“I’m rooting for everybody black” – Issa Rae
The co-creator and star of HBO’s Insecure created controversy with her statement on the red carpet of last year’s Emmy Awards. I didn’t see it that way because I know what she meant. It’s similar to my feelings about WWE’s black performers. I’m rooting for them all.
In WWE history there have been a grand total of 3 men of African-American descent to wear some version of the World Championship in WWE. Mark Henry, Booker T, & The Rock. Only The Rock has ever worn the actual #1 championship and been positioned as the top guy in the company. But in recent years, The Great One has been pushed more as a Samoan legacy star or someone who has (and I hate this phrase) transcended race, rather than the son of Soulman Rocky Johnson. Whether it’s The Rock’s or WWE’s doing, I’ve never appreciated the “erasing” of The Rock’s blackness.
Ironically you could compare the way WWE steered away from John Cena’s rap gimmick to WWE all but running away from the Rock’s time as a member of The Nation. It was that platform that birthed him, and feels like a footnote rather than a milestone. In his formative years he was being mentored by none other than Ron Simmons, who was notably WCW’s first Black champion, and cutting explosive promos about how WWE was sorely lacking in that department. He got booed out the building for that by the way also. I went on an absolute tirade last year in February, when The Rock was omitted from the Black History Month collection on the WWE Network. It’s safe to say, that in being a black wrestling fan, many of the guys I looked to as heroes as a kid didn’t look like me. And that was okay. But the few who did, it just felt different. As much as I loved Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, I was mesmerized by Ahmed Johnson’s power and intensity as a 7 year old, even if he was a GANG MEMBER, BABY… as he once so eloquently told us. I can imagine for 7 year old black kids right now, The New Day are their 4 Horsemen. Hell, they might be mine!
For the rest of history, The New Day is now the other side of the coin to the militancy that The Nation displayed. More and more each year it seems like America is finding out Black folks are cool and funny like anyone else, without having to be Eddie Murphy or Denzel Washington. Elsewhere shows like Atlanta on FX which is written starred in and directed by Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, and the upcoming Marvel film, “Black Panther” show that there is an audience who will accept younger Black people in creative arts at the top. WWE’s answer to this is staring them right in the face, or backing their booties up against them. The New Day birthed middle-class blackness in WWE to the point where it feels like they are the sole authors of their own material.
The New Day have become avatars of a so called #BlackTwitter, who have pushed almost everything cool that has populated social media over the last 5 years in memes and jokes and #Challenges to their hilarious breaking point. If there were another group that sniffed the levels of success that The New Day has merchandise wise, and historically as a group, the question wouldn’t be will the company ever give any of them a chance to be main eventers. It would be when can we book them against each other? And make one of them champion! I wonder if this is a case of WWE valuing The New Day as a collective more than singles, or a hesitation to go all the way with at least Big E or Xavier Woods?
While Jason Jordan is saddled with the ridiculous gimmick of being Kurt Angle’s son, he’s right there as a top heavyweight performer in-ring wise in WWE. The first time I saw Jason Jordan at an NXT house show in early 2015, he immediately stood out to me and the more I found out about his wrestling background it seemed he would have a bright future if WWE learned how to handle him. He’s making strides week by week as he’s forcing the audience to feel really strongly about him in either a hate or love fashion.
I’m ready to see the next Black WWE Champion. This isn’t a plea to just stick a world title on the first dude Michael Hayes accidentally offends backstage, but for WWE to look at the obvious system that hasn’t created more opportunities for black performers to flourish. I heard a rumor about Mark Henry closing up the Hall Of Pain and relocating to being a trusted scout and voice backstage. POC are needed in key positions, as WWE attempts to spread to other cultures throughout the world. You can spread this argument to any other heritage as well. From The Velveteen Dream to Bianca Belair, to Apollo Crews (the latter two are Henry finds) I’m starting to see potential super-duper stars in place. With the pending debut of Ricochet, he can literally be a superhero if they let him. Call me skeptical, but I don’t think 72-year-old Vince McMahon knows what he has in Sasha Banks, who regularly walks BET red carpets and swags harder than nearly anyone on the roster. It was awesome to see Naomi get a chance when she wasn’t stuck having to wrestle Lana on PPV, but it could have come in 2014 when she was walking Paige through her early main roster career on PPV, instead of three whole years later.
WWE’s largest audience is not black. I’m aware of this. But I can tell you from personal experience, there is a loyal audience there who has looked the other way on some FOUL stuff, all out of their love of WWE. History hasn’t been kind to how black stars have been handled, but there is no better day than to start changing it than today. I don’t want them making someone champion because they are black, I want it because they are that good. That is the essence of Issa Rae’s statement. Luckily, there are tons of choices in 2018.
Who should be the next black WWE Champion?
Rich Latta is a writer for LordsofPain.net & host of the One Nation Radio Podcast on www.SocialSuplex.com He appears monthly on Chad Matthews’ podcast The Doc Says after Raw PPVs. GFX by @SirMikeFergus Give him a follow on Twitter, @RichLatta32 or drop him a comment below. If you like hip-hop, check out his music here. www.Soundcloud.com/RichLatta Look Him Up On Youtube As Well.
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