There are countless paths to success when it comes to making it big in the world of professional wrestling. But for one individual, their skills with a needle and thread have earned them more respect than any bump in the ring ever could. Learn the unsung, secret story of Sandra Gray – the mastermind behind the flashy and unforgettable costumes that have brought pro wrestling’s biggest stars to life!
From Needles to the Ring – Sandra Gray: Seamstress to the Stars
With almost 30 years of experience, Sandra Gray is the only seamstress to work for WCW, WWE, and AEW.
Sandra’s garments have been seen by millions worldwide and worn by some of the most prominent figures in the wrestling business.
How a Game of Bingo Changed Her Life
Born in June of 1956 into a military family, Sandra Gray did not have any plans to become part of the pro wrestling industry.
So how did this talented and hard-working dressmaker find her way into the wacky world of professional wrestling? Like a fistfight between two overly competitive grandmothers, it all began with a game of Bingo.
Early Life as an Army Brat
“My love for sewing was quite accidental,” revealed Sandra, speaking to the A2theK Wrestling Show.
“I was an army brat, and when I was a wee teenager, my Mom won a sewing machine playing Bingo on an army base. She could pick whatever gift she wanted: a coffee pot, silverware, or a sewing machine. None of us knew how to sew, but it was the biggest prize on the table.”
“She brought it home and put it on the kitchen table. My sister, Mom, and I started messing with this sewing machine, but it just stuck with me.”
Sandra developed a love for designing and making her own clothing and decided to build a career from her skills.
As she grew older and more experienced as a seamstress, Gray’s main business came from creating wedding and prom dresses.
Helping Sable in a Bind
It was during one busy prom season that Sandra Gray agreed to a rather unusual tailoring request and one that would change her life forever, as she revealed to Tony Schiavone and Aubrey Edwards on the AEW Unrestricted podcast.
“Rena Mero [Sable] went to the local fabric store. She needed a seamstress and asked who could make a costume for her boyfriend. Because I always make friends with people who work in my favorite place, they gave her my name.
“When she called me and explained that her boyfriend needed a costume pretty quickly, and it was for wrestling, I said, ‘I don’t know how to sew on spandex.’ I had no idea! She said she was really in a bind; could you please help?”
Sewing On Spandex
Sandra had no idea what she was getting herself into. She did not know what materials to use or how to cut and sew them.
She wasn’t even a pro wrestling fan.
Eventually, after much trial and error, Sandra put together the future Sable’s order for her future husband, Marc Mero.
Sandra Gray Makes First Wrestling Garment For Marc Mero
Marc Mero was wrestling for WCW under his Johnny B. Badd gimmick, a Little Richard-inspired character at the time.
“I don’t know Johnny B. Badd. I don’t know all this wrestling stuff,” Sandra Gray remembered on the A2theK Wrestling Show.
“I make him a pair of spandex trunks; I don’t know what I’m doing; I have so many issues with it. It looked okay; I thought it was decent for my first time.”
Gray continued, “It was so exciting because it was going to be on TV. My whole family came over, my mom who helped this career kick-off; they all sat there on my sofa, watching my work on the TV.”
Sandra Gray on How Her Excitement Soon Turned to Panic
That excitement Sandra felt seeing her design on television, however, soon became panic as the action began to heat up in the ring.
“You know how they grab you and put you on the turnbuckle?” Sandra began. “They grabbed him on the side where I was having trouble and yanked him on it! Every one of us stood up screaming. We were like, ‘PUT HIM DOWN, PUT HIM DOWN, IT’S GONNA BREAK!’
“[Mero] yanked him up and put him down, but nothing happened; he got through the match. It was so exciting.
“They were proud of me, I was proud of myself, and after that, he called me to thank me, and that kicked off my wrestling career.”
Mero continued to hire Sandra for her costume design talents, which was no small task considering Johnny B. Badd had some of the most elaborate and fantastic ring gear at the time.
Sandra made a few mistakes at the beginning. Mero was patient and kind enough to let her learn and grow, seeing the funny side of mishaps such as his spooky-themed entrance robe at Halloween Havoc ’94, where Johnny B. Badd was scheduled to take on the Honky Tonk Man.
“He wanted a spider on his cape. I couldn’t figure out how many legs a spider has; then it came to me: eight! But I’m so busy trying to make an impression that I made this beautiful sequin cape with eight legs on each side. Sixteen in total.
“I never thought about it,” Gray continued, while as a guest on the AEW Unrestricted Podcast. “I was so proud of myself. I showed it to him, and someone brought it to his attention. At this point, he could have said anything, and he said, ‘That’s a BAAAAAAD spider!’ and I was like, ‘Ohhh, I’m in.'”
Other superstars began requesting Sandra’s services, and it wasn’t before too long that WCW offered her a contract so that her talents stayed exclusively within the company.
Gray began attending weekly tapings, setting up her sewing machine out back, and working on a multitude of outfits for various grapplers for the next few years.
During this time, Sandra created one of her most famous ensembles, which also happens to be one of her least favorites.
One of my most Iconic things for WCW was the blood drip thing for Scott Hall back in the day, and I never liked that outfit,” admitted Gray on the A2theK Wrestling Show.
“Looking back right now, there was no Internet to go to. I couldn’t Google what the drips looked like or anything, so I had to go with what I thought it looked like, and it never looked like blood drips to me.
“It was too skinny here and thick there, and it never occurred to me that they would still be recreating that same exact look today.”
Added Pressure of Total Divas
After the then-WWF purchased WCW in 2001, Sandra Gray crossed over and set up shop behind the curtain of WWE.
Gray would remain away from the spotlight for the next twelve years when, all of a sudden, she found herself thrust into it thanks to the brand new E! TV show, Total Divas, a reality series that followed the female wrestlers of the World Wrestling Entertainment.
Of course, being the outfit maker for the wonderfully attired WWE Divas, Sandra appeared multiple times in the show. Although she found it fun, there were moments when she felt the pressure, thanks to the added intensity of a camera crew.
One such moment took place at WrestleMania 29.
Stressful WrestleMania 29
“I had my mom with me, and I taught her how to glue rhinestones on. She’s still my rhinestone diva at 83 and helps me with that,” said Gray on the AEW Unrestricted Podcast.
“I had to do outfits for the Bellas and the Funkadactyls. They were going to be completed at the show. I had plenty of time, but they kept coming to check on me.
“That drove me crazy. ‘Stop checking on me; I’m gonna do it! Just stop checking on me.'”
She continued her tale. “It was ridiculous; they drove me crazy with all their walking back and forth, and my poor mom was sitting there gluing rhinestones, and we had a few heated words between us when it came to the last minute. I had the outfits ready, but it was stressful!”
Drama For the Total Divas Show
After all that, the match, which would see The Bella’s team up with Damian Sandow and Cody Rhodes to take on Naomi, Cameron, Brodus Clay, and Tensai, was cut at the last minute.
Some have even theorized it was bumped purely to create more drama for the Total Divas show.
Cody Rhodes reflected on the scenario in an interview with Ariel Helwani.
“It did get cut at the eleventh hour, but after some Jesse Venture-style conspiracy theory on it, I don’t think the match was ever supposed to happen because they were filming ‘Total Divas’ at the time, and that was a big plot thread. That makes me more mad if I’m like a lamb to slaughter for ‘Total Divas.’
“People liked ‘Total Divas,’ it’s still the standard in terms of doing these wrestling reality shows. I would have been like, ‘Let me in, let me make a scene. Let me be part of that.'”
Speaking of Cody, he and his brother Dustin Rhodes (formerly Goldust in WWE) formed quite a close relationship with Sandra over the years, a friendship that would continue after Gray and WWE parted ways in 2015.
AEW Comes Calling for Sandra Gray
“My husband was extremely ill, and my contract [with WWE] was about to expire right around the same time, so they decided not to re-sign me. I needed to be home with my husband anyway, so everything worked out perfectly.
On the AEW Unrestricted Podcast, Sandra Gray continued. “A few years went by, his health got better, and I never stopped doing wrestling gear.
“In my spare time, people were still coming to me to make gear. I never really missed a beat. So when AEW came calling, I was like, “Ohhh, let’s get back to it!”
That call came from Cody, but it was quite a bittersweet experience for Gray when, after a couple of years, he decided to return once again to WWE.
Cody Rhodes’ Robes
“I’m super proud of [Cody Rhodes] for headlining WrestleMania,” Gray admitted.
“When he brought me to AEW, it was a super big deal because he didn’t hesitate; he said this is going to be your department. I was so proud of him for doing that and giving me that opportunity; I have to make sure I do my very best for him and anyone who comes to me because this department represents his trust in me. I never want to let him down.
“The day he left, I found out in the airport, which literally made me cry. I was so upset and heartbroken at the fact he wouldn’t be there anymore because he gifted me this position.”
Sandra Gray on Her Friendship with Cody Rhodes
Cody may have no longer been with AEW, but Sandra still designed his garments for the biggest stage of them all.
“I don’t understand. I probably still don’t, but I know he wouldn’t have made that decision [to leave AEW and return to WWE] unless he had given it a lot of thought. So, I respect him for his decision, and I’m so proud of him right now.
“It’s like I’m watching my son, I’m watching my baby on the biggest screen, so of course, it’s my esteemed privilege being the one to make sure he looks damn good every step of the way coming down that ramp.”
That doesn’t mean Sandra didn’t make new friends within AEW. One somewhat unexpected companion, and the person Sandra cites as her favorite person to design for in the company, is Maxwell Jacob Friedman.
Sandra Gray and MJF: Wrestling’s Odd Couple
“I remember sitting in catering when we first started AEW,” recalls Sandra Gray on the A2theK Wrestling Show. “I sat down with [MJF], and I [overheard] Wardlow talking about robes and stuff like that, and he mentioned he wanted to do something like the blood drips of Scott Hall.
“He had no idea; I was overhearing his conversation. I said, ‘You know I was the one who created that, right?'”
“The thing I like most about MJF is that it always catches me by surprise with the color combinations he wants to put together.
“The first one, I think, was like a baby puke, green and pink. Everything has to work with Burberry.
“I’m always holding my breath and cringing, thinking, ‘How am I supposed to make this look good? This man is trusting me to put this all together and make it work.
“When he says to me, ‘You ready for the next color?’ I’m literally holding my breath.”
The Real MJF, According to Sandra Gray
MJF had a reputation for keeping up his heel persona in and out of the ring, refusing to act kind and polite to anyone, including his mother!
So, it truly is a sign of respect that the only person that MJF had been seen on camera treating with dignity and affection during his heel run in All Elite Wrestling was Ms. Sandra Gray.
In 2006, Sandra Gray was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Speaking of this scary journey in her life, on Twitter, Gray wrote, “Eight months of chemotherapy and thirty consecutive days of radiation, I fought for my life, and with the grace of God, I won my battle. I’m a survivor.”
Legacy of Sandra Gray
That love and respect appear to be a sentiment carried within everyone, whether it was in WCW, WWE, or AEW.
When Sandra decided to retire from full-time costume design in June of 2023, AEW managed to repay her with an on-air send-off befitting of the legendary tailor.
Although Gray has ended her career working exclusively full-time for wrestling companies, she still makes the time to ensure that her favorites have something to wear, including Cody Rhodes. She has been making his attire for years and will continue to do so even in her retirement.
Her three-decade-long body of work is more than enough to cement her place in pro wrestling history.
Hopefully, we will continue seeing more of Sandra’s glorious attire on various wrestlers for years to come.
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