The internet knows the power of Joey Ryan's penis. Before signing to cable's Lucha Underground earlier this year, professional wrestling's "King of Sleaze" became a viral sensation when he defeated a supposedly gay Japanese competitor with little more than a hip-thrust!
Though Ryan admits the match ending "sounded like a scene from South Park" when proposed, he had no idea the concept's ridiculousness would make him the darling of the world wide web. And, Ryan concedes, he certainly didn't expect to elicit a "homophobic" response from one of sports entertainment's most iconic personalities.
Lucha Underground Wrestling's "The King of Sleaze" Joey Ryan
"Japan is a little different than the United States," Ryan said, explaining the genesis of his now-infamous 2015 match with the country's Danshoku Dino. "He plays the very over-the-top, stereotypical gay stuff where he tries to freak out his opponents by grabbing their dicks and doing weird things to them."
A series of press conferences built audience anticipation for the Dino/Ryan clash. The pending battle between an overtly homoerotic persona and Ryan's own sex-laced character, reminiscent of '70s era straight male porn stars, captured fans' imaginations and made Japanese headlines.
"We're two sexual-based characters," said Ryan during a sit-down interview after a Feb. 26 All-Pro Wrestling show in Daly City, CA. "Going into the match, we decided we wanted to really do something with it, to play off it."
Because of the level of hype, both combatants knew the match needed to be special. Ryan never expected his opponent's suggestion, though.
In matches, Dino is notorious for manhandling opponents' genitals. He frequently debilitates Japanese grapplers by grabbing their crotches during common wrestling moves such as armdrags and suplexes. In a radical departure, he suggested the hold have no impact on his opponent from the United States.
"He said, 'Maybe you no-sell, because American cock is so big and so strong,'" Ryan recalled.
Joey Ryan Dickmatizes His Japanese Opponent
Sitting across from Ryan, I admittedly started laughing. Loudly. Call me unprofessional if you will, but he acknowledged it sounded as ludicrous to him at the time as it did when repeating it.
Regardless, the duo went with the idea. To add his own flavor, during the ensuing outrageousness Ryan suggested he "Hulk up" (a nod to '80s World Wrestling Federation-era Hulk Hogan, who suddenly impervious to an opponent's attacks, turns the tides and wins decisively). A thrust of his furry pelvis later, Ryan would pick up the victory.
"And that's how it played out, which really looks hysterical," stated Ryan. "It caught on and went viral."
Indeed, the internet exploded. "Wrestler Joey Ryan finishes off opponent using his penis," New York Daily News reported. In the United Kingdom, The Mirror announced, "Fighter uses his PENIS to defeat opponent in world's most bizarre wrestling move."
The crushing maneuver even gained a name. Initially known as "The Penis Plex," it's been re-branded the "YouPorn Plex" after the adult website snatched Ryan up as a celebrity endorsement for its sports fetish category.
It apparently also caught the attention of cable's El Rey Network. Ryan debuted on the company's original, wrestling-themed program Lucha Underground, which returned to Weds. night broadcasts earlier this year. Competing under his own name, he plays a member of the Los Angeles Police Department infiltrating the pro wrestling operation to gain information about its storyline creator Dario Cueto.
Watch: Joey Ryan's Lucha Underground Promo
It's hard to argue with a spot on a nationally broadcast television program, an endorsement deal (no matter one's thoughts on the product) and becoming one of pro wrestling's most discussed entities. Most responses to Ryan's new-found celebrity, it appears, have been positive.
However, not everyone is onboard. One individual who appears to be anything but a Joey Ryan fan is iconic professional wrestling manager Jim Cornette.
During the '80s, Cornette led two variations of The Midnight Express to World Tag Team championships in the National Wrestling Alliance. In the '90s, he managed World Wrestling Federation champion Yokozuna. He later held on-air roles in Ring of Honor, Total Nonstop Action and Ohio Valley Wrestling among others. (And, as a point of full disclosure, he remains one of my all-time favorite industry personalities.)
During his storied four-decade career, Cornette has never shied away from public controversy or speaking his mind. Thusly, it came as little shock when he levied an opinion when Twitter fans asked about Ryan.
"Won't watch video," Cornette tweeted, "But from pic @JoeyRyanOnline appears to enjoy standing over men w/his dick in their face."
"What an incredibly homophobic thing to say," Ryan shot back via social media, "You're a real piece of shit."
"When I first read it, I was like, 'So what if I do? Is that wrong? Is that bad?'" said Ryan, explaining his reaction. "Maybe he didn't mean it that way -- using 'gay' as an insult to me -- but I feel like he needs to be a little more responsible, because he does have a legion of fans."
"If [Cornette] is going around using that as an insult, then they think it's ok," continued Ryan. "It creates bigotry."
It should be noted, Ryan is not gay. In fact, in Feb. 2016, he proposed to long-time girlfriend/fellow professional wrestler Laura James in a wrestling ring after an inter-gender match at an independent wrestling show.
However, Ryan has a long history of involvement with the LGBT community. On RuPaul's Drag Race, he coached contestants during a Season 3 pro wrestling-themed challenge. "Obviously they are performers at heart," he said of the experience, "But I think they surprised even themselves at how well they could do in the ring."
Joey Ryan's "Coming Out Promo" for Wrestling Retribution Project
Further, Ryan was signed to play gay character "Chase Walker" in un-released episodes of upstart Wrestling Retribution Project. For that character, Ryan wanted to do something he has never before seen in pro wrestling.
"In the past, with characters like Goldust and Orlando Jordan, gay characters have always been creepy or weird, using their sexuality to freak other wrestlers out," he stated. "I wanted to have a character that fought the good fight, did well for himself and just so happened to be gay."
While the project never took off, Ryan says the character's values and persona more accurately reflect gay athletes. Comments like Cornette's on Twitter, he suggests, undermine that reality and draw negative response from those unwilling to accept members of the LGBT community as people and athletes.
"Trying to use 'gay' as an insult doesn't necessarily mean he is homophobic," Ryan countered when I shared my own, limited interactions with Cornette have indicated he embraces all people, "But it was a homophobic thing to say."
Though he concedes even just his one response to Cornette possibly drew more attention to the matter than deserved, Ryan says being a celebrity, athlete and role model -- whether intentional or not -- comes with responsibility. He fears the wrestling legend's fans "might misconstrue" the comment as a condemnation of the LGBT community and use it to support or fuel their own hatred.
"It is just going to create something that doesn't need to be created," Ryan said of Cornette's seeming insult. "Especially if he actually doesn't feel that way."
Watch "The King of Dong Style" Joey Ryan Weds. Nights on El Rey Network's Lucha Underground. Check Local Listings for Times/Availability.
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