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Jim Cornette needs to admit it: He was wrong on Sonny Kiss

jim cornette
Credit: Destina

Jim Cornette will never, in the vein of his podcast nemesis, Donald Trump, apologize for anything, even when he is wrong. But Cornette, in his May 30 comments about AEW undercard wrestler Sonny Kiss, and his June 6 defense of those comments, is wrong.

First, to the original comments. Cornette was reviewing the AEW “Double or Nothing” show, and as you’d expect, if you know Cornette, he wasn’t going to have a lot positive to say.

Cornette has kept up a one-sided beef with AEW stars Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks for years, supposedly because he thinks their work “exposes” the business – ironic, considering that the massive popularity of his podcasts is based on him offering inside perspective on how the professional wrestling business works.

Kiss, an out gay wrestler, found himself in the line of fire here because he was a participant in the opening match on “Double or Nothing,” a poorly conceived and even more poorly executed battle royal.

Here’s how Cornette described his entrance into the match on his May 30 podcast:

“Then here comes Sonny Kiss, who apparently got off his day job at the drag-show at the fucking Tropicana. They’re not explaining any of this. The transvestite, or exotico, as they would say at AAA.”


Predictably, a mini-firestorm erupted, inflamed initially by a series of tweets from Joey Ryan, a wrestler with whom Cornette has had a long-standing public rivalry, and who clearly was using Cornette’s botched statements as a kick in the shins.

Cornette, not one to leave well enough alone, used his June 6 podcast to double down.

“I do want to say to Sonny Kiss and his boyfriend, who I’m not acquainted with either, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, but if you’re going to be in the wrestling business, people are going to say a lot worse things,” Cornette said. “If I’ve hurt Sonny’s feelings by using the term transvestite, which I thought since it’s in the dictionary, I thought they left the dirty words out, or insinuating that he might have worked at the drag show, then I do feel bad about that.

“But here’s also the thing: if I do go to the drag show, and, in the chorus line, out comes a guy dressed like a wrestler, am I not allowed an explanation there, too? It’s all context. If you’re going to have a flamboyant gimmick, whether it’s based on your real life or not, you’re going to have to expect people to comment on it.”

Kiss’ fiancé, Killian McMurphy, who is also an out gay wrestler, said on a guest appearance on the “Total Engagement with Matt Koon” podcast that he wouldn’t say Cornette “was or is homophobic.”

McMurphy said he has been a devoted Cornette podcast fan, and knows where Cornette is politically – a committed, loud liberal, who has also been out front on LGBTQ+ issues.

“I know how he feels politically, and I can’t say he’s homophobic. What he said was homophobic, and you don’t have to be a shitty person to say shitty things,” McMurphy said.

To be clear, the “shitty things” include the terms Cornette seems to think are OK because they’re in the dictionary.

He wasn’t describing Kiss as a “transvestite” as much as he was using the word to insult; he didn’t bring up the term “drag show” to let on that he thought Kiss had actually just gotten off work from a drag show, but, again, was using the term to belittle.

The other of the “shitty things” is the notion that AEW announcers had erred by not explaining Kiss as a gay character when he made his first appearance in the ring.

“The line that really got me was him saying that Sonny as a feminine man had to justify his presence,” McMurphy said. “His homophobia came from the fact that he was looking for justification as to why Sonny portrayed himself as he did. But that’s Sonny. That’s the person, Sonny the performer isn’t a thing that exists. And I’m sure Jim doesn’t realize this. He’s attacking the character of Sonny Kiss, but I’m sure he doesn’t realize that he’s attacking Sonny Kiss’ character.”

Cornette, and his podcast co-host, Brian Last, clumsily trotted out the “we have gay/trans friends” defense, and Cornette also read a lengthy letter from an out gay fan in Ireland who said Cornette’s stance supporting LGBTQ+ equal rights had convinced him to become a fan of the wrestling business again.

That’s admirable. Cornette’s outspoken criticism of Trump is admirable. You wouldn’t think it would be good for business to be a loud liberal in the wrestling business, but the success of Cornette’s podcast will tell you that he’s found a nice niche in being open and honest about what he’s thinking and what he has to say.

Sonny Kiss was collateral damage here. That’s clear. His real target was AEW, and a show that he wasn’t going to like, and didn’t, and in the process of telling us what he didn’t like, and why, he hurled insults at everybody on the card, and people who he presumed would have a problem with him pointing out everything he saw as being wrong with the show.

His use of “drag show” and “transvestite” as insults was over the line. His insistence that the announce team needed to explain that Kiss is gay was over the line.

It’s not easy for a guy like Cornette to confront being wrong on something, but, he’s wrong here.

“I would reach out with ‘I get it, I understand, but it’s antiquated terminology,’“ McMurphy said. “A homophobic slur? I don’t even know if it’s that. I would explain to him that a person acting feminine doesn’t need to be justified. I wish there was a more profound way to say that, but there isn’t. Somebody doesn’t need to justify their sexuality to you.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press