Pro wrestling has a way of sending those that step into the ring down unexpected paths. Career-defining moments and entire legacies have spawned from happy accidents or in-jokes among those behind the curtain. Such subversions can create magic out of the unforeseen that transcends the boundaries of the wrestling ring, showcasing the artform’s unique fluidity.
One such case is Leo London. The Winnipeg-based Premier Championship Wrestling favorite built himself in the image of the British catch wrestlers and the sublime early years of Pro Wrestling Noah while growing up in Greece. Names like Johnny Saint, William Regal and Mitsuharu Misawa gave London the blueprint for who he wanted to be once he decided to enter the ring.
London built himself into a crisp technical wrestler and multiple-time tag team champion with his brother, David London, once returning to his native Canada. He became a go-to opponent for current AEW and Impact Wrestling world champion Kenny Omega when he appeared on PCW shows. London’s reputation earned him interest from American independent promotions prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
But if you ask London, the best bit of his career had little to do with his wrestling acumen: The Gentlemen’s Club. “It’s probably the thing I’m most proud of in my career because of the message it got to tell,” London said on the Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring.
The Gentlemen’s Club was a stable London formed alongside his brother, David, and fellow wrestler Alix Vanna whose creation came simply from the trio thinking it would be a laugh. But that bit of humor quickly developed into a story exploring LGBTQ identities and polyamory that left London changed for the better.
“We thought it would get heat, honestly, because wrestling fans don’t always have the best reputation for being open with queer personalities,” London said. “We thought ‘what if we weren’t together like a group. What if we were together: the two of us in a relationship with Alix Vanna.”
They ran with idea, planting kisses on Vanna’s cheeks during their entrance and weaving the nature of their relationship into their in-ring presentation until the fans began to put two and two together. To their collective surprise, the fans’ reaction to The Gentlemen’s Club was the complete reverse to their expectations. They grew to love Winnipeg’s favorite throuple to the point that the eventual breakup of the stable elicited intense reactions.
But The Gentlemen’s Club impacted more than London’s in-ring career. It also empowered him to come out publicly as LGBTQ, something he hadn’t felt a desire to do up to that point. “For them to be so welcoming to the idea of a gay polyamorous relationship made me feel really comfortable about coming out and talking about my sexuality,” London said. “None of that would have been possible without the storyline with Alix Vanna.”
The Gentlemen’s Club also opened London’s eyes to the importance of having actual LGBTQ wrestlers portray LGBTQ characters in the ring. “I felt it important at that time to come forward with who I was so people knew we weren’t just playing these characters,” London said. “It’s more impactful when it comes from a queer person, and, even though I don’t identify as gay, I thought it was important to come forward and say whatever it that I am, even though I haven’t quite nailed down what that is yet.”
Listen to the full interview with Leo London on the Outsports podcast LGBT In The Ring. Download and listen to new episodes every Thursday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and all other podcast platforms.