Orlando Jordan: Out, Bi & Proud Bi Wrestler

This originally appeared in BCN issue 102.

Dan Howells looks across the pond for a role model

To call yourself, as Orlando Jordan of Total Non-stop Action does, “Simply The Greatest”, takes quite a lot of ego. But then, even for a 6-foot-4, seventeen-stone former boxer, it takes a very large ego to walk out to a professional wrestling ring in Florida dressed in bright pink shorts, boots and elbow pads. But it’s what he does for a living. Orlando Jordan is, at least as far as we can tell, the world’s only openly bisexual professional wrestler.

But it’s hard to tell that from his on-screen presentation. On more than one occasion, his – presumably scripted – lechery, aimed at male and female co-workers alike has met with audible bafflement. No matter the justification, and no matter the pay, it must be hard to hear your opponents and commentators both uttering the phrase “I don’t know what he is” on international television.

It’s a shame, really, because he’s tried to tell them – coming down to the ring with  someone acting as his girlfriend and his actual, real-life boyfriend, and sitting on a small stage draped with the bisexual logo and even the bi flag. But the dreaded b-word itself is not used – merely a coded reference to his sexuality on the company’s website which describes him as “eccentric”.

This is not to say that TNA are mistreating him. Far from it – anyone who’s seen the company’s shows will know his name and, if pushed, will admit his in-ring skills. Nor has he been blocked by previous employers, either – Jordan has held titles in Italy’s N.W.E and the corporate behemoth that is World Wrestling Entertainment. Now,  I concede that you don’t “win” a wrestling title, in the normal sense of the word.  But carrying a title belt remains a great honour – because it means your employer wants to write stories around your skills, and that those skills can promote the company and to get more backsides in more seats than anybody else. Jordan is a star by anyone’s reckoning.

But there’s a catch. I’ve watched successive wrestling writers simply fail to take advantage of Jordan’s unique attributes. Without a simple, positive stereotype to slot him into, without a way to make him palatable to fans across the USA and the world,Jordan keeps on getting turned into just another slightly unpleasant wrestler with a “gay” gimmick, and it’s starting to hurt his career. If he can never turn “face”, because writers across the industry cannot bring themselves to paint the bisexual as a hero, then it’s very unlikely that he’ll ever make serious money.

Which is a pity. Because I’d quite like to live in a world where Orlando Jordan’s face grinned back at you from billboards and t-shirts, everywhere you looked. It would be a more accepting place – of bisexuals, of people wearing bright pink, and of people who, every now and again, wanted to see a powerfully built young man pretending to fight.

Orlando Jordan appears courtesy of TNA Wrestling, which can be seen in the UK on the Extreme Sports Channel and on Bravo.