Admittedly, I haven’t been a fan of “wrasslin” since what was known as the “Attitude Era” when the Monday night wars were taking place. This was probably 20 plus years ago and, as a kid, I loved it. The action, the physicality, the pageantry of it all fed my love and addiction of wrasslin non-stop and made it a part of my then everyday life. Then something changed or, more so, I changed. As I grew from a boy to a man, I really started to take notice of my surroundings. I started to see and understand better the way things worked. I really started to notice the difference in how Black folks, as well as other non-white folks, were being treated—especially in wrasslin. The love of costumes and pageantry quickly gave way to the realization that we were being made fun of. Instead of being in on the joke, we were the punchline.
I started reminiscing over the things that I saw as a kid. After going back to watch a lot of those old things (thanks to YouTube), I was left floored. My fond childhood memories were actually slaps to the face while my unknowing Black ass cheered them on. During this period, the WWF (now WWE) paraded racist caricature after caricature across stage and screen. For instance, they had the submissive do boy servant Virgil, who was the “step and fetch it” henchman to a white millionaire, Ted DiBiase. DiBiase, by the way, caught a lot of flak for his participation in a basketball dribbling stunt, featuring a random Black kid from the audience, back in 1989.
There was Rowdy Roddy Piper, one of my all time favorites at the time. He appeared in an interview promo with Mean Gene wearing a half blackface right before his match with a Black wrestler named Bad News Brown. In this promo, he talked about Brown’s bulging eyes and wide nose all the while doing some silly ass mimicking jig.
Also they had the nonsensical character of Akeem the African Dream. He was a white man who started out as a biker called the One Man Gang, but was later placed under the tutelage of a Black manager named Slick. Slick was a caricature himself whose storyline was that of a “streetwise pimp.” This storyline was based around Akeem actually being an African who spoke with what I’ll refer to as a “blaccent.” These were just a few of the WWE characters that showed the inappropriate racist and cultural appropriating behavior of the industry.
I think the most egregious and shameful characters had to be the ones played by a guy named Charles Wright. He went from playing a voodoo priest to a member of the Nation of Islam to finally settling in as a crowd favorite pimp named The Godfather, who came to the ring with his “hoes”. There were many more characters and incidents that proved quite racist and disturbing. They had Vince McMahon speaking in jive then referring to John Cena as “my nigga” back in 2005, before walking away in a George Jefferson-esque strut. There was the Black duo Cryme Tyme whose gimmick was to steal from their opponents. However, the biggest and most notable black-eye from the past had to be Hulk Hogan’s racist rant. In this recorded convo, Hogan repeatedly used the word Nigger to express his displeasure that his daughter was having a relationship with a black man. This sent shock waves through the wrestling world, but, judging from its history, it shouldn’t have.
A few months ago, I saw that they made a Black man by the name of Kofi Kingston world champion. And, for a brief moment, it looked as if the WWE might’ve been turning the corner away from its past. That is until they stripped him of his title in a nine second defeat to a washed up Brock Lesnar. On a sidenote, I think moving to Fox had a lot to do with it, but moving on.
Now don’t get me wrong, the WWE has had some great defining, albeit very brief, moments with Black characters: from Ron Simmons becoming champion to the emergence of The Rock and Booker T and their championship reigns. Yet, juxtaposed against everything else, these moments were just not enough. But anyways. Just when I thought about giving them another chance and exposing my son to wrasslin, they once again pulled some ignorant shit. The racist insensitivity has once again reared its ugly head as Jordan Myles is currently in a heated dispute with the WWE over a shirt that is strangely reminiscent of blackface. The t-shirt features a design showcasing Jordan Myles’ name in bold white letters against a red background resembling big ass red lips and white teeth which is often associated with images of blackface. It’s like wearing Al Jolson around whilst he is performing Mammy. To his credit, Myles isn’t taking this lying down. He came out swinging and tweeted a photo of the shirt on Sunday saying:
I will keep posting this till my voice is heard. I’m not sorry for anything I say or do. Representation is important. If this is [Vince McMahon] & [Triple H]’s “vision” of me then this is a slap in the face to EVERY African American performer, fan, and supporter.
The WWE responded by releasing the following statement on the matter:
Albert Hardie Jr. (aka Jordan Myles) approved this t-shirt for sale. As always, we work collaboratively with all of our performers to develop logos and merchandise designs and get their input and approval before proceeding. This was the same process with Albert, and we responded swiftly once he later requested that the logo/t-shirt be redesigned. No t-shirts were sold.
Judging from their history and, quite honestly, their present, I wouldn’t put it past them to pull this racist stunt.
Some will argue that these brothers were and are willful in their ignorance and took the check regardless of the character. I sincerely hope that this wasn’t or isn’t the case. But, in the meantime, I’ll just keep my Black ass away.