Are These Sexy Photos of 80s Wrestlers or Male Models?

In his first column, Doug Rickard shares some of his found photographs from the most underappreciated decade—and sport.

by Doug Rickard and Alex Norcia
Oct 29 2018, 4:35pm

"These Americans" is a new column from the American artist Doug Rickard, featuring images culled from his vast American archive and streetwear brand. The pictures reveal the United States for what it was, and what it still is.

Before Shepard Fairey put him on the walls of Los Angeles and mass-marketed T-shirts, Andre the Giant famously feuded with Hulk Hogan, before he became the washed-up icon who shut down a digital media company. The French-born wrestler's spat with his bleach-blond American rival culminated in the headlining match of Wrestlemania III, the World Wrestling Federation's third annual pay-per-view event in 1987, when the 1980s professional wrestling boom was at its height. These fake verbal fights, sustained over time in the media, would make their way for one night onto the nation's TVs. For years, Wrestlemania III—a rehearsed performance of athleticism—held the record for the largest audience to attend an indoor event in North America. (It would, in 1999, be beaten by Pope John Paul II's mass at a dome in St. Louis.) It was all a very big deal—and would continue to influence pop culture decades later.

Below is a collection of photos of two distinct professional wrestling tag teams of the time: the Rock 'n' Roll Express, made up of Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton, and the Fabulous Ones, composed of Stan Lane and Steve Keirn. Both are known for popularizing the "pretty boy" look in the sport, and these posed, very nearly sexualized portraits blur the line between fantasy and real-life, between the theater of the whole charade and the intense physical shape these actors actually had to be in.

—Alex Norcia

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Doug Rickard is well known for his appropriation of photography and video and has worked with platforms like Google Street View for his iconic project, A New American Picture, and YouTube for his project, N.A. He's represented by Yossi Milo Gallery in New York City and Little Big Man Gallery in Los Angeles. His work has been exhibited and collected by major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and San Francisco, Centre Pompidou in Paris, and LACMA in Los Angeles. He has produced numerous publications, including A New American Picture by Aperture and N.A. by DAP/Artbook.

Alex Norcia is a staff writer for VICE. Follow him on Twitter.