Paying tribute to the man who split the difference between David Bowie and Buddy Rogers
Wrestling fans remember the late Adrian Street (Dec. 5, 1940- July 24, 2023) as more than a barrel-chested, catch-as-catch-can grappler from Wales.
Before the equally tough Adrian Adonis or the better known Goldust adopted similar characters, Street developed an androgynous persona that amped up the flamboyance of Buddy Rogers (the original Nature Boy and first WWE champion) in a way that milked homophobia for boos.
For rock ‘n’ rollers, Street —alongside manager and real-life wife Miss Linda— looked more like an aspirational figure than an existential threat. Legend has it that the grappler’s glittery makeup and pigtailed blonde locks inspired the likes of David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Elton John. He for sure impacted Black Box Recorder enough for an iconic photo of Street and his coal miner father to make it onto the cover of the British indie rockers’ 1998 album England Made Me. Within wrestling, Street set the template for not just the before-mentioned “gay” characters but also such musical-themed acts as the Fabulous Freebirds and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.
Street embraced presenting as much like a member of Slade as a threat to the NWA world heavyweight champion via a handful of novelty records. His debut single “Breakin’ Bones” (1977) preceded Exotic Adrian Street and the Pile Drivers’ self-released album Shake, Wrestle ‘n’ Roll (1986). Street’s discography elicits the occasional chuckle, mostly through lore-building lines about our would-be Noddy Holder’s in-ring gimmick (press play on “Sweet Transvestite with a Broken Nose,” specifically for the line “I’m like King Kong with lipstick/ Fay Wray with balls”). Amid such silliness there’s genuinely good junkshop glam gems to mine. Braggadocious promos that double as rock stunners, “Imagine What I Could Do to You” and “Merchant of Menace” hold up against the bangers Gentrys member turned wrestling personality Jimmy Hart penned in the ‘80s for WWE and ‘90s for WCW.
VIDEO: Exotic Adrian Street and the Piledrivers “Imagine What I Could Do to You”
Shake, Wrestle ‘n’ Roll got reissued in 2016 by Burger Records. Five years later, Classic Trash Music unearthed a second Street album titled Naughty But Nice. The latter adds dashes of Southern rock (“King & Queen of the USA”) and country (“The Macho Trucker Song,” which is genius) to the ‘70s camp that suited Street’s over-the-top in-ring persona and not-too-shabby singing voice.
“A genre-bending pioneer whose larger-than-life presence and ruthlessness between the ropes changed the wrestling world forever,” wrote WWE CEO Paul “Triple H” Levesque on Twitter in homage to the glam grappler. “Honored to have called Adrian Street a friend.”
“Adrian Street was before his time, a genuine trailblazer and one of the toughest men you could wish to meet,” added WWE superstar Drew McIntyre on his X page. “My thoughts go out to his wife Linda & the rest of his family and friends. RIP.”
In all, full-time glam influencer and part-time lead vocalist Street represented rock in wrestling — Rock ‘n’ Wrestling pun intended— long before Hulk Hogan set aside his bass guitar and shared the WrestleMania spotlight with Cyndi Lauper.
Exotic Adrian Street was 82.