magazine. [Chuck] ‘Yeah, Time Magazine is the President’s Magazine. And we’re in it.’ Because like in the back, like about three quarters of the way through, there was a picture of me and Chuck in there and it goes ‘WWE goes outside bound.’ Or something like that. And he thought it was a greatest thing. And I read it, I said ‘Yeah, this is awesome. This is the President’s magazine.’
It went from us doing one thing, one night to being on Good Morning America, The Howard Stern Show, we did every news outlet there. So people were like wanting to know and they wanted to know what it was. And we just, you know, we did a good job of pulling it off. And it was fun. It really was.”
After it was revealed that the “commitment ceremony” was a scam, and the storyline a publicity stunt, the Priest officiating the ceremony took off his mask revealing was in fact Eric Bischoff. The Raw General Manager then instructed 3 Minute Warning to attack the duo.
Although Billy and Chuck remained together for a time on WWE television, all references to their sexuality were dropped.
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