Taken in 1973 at Beynon colliery South Wales this photo of wrestler ‘Exotic’ Adrian Street was once described by Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller as “Shocking”. It has since taken on a life of it’s own so much so that Street himself describes it as the picture that “Won’t shut it’s gob”.
Street is pictured with his father, Emrys, at the pit head while the rest of the shift are seen in the cage behind them. After leaving school Adrian had worked that shift with his father, but soon had enough. He left to go to London and become a wrestler, a move that was greeted with ridicule by the rest of the miners.
Always into fitness Street found some work as a model for bodybuilding magazines in the mid 50s, and did other odd jobs before he got his first booking as a wrestler in 1957. By 1960 he was on the books of Dale Martins one of the biggest promoters in Europe. It was also around this time that he invented his Exotic gimmick.
In those days British wrestling was taken a lot more seriously. Rather than the fast showy style of today back then wrestling was more about technical grappling, and for the most part no one really had a gimmick. Street decided to try stand out from the crowed, he bleached his hair and got powder blue shorts and matching robe. Trying to emulate the look of wrestlers from American magazines.
The change of image didn’t quite work out as expected, rather than be seen as tough but attractive the British audience saw a effeminate man in, almost, drag. As he walked to the ring he was showered with abuse. Rather than show how upset he was Street camped it up, blew kisses, skipped around the ring and got the biggest reaction of his career.
By 1973 Street’s character was one of the biggest villains, or heels, in Wrestling. The character also started to reflect the times, the glam rock explosion and the fears some people had about sexual ambiguity. Street’s gimmick was right for the times and he won the European Middleweight Championship.
The press wanted a photo to go with the story of his victory, and Street took them back to Beynon, back to the pit.
So in full ring garb and makeup The Exotic One stands at the pit head with his father title belt around his waist and his lips in mid pout. A jarring image of revenge or of the boy made good. It’s hard to tell.
This wasn’t the end of Street’s career after moving to the US in 1983 he had a successful run with a few promotions, along side this he created a business creating ring attire as well as running his own Wrestling school. His last match was in 2010 meaning that he wrestled in seven decades, a feat that few if any can match.