"Gorgeous" George Wagner is undoubtedly a pioneer in the professional wrestling industry, one of the first truly great heels who inspired an entire generation of wrestlers and helped build the foundation for what we see today. He's also largely credited with not only getting wrestling on TV but being a big part of the reason folks even bothered to purchase television sets.
John S. Nash chronicled his small screen debut in a Wrestling with the Past entry:
"Ladies and gentlemen, Gorgeous George is here."
You sit up a little.
And now you see... him. And it goes without saying, you have never seen anyone like Gorgeous George before. Dressed in a flowing robe, with long, meticulously blonde curled hair, put up in some elaborate woman's hairdo ("The Marcel" done by Frank and Joseph of Hollywood, as you are informed later). He walks, no, he struts towards the ring, pausing to disdainfully wave at the booing audience, peering down his nose at them as he does so. An expletive from the crowd is met with the reply "peasants."
Once at the ring, his opponent, the crowd, and you are all forced to wait, as first his valet sprays the ring down with something called Chanel Number 10 ("why be half-safe?") and then assists the Toast of the Coast, the Sensation of the Nation, the Human Orchid in carefully removing the platinum "Georgie pin" from his now flowing locks. During the whole proceeding he is showered with boos.
Your frustration only grows as he recoils from the touch of the referee who has come to check his person for foreign substances. "Get your filthy hands off of me!", he yells in disgust. Eventually he concedes to be examined, but only after the referee's hands have been disinfected. Even then, the match is further delayed as his valet assists him in removing a robe that costs more than your car. Just one of the 88 that he owns, you are told.
Man, how you want to see this man lose.
On top of being a mega-star in his day, George inspired the careers of so many others, like Muhammad Ali, perhaps the most famous boxer of all time thanks in large part to the character he created after conversations with George.
And while many have attempted to imitate him, no one has ever been able to duplicate him.
JBL, who knows more on the subject than I ever could, released a video a few months ago in which he calls George the greatest heel of all time.
George died on this date in history but his memory and impact on the business we all know and love lives on.