Lack of African American champions in the WWE
In the history of professional wrestling, most of the promoters hesitated to put their world titles on guys who didn’t share the same skin tone as their fans. “Cowboy” Bill Watts, who formed Mid South Wrestling was the first and prominent promoter who banked heavily on the African Americans – Junkyard Dog once main evented a show which dragged nearly 30,000 fans! Under Watts in WCW, Ron Simmons became the first African American wrestler to hold a widely recognized World Heavyweight championship. But when you take a look at the biggest global sports entertainment promotion in the world, one will have to search long and hard to find African American champions in the WWE.
Vince McMahon has always been known for his revolutionary ideas and coming up with some of the most brilliant storylines – Whether you talk about the WWF getting into the sports entertainment business or the recent WWE network, Vince McMahon has always been two steps ahead of his contemporaries and peers. His long term success has been a testament to his vision and the ability to evolve and adapt to the changing times, and he has arguably done everything a promoter can possibly do in the professional wrestling industry. But even the greatest promoter in the business had his own downfalls, especially something that could’ve catered to a whole new demographic.
Vince McMahon always had people who would cater to their fanbase. He had the Hogans and the Cenas who were equivalent to Superman for the kids, while had the Austins and the Rocks for the hardcore fans, those who understood the value of entertainment. But the one thing that separated Vince from every other promoter is his ability to identify different demographics – He had the Rey Mysterios and Alberto Del Rios to cater to the Mexican/Spanish fans, Bret Hart/Edge for the Canadian fans and so on. When you look at the ethnic diversity of the WWE Universe, you’d understand how smart Vince was marketing wise. All of that makes sense, except for the fact that no African American superstar had ever held the prestigious WWE championship.
WWE has had its share of WWE champions from various backgrounds – Spanish, Samoan, Irish and Canadian. Even someone like Antonio Inoki, a Japanese legend had won the WWF title back in the late 70s! Although that run was erased from the history books, WWE had always taken chances, especially with the international superstars, to expand their reach into various markets. For some reason, there hasn’t been a major African American star for quite a while, other than the likes of Booker T and Mark Henry in the company.
Although Booker, along with Mark Henry won the World Heavyweight championship, it was always seen as a second tier title while compared to the WWE championship. Although superstars like R – Truth and Kofi Kingston were inserted into major feuds, giving the notion that WWE was about to pull the trigger with either one of them, that never happened. The only other superstar who was pushed as a main eventer was Bobby Lashley, but that happened many years ago. In today’s scenario, WWE has some of the brightest African American talents on the roster, with the likes of Big E, Titus O’Neil and Xavier Woods ready to step up to realize their dreams in the company.
Also, there have been rumors running rampant about WWE’s interest in bringing back the Nation of Domination stable, comprising the likes of Big E, Mark Henry, Titus O’Neil and R – Truth. Although I don’t see that happening any time soon, with WWE’s PG programming contradicting the notion of WWE doing something which is racially stereotypical, that would give these superstars an opportunity to showcase their talent and make something out of it. It could be something that we haven’t seen in the WWE for a long time, but we’ll have to wait and see how WWE goes ahead with it if/when they indeed decide to pull the trigger.
The fact still remains that the biggest wrestling promotion has failed to build a major African American superstar (Not counting The Rock, as he isn’t exactly African American). It would also be a smart PR move, with WWE getting some recognition for putting the belt on a superstar of the African American origin. Only time can tell if that happens, but one has to believe that it is inevitable, if not today, then sometime soon. No matter who holds the WWE title, it will be an unprecedented event, and will likely go down as a historical moment in the landscape of WWE.