Picking and choosing what to write about when it comes to pro-wrestling can be a daily struggle.
There are some days when you scrape up what you can and make something out of it and there are days where the news comes fast and heavy and there you are, either talking about the debut of Sting in WWE or Emma boosting an iPod case at a Wal-Mart.
Most of the juicy bits you speculate about (and that’s the thing when it comes to this business – pure speculation) is pretty fun to write about.
The mainstream media doesn’t really cover (much less like) pro-wrestling all that much unless we’re talking about a famous wrestler who’s died or steroids or they’ve done something wrong or Vince McMahon is on the verge of losing all his money and being out on the street…or when WWE has committed some perceived act of egregiousness.
And, when they do cover these things, it’s a mild hatchet job at best.
One has to look no further than the saga of Warrior, who dropped dead of a massive heart attack. Nutso, victim-chasing journalist, Nancy Grace, declared it the work of steroids before anything had been officially determined and even implied that Owen Hart died of the same thing.
This type of careless journalism has, unfortunately, become more and more frequent due to the fact that the major networks and news outlets seem more concerned with being first to break a story and report it and less concerned with telling their viewers/readers the facts when they learn them.
The latest offender is Dion Beary of The Atlantic, who wrote a piece which has appeared on several wrestling sites and blogs and has wrestling fans talking.
Entitled, “Pro-Wrestling is Fake, But Its Race Problem Isn’t”, Beary dives into the ugly side of WWE and proposes the tired theory that WWE is racist because black people are mistreated.
Beary’s points, when examined at face value, are pretty damning:
- Newbie “Rusev” squashed almost nothing but black wrestlers at first and that WWE noticed this and changed it up with white guys.
- Most of WWE’s black wrestlers are jobbers, gigantic stereotypes, or they’re just not significant (not on TV)
- No black person has ever held the WWE Championship
Before we continue, I realize what I’m getting into. This is a sticky issue and one that isn’t, if you’ll excuse the expression, black and white.
It’s not that I’m moving to deny Beary’s overall claims. Racism does exist in WWE — just not on the surface.
For instance, Beary completely misrepresents the situation with Rusev. In his article, Beary implies that Rusev has “been squashing black wrestlers almost exclusively since his debut” and makes it sound like WWE realized that they were being racist and sent white guy, Zack Ryder, out to even things up.
Except, that’s not even close to the truth.
I don’t write my RAW/Smackdown/Main Event recaps for this site. I do that for my own blog. Not only do I possess the ability to check my own archives, there’s also the “Internet Wrestling Database” which will validate the fact that the first person Rusev ever faced on WWE Television (read: Raw) was Zack Ryder. The next person after that was Sin Cara.
As booking Rusev to squash the same guys week after week becomes stale, Rusev was finally booked to take on R-Truth and Xavier Woods for a few weeks. Then came Kofi Kingston for a couple matches. Yes, all three of those men are black.
“The more pressing question,” Beary says “is why are so many of the black dudes jobbers?”
Well first, according to the Internet Wrestling Database, 6 out of the 10 guys Rusev has faced are all white or of other descent. This includes guys like Heath Slater, Rob Van Dam, and Zack Ryder.
In the case of Xavier Woods, he just wasn’t a hit with the fans. Myself, I like Woods, but I don’t think he’s got what it takes to make an impact in WWE. There’s no “IT factor”. There are several fans out there who feel the same as I do. It happens — and not just to black wrestlers. It’s happened with guys like Alex Riley and Sin Cara who end up earning their checks in other ways.
For Kofi and Truth, the situation is more cut and dry: they hit the peak of their popularity long ago. Both are former tag team champions (together, in fact). Truth was a two-time Hardcore Champ and a one-time United States Champion. Kofi, on the other hand, is a four-time IC champ, three-time US Champ, and three-time Tag champ. Again, this is normal and nothing new.
And if you really want a decent example of this, while Rusev beat Big E, the match was a good one and paid dividends for both men: WWE had solidified Rusev as a solid contender — and Big E is still a solid mid-carder who is vying for the now-vacant Intercontinental Championship.
This leads me to Beary’s other point:
That no black man has ever held the “prestigious WWE Championship” and that guys like Mark Henry and Booker T had “only won the World Title – not the WWE title”.
Besides the fact that complaining about something like this is a bit silly and pointless (these titles are about as real as the Hogwarts Quidditch Championship), this is a suspect claim. In real life, none of these guys are champions of anything. They’re actors in a man’s soap opera and they all live the good life and have more money than God.
But, let’s address it because I’ve got nothing better to do.
First, the two titles (the “World Heavyweight Championship” & “WWE Championship”) were originally split between RAW and Smackdown back when WWE cared about both of those shows and not just RAW. The claim that one title was more “prestigious” than the other is ludicrous — especially seeing as how the titles have been unified as one.
Secondly, The Rock held the title. End of story.
Unless you want to make the argument that he’s “half-black” and open up a whole other can of worms about how much “blackness” somebody should have to be considered “black”. Of course, by that rationale, Barack Obama wouldn’t be “The First Black President” anymore — and we all know that’s a load of bunk.
The real problem here is that Beary doesn’t seem to be familiar with this business and that every single one of the on-screen personalities we see on a weekly basis are performers — and stereotypes — regardless of their race, color, or creed.
If he’d like to take issue with JTG or R-Truth for being booked as “thugs”, then he’s gotta take issue with the entire organization. I still have memories of Vince McMahon making Trish Stratus strip down to nothing and having her bark like a dog in front of an entire audience and it made me hate be a wrestling fan. I don’t like that Bray Wyatt is a redneck from the Deep South…but there it is.
And, if you really want to point out racist stereotypes, look no further than Rusev or even Santino Marella.
I am aware of the racism that exists within the business as well as the heavy stereotypes WWE promotes and perpetuates. Having said that, I don’t excuse WWE for this stuff but, like shows such as South Park, it’s a bit hard to claim “racism” when they’ve gone after every single race and stereotype (including Americans – have you seen Zeb Colter?) equally.
The one thing Beary and I can agree on is the real stuff that goes on behind the scenes.
For example, I will never understand why WWE employees such as Michael Hayes are still on WWE’s payroll when he’s had several instances of racial harassment and sexist behavior on his record. This is a man who is very comfy with using the “n-word” and got a WWE Diva (who had a history of alcohol abuse) completely drunk.
Those are the things that Mr. Beary should stick to when writing articles about pro-wrestling for major news sources.
(SOURCES: Pro Wrestling is Fake, But Its Race Problem Isn’t – The Atlantic, Nancy Grace Erroneously Implies Owen Hart Died from Drug Abuse – The Big Lead)