WrestleMelanin: The Blackest Wrestlemania Ever

The biggest wrestling week of the year was star-studded with luminaries, hall of famers, fans, and celebrities. WrestleMania 40 was indeed a celebration of all the things people love about professional wrestling. But most importantly, it served as a platform for Black Excellence to shine through.
WrestleMania 40
WrestleMania 40 / WWE/GettyImages

What a whirlwind weekend! WWE had its 40th annual WrestleMania this past weekend and it was everything a wrestling fan could love about an event. The city of Philadelphia was surrounded by the energy and joy that this time of year brings. Fans were dressed in merchandise, costumes, championship titles, and love for the Grandest Stage of Them All and wrestling as a whole. Celebrities and athletes came out in droves to bask in the glory of Wrestlemania's spectacle.

Another important characteristic of the entire weekend was the presence of powerful African and African-American representation and celebration. From Walemania to GCW's For The Culture and from NXT Stand and Deliver to WrestleMania itself, Black wrestling athletes and personalities added culture and beauty. Let's get into how Black excellence permeated WrestleMania weekend.

The Fun and Flowers of Walemania

One of the pillar events of WrestleMania Weekend is Walemania. As the hip-hop and wrestling-infused party has grown over the years, it has become a standard event that celebrates wrestling icons and rising stars. This year, the guest of honor was decorated champion and former WWE star Shelton Benjamin. Since he was shockingly released from WWE in 2023, the wrestling community has shown him love and this sentiment was shared at the Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia. After a montage of Benjamin's best wrestling moments played, his fellow Hurt Business members Cedric Alexander, Bobby Lashley, and MVP showed their appreciation for him and wished him well on his journey.

The rivalry between Carmelo Hayes and Trick Williams was even highlighted as they got into a heated argument in front of the audience and fellow superstars. Walemania was elevated even further by performances by the event's namesake Wale, Philly rap legend Beanie Sigel, and WWE ring announcer Samantha Irvin. This year, Walemania served as the catalyst for representation throughout the weekend and it was beautiful.

NXT Stand and Deliver

When it comes to the future of WWE, one only has to look to Tuesday nights on NXT. Under the leadership of the Heartbreak Kid and two-time WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, the black and gold brand has continued to rise in quality and prominence. Some of the brightest Black stars of WWE's third brand took up space during their WrestleMania-equivalent event Stand and Deliver. In a premium live event that featured the comedic stylings of Meta Four's Lash Legend, Jakara Jackson and Oro Mensah, Kelani Jordan and Kiana James' acrobatic athleticism and NXT North American Champion Oba Femi's dominance, Black excellence was on full display throughout the show.

But the audience was truly locked in as Trick Williams sought to stake his claim as the man against his former friend Carmelo Hayes in the main event. Their heated rivalry made history as the first Black male main event held during WrestleMania weekend. Both men fought tooth and nail around the arena to prove that they deserved the top spot. Trick Williams rose above jealousy and hate to win. As NXT Stand and Deliver continued to raise the bar, the Black athletes proved that the future lies in their hands.

WrestleMania Noire

Angelo Dawkins, B-Fab, Bobby Lashley, Montez Ford
WrestleMania 40 / WWE/GettyImages

The weekend culminated in both nights of WrestleMania hailing from the Lincoln Financial Field. The stadium was illuminated with green staging and thousands of faithful fans from all over the world. Wrestlemania XL will always be remembered as the show that officially ushered in a new era led by Paul "Triple H" Levesque and a celebration of WWE's rich history of action and larger-than-life personalities.

But if we go back in time to the first Wrestlemania in 1985, only three Black men were participants on the card: Mr. T, Special Delivery Jones and recent WWE Hall of Fame inductee Muhammad Ali. This year's offering in Philadelphia gave better representation across the board when it came to Black athletes and celebrities. Hip-hop took up space with Meek Mill, Lil Wayne, and Snoop Dogg performing during both nights, as well as R&B and country artists Coco Jones and The War and Treaty kicking off the show with patriotic singing.

Night One came in hot with The New Day dressed in Rocky-inspired gear in the six-pack tag team ladder match for the Raw and SmackDown Tag Team titles and with The Miz and hysterical icon R Truth gaining the victory for the red brand. This was Truth's first Mania moment in an over twenty-year career and it was sweet to witness. Then the fans were treated to the Afrofuturistic aura of Bianca Belair, Naomi, and Jade Cargill in her Wrestlemania debut. Everything about them screamed unity and power as they went head-to-head with Damage CTRL. The image of them posing with the Big Three symbol will live forever as a true testament to the strength and tenacity of Black women in wrestling.

Night Two offered a Philadelphia Street Fight with the always-electric Street Profits, Bobby Lashley and B-Fab going up against the Final Testament and they powered through with their versatility, fire, and high-flying fun. There was also the surprising presence of YouTuber IShowSpeed in the corner of Logan Paul in the United States Championship triple-threat match with Kevin Owens and Randy Orton.

Then one cannot leave out the looming presence of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as he sought to thwart Cody Rhodes' quest for the Undisputed WWE Universal title as The Final Boss. But after the American Nightmare and his Avengers-like army took down Roman Reigns, his graceful soulmate, former valet, and Brandi Rhodes came out to celebrate his victory.

At the end of the extravaganza, fans and critics celebrated the event and the sport of wrestling itself by being reminded of what is great about it. African and African American fans watched and saw various reflections of themselves represented in a sport that once took from and discarded them. Black excellence is alive and well in wrestling and it was highlighted at the first Mania of the new era. The future of professional wrestling is Black and it is truly about time.