WWE: Two Steps Forward, A Shuck And Jive Back
(Our good friend, and diehard wrestling fan, Gene speaks out on the racial conundrum facing WWE superstars.)
Getting a push as a superstar in World Wrestling Entertainment takes not just talent, but also an exorbitant amount of blood, sweat and perseverance. Getting a respectable push if you’re a superstar of color might well require an act of God.
This has been one of the Fed’s not-so-dirty little secrets throughout the years. To really get any TV time as a Black superstar, one must rely on one of three gimmicks; the aggressive strongman (Ahmed Johnson, Mark Henry, Bobby Lashley, Big E Langston), the money hungry pro-athlete gimmick (MVP, heel Prime Time Players) or have embarrassingly bad and/or insulting angles (babyface Prime Time Players, Cryme Tyme, R-Truth). And if someone wants to bring up Booker T, think back to his only championship reign in WWE. Yes, it was the ridiculous King Booker gimmick.
But anyone that has seen more than one episode of WWE programming knows, this doesn’t only plague Black superstars. Latino superstars not named Rey Mysterio have had to endure everything from being Cholos (Hunico y Camacho), to being cast as a different nationality in a stupid and dated gimmick (Los Matadores). East Asian superstars rarely escape the angle of fiery high flyer that speaks little English (Taka Michinoku, Funaki, Yoshi Tatsu). If you’re Samoan, there’s a 90% chance you’ll be a Wild Samoan (Head Shrinkers, Umaga, the Usos). I cringe when I think of what they do with Middle Eastern superstars (Early Jinder Mahal anyone?). Most wrestlers that try to break that mold either winds up being mid-card for life (Kofi Kingston) or frustrated to the point of leaving (Shelton Benjamin).
Being fair, the Fed has taken baby steps in the right direction in the past few years, and by that I mean the outdated Vince McMahon/John Laurinaitis method of attracting an audience of color. Alberto Del Rio doesn’t come out to the arena in a low rider. Roman Reigns thrives as enforcer of the Shield and not wearing Samoan war paint. Even the Great Khali has broken the federation’s mold, with his longstanding position as a babyface of Indian descent.
But where is the Black equivalent of a Macho Man Randy Savage? Where is an Asian Triple H? Where is the Arab Shawn Michaels, or the Latino Goldberg? I’ll tell you where they’re at, they’re in companies whose initials aren’t WWE. The last vestiges of Vinnie Mac and Johnny Ace influence have to be swept out the door, post haste. If not, the only thing Michael Cole will comment on as far as trending is concerned is the continued downward slope of ratings as people of color will stop watching.