Today I’d like to talk about what some may consider a touchy subject. The issue with sexism and racism in wrestling (and TV and sports in general) has been around for decades. For a long time, it was accepted that if you aren’t a white male (like myself), you’re never going to main event a wrestling program, and you’re definitely not going to be “The Man”. You’re not going to win a world title either, but at least you could get lucky and win a women’s or tag team title on the undercard.
Let’s look at some WWE talents who might (but I’m not saying they definitely are/were) be struggling to get over due to them not being Caucasian and American (or at least be able to talk like an American if they are Canadian/British). I still find it a little insulting that British wrestlers are always looked over, and I’m not sure why it didn’t happen, but The British Bulldog should’ve won the WWF title, and William Regal probably deserved a little more as well. I guess it’s more to do with WWE favoring North American talents, because they are easier to market for a company based in the United States.
Titus O’ Neil – I’ve always had the feeling that if Titus O’ Neil was Caucasian, WWE would’ve pushed him as a singles guy instead of sticking him in a tag team with another African-American. The way Vince McMahon got really, really angry over him grabbing his arm at the end of an episode of Raw, still makes me wonder if his sudden rage was brought on by a racist streak. It may not be like John Cena could’ve grabbed his arm and he would’ve reacted the same way? Feels unlikely though.
Yet somehow, I think the way he reacted, and the harsh suspension which meant Titus O’Neil would miss WrestleMania, tells me Vince McMahon wanted to make an example out of him. Titus O’Neil had no choice but to submit and accept he was entirely in the wrong. But it’s not like he went up and punched Vince McMahon in the face, he grabbed his arm, something anyone could’ve done in the heat of the moment.
And as a reward, his old tag team partner got fired so he could manage an African-American in Apollo Crews, who I’ve got to say, has been given nothing since coming up from NXT. His career is suffering big time, although he used to be a big fan favorite in the independents. Now no one gives a crap about Apollo Crews because he’s not been given the chance. And where have I seen that before?
R-Truth – Just another African-American who’s never been treated like a serious competitor in WWE. He was released in his first run with the company, even though I thought he did a good job as K-Kwik (even got to join D-X). TNA Impact Wrestling made him a main eventer, giving him a NWA title reign; before pairing him with Attitude Era stars Road Dogg and Konnan to form the colorful 3LiveKru faction. TNA let Ron Killings evolve into Ron “The Truth” Killings, a guy who could rap, but could also wrestle and be taken seriously.
Aside from one WWE title shot against John Cena, a short tag title reign with Kofi Kingston, and a 21 day reign as United States Champion, R-Truth has been nothing but a clown for the WWE Universe. He’s said many times that he accepts his role, and he doesn’t care about wins or titles so long as he gets to play his part in WWE. While I find those comments to be genuine and understandable (he’s a team player), I believe he would’ve got more opportunities had he not been African-American. John Cena raps for a year and gets a 10+ year push as the top guy. R-Truth does really good raps (all wrote by him too) for years and gets nothing.
Shelton Benjamin – Remember when Shelton Benjamin was one of the top, most underrated athletes in WWE? He’s like the Cesaro of yesteryear. They tried to push him as the “Gold Standard”, but it seemed his mic work wasn’t up to scratch, so they gave him a manager. And not just any old manager no, it was his MOMMA! Remember that big bad booty from his momma? Remember how his momma brought all the other momma’s from the street to dance at WrestleMania?
I can’t believe I remember all that. Shelton Benjamin’s one of those guys who could steal the show every night if he didn’t get stuck in tag teams. Or if his biggest highlights weren’t being booked for Money in the Bank ladder matches so he could almost kill himself for the sake of a highlight reel. It blows my mind how much crap he’s had to take in WWE, and he’s still having to endure.
I’m not saying all African-American talents have been treated this way, though. Mark Henry had a good run as the World Heavyweight Champion, and Booker T is a Hall of Famer. With the current roster, I’d say The New Day are given a lot of freedom (but early on they were portrayed as typical “church preachers”) to flourish, and Naomi has quietly made a name for herself as well. The Velveteen Dream (in NXT) is a good example of a guy who could become the first African-American to win the WWE Championship.
Speaking of the WWE Championship, let’s throw a bunch of “Did You Know?” facts out there:
- When Bruno Sammartino’s second reign ended in 1977, it took 32 years to crown another European-born WWE Champion: which was Sheamus when he beat John Cena in a tables match. This does not include Kane, who was born in a United States airbase in Spain to American parents. Also does not include Andre The Giant, who held the title for a few seconds after a controversial victory over Hulk Hogan.
- There has never been a British WWE Champion in the 55 years the WWE title has been active.
- The longest singles reign of any non-American wrestler was Puerto Rico’s Pedro Morales from 1971-1973. He is very rarely mentioned among the greats.
- Eddie Guerrero was the first wrestler with Mexican heritage to win the title, but the only champion to be born and raised in Mexico was Alberto Del Rio.
- There’s only ever been one Asian-born champion, which was The Iron Sheik as he was born in Iran. Jinder Mahal is the only champion to have Indian heritage (yet is actually Canadian).
- There have been three American-born Samoan champions: Yokozuna, The Rock, and Roman Reigns. And they are all related as part of the Anoaʻi family. Other family members to have made it to WWE include: Sika & Afa (The Wild Samoans), Rocky Johnson, Rikishi, Umaga, Rosey, Tama, Samu, Manu, & The Uso’s.
- There has never been a WWE Champion born, or with the heritage of any South American country.
- There has never been a WWE Champion born, or with the heritage of Japan (Yokozuna represented Japan but was actually Samoan American).
- There has never been a WWE Champion born, or with the heritage of any African country.
- There has never been a WWE Champion born, or with the heritage of any country in Australasia.
And Until Next Time: I’ve got a lot to say on this subject, so I’m not going to try to cram it all in to one piece. In the next part(s) I will talk more about the women and how they’ve been treated over the years. I’ll go into what some fans think about the announcement of a Women’s Royal Rumble match.
I also want to look deeper into the disconnect fans seem to have with Japanese wrestlers. I think there’s a lot to discuss, and I want to thank you for being patient as I plan the next part. And like I said before, sexism & racism isn’t just a wrestling matter, it’s prevalent from TV shows, sports, and hate crimes.
Onto something completely different (just as an outside example), Doctor Who is changing The Doctor to a woman this year, and boy, there’s many so-called “fans” (of both genders) who are pissed off about that. Instead of being a true Whovian and remembering that The Doctor is an alien who travels through space & time in a blue box, they want to complain and say the show is broken without a male lead. And apparently it’s “pandering to feminism”.
All of this, despite it being clear that other Timelords have switched gender before. I know this is way off-topic, but if you go to the Doctor Who Facebook page you’ll find LOTS of disgruntled people who claim they aren’t sexist, but don’t have any proper reasoning behind their judgmental behavior. The women who make these comments are either 1) upset because they don’t have a male lead to lust over, and/or 2) they don’t understand the concept of the show: which is to embrace change and not judge someone based on how they look or sound.
The new doctor hasn’t even had her own episode yet, and apparently Doctor Who is over. And this kind of behavior worries me, not just for Doctor Who, but for any woman looking to play a strong role on a television show that’s been dominated by men. They’re always having to fight to prove they belong, whereas a male star gets praise and adulation with little resistance.
Back to the Japanese subject, I’d like to leave a quote from Vince Russo at the bottom. Is he right? Do Americans really think this way? Is there no room to broaden horizons? Is there no room to let talented people from other parts of the globe, be adored by American audiences? From comments I’ve seen on Asuka, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Hideo Itami, I really, really hate to agree with him, but American patriotism is so strong .. it feels like they are wired not to care for anything else no matter how well anyone can sell it. Thanks for reading! And I hope you will join me again for part 2.
“I’m going to tell you something right now bro, that you will absolutely not agree with, but I’ve been a wrestling fan my whole life and I will live and die by this. It’s hard enough, believe me, I used to write this shit, it is hard enough to get somebody over. You will never, ever, ever, ever, ever see the Japanese wrestlers or the Mexican wrestlers truly be over and draw money in American mainstream wrestling.
And the simple reason for that is, even myself, I’m an American and I don’t want to sound like a big bigot or racist or anything like that, but I’m an American. If I’m watching wrestling here in America, I don’t give a shit about a Japanese guy. I don’t give a shit about a Mexican guy. That’s just the truth. I’m from America, and that’s what I want to see.“