One of the more infamous angle in recent WWE history was when Big Vito portrayed a cross-dresser and wore a dress everywhere. Some wrestlers may see this as a punishment but Vito embraced the gimmick and ran with it.
He discussed how it all came about when he spoke to Wrestling Inc. on our WINCLY podcast.
"When you are a good worker or a great wrestler…I was polished, I had the experience and I had the know-how. Maybe people can understand this: When Dusty Rhodes was given the common man, they put him in polka dots and said it was a rig. So, they put Vito in a dress and some say it was a rig. Dusty made it the best gimmick ever and I made [the dress] one of the best gimmicks ever," said Vito.
Unsurprisingly, the dress gimmick was a Vince McMahon idea and Stephanie had input as well. Vito talked about what the McMahons wanted out of him with the gimmick.
"It was Stephanie and Vince that came up to me after a TV taping and said we have an idea for you: what do you think of wearing a dress? I said if that's what you want me to do, I'll do it," stated Vito. "They said, 'Do you think you could pull it off and wear it every day?' I said, 'Yeah.'
"It was probably one of the last kayfabe gimmicks that ever was done in the WWE. I wore it. I went out in it. I traveled in it. I became the most recognizable pro athlete in sports as everywhere I went, everyone knew who I was. I posed in Playgirl. I did a lot of great things and did TV openings and talk [shows]. That gimmick was ahead of its time because it stood for a lot of things."
Vito said the gimmick really resonated with a lot of people even he even had battered women reaching out to him. He also had some men reach out to him and say they were jealous that they couldn't get away with doing what he was doing.
"It was a soul-searching thing that taught me a lot about life in general. You learn about yourself as a man and a human being. I wouldn't change it for the world and I wished it lasted for a couple more years," revealed Vito.
"Probably the most discouraging thing about it was when I was supposed to have a championship match with King Booker and they substituted me for The Undertaker and nobody could understand. I had so much going for me and was undefeated. If we would have meshed and knocked heads, wouldn't it have been worthy to having a man wearing a dress as the heavyweight champion of WWE?"
We don't know if any current WWE Superstars have been approached with similar gimmicks, but we do know many Superstars are frustrated with WWE Creative. Vito talked about the current state of WWE and what it's lacking.
"I watch the product but I have to turn it off because it's unwatchable. The only believable guy I get a kick out of watching is Brock Lesnar," stated Vito. "This is not to insult anybody there because you are all working hard, but you are handcuffed because you can't go out there and be who you want to be."
Vito said there are no "A" players outside of Lesnar and there are talents that should have gotten pushes but were pushed into second tier levels. He cited Jinder Mahal as an example of a guy who learned how to be a world champion and was an ass kicker, but in the end he got buried.
"Kevin Owens is an interesting guy. As a part of a group with Jericho – phenomenal. When he did his thing with The New Day, even though it was short, I thought it was a great stint. When he did his thing with Sami Zayn, that wasn't too bad," said Vito. "But putting him as a singles, they didn't use him to his potential. Now they're starting to make him do this CM Punk thing and speaking his mind, but once they get tired of it they are gonna bury him again."
Vito then said that The Club is cool but have been booked as a comedy act which hurts them and AJ Styles for being aligned with them. He added that guys need to do something different that is off script to get attention.
"You can't be afraid. If you are afraid to excel in the ring, that's what holds you back and that's what holds a lot of guys back," said Vito. "Look at Braun Strowman – he's the biggest guy there and is turning over trucks and buses. You mean to tell me this guy hasn't won a world championship once? They put him in those comedy things and that ruined him."
In addition to his work in the ring, Vito has also gotten into acting and he talked about wrestlers transitioning to TV and movies.
"The wrestling business has changed so much and it's more entertainment. You see more and more wrestlers trying to get into the movie business and trying to get action films. It only helps you prepare for your future," said Vito. "Today, with the way the industry is set up, wrestling is not gonna last forever whereas back in my day you were gonna wrestle until you were 100.
"But the entertainment business has evolved to where it includes movies, commercials and doing other aspects in the industry which helps you prepare for life after wrestling which is a great thing."
Vito then shared some advice to those currently wrestling as they prepare for their next careers.
"If it's AEW, WWE or any of the organizations, my advice would be to venture out while you do your wrestling career. Everybody gets so caught up in their wrestling that they forget about Part II and III. I would suggest that everybody start to look at II and III and see what you can get outside the business to help enhance your growth as not only an entrepreneur but as a human being and as a businessman," said Vito.
Big Vito stars in the new movie The Church, an indie horror thriller from first time director and writer Dom Frank, which is now available ONDEMAND through your cable provider, all Digital formats and DVD.
Vito's full interview with Wrestling Inc aired as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post. In it Vito discusses his role in the horror film The Church, his transition from pro wrestling to film, his pro wrestling career path, his WWE "dress gimmick", advice to WWE Superstars who are creatively frustrated, why he's not a fan of the WWE 24/7 Championship and more.