April 7, 2019 is a day that African-American wrestling fans will never forget. As weeks led up to WrestleMania 36, fans were on edge. Will it happen or will this be a re-do of WrestleMania 19? (When we believed Booker T would defeat Triple H for the World Heavyweight Title after being called everything but the n-word… instead he lost). While the story makes more than enough sense, will they disappoint us and go in a different direction? And then boom, Trouble in Paradise! 1-2-3!!! The winner and neewwwww WWE Champion.. Kofiiiii Kinngggston! It happened! It really happened! An African-born WWE superstar is finally the WWE Champion! The face of the company! As Black fans rejoiced all over the world, many believed this would be the change that needed to happen. Where Black professional wrestlers in the WWE would be treated equally. And then September 17th happened… setting not only Kingston, but Black wrestlers all the way back!
This image is the look everyone had when Brock Lesnar defeated Kofi Kingston quicker than it took both men to arrive to the ring on the Smackdown debut on Fox. For those who do not understand the problem. Let me explain this to you. Finn Balor, AJ Styles and Daniel Bryan are all around the same size as Kingston. But these men who are of European descent each had a match that was longer than 5 minutes with Lesnar. Even John Cena who was booked in a squash match to lose to Lesnar was in the ring longer than Kingston. So there is no justifying this. There is no reason a Black WWE champion should have lost the title in that fashion. But wait, it gets better (and I mean worse). Kofi has not even challenged for the championship since. It’s almost as if the powers at be have said… ok we gave you Kofi for six months and eight days now be happy. In what wrestling world does a world champion lose his title and have little to no desire to regain it? But it doesn’t end here.
Recently, the hashtag #NaomiDeservesBetter started trending after Naomi lost a match on Smackdown to Lacey Evans. While she was the first African-American wrestler to win a singles championship at WrestleMania… 33 years into its existence. Like Kingston, Naomi has barely received any opportunities to regain her title. While she is often praised for her athleticism, she hasn’t won a match on television in who knows when, even losing the Money in the Bank qualifying match. A match that everyone was sure she would be in just based on the fact that she can do really cool things with the ladder. Even Charlotte Flair, tweeted her support for Naomi.
There are dozens of examples of how WWE has mistreated their Black wrestlers. Usually, I am the last one to speak on this subject, as I often try to look at the bigger picture. But enough is enough. What is the bigger picture? Booker T became World Heavyweight Champion finally in 2006. However, once he lost it to Batista, and got his one rematch, he would never regain the title again. Mark Henry… same story. Yet, Sheamus, Seth Rollins, and countless others have won the title, dropped the title, challenged and regained it. Why hasn’t Kofi gotten another shot at being on top?
Let’s take off the filters and keep it 100. When Blacks enter other sports, we tend to dominate. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, becoming the first Black baseball player to play in the Major Leagues in 1947. In 1949 he became the National League MVP and opened the doors and before you know it, many Black baseball players were winning MVP awards for years. Robinson opened the door for guys like Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Andrew McCutchen and many more. Tiger Woods became the first famous Black golfer and dominated the sports. Vince McMahon, are you scared that putting the title on Black wrestlers will erase the legacies of Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, or John Cena? It will not. Black fans are not asking for special treatment of Black wrestlers. Black fans are asking for Black wrestlers to receive the same opportunities.
Currently on NXT, Keith Lee is the North American Champion and the NXT Champion. But how long will this last. One can only pray that when he goes to the main roster he isn’t pushed to the back burner. Remember, Big E was NXT Champion, yet he cannot seem to get out of the tag team championship bubble. Sasha Banks is one of the most transcendent talents in the history of women’s wrestling. While she is a 4 time champion, she has never successfully defended her championship on pay-per-view. And who can forget that first tag team title run? Guys like Cedric Alexander and Ricochet who are athletic, but they are being pushed to the back burner. I am tired of saying things like, well their character needs to improve or maybe they are too small. Thats hogwash. The bottom line is, it is time for the WWE to stop treating their Black wrestlers like second class citizens, especially when social media tells you that you have a huge amount of Black fans.
Signed lifelong fan,
Brian H. Waters (@BrianHWaters)
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