98. ADRIAN STREET
Aliases – “Exotic”
Hometown – Brynmawr, Wales
Debuted – 1957
Titles Held – NWA Southeast Heavyweight; NWA Americas Heavyweight; NWA Florida Heavyweight
Other Accomplishments – runs the Skull Krushers Wrestling School in Gulf Breeze, Florida; created Mick Foley’s Dude Love costume
As a young man growing up in Wales, Adrian Street was blessed with a good-looking, muscular body, a bantam dynamo at only 5′ 7″. Rather than be trapped into a blue-collar, working-class existence, he decided to capitalize on his best asset. He began posing for the cream of British physique photographers while still a young teenager, becoming a very popular model. Knowing that the lifespan of a popular model was so short, though, Street tried to figure out something to do after his modeling days were over. He came up with a brainstorm that helped create one of wrestling’s longest-lasting character archetypes.
The legend of Gorgeous George was known to wrestling fans all over the world by that point. A man behaving in an overtly feminine fashion, obsessed with his looks more than any “real” man should be, could draw heel heat from typical wrestling crowds. Street, although heterosexual, was immersed in the homoerotic culture of physique photography, where the photographers had no compunction whatsoever about making moves on their models and a good portion of the models were hustler and gay-for-pay types (of course, none of them would admit to anything happening between them, especially in Britain, where homosexual activity could still be punished by prison at the time he was modeling). Street claims that he didn’t start the character until he was established in wrestling, but it always had to have been at the back of his mind. It just needed a push forward, and Street claims that it was the rough British audiences calling him a fairy, among other things, that gave him that push. If that’s what they wanted, he figured, that’s what they’ll get.
He actually entered pro wrestling at the age of 17, anticipating other adolescent British wrestlers who’d follow in his footsteps (Regal, Taylor, Finlay, etc.). Throughout the 1960s, he was one of the most popular wrestlers in the British Isles, and developed his character further, his ring dress becoming more and more outre. Eventually, he determined that he could be a success in the largest market for pro wrestling, moving to the United States. He targeted the American south and southeast, where wrestling seemed to be most popular and where the prevailing blue-collar, macho culture would ensure the success of his gimmick. He wore his hair long at a time when it was a provocation to Southern audiences, and picked up a manager. Miss Linda established a naming convention for female valets that continues to this day. The two also started the tradition of husband-and-wife wrestler/valet teams after they married, although to the audiences, Miss Linda was only Street’s valet. Besides, he couldn’t have had any interest in her in, well, you know, that way, because he was, well, you know…hey, look at the way he dressed, and he wears make-up, and…you can figure out the rest.
At the beginning of our ranking period, 1980, Street was on the verge of turning 40, yet he was still on top of his game. He’d already turned the sleeper hold into a credible finisher. He traveled from federation to federation throughout the south and southeast, amazing the still-markish audiences at every turn. He acted like a prissy bitch during his entrances, but when the bell rang, he could wrestle with the best of them. His most popular nickname was “Exotic”, and he always lived up to that. He fused European wrestling moves with good-old-fashioned American brawling, creating a whole new style which caught on with audiences and other wrestlers. When wrestlers went into the ring with him, they knew he’d carry them to a great match and make them look good.
He’d end up having short title runs in most of the feds where he worked, and he was always a key contributor to each of them. He was a good-luck charm to feds; they always seemed to be at their peak when Street was involved with them. He was in Florida in the late 70s and early 80s when it was the hottest fed in the country. In Memphis, he not only helped Jerry Lawler improve, but he mentored a young Austin Idol. His time in Mid-South helped Cowboy Bill’s territory grow (and got Street on television on a regular basis). His extended time in Ron Fuller’s Southeast Championship Wrestling (later Continental) was fruitful, as he hooked up again with Idol to provide audiences with excitement. In the early 80s, he even branched out from the southeast, spending some time in Los Angeles, where a young Chris Adams learned under him. It was during that period that he even branched into the movies, playing a role in Quest For Fire.
As age finally got to him, he started to work his way out of in-ring competition, although he kept his physique and his hair. He and Miss Linda opened a school in Florida, still a popular training place today. He’s established a second career as a couturier to wrestlers and as an advisor. Wrestlers know that Street is always there to help them, whether it be with a new outfit or a new image. When Dustin Runnels was in the process of creating Goldust, he turned to Street for wardrobe, make-up, and behavior tips. Without Street, Dustin would never have established his most popular and lasting character. When Rico Constantino wanted to do a variation on Street’s character, he went to Street to get permission. He not only got permission, he got key tips, not only in how to behave and dress, but to do things like call Jackie Gayda “Miss Jackie”, to make the tribute complete.
Street has survived a bout with lung cancer (caused, he said, by second-hand smoke). Unfortunately, the chemotherapy cost him his hair for a while. It’s since grown back (mostly), and Street says that if they want him to compete today, even at the age of 66, he can go in the ring and teach some youngster a lesson or two. That’s what a true legend, true influence, and true credit to the industry is, and that’s why he’s in our Top 100.
Adrian Street’s official website is at BizareBazzar.com.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.