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.
Even after a year rife with bad press regarding their racial politics and lack of a black world champion, the WWE has decided to make good through their WWE Network by honoring Black History Month. Only problem is, it’s a pretty half-assed job. As someone that’s not familiar with the PYT Express I was hoping for something more than some random promo of them at an airport where you can barely make out what’s being said, or what the damn point is. And I appreciate the callback to Booker T.’s Ebony Experience days, but I could’ve come up with at least 50 other videos showcasing Booker T.’s accomplishments. And then there’s the backstage bit involving Cryme Tyme, probably the least offensive one that exists of them. Which bring me to this list. While WWE likes to pat themselves on the back for how far along they think they’ve come in portraying African-American wrestling characters, I’d like to provide 10 reminders of how far they set them back as well.
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.
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?
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.
Not long ago I caught an episode of Legends of Wrestling on YouTube, titled the “Soul of Wrestling”, which was their way of saying black wrestlers. It’s funny, I get that the word “soul” has a close connection with the black community, but it kind of felt like when people use “urban” when they really want to say is black. It’s these terms that people like to use in hopes of being politically correct, but really failing miserably at it. Black president or not, race will always will be a sensitive matter… within the real world that is. However, within the confines of pro grappling little progress has been made in terms of African-American portrayal.
Enter the wrestling pimp.