• Matt Dod

Wrestling With Racism




I love pro wrestling. There’s just something about this glittering world of choreographed combat and over-the-top theatrics which has struck me to my core since I was a small child. A form of escapism, which for me, is unmatched in it’s ability to entertain me in such a way that I may, even if only for a brief hour or two, be transported away to another dimension, filled to the brim with exaggerated characters, balletic action and pantomime drama.


When I was relentlessly bullied as a little fat kid, wrestling helped me to escape the day to day pressures of the school playground and drift away to this grappling universe, where I could ignore my chubby little body and the problems it was causing, and imagine what it would feel like to be one of the hulking goliaths I so enjoyed watching on my television screen.


When I left university and was starting my own business in my early, pro wrestling allowed me to step away from the countless e-mails and endless board meetings, removing myself from the stress of trying to make a life for myself and allow me time to indulge in a form of entertainment which had my analytical brain turned off and the primal side of my senses tingling with the visual spectacle on display.


As I’ve grown older my health has worsened, with it new stresses have emerged which can sometimes lead me to spiraling around an ever growing pit of depression. The world can sometimes seem like it is crumbling around us, and everyone has been through a tough time over the past 2 years. So, through that time, pro wrestling has once again allowed me to escape. It allows me to forget the pain and suffering present in so many of our lives. It allows me to forget the regrets and dial back my anxiety. Leaving behind the hatred which seems as if it comes from so many different directions these days that it can be hard to think straight.


I need this escape, I need this freedom. I need pro wrestling. And so, do many others.


So, when the outside world and it’s infinite problems rear their ugly heads within pro wrestling, not only can they take us away from our enjoyment and remove us from our chosen form of escapism, but on a much deeper level, they can bring us crashing back to reality to come face to face with the very problems we were trying to briefly avoid in the first place.


As a life long pro wrestling fan, I love nothing more that sitting down with the WWE Network and searching through their enormous back catalogue of classic matches and events, reliving the joy of my youth and watching moments which I have such fond memories of.


I have a passion for searching out obscure and sometimes forgotten wrestling matches and diving deep into the countless hours of entertainment which these instances can afford me.


But then it happens. Perhaps a character makes a racist remark towards another wrestler. Other times, a performer makes their way to the ring in a tasteless and offensive costume, poking fun at another culture. Sometimes it’s a terrible accent or sometimes something as simple as a poorly thought-out joke.


These instances are just the tip of a much larger iceberg. The surface level which those who are unconsciously or knowingly racist allow us to see. But what is racism?


“Racism can be defined as organized systems within societies that cause avoidable and unfair inequalities in power, resources, capacities and opportunities across racial or ethnic groups. Racism can manifest through beliefs, stereotypes, prejudices or discrimination. This encompasses everything from open threats and insults to phenomena deeply embedded in social systems and structures. Racism can occur at multiple levels, including: internalized (the incorporation of racist attitudes, beliefs or ideologies into one’s worldview), interpersonal (interactions between individuals) and systemic (for example, the racist control of and access to labor, material and symbolic resources within a society). Racism persists as a cause of exclusion, conflict and disadvantage on a global scale, and existing data suggests racism is increasing in many national contexts” – NCBI, Racism as a Determinant of Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Whatever the cause, these racist moments destroy the fun I am having and completely tarnish my love for pro wrestling. But put simply. Who cares? I’m just a white man who is moaning about something which for the most part, doesn’t directly effect me. I’ve never experienced racism towards me or my family in the real world, so why should I care.


I care because these moments of racism, although brief allude to a much wider issue. One rooted in ignorance, bigotry and hatred which in the modern day has become all encompassing. Racism is one of the most serious and destructive issues facing us as human beings all around the world. And in order to overcome our differences and prejudices, we must first understand where they come from, the history of this hatred and where we can go for a better future.


In this video, I want to look at the effect race relations have had on the history of pro wrestling. Delving deep into the horrible moments which we can all learn from and hopefully grow because of and see, if together, through open discourse and acceptance we can begin to make this disgusting side of sports and entertainment truly a thing of the past.



RACISM & GAUKER


There are no 2 ways about it. No real room for debate. Hulk Hogan is one of the most culturally significant pro wrestlers to have ever laced up his boots, and beyond that is one of the most recognisable faces of the 20th century in the United States.


Leading the charge as the face of the WWF as Hulkamania ran wild and brought in an exciting new combination of pro wrestling athleticism and Hollywood celebrity.


Hulk Hogan adorned in his classic yellow and red attire became a house-hold name throughout his prestigious, award studded career. He make the transition from the wrestling ring to the silver screen and maintained a presence as a notable public figure for over 4 decades.


Beloved by millions around the globe for his heroic antics and succession of high-calibre victories throughout the 80s and 90s.


This all changed however, when in April of 2012 Hulk Hogan was embroiled in a scandal after the release of a private and illegal video recorded of him and distributed online. It’s disgusting because it’s such a violation of privacy and it’s disgusting because Hulk is old and gross.


I mean come on, look at this man. It is terrible that anyone could ever secretly film someone in an circumstance, but during an intimate and private moment of love making is deplorable. The woman in the video was Heather Klemm who was the wife of Hogan’s long-term friend Bubba The Love Sponge – that’s fairly shitty. But seemingly Bubba was in on the action, he can be heard on the video which he secretly recorded saying “you two can do your thing”. Now, I have no right to pass judgement on a man who likes to be cuckolded by a monster like Hulk Hogan and his 24 inch pythons, but that isn’t why we are here.


Worst of all, in the secret video, Hogan used racial terms to describe his daughter’s then black boyfriend, that were as offensive as they were ignorant and have no place in a civilised society.


Hogan showed in a moment where he thought he was away from the public eye, a moment where he could truly be himself, that he was in fact a racist.


A man who created a character who would inspire millions of children around the world to be better and realise their dreams, his theme song even tells us that Hogan wants to “fight for the right of everyman”, but I guess every man doesn’t include black men in Hogan’s mind.


“And everybody down in Miami, Lil Wayne, Birdman, they’re all calling me N word and then I started sayin’ it,” Hogan said. “And I always said it, but now all of a sudden I get heat when I say it, and they say, Hogan, you can’t say that,’ so I say, ‘Why can they say it to me then?'”

With his public image on the line, in October of 2012 Hogan had to act fast and recover some of the respect he had lost due to his now public racist outpouring. So, you’d think that he would go on a charm offensive, use that charisma to swing favour back his way and spend his days split between attempting to right his obvious wrongdoing to the black community and begging for forgiveness from the wrestling fans who he had so deeply offended.


But no.


Hogan filed a lawsuit against Bubba The Love Sponge and his wife Heather Clemm alleging invasion of privacy, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional and quickly settled out of court following a public apology from the pair. Turning his attention towards the company which had made the video in which Hogan made his racism known, public for the world to see.


He then successfully sued GAWKER for defamation, loss of privacy, and emotional pain, in a lawsuit where he claimed $100 million and settled out of court for $30 million in damages and the hack-sudo-journalism company folded on March 18th 2016.

Around this time, Hogan spoke to Howard Stern and said on his radio show: "it was a bad choice and a very low point, I was with some friends and made a wrong choice. It has devastated me, I have never been this hurt".


A quote which I feel perfectly sums up the selfishness of Hogan. His first thoughts are seemingly always about how the situation affected him. Yes, I agree that it is disgusting to secretly record someone, no matter what the circumstances.


Yes, I think Hogan is well within his rights to feel betrayed and hurt by what his close friends did to him, and I agree that he should have tackled Gawker with the full force of the law on his side.


But what about those black people that are huge Hulk Hogan fans. Some, in their 50s and 60s enjoyed Hogan back in his heyday at Wrestlemania 3 and followed his career for over 40 years. How does Hogan think his horrid comments made them feel? How does Hogan think it would feel to have someone who you have looked up to and admired, supported and cheered for, turn out to hate a part of you which you have no control over.


What about the African American wrestlers that have shared the ring and locker room with Hogan since the 70s, how does he think this news made them feel? Since the incident, many black wrestlers have spoken out about the situation and given an insight into the matter:


Titus O’neill explained: "This is not about second or third chances. This is about a man making a decision to make statements that he truly felt in his heart I believe at that time. He may not feel that way now, he may regret it. But to come out and say, 'I didn't know I was being recorded' and 'be careful what you say' and 'I don't remember saying that stuff.' When you start out an apology like that. Dude, you lost it already.”

FRIENDS NOT FRIENDS



In 2015 WWE cut ties with Hogan when the public backlash grew too large. Years of glory followed by years of terrible publicity led to a time where the company and the immortal one parted ways. WWE removed Hogan for planned promotional dates and from certain areas of their website. Fans were divided about how such a legend should be treated.


“WWE terminated its contract with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan),” said a statement from WWE. “WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”


Hogan was removed from the WWE Hall Of Fame and stepped back from his on screen appearances with WWE, making his way onto new channels and chat shows in order to air his grievances at attempt to make amends.


“After a three-year suspension, Hulk Hogan has been reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame, this second chance follows Hogan's numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake." the WWE said.


This led to Hogan being invited backstage to apologize face to face to the wrestlers in WWE.


“I said those words, it was totally unacceptable, and I just really wanted to get in front of all the talent and apologize because I know I hurt this business and I just want to move forward” Hogan said.


Things didn’t go exactly to Hulk’s plan however as many of the performers in the locker room felt that Hogan’s apology only further strengthened the idea that he was sorry that he got caught, rather than being genuinely sorry for his hurtful and racist remarks.

“There were very mixed feelings with many not believing he was sincere.” reported Dave Meltzer in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.


“Unfortunately, I must echo the sentiment and dissatisfaction expressed by many of my fellow contemporaries concerning Mr. Bollea’s apology and its lack of true contrition, remorse and a desire to change” tweeted Titus O’neill who was in the locker room to witness Hogan’s apology.


Hogan said: "I just hope the brotherhood can get back to the way it was. Outside the ring, you're supposed to protect your brother. In this case, it's a situation where 75, 80, 90 percent of the wrestlers are protecting me and they're giving me another chance to move forward. There's just a few wrestlers that kinda like don't understand the bond and the brotherhood of wrestling. If someone makes a mistake, you need to forgive them and move on and try to let them prove themselves."


He seems as if he is not truly willing to take responsibility for what he said or how he thought about black people, rather, pushing the blame onto those who don’t accept his apology or subscribe to the idea that he simply used the words rather than being a racist. Since his reinstatement by WWE Hulk made his return at a Saudi Arabia show, which considering all of the controversy surrounding WWE’s involvement in this part of the world, seemed fitting. At the show Hogan said nothing of real importance, hyped the crowd and ignored the giant elephant in the room.


He has since gone on to introduce Wrestlemania, opening the two night event alongside Titus O’neill in what at best feels like an attempt to show how much he has changed and at worst, looks like WWE attempting to garner fan support for Hogan whilst using O’neill as a pawn. Regardless, a loud group of fans who were present at the show seemingly didn’t appreciate the gesture and booed Hogan throughout both segments, showing that even if WWE and Hulk want to leave his racist comments in the past, some fans will not be so quick to move on.




THE RUSSIANS


In November 22nd 2008 a young patriotic wrestler debuted straight out of wrestling school and a short career as a rower. Powerful, hungry determined and incredibly athletic, stories quickly circulated of this up-starts dedication to putting in what it takes to make it in the wrestling world. Reportedly working several jobs, including fulfilling the role of night club bouncer to pay for further wrestling training from industry legends such as Rikishi and Al Snow. He'd regularly sleep in his car outside of the training school to be able to be there first and leave last, the budding athlete shone brightly amongst his peers as he gained a reputation for his ambition and drive.


Signing his first professional contract in 2010?, his impact on the roster that he joined was undeniable and instant. Over the following months he trained 6 hours a day, making sacrifices that most, including myself can't begin to comprehend. Focusing on becoming better, really starting to shine those rough edges and hone his skillset as a performer.


Like the icons of wrestling past, this proud countryman came to the ring draped in red, white and blue, the national anthem proudly beaming out of the speakers in the arena. Enemies shudder at the thought of opposing him and all of those who did dare to get into the ring across from him, quickly regretted their decisions after being swiftly dealt with by a mix of raw strength and sublime grappling technique.


Nobody could stop him, he was a power to be admired as he surpassed his peers and moved onto an even bigger show with a multiplied financial contract. His route had no end in sight. Smashing his way through several opponents, the quality of which he had not yet been tested against. HIs will was strong, his body was stronger as he did everything to make him country proud in victory and the locker room take notice in their defeats at his hand. Until one day, a great hero, a legend of the past from an enemy country appears to put an end to this national hero.


At a battle for the ages, the summer heat beamed down and the crowd bayed in anticipation as these two 'mega powers' collided. A fight for national pride, honor and respect. The young man had energy and enthusiasm, but his rival was filled with hatred for his country, a veteran in the ring and a phycological general. The war was fierce and hard fought, but in the end the wily master defeated the youthful will of his opposition.

You'd be mistaken for thinking that the crowd would be disappointed to see their newest hero be defeated after such a long and had-earned undefeated streak, but there weren't. I'd forgive you for thinking the fans would be dejected by the veteran defeating the younger prodigy, killing his momentum, undermining all the hours of grinding, all the sacrifice wasted. But the crowd, especially the young children cheered in the face of this defeat. They praised the foreigner coming back part-time and taking the spotlight from such a bright promise. This never happens in wrestling, why did they react this way?


Oh, I see. The person's story I’ve just relayed happens to be Rusev? He's Russian? The Bulgarian Brute? So even though everything he has done makes me like him, respect him and appreciate all he has done to be able to perform at such a high level and entertain us every week? Even if I admire his charisma, am in awe of his physical prowess, his strength his speed? His look, his entrance music, his move-set are all impeccable. Why aren't I supporting this guy again? Oh. Russian, right.


Most countries have an expansive nation history or racism towards other people inside and outside of their chartered lines, drawn centuries before on a man-made map. Worst still is the institutionalized racism that is still prevalent in most developed countries and the wide-spread domestic conflicts that occur daily due to compartmentalization and genocide of numerous races around the world.


Due to its place on the world’s political and economical stage over the last two centuries as a mega-power and one of history’s most powerful countries, also in no small part to popular media, the spread of entertainment to all corners of the globe – the United States of America is the most famous country. By that I mean, the most spoken and reported about, the biggest and most powerful spread of influence all comes to America. Because of this, me, a 26-year-old British man-child and many like me were raised on good ole wrasslin, the USA’s particular formula for wrestling, especially in the 90s and especially from the South with WCW played weekly on channel 5.


This has meant that for generations the world has been focused on them, and their cultures heavily influenced by USA. Today I want to take a look at how non-American characters have been portrayed in wrestling in the US, not only by those at the time and now, but by people around the world and what it means for everyone involved. This episode will focus on America’s long-running feud with Russia and the role that has played since the early 20th century in forming the foundation of the weekly shows that I consume with millions of others every week.


The cold war starts between The Soviet Union & USA with NATO allies, after the second world war 1947. After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were the world’s strongest nations. They were called superpowers. They had different ideas about economics and government. They fought a war of ideas called the Cold War. The Soviet Union was a communist country. In communism, the government controls production and resources. It decides where people live and work. The United States is a capitalist country. In capitalism, people and businesses control the production of goods. People decide where they live and work. The Cold War began in Europe after World War II. The Soviet Union won control of Eastern Europe. It controlled half of Germany and half of Germany’s capital, Berlin. The United States, Britain, and France controlled western Germany and West Berlin. In June 1948, the Soviet Union blocked roads and railroads that led to West Berlin. The United States, Great Britain, and France flew in supplies. This was called the Berlin Airlift.


The United States and the Soviet Union were in a nuclear arms race. In 1959, Cuba became a communist country and the Soviets secretly put missiles there. President Kennedy was afraid the Soviet Union would attack the United States. He sent warships to surround Cuba. He hoped a blockade would force the Soviet Union to remove its missiles. This conflict was called the Cuban Missile Crisis. For six days, nuclear war seemed possible. Then the Soviet Union removed the missiles.


Beginning in the late 1950s, space would become another dramatic arena for this competition, as each side sought to prove the superiority of its technology, its military firepower and–by extension–its political-economic system.


1957 Russia launch world's first ballistic missile. 1989 The fall of the Berlin wall. 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and after 1989 after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. But mainly because David Hasslehoff turned up in a Piano Tie and started singing to the crowds. Truly made this otherwise forgettable and mundane moment in history one of the most important events in recent times for Europeans. Thanks Dave.


Although the Cold War ended almost 30 years ago, wrestling still wants to hang onto this trope of the evil European. The cunning and sneaky Russian out to deface the USA and it's star-spangled banner. Why? Where did it all start? Who has done it? Let's look a little deeper.


RUSEV



So now we are all on the same page as to the background of where the negative energy, the ill feeling, the outright racist approach of some of the wrestling stories, that we will be exploring further in this video today.


Let's start at the beginning, and take a look at...


Debut against non-white, non-USA WWE stars: Sin Cara, Xavier woods, R Truth, Sin Cara, Xaxier Woods, R Truth, R Truth, R Truth and Xavier Woods and Kofi Kingston

Managed by Lana, straight out of 1985 played by American CJ Perry


An absolute beast in and out of the ring, with extremely smooth and competent wrestling style, powerhouse technique and use of Olympic style move-set, such as German suplex's, old school wrestling take-downs, overpowered submissions and supreme grappling ability. His main goal was to be the absolute best athlete and assert his dominance over the roster by thrashing all those who stood in his path. WWE lined up jobber after jobber, developmental talent and even some established stars. None of which could conquer the Bulgarian brute. One after one, his good guy adversaries got into the ring, spouting pride in the good ole US of A, honor in defending their great country from the invasion of the villainous Rusev. A man who up until that point had done nothing in matches other than be the better wrestler. Until, doo-doo-doo-doo! A wild John Cena appears. The star-spangled banner draped the corpse of the young upstart career and the potential


None of them are Russian


Boris Alexiev aka Santino Marella is Canadian

Ivan Koloff was Canadian

Nikita Koloff is American

Alex Koslov is Moldovan

Lana is American

Boris Malenko was American

Rusev is Bulgarian

Alexis Smirnoff is Canadian

Soldat Ustinov is American

Nikolai Volkoff was Croatian

Boris Zhukov is American


One issue some have with the portrayal of these characters is that they are rarely if ever, played in the ring by an actual Russian. This specific point in my opinion is mute. The idea that you can't play a different nationality on television as a character, in a role for entertainment is bullshit. Did those same detractors have an issue with Chiwitel Ejifor, a British-Nigerian man playing a New York slave? You do know that Daeneyris Targrian isn't actually played by a world conquering, medieval dragon empress?


Spock isn't portrayed by a galivanting galactic Vulcan, they aren't even his real ears? You do know Obi-Wan's actor isn't actually cutting fools heads off with a sword made out of fucking laser beams in the real world, right? RIGHT? Personally, I see the issue stemming one from generalization and the need to fit millions of people into brackets. Frameworks of hatred that allow fans to cheer the all-American super hero and reject the ideas of those from other countries.


Good Vs Evil


The wrestling industries historic reliance on good vs evil, the need for the fans to support a baby-face and buy tickets to see them. While banding together to oppose the evil heels and pay money to hopefully see them get beaten. This constant propagation of black vs white, with no area for grey, no nuance, no second guessing or change in a wrestler's personality.


USA vs the world is one of the most overdone and egregiously misused tropes in all of sports entertainment. And as the fans become ever smarter, ever more connected by the internet, we've seen a dramatic shift in the audiences response to this overtrodden tripe over the last 20 years and entertainment, especially WWE needs to keep up.


The company has one of the world's most successful online pretenses, gets millions of views on most everything they post to their several very well followed social media platforms, connect with hundreds of millions around the globe, but still somehow have let this slip and never gotten rid of something as outdated as ideas of the cold war itself.


Racist move-set


A big part of my issue with racism, is that often times racists will throw out a blanket which encapsulates an entire race, sometimes millions or even billions of people all grouped under the same banner. There are 4 and a half billion people who live in Asia. From Turkey, through Pakistan and Thailand, each of the 48 countries which make up a part of this enormous continent have hugely varying histories, religions, beliefs and cultures. But within each country, each person is an individual, for instance India has 9 official religions and many more amongst it’s wildly diverse populace. So why do some people still insist on bundling these people together.


This issue occurs in pro wrestling, where wrestlers often fit into a small number of categories when it comes to their move sets. You may be a lumbering giant, a highflyer or a more technical wrestler depending on your skills and size. But when it comes to race, so often do we see wrestlers from a certain part of the world use stereotypical and mostly racist moves.


Samoans for years were portrayed as island savages, having hard heads. They would use headbutts in their matches and not be affected by attacks to their forehead by their opponents. Samoans almost always use a variant of the Samoan drop suplex also.

Japanese wrestlers of the past often times used chalk or spit to blind their enemies during their matches as well as a Japanese arm drag, despite there being a multitude of wrestlers across Asia who fight in every possible variation which would be shown from their American and European counterparts.


Those performers from the middle east often use a form of the camel clutch submission move alongside an Arabian press or Arabian Facebuster. Those from Europe must use the European style uppercut and of course the German Suplex. Mexicans use the Spanish fly a Mexican surfboard and are almost entirely high-flying masked luchadores. I can understand wanting to represent your culture through your use of their more traditionally associated moves, but in WWE where most of the roster are restricted to performing the same handful of maneuvers in every match, this idea quickly becomes played out and only serves to bundle every wrestler from a particular region together, killing any sense of personality or individuality.


This is something which has become less of an issue in recent years in WWE and the wider world of America pro wrestling as rosters have become ever more diverse and the exchange in talent between Europe, The US and Asia continues to increase.


The likes of Cesaro is a great testament to this. As a Swiss athlete he of course uses the European Uppercut, but he has also used almost every other move mentioned in the list above, a true international star whose move set is hopefully a sign that the wrestling landscape has changed forever.



JAPAN


Since pro wrestling became popular in Japan following world war 2, this form of entertainment has gone from stride to stride. Making it’s way onto television with Rikidozan as the face of the emerging Japanese wrestling scene in 1951 to the modern day where some consider New Japan Pro Wrestling to be at the very forefront of sports entertainment around the world. In that time, the likes of Antonio Inoki, Giant Baba, Jyushin "Thunder" Liger, Tiger Mask, The Great Muta, Mitsuharu Misawa, and Kenta Kobashi have all had their time in the spotlight, making a name for themselves as performers who stand out for their in-ring ability, personalities, and ability to entertain us wrestling fans.


Over the years many westerners have been attracted to the hard-hitting, no-nonsense style which has proven to be popular in Japan, with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen, Big Van Vader, Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, Kenny Omega and Finn Balor all earning acclaim in some of Japan’s top promotions, most of them earning a space amongst wrestling’s elite after having a Japanese title belt wrapped around their waist.


So why, for almost a century, did we not see the same exchange of Japanese talent making waves on the American pro wrestling scene? Why has a company that is so international in it’s fanbase never crowned a Japanese world champion?


If we go back to 1979, Bob Backland faced off against the almighty Antonio Inoki in Takusima, Japan and lost, making Inoki the then WWF World Champion. However, to this day WWE does not recognize this reign officially and continued with Backlund as the champion as soon as he returned to the US. So we can’t really count it.


Hakushi has had an excellent career in Japan, but is best remembered for his time in WWF where the commentators would pretend that his name (which means the white one) sounded like someone sneezing and that his appearance of white paint covered in Japanese lettering was taken from a Chinese restaurant’s menu, really disgraceful stuff.

Tiger Mask, Ultimo Dragon, Tajiri and Hideo Itami also all failed to leave a lasting mark within WWE and none ever made their way to the top of the ladder. The language barrier for sure plays a large role, pro wrestling is all about connecting with the audience, something which simply cannot happen if the performer cannot speak English fluently.


But another major factor in their downfall was a simple, yet in my mind racist one. Most of these characters, and most Japanese wrestlers in general in WWE simply don’t have a character to connect with in the first place. Being Japanese, in the eyes of WWE creative, is so often their only distinguishing trait.


Playing some vaguely Japanese sounding generic music as they walk to the ring with a Japanese flag isn’t a character, it’s a boring stereotype, which you cannot blame any fan for not enjoying.


YOKOZUNA


Probably the most famous Japanese character to ever appear on WWE television, wasn’t even Japanese. Simply a man with Samoan and Hawaiian heritage dressed up like a sumo wrestler and treated like a monster villain.


His run as a dominant heel started in 1992 when he was joined with another Japanese caricature in MR Fuji as his diabolical manager. Yokozuna dominated the 1993 Royal Rumble, throwing out Randy Savage last on his way to victory. At Wrestlemania 9 Yokozuna faced and defeated Bret Hart to win his first WWF World title, but was defeated only moments later by an interrupting Hulk Hogan.


Zuna would then go on to defeat Hogan and regain back the belt later that year. A prestigious run of form and one which will live long in the memory. However, none of this can hide the fact that Yokozuna was simply a stereotype and one which the WWF used to turn a profit. Taking the American audiences preconceptions about Japan and wrapping them up into a 600 pound bundle, perfect for patriotic American heroes such as Hogan and Lex Luger to do battle with.


KAI EN TAI



Sho Funaki, Dick Togo and Teioh arrived on the scene in WWF in 1998 on the Monday Night Raw following Wrestlemania 14. Originally part of the Blue World Order In Japan and ECW, their debuts on Raw saw them briefly named Club Kamikaze before being rebranded as Kai En Tai when they were joined by their manager Yamaguchi-San. Shortly after they were joined by Taka Michinoku before Yamaguchi, Togo and Teioh left the company, leaving behind Funaki and Michinoku to perform as a tag-team.


“We were always thinking about how we could stay in WWE for a long time,” Funaki said. “We were so small in WWE size-wise, we needed to think about how to make ourselves valuable. We thought about what looks good, how to speak better English, all sorts of things.”


If there was ever a case where characters were simply on screen to be laughed at because they were foreign, this is it. From their attempted ritualistic removal of Val Venis’ penis with a katana and the oh so racist “We choppy your pee pee” to their over dubbed promos, where they would be speaking in Japanese and Bruce Pritchard would deliver their lines in English through the speaker system. Something which could have been used as a clever nod to old Kung Fu movies from the 70s. If those old Kung Fu movies weren’t originally from Hong Kong in China and not Japan.


Kai En Tai were short lived. Of course they were. They were treated like a joke and used as comedy jobbers. But as soon as this weak comedy routine wore off. They were simply treated as jobbers. How could anyone invest in either Funaki or Michinoku, who were in their own rights fantastic in ring talents. When WWE gave us nothing to get behind. Michinoku would finish every promo with an out of context cry of “Evil” to which Funaki would reply “Indeed.


Even when Funaki was rebranded as a martial arts expert and given a traditional Gi to wear in matches under the woeful attempt at a joke name Kung Funaki, his success was minimal. So, let me ask you. Apart from being Japanese. What was their character?In recent years, WWE has made great efforts to try and move past these racial stereotypes and use Japanese wrestlers to their full potential. Allowing them to show off what made them stand out in their home country and sometimes even allowing them to speak in Japanese, rather than stumble through a poorly written promo in their second language.


ASUKA



“I have only one experience with racism. It was around the time when COVID-19 started spreading, in America, I was at the airport. A woman came towards me. When she noticed me, she covered her mouth with her hand and ran away from me. I was shocked. It never happened before COVD-19. Oh my gosh, I didn’t understand. I was shocked. There are many great Asian wrestlers in the world. When I was a teenager, I watched wrestling on TV. The Japanese wrestlers gave me energy and courage. I want to entertain a lot of people like they did for me, I think it’s important to enjoy and share and respect each others’ cultures.” Asuka


Asuka has been a revelation since her debut in NXT and move up to the main roster. Her aggressive in-ring style has led her to the Raw and Smackdown Women’s titles, victory in the Women’s Royal Rumble and a prestigious claim to have been only the third Women’s Triple Crown Champion and Second Women’s Grandslam Champion in the companies history.


Asuka comes to the ring adorned in traditional Japanese theatre costumes, with masks which in Asian drama productions often symbolise a transition between the real world and an godly plain of existence. Through her use of classic Japanese theatrics, Asuka is letting us know that she sees herself as above her competition and in my opinion, when she pairs that with the ability to rip of her enemies heads during matches, it is totally justified. Asuka’s presentation in WWE is a perfect representation of how the company can be respectful of a performers race whilst still allowing her to be her own individual human.



In AEW



As Hikaru Shida was about to be presented with a new AEW Women’s World belt on the eve of her 377th day as champion, you’d think that it would be a great moment of celebration, for women athletes, people of colour in america and pro wrestling fans everywhere. However, ignorance and racism tarnished the segment through an attempt at humour from the Spanish announce team.


During the broadcast AEW’s spanish commentator Willie Urbina was supposed to be translating what the Japanese wrestler Shida was saying, instead chose to mock her accent and poke fun at her native Asian tongue. I will play the clip for you now.


As Shida started her promo on the All Elite Wrestling Dynamite show, Willie Urbina was caught speaking incoherently using a stereotypical accent to which Thunder Rosa who was sat next to him responded by telling him to “Shut up, holy crap!”. When Urbina continued on with his racist mocking Rosa commented: “I will throw the pen at you if you don’t stop.” He continued. Dasha Kuret then responded “Stop it! You are mean.” Before the brief segment ended.


Spanish speaking fans instantly jumped on twitter to call out AEW and Willie Urbina for this unacceptable display. AEW reacted by immediately removing him from the company and terminating Urbina’s contract. A sign that even if idividual racism exists within a company, it should never be accepted and that you are free to think and say whatever you like, however ignorant and disgusting, but always be prepared to face the consequences.


NAZIS



“How I relate that all to myself, even though none of this is truly about me, is that the first tattoo I ever saw in my life was a number on my grandfather’s arm. He rode horseback toward Nazi Panzer tanks and now it’s 2020 and we live in a world where the president says that Nazis are ‘very fine people.’ And you can’t walk that back and you can’t tell me he meant something different.” CM PUNK


It is said that time heals all wounds. They say that the closer you are to a traumatic event the more emotional connection you have to it. So when the event is World War 2 and the Holocaust, you can imagine the devastating and lasting effect it had on the minds of people around the world. When Kurt Von Poppenheim delivered what he referred to as his Iron Crossbow finisher, the not-so hidden meaning behinds the characters intentions wouldn’t have been lost on anyone.


Hans Schmidt


With that in mind, can you imagine how emotionally sensitive the world was to people of German nationality, just four years after the end of the war. In 1949 a French Canadian whose name was Guy Larose decided to capitalise on that emotional turmoil on his way to becoming one of the most hated and highly paid pro wrestlers of the era.

Dressed in a German military helmet and boots and speaking in a thick German accent, wrestling fans could barely contain themselves when they heard Hans Schmidt declare he would “win ze title and take it back to Germany vere it belongs.”


When Hans Schmidt appeared in a televised interview and declared that “Germany has been good to me”, alluded to his past in the German military and explained how he saw no place in pro wrestling for any kind of sportsmanship, the television station which hosted the interview received more than 5,000 strongly worded letters of complaint.


During the American national anthem at the beginning of each wrestling show, he would sit down and look bored, often turning his back to the stars and stripes flag. Schmidt’s words and his allusions to his Nazi past led to fans attempting to stab him at wrestling shows, burning him with cigarettes and destroying his car in the parking lot. He drew so much unbridled rage from fans that a promoter could put any good guy up against Schmidt and be guaranteed to get a ruckus reaction, insuring that audiences would pay time and time again for the chance to see the most hated man in the industry get his comeuppance.


Baron Von Raschke

By the 1960s, wrestling promoters had gone from creating a character in Hans Schmidt which only every hinted at his involvement in the atrocities of the Holocaust, to slapping audiences in the face with nazi salutes and swastikas.


Baron Von Raschke would goose-step his way around the ring wearing a red cape with the infamous Nazi logo. In Verne Gagne's AWA the Baron drew calls for riots whenever he would appear and declare that he was “Ordered To Win” against the likes of Ricky Steamboat and Dick The Bruiser throughout a historic heel run in the 70s.

Karl Von Hess


As Frank Faketty finished up World War 2 as a decorated member of America’s elite underwater demolition team, a precurser to the Navy seals, his loyalty and dedication to the survival of his country was unquestionable. His superb physical conditioning and experience as a boxer meant that not only was he incredibly tough, but also highly skilled at hand to hand combat. So, given this pairing, it would make perfect sense for Faketty to combine all of his past experience and make his way to into a pro wrestling ring.


A patriotic baby-face, beloved by fans around America, adored for his service during the war and admired for his sacrifice. But no. Frank Faketty decided to go in what is possibly, the furthest opposite direction imaginable. Goose stepping to the ring in the iron cross under the now infamous name of Karl Von Hess, he became one of the most hated heels of the 50s and 60s.


The German Juggernaut' Blitzkrieg

When a Philadelphia school teacher was struggling to make ends meet back in 2016, he decided to take up his lifelong passion and begun to moonlight as a local indy wrestler. The 36 year old Kevin Bean by all accounts, was a much beloved staff member at the school where he taught and known for his kindess and mild manner.


However in an attempt to stand out from the crowd at a local World Wide Wrestling Alliance show he took up a new character and became Blitzkrieg, The German Juggernaut.


As you can see he didn’t go half arsed with it either. Parading around the ring with an iron cross and a nazi salute for good measure. As heavy metal music blasts from the speakers, it seems that The Juggernaut did not receive the desired reaction.


Some fans hated the nazi character sure, but also some didn’t. Even going so far as to have signs praising the wrestler and cheering him as he made his entrance. A video of Kevin Bean began to go viral on social media, where many were offended by what they had witnessed.


"Watching the guy do Nazi salutes on his way to the ring while children in the crowd cheer him on like a good guy is terrifying." Said one comment

Another user added: "There is nothing entertaining about this and the fact that he didn’t get much heat and people cheered him on is just awful."


Kevin Bean had attempted to grow his fame within the wrestling world by shocking audiences and giving them something to hate. But seemingly, he received more of a reaction than he was anticipating. As the video continued to spread online the board members at the school in which he taught got wind of it and released this statement.

In a statement, the school district which employs


Bean said: "Spring-Ford Area School District was made aware of a video featuring an employee, outside of the school setting, participating in an amateur wrestling event.Once administrators were made aware of the video they acted immediately to conduct an internal investigation.”

This led to The Juggernaut character being retired indefinitely as Bean decided to step away from pro wrestling in order to save his career as a teacher. He was apologetic and sincere the entire time, showing remorse for his actions which drew the ire of so many.

Other forms of entertainment have used Nazi’s as villains since the end of the second world war.


There has seldom been a group of people who were as widely hated and thus everyone could always agree to get behind whoever stood opposed to their vile beliefs. So unanimous is the rightful hatred directed towards anyone over the last 80 years who would throw up a sieg-hail salute or wear the infamous swastika, that it is easy for audiences to distinguish the clear line between good and evil.


In the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Nazi’s have captured the lead characters father in search of the Holy Grail. Their mere presence on screen in uncomfortable, and the entire plot revolves around witnessing our hero take down the most evil of villains. It’s black and white with no space for misunderstanding.


The Nazi’s in the film lead by Adolf Hitler himself have no subtlety or nuance, no reason to understand their motives nor reconsider their stance. It’s a simple tale of black versus white used for sheer primal entertainment. And, the pay off is a painful set of deaths, some of which are shown in such a gruesome fashion as to maximise the enjoyment derived from seeing the downfall of such a universally hated group.


In the video game series Wolfenstein, the story revolves around the question of, what would happen if the Nazi’s had won World War two. How would things have played out differently in the future and what would be the consequences of an allied defeat. You spend your time playing as an all-American hero who is attempting to defeat these racist, vile antagonists and through hours of gory mutilations, ferocious first person shooting and some seriously cathartic killings we are allowed to enjoy the feeling of gaining revenge over such a horrific set of people. Again, there is little nuance to this story. You are good.


Nazi’s are bad.


Help the people who are on the side of righteousness and honour defeat those who are on the side of hatred.


These are just a few examples amongst countless others which use this basic formula of good triumphing over evil as a form of widely accepted entertainment. So, why in the world of pro wrestling, a fictitious place full of all kinds of good and evil characters, do some people still have an issue with the idea of using Nazi’s in their stories.


The differences are subtle, yet important.


For a huge chunk of pro wrestling’s history fans were led to believe that what they saw in the ring was real. Not a scripted, choreographed set of actions which we are all aware is the foundations of the sport.


From the 1910s when real Greco roman style combatants started to organise together in order to put on more captivating events, all the way through until the 1970s and early 80s, for most people in the audience, seeing a man goose step to the ring covered in Nazi symbolism were not watching a man or woman play a character, but seeing someone who did indeed hold these horrid racist beliefs. Were wrestling promoters paying real Nazi’s to fight in their arenas? No of course not, but the cloak of kayfabe was still well and truly over the fans eyes, so to them, what’s the difference.


It’s a nuanced situation for sure and I can see both sides of the argument. However, one time when everyone would agree that Nazi’s have no place in pro wrestling, especially in the current era, is when those Nazi’s aren’t a character, but real.


Harris Brothers


You may remember Don and Ron Harris as 8-Ball and Skull, 2 enormous bald men whose careers led them from Smokey Mountain Wrestling, through ECW, WCW and the WWE. What you may not remember is that they have been closely linked with White Supremacy organizations through their use of Nazi iconography in pro wrestling. In the early days of Impact Wrestling, when it was still in collaboration with the National Wrestling Alliance as NWA-TNA, The Harris Brothers would come to the ring wearing an SS logo t-shirt one which at the time drew much negative attention from fans.


"On the August 14 episode of NWA-TNA: Total Nonstop Action one of our performers wore a shirt to the ring that had an offensive symbol that prompted many of our fans to e-mail us. We were not aware of the incident until we received the response from our fans, and we agree with those who say the shirt was offensive. We do not in any way condone such things and have taken steps to make sure something like that doesn't happen again. We apologize to those who were rightfully offended." NWA Management

But it’s just a t-shirt right? That logo isn’t even always associated with being a Nazi is it? As the The Anti Defamation League stated: “The SS bolts are typically used as a symbol of white supremacy but there is one context in which this is not necessarily always so. Decades ago, some outlaw biker gangs appropriated several Nazi-related symbols, including the SS bolts, essentially as shock symbols or symbols of rebellion or non-conformity. Thus SS bolts in the context of the outlaw biker subculture does not necessarily denote actual adherence to white supremacy. However, because there are a number of racists and full-blown white supremacists within the outlaw biker subculture, sometimes it actually is used as a symbol of white supremacy. Often the intended use and meaning of the SS bolts in this context is quite ambiguous and difficult to determine.”


So maybe it’s just a logo representing the Harris Brothers allegiance to a biker gang and to them, when they were younger they weren’t aware what the T-shirt would represent.

CEO of Aro Lucha Jason Brown once said “The Harris brothers TV personas and gimmick were as bikers, but they are about as far from nazi sympathizers as the east is from the west and were in no way involved in that culture, behavior or activity. This was much like the wrestler whose character or gimmick was Junk Yard Dog, however, he did not work in a junk yard, nor was he part dog, just as the wrestler known as The Undertaker wasn’t in the funeral home business. The images you may have seen in your Google search were costume and TV personas that Ron and Don played while working for wrestling promotions during their career as wrestlers, including the WWE and TNA.”


Besides, once they took off those T-shirts, Don and Ron were just a couple of big guys who liked to wrestle and were just playing a character on screen. A logo on a t-shirt worn by a character in a fictional setting, doesn’t automatically make that person a racist, it has very little bearing on their personal beliefs at all. However. What might be an indicator of if you are a nazi sympathiser or not is if you had something permanent on you. Something which once you stop playing the offensive character and drop the gimmick, doesn’t go away. Perhaps a pair of large matching SS tattoos on your bicep? Maybe they just really loved the band KISS and decided that Ron would get the ‘KI’ as a tattoo and Don would get the ’SS’ part as a tattoo and got mixed up, resulting in both of them with the lightning bolt SS. Or perhaps they are just nazis.


Zahra Schreiber


Back in 2015 Zahra Schreiber had the world at her feet. She was a budding wrestler within WWE’s developmental programme and in a relationship with grappling superstar Seth Rollins, however through her good looks and charm, her rotten beliefs reared their ugly head and proved her undoing. During her time as a valet for Solomon Crowe, her social media was trawled through by those online, who found numerous offensive and disgusting posts which alluded to Schreiber’s vile personality.


She was racist, homophobic and clearly filled with hatred, with one of her posts featuring a prominent swastika. When approached by news outlets and social media commenters, she doubled down on the reasoning for displaying such a controversial symbol:


“I said that referring to her saying the swastika symbol deserves to be spat on. It has other meanings also. F--k off. I'll take interest anything I want. If you look next to it is a photo of an actress who refused Nazism and was awarded right to America. I'll put whatever I want on wall. Get the f--k over it.”

I agree with Schreiber that she is allowed to take an interest in anything she wants. She certainly can put anything she likes on display in her house. But getting over it is something which many, including me and her employers at the time just couldn’t do. Shortly after the social posts came to light, Schreiber was released from her job in WWE as the company explained she had been terminated: "due to inappropriate and offensive remarks."




I love pro wrestling. There’s just something about this glittering world of choreographed combat and over-the-top theatrics which has struck me to my core since I was a small child. A form of escapism, which for me, is unmatched in it’s ability to entertain me in such a way that I may, even if only for a brief hour or two, be transported away to another dimension, filled to the brim with exaggerated characters, balletic action and pantomime drama.


When I was relentlessly bullied as a little fat kid, wrestling helped me to escape the day to day pressures of the school playground and drift away to this grappling universe, where I could ignore my chubby little body and the problems it was causing, and imagine what it would feel like to be one of the hulking goliaths I so enjoyed watching on my television screen.


When I left university and was starting my own business in my early, pro wrestling allowed me to step away from the countless e-mails and endless board meetings, removing myself from the stress of trying to make a life for myself and allow me time to indulge in a form of entertainment which had my analytical brain turned off and the primal side of my senses tingling with the visual spectacle on display.


As I’ve grown older my health has worsened, with it new stresses have emerged which can sometimes lead me to spiraling around an ever growing pit of depression. The world can sometimes seem like it is crumbling around us, and everyone has been through a tough time over the past 2 years. So, through that time, pro wrestling has once again allowed me to escape. It allows me to forget the pain and suffering present in so many of our lives. It allows me to forget the regrets and dial back my anxiety. Leaving behind the hatred which seems as if it comes from so many different directions these days that it can be hard to think straight.


I need this escape, I need this freedom. I need pro wrestling.


BLACK WRESTLERS



But still, over the last half a century, there still exists vile pockets of the audience who are so blinded my their ignorance that they still find issue with a wrestler’s race, especially when it comes to African American performers.


CM PUNK “This country has a problem. That much I know. I’m here to tell white people, you need to listen to your Black brothers and sisters and you need to understand where they’re coming from. It’s hard to try to walk in somebody’s shoes, to try to understand where they come from. I’m just here to tell white people you probably need to shut up more, and you certainly need to listen more. There is a problem, and the paradox is that the only way to deal with intolerance is with intolerance. If you are a white person, you more than likely are privileged. Use that privilege and support your Black brothers and sisters, especially now, because we need it.”


VIRGIL & THE KKK


Virgil’s career started way back in 1985 and took off when he became the man-servant of Ted DiBiase in a role which had many racial undertones and hasn’t aged well in retrospect. However, it was once Virgil had left the mainstream wrestling scene that things started to sour for his career.


During a show which took place at the National Wrestling Conference, Virgil came to the ring, his fame that he’d built up within WWF followed him and the fans were delighted with his arrival. His opponent om the night was a wrestler by the name of Thug, whose appearance in the match is as shocking today as it would have been in the 90s. Dressed in a KKK white hood the Thug made his way to the ring to the boos of the crowd in attendance as the match commentators stumble through a confused attempt to explain what was happening.


The match starts with a man dressed in full white Klansman robes and hood stepping into the ring with Virgil whilst the Thug remains outside the ring. As the match quickly devolves into a brawl, Virgil attacks the man stood opposite him in the ring as the rest of the clan descend.


As Virgil is overwhelmed by the attackers, the hooded figure removes his garb to reveal that it is in fact Jim the anvil Neidhart who proceeds to thrash Virgil around the ring. The other member of the Klan still hooded continually struggles with seeing through his pillow case hood and with every punch and kick has to readjust it, to prevent it from falling off completely.


Jim Neidhart then proceeds to take him now removed robes and tie them around Virgil’s neck, choking him out and dragging him around the mat, before throwing him over the ropes and using the robes as a makeshift noose, delivering some painfully unpleasant imagery as Virgil continues to suffocate whilst hanging. Unable to move or defend himself, Virgil’s lifeless body is then punched and kicked by Neidhart before the match officials finally step in to remove the KKK from the building, leaving Virgil unconscious on the floor outside the ring.


I’m not sure what anyone involved with this angle was thinking. It’s shocking sure. It drew boos from the crowd, it is fiction after all. But it’s also disgusting and offensive. In action movies when racists are used, it is almost entirely as the villains, which as an audience, we enjoy seeing defeated by the end of the story. But what purpose did this horrific event serve?


Virgil lost, utterly broken by his oppressors, made to look stupid for falling to the sneak attack and defeated by the end. There was no comeback or redemption. No body to cheer and nothing to enjoy. Truly a terrible day in the history of pro wrestling.


KAMALA


When James Harris was given the Kamala character by Jerry Lawler in Memphis Wrestling he couldn’t have possibly predicted the success he would find with a persona dripping in racial prejudice. Pro wrestling is built on exaggerated personalities, but a character who was more a caricature of an African and made a mockery of their traditions has been seen by many as racist.


Lawler said on the creation of the character: “As soon as I saw Harris, this painting came to my mind. … Where this beautiful girl is tied to a stake and these cannibals are about to burn her at the stake. They were doing this crazy war dance around this girl and that came to my mind … I could paint this guy and make him terrific.”


The Ugandan head-hunter proved extremely effective, his enormous 300-pound frame and charisma brought a terrifying presence to his matches. Eventually, Kamala made his way to WWF where he became an even bigger star. Without saying a word, spear in hand and a slap on his belly, the character heavily relied on the ignorance of the fans and played into the audiences fears of what they didn’t understand.


Throughout the 80s, Kamala became one of the biggest names in wrestling, facing off against the likes of Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan on his way to becoming an icon of the era. However, even at a time where he was earning the company huge bundles of cash from his popularity, he feels, in part due to his race, he was not rewarded in the same way as his white colleagues.


“In Summerslam 92, I had one of my biggest matches against the Undertaker. He made a half million dollars and I made 13 thousand. There was a lot of racism in the WWE. I remember so many times when I was there, I would get there early and find me a nice dressing room; the agents would kick me out and let the white stars have the dressing room. When I went out to the ring, I was a superstar; backstage I was a nothing.” James Harris


LIO RUSH


“I feel like it’s unfortunate that you don’t see African American heavyweight champions and you don’t see an African American as the face of the company. If you do, it’s kind of a publicity stunt. I’m not sure if ‘publicity stunt’ is the word I’m looking for, but it’s always more of a moment. I feel like it should just be the way that it is. There’s something unsettling about the fact that during all of this protesting and Black Lives Matter movement that we finally got to see Apollo Crews as the United States Champion. That we finally had Bobby Lashley going for the world title. Why now? Why try to capitalize on real life scenarios and tragedy to push this agenda? In my eyes, it always felt like, ‘Is this the right time to now put an African American on top because these real life social injustice issues’? That’s just something that’s always been upsetting to me and I always get pretty emotional about this.” Lio Rush

JESSICA HAVOK


As Kofi Kingston said in his response to Hulk Hogan’s racism: “On a personal level, when someone makes racist and hateful comments about any race or group of people, especially to the degree that Hogan made about our people, we find it difficult to simply forget, regardless of how long ago it was, or the situation in which those comments were made,”


This can mean that even if those who have shown themselves to be racist, either through their words or their actions, believe they have changed and moved on from those racist beliefs, the damage which they once caused can linger on in the minds of those it affected long after the fact. This was never more apparent when we look at the case of Jessica Havok, a bright spark amongst the Impact wrestling roster who had been offered a try out with the WWE developmental brand NXT, something which in her own words, was a dream come true.


However, things quickly turned dark for Havoc when, during the process of the NXT trials, tweets from years prior came to light and were brought to the attention of the staff inside WWE, who, rightfully so, cut all contact with the female wrestler. Probably feeling a sense of shame, regret and anger Jessica quickly set to work deleting her old tweets only for them to be saved by others and spread through the online wrestling community. When her attempts to remove the evidence didn’t work, she was forced to apologise:


"I want to apologize wholeheartedly for the OLD tweets that are being brought up right now. Legit, It was years ago and i don't even rem. tweeting over half of this stuff. The stuff i do remember was jokes that were in bad taste. I was young and very new to social media promo and i was very immature and just said things to make my friends laugh at the time. Inside jokes between us. I don't really feel or believe any of the things i DID actually tweet. I am a loving, compassionate person and i LOVE everyone. No matter who! I would die for any wrestling fan and i care so much about wrestling and everything in it. I would not be here without any of you. I was young, stupid & immature. I am not too proud to admit some of it was me being bitter for all the wrong reasons, but I've learned and grown from this, I hope this can be forgiven.”

Being racist as an inside joke between friends, still makes you a scumbag. Being racist as a form of humour, still makes you a racist. Jessica would later go on to change her story. Instead of owning up to her ignorance as she once attempted to do, she tried to distance herself from the racism she had shown and change the narrative of what actually happened.


“I trended world wide as a racist that day. What is even more fucked up is that the tweets that trended world wide and got plastered on every dirt sheet website weren’t even real. The KFC one especially. That same group of little trolls used a twitter app to Photoshop these tweets that made it huge. I had a team of people look into this group and I have screen shots and proof of them bragging about screwing me over. And even saying things like “Who do we mess with next?!” Again, call me a liar and anything else you can think of. I’ve heard it all at this point. But I have proof kids. I am even told I can sue. Slander and deformation of character. They cost me my dream job. I may pursue it. Who knows.”

Being a racist, for any reason is horrible. Obviously. But something which we see time and time again on social media, is someone who takes pride in the fact that they don’t care who they offend. People tell others to stop being so delicate and remind us that it is all just a joke. But it isn’t. And when their disgusting beliefs come back to haunt them, suddenly they do care who they offend and they are the ones who are crying for the public to treat them more gently. Jessica asked for understanding, support and sympathy. But where was her understanding, support and sympathy for other human beings in these tweets and the so called jokes she shared with friends. Having your dreams ripped away from you, just as you are about to realise them, has got to be one of the worst feelings imaginable. But when the person is a hateful racist, it is so hard to show the type of forgiveness Jessica Havok called for in her apology.


BLACKFACE



AKEEM AFRICAN DREAM

George Gray had already established himself as a dominant figure on the territorial wrestling circuit before his arrival in the WWF in 1987. One Man Gang was a powerhouse biker who tore through rosters covered in leather and sweat. When he was taken under the wing of manager ‘Slick’ a smooth talking pimp, his character changed with it. It was revealed at Survivor Series in 1988 that George Gray wasn’t a white motorbike gang member, but in fact a repressed black man, whose real name was Akeem The African Dream.


Reborn with a blaccent and dressed in traditional African hat and colours, Akeem was a poorly thought out stereotype. His loose dance moves, I think are a poor attempt at some kind of African American stereotype. Originally created as a comedic character, it’s hard to see what was supposed to be funny? The fact that he is playing a black person? The idea that he is from Africa? I never understood it when I was younger and I don’t understand it now. Through Akeem’s short run in WWF he teamed with Big Boss Man to face off against The Mega Powers at Survivor Series before fading into obscurity. It’s hard to see the positives from this one. But WWE seemingly still do as videos of the character are available on their youtube channel and network.


RODDY PIPER BLACK FACE



When Rowdy Roddy Piper was set to face Bad News Brown at Wrestlemania 6, he decided that in order to make the fans more invested in the event, he would make the hatred in their onscreen rivalry, a personal one.


“I’m looking at Bad News, who was a really good judo player and just a so-so professional wrestler. And here’s what’s going through my mind. I’m looking at him and I’m going, I’m going to have 45 interviews about this guy. At the time, Cindy Lauper had ‘True Colors’ out. In my mind, what I was trying to do — there is no difference. I needed material on Bad News Brown. I did something where I sang ‘True Colors’ and I did a thing about Nelson Mandela.”


When the reaction to Piper’s promos fell flat, Vince McMahon decided that the idea of black vs white should be played up in order to increase interest from fans.


"They told me in the office Piper would be wearing black face. Vince said, We think this is a GREAT idea! This is GOOD! What do YOU think? Unenthusiastically I said, 'Yeah...it sounds 'great', Vince...' I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard. But I figured, let him go ahead and do it, one of these times, one of these brothers is gonna get all up in him and he's gonna be sorry.” Bad News Brown

“The reason I painted myself half Black was more the meshing. Bad News Brown didn’t take it that way.” Roddy Piper


Before the match at Wrestlemania, Piper came out to address the crowd on Prime Time Wrestling in an interview with Gene Okerlund, at this point he had only half his face painted in a deep shade of black. He said: “I’m half black, I’m half white, I’m wearing a dress, aren’t I crazy enough to get the job done?” Roddy Piper


Later at the Wrestlemania event, a promo aired where Piper stood to one side, showing his profile, that of his natural white skin and talking to himself. He then turned to reveal the completely black side of his body and began to argue back at himself as if he was processed.


As Piper danced like Michael Jackson to the ring the match between the pair was the least memorable part of this whole saga. At one point Piper put on a glove which Gorilla Monsoon referred to as “A Michael Jackson glove” and proceeded to beat Bad News Brown with punches, before the pair were counted out for fighting outside the ring.

In the years since, Piper has explained that he is “not a racist” and that the whole meaning behind the character and black face paint was misunderstood. Bad News Brown sees things differently.


BUFF BAGWELL BLACK FACE


During a feud with Ernest ‘The Cat’ Miller in July of 1999, Buff Bagwell came out to his opponent’s theme music and emulated his iconic dance moves on his way to the ring. The reference would have been obvious on it’s own, but pro wrestling seemingly always has to be right on the nose. In our faces with explaining what we see from the performers. Thus Bagwell had his face painted brown and danced around in an exaggerated and stereotypical fashion, which looking back on today, has not aged well.



GOLDUST BLACK FACE



In recent years, Dustin Rhodes has carved out a legacy for himself, known for his longevity in the business and his ability to perform at the highest level even at his advanced age. In AEW his character has taken a more serious approach and had faced off against several opponents in classic match ups, including a fondly remembered and emotional feud with his younger brother Cody. However, this hasn’t always been the case.


After moving around the wrestling world, Dustin returned to WWF in 1995 with a new character, the villain, the bizzarre one Goldust, an effeminate and unusual character who played on the idea of gay panic in the 90s. Blowing kisses, groping his male opponents and being sexually suggestive were all apart of Goldust’s tactics to unnerve and distract in order to win victory in his matches.


In 1997 the androgynous nature of the character led to Goldust emulating both male and female wrestlers and celebrities during his matches. One such time, when Goldust was facing off against 2 Cold Scorpio, known at the time as Flash Funk on Raw. Goldust came to the ring dressed as a a black man, complete with oversized afro, gold chains and a boom box. As the ring announcer calls the character “The artist formerly known as Goldust” as a reference to musical artist Prince.


Commentator Jerry Lawler says “he looks more like the artist formerly known as Shaft” laughing his head off the whole time.

The crowd boo and for good reason. This is about as distasteful of a blackface as you can get. There is no attempt from Goldust to represent a black person. His skin is unnaturally dark and his hands remain unpainted. It is more akin to the look achieved by Minstrels in the 1800s and that’s where, in my opinion, these kinds of acts should remain. Seemingly, Peacock, the network that now own the rights to the WWE back catalogue agrees.


Dave Meltzer said “Peacock and WWE Network are evidently editing out segments from the late 90s with Goldust wearing black paint on his face.”

DX BLACKFACE



The Nation of Domination were an all black wrestling stable who used their oppression as fuel to drive them in unity towards victory. During a feud between D Generation X and The Nation, it was clear that race would play a large part of what made up the hatred between the 2 competing groups.


On an episode of Raw in 1998, in order to mock the Nation and their black members, DX donned blackface and stereotypical characteristics during a now infamous televised segment.


Each member of DX emulated their counterpart from The Nation Of Domination. Triple H dressed in a tight afro, a large eyebrow and brown makeup in order to become The Crock, a reference to Nation member Dwayne Johnson. Billy Gunn also covered himself in brown makeup, a large chain and came to the ring puffing a cigar in order to emulate The Godfather as the GunnFather


“We didn’t take it that way. It was just us having fun. You look back at it now and your like, ‘wow, that would never go across today.’ Back then no one was thinking about it being racist, we didn’t think that way. We were just having fun,” Godfather stated.

Road Dogg wore the colours of D’Lo Brown and covered himself in brown makeup to become B’Lo.


“What I felt in ‘98 when it was being done, I was totally on board with it because I thought it was a way of sparking our feud and showing the deeper rivalry between the two of us. Now looking back at it in ‘21 mindset, I wish we could’ve done it without Blackface. I wish we could’ve gone the route without going there, because if you take Blackface away, that skit would have been perfect still. So, that’s the one thing that at the time and obviously we all grow, I didn’t take offense to it, until I got a little more [aware] and a little more seasoning to me as a person, as an individual and look, I love the skit. I wish we could’ve done it without Blackface.” D’Lo Brown

The worst offender in most people’s eyes was Sean Waltman, who was tasked with mocking Mark Henry. Amongst the rag-tag group of tasteless parodies, X-Pac’s Mizzark rendition, complete with dark face paint, overstuffed gut and afro seems the one to have caused most offense.


"I wish I could say I was forced, but I mean, I protested. I've had people on both sides of that tell me, 'oh no, it's okay...' 'I'm going with them, I wish I hadn't done it almost. I mean some people thought it was great and whatever that's fine, but I just didn't know." Sean Waltman, X-Pac said on his Podcast

TNA BLACKFACE


But this wouldn’t be the last time Billy Gunn would be involved in a rather problematic moment where he donned blackface. When he and Road Dogg left WWE, they formed a faction within rival company TNA and quickly entered into a feud with another ex-WWE tag team in the Dudley Boyz.


Once again showing that the 2 men think imitation is the highest form of flattery, performed a parody of both Bubba and D-Von and yep, you guessed it. One of them had to be D-Von. An African American man. So Billy Gunn did, with D-Von’s blessing.

And, came to the ring for the segment with, what is in my opinion, the most ignorant form of blackface imaginable.


There is no attempt to look like D-Von here. Merely an ignorant and outdated caricature which knowingly or not, comes from a place of racism.


JORDAN MYLES QUITTING AND T-SHIRT


After making his name as ACH on the indies in the Unites States and Mexico. The man behind the character, Albert Christian Hardie was signed to WWE with their developmental brand under the new name of Jordan Myles. Full of potential, WWE and the creative team behind NXT wanted to begin to market their hot new signing almost immediately. One huge part of any wrestlers marketing plan and steady stream of revenue is from merchandise sales. Thus WWE and ACH began to work on a design for a t-shirt.


In a selection of tweets, Jordan Myles tagged his ex-bosses Vince McMahon and Triple H, calling the designs a “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.”


WWE then responded with: “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.”


“I only agreed to the shirt because it was shown to me on a white tee. Once placed on a black tee you can clearly see the racist intentions. Baker Landon lied to my face! He said HHH wanted this design, so my hands were tied. I spoke with @TripleH in person and his impression was I approved”. ACH


Dave Meltzer believes ACH could have handled the situation differently: “He certainly hasn’t shown himself in a great light with what he said about Jay Lethal. I don’t know, if he had played his cards better, I mean there’s a lot of people in WWE who are very angry at him right now and understandably so.”


THE MIDDLE EAST / SUPERSTARS & STRIPES FOREVER



At the time, the US and Iraq were in the midst of the Gulf War and tensions were extremely high between the two nations. The WWF once again proved that they weren’t above using any sensitive topic in order to draw a crowd, had turned their returning, all-american hero - Sergeant Slaughter, into a yankee hating Iraqi sympathiser and dedicated follower of Iraqi leader Suddam Hussein. They placed Slaughter as the leader of a newly formed group known as the Triangle of Terror, with General Adnan and eventually The Iron Sheik as Colonel Mustafa. The hatred that these three men received when appearing at shows meant that anyone who faced off against them, instantly had the full support of the American audience.


After winning the 1991 Royal Rumble, Hogan headed backstage where he was interviewed by Gene Okerlund. During the segment, news was brought to Hulk’s attention that the new WWF Champion Sergeant Slaughter and General Adnan were celebrating their defeat of the Ultimate Warrior, by destroying Hulk’s beloved American flag. This sent Hogan into a patriotic rage, where he promised to defeat Slaughter at Wrestlemania, for the WWF title and for the honour of the American people. Before the event, Hulk promised fans that as soon as he had destroyed the Triangle of Terror and taken the American WWF Championship back from these evil foreigners, Iraq would concede to the US and bow out of the conflict in the Gulf.


The heat of the event drew so much controversy, that although it was originally scheduled to take place in the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum the stadium was deemed too large to protect from any potential backlash it may receive. WWF stated that due to a bomb threat and the inability to guarantee the fans safety, they would move the event to the nearby Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena which with its ability to hold the 16,158 attendance. However, in recent years it has become evident that the reason WWF moved the show was not the security threat, but largely in part to the poor ticket sales for the event. With an estimated 10,500 paying for a ticket to see the show and the further 5,000 seats being filled by those with a free ticket.


In the main event of Wrestlemania 7 Superstars and Striped Forever, Hogan defeated Slaughter to win the WWF Championship and celebrated with the people of America in the face of their real-life enemies the Iraqi government. Hulk Hogan declaring himself as a reason to why the US and the coalition forces defeated Iraq and liberated Kuwait is a disgrace. It is a spit in the face to the hundreds of soldiers who lost their lives in an attempt to restore freedom and democracy to the middle-east. It takes away from the efforts of the thousands of men and women who bravely fought for what they considered to be the right option and stood against Iraq’s oppression.


By the 15th March 1991, America and the coalition forced had removed the Iraqi forces from Kuwait and handed power to a Kuwaiti democratic government. By the time Wrestlemania 7 took place 9 days later, the whole war was already at an end. I can appreciate that Hogan’s character is and always was as patriotic as it’s possible to be. I understand the idea that his confidence in the US’s victory in the middle east was probably reassuring to small children watching at the time, heck even some adults too.


But there is something so dark and twisted in the idea that a simple, meaningless pro wrestling show would attempt to ramp up the emotion of an event which wasn’t selling well, by using the real life deaths and an ongoing war.


Muhammad Hassan



Seemingly the WWE had loved the success of the Iraqi sympathiser and the heat which it drew from fans. So, as tensions began to rise once again between the USA, Afganistan and Iraq following the devastating attacks on 9/11, the creative team behind the scenes lept at the chance to recreate that same heat.


They turned Marc Julian Copani and Italian American wrestler into the Jordanian-Palestinian Muhammad Hassan a character who was born out of the hatred shown by many Americans towards those of Arabic decent. People around the world were scared following the terror of September 2001, confused and conflicted over the USA’s response in the middle east.


In the weeks from September 11th, 645 hate crimes and aggravated harassment took place against anyone in the US who was thought to have even vaguely been of middle eastern origin. Muslims and South Asians, were primary targets of vandalism, threats, assault, arson and shootings as American’s looks to seek revenge for what had happened. Several mosques were attacked and a Hindu Temple was burnt down via a revenge bombing in the US. Sikhs were targeted by those who mistook their traditional turbans as a sign of their Islamic faith with one, Balbir Singh Sodhi being fatally shot in Arizona.


The Islamic Society Of North America put out a statement saying: "we call upon Muslim Americans to come forward with their skills and resources to help alleviate the sufferings of the affected people and their families"

But this did little to quash the tensions in the US at the time. Thus many of those who were perceived to be Muslim or Middle Eastern felt scared to simply go about their daily lives. This fear is what initially sparked the idea of the wrestling character Muhammad Hassan.


In December of 2004, dressed in traditional robes and middle eastern headwear, Hassan came to the ring talking to the crowd about the discrimination he had received at the hands of Americans, simply on the basis of his race. With the world in the state it was, this simply fanned the flames and drew crowds to hate his character even further. Realising that WWE had a character which would be perfect to face off against their all American, patriotic wrestlers, the story line skewed away from Hassan as a sympathetic man and leaned heavily into the idea that he stood against American values and denounced the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.


The character proved successful right away, for such a new performer Hassan was allowed a chance to make his name against some of the biggest face characters that the ruthless aggression era had to offer. Hassan faced off against Jerry Lawler, Sergeant Slaughter, Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels, all the while continuing to complain the WWE fans that he was held back due to his middle-eastern heritage.


When Hassan appeared at the Royal Rumble, the entire match pulled to a stop as the wrestlers in the ring awaited his entrance into the match. As soon as Hassan stepped between the ropes, the performers took turns attacking him, before teaming up to quickly throw him back out of the match.


Initially, Hassan and his manager Daivairi would prey to Allah whilst making their entrance in matches and thank him during their victories whilst raising their hands to the sky, all the while Daivari would repeat Hassan’s promos in Persian, something which has always been hated by American wrestling audiences. This drew backlash from Islamic groups and the verbal praying stopped.


But this wouldn’t be the most controversial aspect of the Muhammad Hassan character, not by a long shot. On July the 4th 2005, Hassan faced off against the Undertaker on taping of Smackdown. After Hassan was defeated he began to prey on the entrance ramp with the Undertaker still in the ring.


Then, from the back, appeared five masked men, dressed in black and camo who made their way to the ring and attacked Undertaker with clubs, as the deadman fell, one of the ski masked sporting assailants pulled out a wire and began to choke him to within an inch of his life. This allowed Hassan to step in and place the fallen Undertaker in the camel clutch submission, creating an unprecedented rally of support from the fans for the Undertaker and an insane amount of hatred aimed towards what now looked like a terrorist organisation standing in the ring.


The show aired 3 days later on the 7th of July and in a manner which nobody could possibly have predicted. This same day, a terrorist attack occurred in London, England and the themes of the show were too similar for some fans to bear. UPN the network which aired Smackdown received huge swathes of complaints from international audiences and immediately forced WWE to remove the Muhammad Hassan character from their programming.


On pay-per-view, where WWE had more freedom, at the Great American Bash on July 24th The Undertaker effectively deleted the Hassan character by sending him plummeting off the entrance way onto the concrete floor below with a wicked powerbomb. This was followed by an announcement from Teddy Long who explained that Hassan had suffered career ending injuries and would no longer be appearing on Smackdown.


Marc Julian Copani, the man behind the character was then sent back to WWE developmental with the idea to repackage him and reintroduce him as a completely different person. However, due to the backlash he received following the incident Copani stepped away from his role and the professional wrestling industry as a whole, only to wrestle a handful of matches for other promotions over the next 15 years.


It’s a terrible situation for all involved. The fans were upset because they use pro wrestling as a means of escapism to get away from the real life horrors and were right to feel pain surrounding the attacks in London. It was a bad look for WWE especially in front of their advertisers and television network, who didn’t want to be associated with such negativity.


There is no way WWE could have known how things would play out, but I guess that is the risk you take when you attempt to mould storylines and characters so closely around real world controversies.


But most of all it is unfortunate for Copani who was following the orders of the creative team within WWE and was given the character to try and do his best with. Could he have said no? Yes.


But he would have risked tarnishing his entire career within the company. How ironic then, that a man who was touted to one day become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history, saw his entire wrestling journey come to a crashing end because of his decision to take on the role.



WHY IS RACISM BAD



The topic of racism and it’s effects on a society and an individual are much studied and documented, so instead of attempting to explain the effects of racism through my narrow window onto the world, I read several academic studies which attempted to scientifically understand why racism is such a bad thing for humanity as a whole and how it affects those who are targeted in deep and profound ways.


“Ethnic minority people, when compared to White British people, are more likely to report adverse, harsh or distressing mental health experiences and poorer outcomes, if they develop a mental illness and are in contact with services. These experiences are persistent and driven by societal disadvantage, framed by institutional and interpersonal racism.” The Impact Of Racism On Mental Health by The Synergi Collaborative Centre


“Racism is a system of structuring opportunity and assigning value based on the social interpretation of how one looks that unfairly disadvantages some individuals and communities, unfairly advantages other individuals and communities, and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources.


Racism is a social determinant of health that has a profound impact on the health status of children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families.


Although progress has been made toward racial equality and equity, the evidence to support the continued negative impact of racism on health and well-being through implicit and explicit biases, institutional structures, and interpersonal relationships is clear. Failure to address racism will continue to undermine health equity for all children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families. The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health By The American Academy Of Pediatrics




“Anti-immigration sentiments fuel the proliferation of stereotypical depictions of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Although most Mexican Americans are at least partly descended from indigenous peoples, and Mexican Americans have been in the United States for many generations, they are often seen and portrayed as newly-arrived cultural parasites. The stereotypical depictions of Mexicans, especially those thought to be in the United States illegally, are harsh and demeaning. The men are portrayed as illiterate criminals. The women are depicted as hypersexual. Both men and women are portrayed as lazy, dirty, physically unattractive menaces.” Spokesperson for Jim Crow Museum Of Racist Memorabilia


JBL HUNTING ILLEGALS


These stereotypes were used in order to create a storyline within WWE where the loud-mouthed Texan John Bradshaw Leyfield went out into the night close to the Mexican border and chased off anyone trying to cross into America. In his very first appearance after splitting with Farooq and changing his character drastically to JBL, he proclaimed: “You go back to Mexico and tell your Mexican family they’d better stay there!” When he faced off against Eddie Guerrero, JBL core motivations came from the idea that he was racist against immigrants.


In recent years, when the real-life John Bradshaw Leyfield has been questioned about the character, he has always responded with gusto, defending the decision to play such a controversial figure. When asked about the incident on twitter, JBL replied: “KAREN SAID WHAT? SORRY YOUR FEELINGS ARE HURT BY A FICTIONAL CHARACTER SNOWFLAKE. PLEASE IMMEDIATELY CANCEL YOUR ACCOUNT AND REPORT TO NEAREST ADULT TO FIND A SAFE PLACE.”



Rey Mysterio


“Doing my part in the entertainment world to be able to be a distraction whether for a second or forever for my people, it’s a blessing to be able to do that,” Mysterio said. “It’s very hard to have everybody tuned in in the same state of mind, where we all get equal opportunities and we all get equal love from each and every race that is out there. Unfortunately, some people do not think that way.”


Alberto Del Rio has a very complex history with WWE, with his journey thus far within the company being that of a hero to a zero. His contract was terminated after he became physical with a producer. This incident occurred allegedly because of a racist joke made backstage. An undisclosed source said;


“Based on sketchy stories and what wrestlers have been talking about, at catering, somebody asked Web producer to clean off his plate. The person joked something along the lines of how that’s Del Rio’s job. Del Rio found out and confronted him. As the story goes, he didn’t apologize and then smiled at him, and Del Rio slapped him.” Since then

Alberto El Patron has been involved in numerous scandalous activities over the last five years. Cocaine, domestic abuse and a litany of other shady dealings have turned this once WWE Champion and one of Mexico’s biggest stars into a shadow of his former self. Recently, he teased a return to WWE, which most of us hope does not happen.


NAITO’S EYES


Tetsuya Naito is one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s brightest stars. He was the first performer within the company to hold the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championship simultaneously.


His much beloved faction, Los Ingobernables de Japón were originally formed in Mexico. And Naito’s now iconic pose where he puts his fingers to his face and pulls open one eye, came from racism he received whilst wrestling for CMLL. Mexican fans in the arena would shout at Naito during his matches that he should open his eyes and make various other racist taunts at him.


This led to Tetsuya embracing the ignorance shown by the fans and using the same eye gesture shown to him by the audience and turning it back at them in defiance. A cool meaning, one which perfectly aligns with Naito’s non-conformist attitude. But sadly one which reminds us that there are different forms of racism occurring around the wrestling industry to this day.


One man who has a strong link to the Mexican community is Chavo Guerrero has faced racism throughout his career. However, one incident occurred back when he was wrestling with WWE which is a little more nuanced and complicated than most others discussed in this video.


KERWIN WHITE


There came a time when Chavo Guerrero was summoned to a meeting with the head of the company Vincent McMahon and after being told that he was to undergo a character change, that the company would like for him to “denounce his Hispanic heritage and become a white guy,” known as Kerwin White.


“I was like alright I have two options, you either say no and possibly go back on the back burner for a while, or get fired, or you say alright, let’s do it,” Guerrero said. “The Hispanics hated me because I was denouncing my Mexican heritage, I had the whites (hate me) hate me because I was kind of making fun of them...I had everybody hate me, and a true heel wants everybody to hate them” Guerrero said.


Now does this offend me? No. Would it be offensive if the roles were reversed? Probably. This isn’t the only generalisation made against white people in pro wrestling. There are many stereotypes which some may find offensive, or racist.


THE IRISH


The Irish have often been looked down upon, and treated as second class citizens throughout history, especially those who have found themselves immigrants in the United States or England. With this out-dated and racist view of the Irish living on through stereotypes and characters seen on screen, it is still something which we see previlant in the world of pro wrestling. Where, in the modern day, you may not be looked down upon for being Irish and you may not end up being a heel, but you will probably have to come to the ring to some traditional irish folk music and you’ll most likely dye your hair to further emphasis your Irish roots.


Killian Daine

Killian Daine, at points in his career would come to the ring with an attire which was a heavy nod to the Celtic free folk and barbarian nomadic race of the big man’s Northern Irish lineage. His bright red chest and back hair along with his thick accent mean he has little choice than to play a stereotype in WWE’s eyes.


Sheamus

The self-professed; “ginger fella from Cabra, North Dublin” known inside WWE as the Celtic Warrior. With bright green, glowing trunks. If the sparkle of his emerald attire doesn’t dazzle you, then the reflection from Sheamus’ bright white torso surely will. “Hopefully there will be a few little boys and girls watching that will go on to follow in my footsteps, Becky Lynch’s footsteps, Finn Balor. So I’m excited that people at home get to see me now” Sheamus said. This giant man from Ireland using the Irish Curse Backbreaker, the Celtic Cross both as a powerbomb and more recently used the name to refer to a slam which he learnt from another icon of Irish wrestling, Fit Finlay.


Fit Finlay

Was the second worst irish stereotype in WWE’s history.


Hornswoggle

And Hornswoggle was the worst. A literal little leprechaun. A goblin like creature who would come springing out from under the ring apron during matches, dressed in emerald green to interfere in Finlay’s affairs. It was later revealed in a story line that Hornswoggle was the true son of Vincent McMahon. When the news was announced live on air, The owner of the WWE was disgusted, frustrated and disappointed to find out who his real heir was. Why? Because he is a dwarf? Or Irish? What is it?


Becky Lynch

She debuted in the most stereotypical fashion imaginable for an Irish performer. Dressed in emerald green, she Irish jigged her way to the ring to some naff sounding fiddles and flutes. This is an example of how not to step away from using race as a base for a character. However, since then, Becky Lynch has left that all behind. On the main roster in WWE she is one of the most highly decorated and well respected wrestlers on any brand. With numerous title reigns, Lynch has become beloved by fans for her charisma on the microphone and excellent in ring ability. Yes, she still speaks with an Irish accent, that’s her accent. But aside from that, her nationality plays little role in her performances on-screen, and she has thrived because of it.



REDNECKS & RACISTS



In WCW a team was formed known as the West Texas Rednecks. An all white group who regularly faced off against teams of colour, specifically feuding with the No Limit Soldiers who featured only black and Hispanic wrestlers, with the friction between the two teams stemming from differences in race.


A common trope for white villains in any form of media, is for them to be portrayed as ignorant or racist. Pro wrestling is no different.


WE THE PEOPLE


“What's wrong with America?" Colter then explained that he "Doesn't recognize today's America.” He said he saw people with faces "Not like mine" and heard people that "Can't even talk to me…" and he screamed out again to the Nashville audience and the Americans at home: "Where did all these people come from?"


This character drew so much attention that one reporter from Info Wars exploded in a tirade online about the issue, saying:


“This is part of the divide and conquer tactic of cultural subversion to manufacture racial division and to characterize the Tea Party, conservatives, libertarians, opponents of uncontrolled illegal immigration and constitutionalists as racist, extremist radicals who should be pushed to the fringes of the political discourse. Now the demonization runs so deep that it’s even being bolstered by WWE wrestling. The fact that WWE is owned by Vince and Linda McMahon, who are part of the Republican establishment, also tells us a lot about how grass roots conservatives and libertarians are viewed by those near the top of the power structure.” Paul Joseph Watson

It Just Doesn't Work Anymore


Imagine Manchester United fans booing Paul Pogba because he is French.

Imagine if the Spurs basketball fans had shunned Tim Duncan, arguably the best foreign player to ever throw a ball in the NBA and they hadn't gone on to make him captain, and to win five titles.


Centre court of Wimbledon and the match is a disaster as Rafael Nadal and Rodger Federa battle it out in the final, showered in litter, abuse hurled at both men on every swing of the racket because they aren't British.


Sports have moved on. More importantly the world has moved on. We are different now as a culture, within our communities where race and nationality, especially where I live in cities like London are becoming more vague and blurred, at the same time becoming more accepted than its ever been, we are more proud, for the most part of our mixed heritage and are realizing the wonder and beauty of learning from one another and collaborating for a brighter tomorrow, together.


We are beginning to see more evolution as people have become more in-common and more separate simultaneously. We are living in a time of great technological advancement, changes in political views, religious beliefs, the way we assess and represent sex, gender roles, orientation. Our collectives eyes are starting to open, whist others seemingly and dwindling closed. We do not need main-stream media, especially entertainment driving further wedges between people with opposing beliefs and ideas.

We need something to watch that helps bring people, all people together and help bring to light negatives for the to be understood and discussed, not repressed, and booed.


Whoever you are, listener.


Wherever you are.


Somewhere in your family line is a poor, starving, desperate immigrant, risking their lives to cross borders, leaving behind oved ones as they lose their culture and struggle to fit into a new community of people who seem them as lesser outsiders. If you are American and boo an American playing a Russian whilst cheering for a Canadian playing an American, before they have even spoken or wrestled, you are an idiot. And I’m afraid probably a racist.


Let me choose my favorite wrestler. Let me boo who I want and cheer who I want.


I don't dislike Roman Reigns because he is Samoan, or American. I dislike Roman because of his personality, his charisma and general Ora, which comes from within him and has nothing to do with his heritage or race. In fact, that's one of the massive positives in my eyes for Reigns, his illustrious family tree plays so nicely into his character, his cousins, his uncles, his brothers all legends that have laid the gauntlet for him to try and beat.


I don't hate the Great Khali's in-ring character because he is Indian or Asian. Nor because he is vegan. I respect the ability to get so fucking jacked on a restricted diet. I bet he eats a shit ton of delicious food every day. His body must be so pure. My body shakes when he comes on the television and my hand spontaneously reaches for the controller. That failing my legs autonomously walk me out of sight of the screen as my stomach sinks. But not in anyway because of his nationality. But because he is shit at wrestling and has tiny shins.


REMOVING THE CONTENT


Another key difference, especially in the modern day, is the audience’s sensitivity towards what they are enjoying as entertainment and their desire for escapism. Imagine you are a Jewish and you have the horrendous mental scars of knowing that in the not so distant past, your family members were caught up in the unthinkable acts which took place at the hands of the Nazis. You attend a local wrestling show and your favourite wrestler is facing off against a character who is portraying a fascist.


Now, instead of enjoying your simple slice of slamming action, you are sad and thinking about the real life events that occurred. The same could be said for someone who had lost a loved-one to a terrorist attack. Do you really want to have to relive those memories whilst Muhammad Hussan parades around the ring calling your entire way of life disgusting. What about for black people in the audience. You see a man dressed up in a KKK hood. How does that make you feel?


Disney’s streaming service includes a 12-second disclaimer that cannot be skipped before films like “Dumbo” and “Peter Pan” that tells viewers they will see “negative depictions” and “mistreatment of people or cultures. These Stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the disclaimer warns. “Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together.”


NBCUniversal said that Peacock was “reviewing WWE content to ensure it aligns with Peacock’s standards and practices,” as it does other shows and films on the platform.

This has led to countless sections being held back when WWE’s content was being transitioned onto the Peacock service. Something which many fans online have been vocal about.


“Peacock and WWE are reviewing all past content to ensure it fits our 2021 standards,” WWE said.


Do you think that WWE should continue to remove hateful or racist moments from their libraries? Hidden away as not to perpetuate the racism and bring ill feelings to future generations. Or keep them as a reminder that they happened and hopefully a moment to learn from the mistakes of our past?


THE MODERN DAY


I am under no illusion about the significance of Hulk Hogan on the history of pro wrestling. And even though I must disagree with extremists who claim that pro wrestling wouldn’t exist in the modern era without Terry Bollea’s run in the red and yellow. But I can certainly appreciate and be thankful for the legacy that this iconic performer left behind. Seemingly, many others still keep Hulk Hogan close to their hearts, with interest in his life story and wrestling career still ever present.


GQ recently reported: “Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, the writer-director duo behind the upcoming Joker film, would be teaming up yet again for a Hulk Hogan biopic. The film, starring America’s favorite Chris (Hemsworth) will be produced with Bradley Cooper, Spotlight’s Michael Sugar, and prominent wrestling figurehead Eric Bischoff. It’s scheduled to be released on Netflix. Hogan himself will reportedly serve as both a consultant and executive producer.”


People want more Hulk Hogan after everything he has been through. All of the ups and downs. The historic highs and the darkest of lows. And even on the other side of those deepest moments, something about this bandana wearing, handbar moustache sporting legend keeps fans around the world coming back for more.


And that alone is something which I think perfectly encapsulated which I think Hulkamania will never truly die amongst pro wrestling fans.


“We live in a time where hatred is stoked at the highest level. Fascism and racism cannot win, and if you’re struggling to come up with a way that you can help, the easiest way to help is to combat that intolerance with intolerance. There’s no room for it.” CM PUNK

In AEW there is a shocking lack of diversity towards the top of the card. Perhaps not a result of racism on the part of it’s mixed raced owner. But things could certainly be better. Tony Khan recently spoke on the topic: “I think we are going to see some wrestlers of color in the men’s division. I think it’s something that’s really important to me. We have some wrestlers who are absolutely going to contend. I don’t wanna tip my hand on who will be in contention, but I think you will see by the end of the year that I am committed to diversity and I am doing some exciting things to establish new stars both in the singles and tag division and getting some diversity in those roles. You’ll see and I’m gonna do it in a way that you won’t remember we had this conversation and it’s going to be good.”


With the dominance of the Bullet Club in New Japan Pro wrestling, there has been a noticeable shift in the company in it’s attitude towards gaijin or foreign performers. Kenny Omega, Jay White, Finn Balor, Jeff Cobb, Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Juice Robinson, The Young Bucks, Zack Sabre Junior, Jay Lethal and Will Ospreay all making huge leaps forward for how mixing up New Japan’s roster with more non-Japanese wrestlers can have a positive impact. And the fans, have witnessed a resurgence for the company over the last decade.


"WWE has a long history of creating fictional characters that serve as either protagonists or antagonists, no different than other television shows or feature films. To create compelling and relevant content for our audience, it is important to incorporate current events into our storylines. WWE is creating drama centered on a topical subject that has varying points of view to develop a rivalry between two characters." WWE spokesman Brian Flinn


“WWE is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds,” the company said in a statement, “as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.”


In recent years WWE have embraced it’s multi-cultural roster and allowed their performer’s personalities to shine through, far beyond simply being a racial stereotype.

Kofi Kingston overcame his badly executed Jamaican accent and one note character which he arrived onto the roster with, to ascend through a gospel choir gimmick and eventually to just being himself. Something which allowed his true charisma and personality to shine through and connect with the WWE fans on his way to a historic Wrestlemania victory and a reign as the WWE Champion. His allies in the New Day have also stepped beyond their stereotypes and become some of the most popular entertainers in the entire wrestling industry.


“Through the course of our live, people have used racist comments toward us and it doesn’t feel good,” Kofi said. “But if we stop moving forward every time we were met with prejudicial hatred, then we would have never achieved our current accomplishments.”

Xavier Woods somehow manages to run a successful video game youtube channel whilst performing to a high enough level within the squared circle to be names 2021’s King Of The Ring.


Whilst Big E has gone from power lifting brute, through some of the wittiest promos in recent memory to become a deserved WWE Champion. None of these instances put race first. Of course it is important to recognise that these three wrestlers come from an African American background, all three of these men of colour should be proud of their various heritages and the paths that led them to the biggest stage in WWE, but that wasn’t what made them successful. What it took for these men to stand out was charisma, hard-work and dedication all of which they have in bundles and none of which is restricted in anyway by the colour of their skin.


‘You see the brown skin, you see the name, and you go, oh because of this, that means you’re a barbarian, you’re uncivilised, you wanna wish harm upon everybody. And you say all of these terrible things about me. Now, if I respond and yell horrific things at you and I insult you, I’ve kinda proved your point. But if I respond in kindness and I clarify you and I sound intelligent and articulate, not only have I defeated your point, I’ve made you look like an idiot. Yeah, here and there someone deserves a clapback and they’ll get it. My whole thing is, I know what you’re saying is not true, so why would I let that interrupt me?” Mustafa Ali


“My dream, no, my purpose, remains the same. I will be the first ever Japanese WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Royal Rumble is only one path on my journey. I will find, another way to climb the mountain. My journey is not finished, life goes on.” Shinsuke Nakamura


And now in the modern day, it feels as if WWE can truly call themselves diverse. Perhaps at the expense of other pro wrestling companies around the world, WWE over the last few years has been on a relentless financial splurge. Hurridly signing any and all hot properties on the independent scene and just as quickly ending their contracts. The positive from this, is that they have been able to cultivate a roster which organically allows wrestlers of all races and nationalities attempt to make a name for themselves. And I hope that this pattern from the largest earning promotion in the industry continues on as the new normal for what pro wrestling was built to be, and should continue to be, something accessible to everyone.