There’s nothing wrong with being athletic. In a pseudo-sport like pro wrestling, it’s kind of expected of wrestlers to be athletic. And if you happen to wrestle for Vince McMahon, it’s especially helpful to look the part. Some wrestlers happen to be naturally gifted when it comes to their physical attributes that it becomes part of their character. This is particularly the case with several black wrestlers. There was a funny video that came out about the three characters black wrestlers are allowed to play on TV. One particular gimmick that falls into the “happy black wrestler” category is the amazingly talented, naturally athletic black wrestler.
While the Cold War had been a thing since the late 1940’s, it was still a pretty intense situation in the 1980’s and, most importantly, a major part of the fabric that made up a lot of 1980’s popular culture. You had Sylvester Stallone defending America’s honor against the Soviets in the best Rocky movie since the first one, Rocky IV. Even “teenage” movie heartthrobs answered the call to arms in the war against Soviet Russia in the original Red Dawn. And wrestling was no different. Always trying to remain relevant with the times, every territory had its own Red Menace, sometimes even two.
In keeping with the theme of having themed Art of Gimmickry posts, today’s post will feature the Native American gimmick in honor of this past Thanksgiving Day. While few actually achieved national prominence, the reason why the Native American wrestler has been a staple in the media’s representation of stereotypical wrestling gimmicks is because back in the day it seems every damn territory had someone working a Native American gimmick. Whether they actually belonged to a tribe or not.
What’s wrestling without its larger than life characters? It’s the only medium outside of a comic book where clowns, space travelers, battling cats, and mythical man-beasts can all do battle in the name of good vs. evil. Sometimes those characters are so much more larger than life that they exist outside the parameters that govern the real world, and extend to the great beyond. Or somewhere great beyond adjacent. These paranormal grapplers may call upon the spirit of the dead, live off of human blood for sustenance, worship the devil himself, or just like Bray Wyatt showed us at Hell in a Cell, produce hologram images via possessed lanterns. And as cool or absurd as it might seem at first if it’s at least moderately successful, like all other wrestling gimmicks, it’ll certainly be done to death (Thank you, thank you).
Seeing as National Hispanic Heritage Month officially started on September 15th, I thought this would be a good enough reason to look at The Overly Latino Wrestler. From the Mexican luchadores to the Puerto Rican grapplers. Whether they are salsa-dancing, fiery Lotharios or lowrider driving, gang bangers (and not in the Porn Hub way), the Latino wrestler has been a long-time fixture in the American professional wrestling scene. You might have noticed him. He’s the one who always cuts a promo in Spanish after having already said it in English because how else are we supposed to know he’s Latino?
With Brock Lesnar having dominated John Cena at SummerSlam 2014 in a way nobody has ever done, and in a championship match no less, it’s only fitting The Art of Gimmickry explores the bad ass character. It’s safe to say that the idea or gimmick came about during the late 90’s, specifically around the Attitude Era. But not because of guys like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who was more of an anti-hero than a one-man wrecking machine. What really helped inform the creation of the bad ass gimmick was the rise of the UFC.
Oftentimes, a foreign wrestler who has such a strong hatred for America that it could only be remedied by moving to the U.S., joining the WWE, and fighting American wrestlers in American cities, with the occasional tour to other countries where they’re still booed, will sometimes turn babyface once they realize that America isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be. Usually, the foreigner’s xenophobic stance on American culture is gradually pacified by an American friend. Or, in the case of Tajiri and Kozlov, someone who speaks English better than they do. More often than not, despite how talented the wrestler is, assimilating to American culture means letting your guard down and becoming the comic relief. Because when we Americans aren’t busy trying to run foreign people out of our country, we’re usually laughing at them.