RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports


By Sean Farrell

R-Truth tells the truth and in this situation it’s sad to say he did again…but I’m going to clear it up. R-Truth mentioned on a radio station a few weeks ago that he can’t go in depth about his “conspiracy” angle, but “people of color know exactly what it’s really about.” Now we all know race is a touchy subject, but seeing how I am mixed with all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, and am shocked I’m not purple, this will not be racist just facts.

Now that all that mess is cleared up, it wasn’t long ago a man named Shelton Benjamin spoke on race in wrestling when he said: “Nowadays, I really don’t know. It doesn’t make any sense to me and it never has. I guess back in the 70’s and 80’s you have to look at the times and consider that. They were catering to their audience and mostly to the paying audience, which was White or Italian, but the black demographic was not paying to go see wrestling. They would watch the pre-show and obviously if you want to make money you play to their demographic. That’s the only thing I can come up with for why you didn’t see it a lot years ago. These days, I don’t know. When I originally got into professional wrestling – because I watched professional wrestling all my life and I loved it – the only thing I was aspiring for was a tag team title because that’s all I saw a black man with.

Once I actually got there and started winning titles I was officially overachieving what I originally set out for. It wasn’t until much later that I started having world title aspirations. For whatever reasons, I just noticed the patterns of black guys. Don’t get me wrong because I made a lot of money and I had a great career and a lot of memories with the WWE. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m dogging them or bashing them; I’m just stating the facts. Most Black guys are built to be secondary superstars because talent wise not everyone is gonna be The Rock because he’s phenomenal.

Not everyone is gonna be a Booker T, but he wasn’t really made in the WWE. He was made in WCW when they were separate. He actually came in as a world champion. They felt like they already had a built-in Black champion so it was easy to put the title back on him because he had already been the champion for the major competition. These days I look at some of the guys who are on the roster and current and I believe there were guys who were close but for whatever reason things went south almost immediately. I look at the Ahmed Johnson in the 90’s and it seemed like he was on the way to the championship and for reasons I don’t know fully, it never happened. I believe most recently Bobby Lashley would have been a world champion but he decided to leave.

The only really crowned world champion that I remember is Ezekiel Jackson, but he was the ECW champion. Everyone looked at the ECW champion as the third in line. That’s why I feel like Black stars are built to be secondary superstars. The first person that comes to my mind is MVP. If you look at his career, at one point it looked like it was going that route. For whatever reason, it just stopped. I felt like fans were accepting him so he would be the first on my list. I believe Kofi Kingston is on the cusp. I won’t say he’s quite ready yet but people put the title on guys who aren’t ready all the time. Those two would be first on my list. Most of the other Black guys are just inexperienced right now and none of them have shown me anything that would validate putting the world title on them and that’s not to say they won’t be later. I forgot about Mark Henry and I don’t want to leave him out of there.”

Shelton Benjamin seems to have made some very valid points in his comments but wrestling history is full of racist imagery, from The Iron Sheik to JTG. But that doesn’t make it any less offensive. The WWE uses their characters to stir up characterizations of minorities as brutes and savages, but before we can talk about R-Truth exactly how did this all start?

It may surprise some but black wrestlers have been in pro wrestling for almost a century and a half. While there are no official records, it has been told from generation to generation that the first black wrestler came around in 1870. He was a slave freed after the civil war, his name was Viro Small; he wrestled under the name “Black Sam.” For the time period and circumstances placed forth by society at the time he lived in, he made solid name for himself. He was a big draw all over the country, and even won his promotion’s main title a few times. His success would start many uphill battles that black athletes had to overcome.

Small was put in a match where he was put over by another wrestler named Billy McCallum. This outcome wouldn’t go ever to well with Billy and later that evening, McCallum would sneak into Small’s room and shoot him in the back of the neck. While Small may have had to deal with death threats, violence, and countless insults, he did accomplish something special. Small helped pioneer the black movement in pro wrestling, well actually the minority movement in pro wrestling. After Small was killed, many others broke into wrestling.
The next wave of black standouts consisted of men such as Reginald “Reg” Siki, Luther Lindsey, Shag Thomas, and Bo Bo Brazil. These men would all help pave the way for the black athlete of today.

Often times these men were relegated to the “Negro Promotions”, and would rarely break into the bigger white-run promotions. A few would break into the bigger leagues though. Bo Bo Brazil was one of the many talented wrestlers who would refuse to be held back. Although his career would be tough, he would go on to gain the respect of everyone in the wrestling world. In 1962 he would make wrestling history when he beat Buddy Rogers to become the NWA heavyweight champion. Brazil would be the first black wrestler to ever win a major heavyweight title.(The NWA would refuse the title change for many years.)
Black athletes have made great strides in wrestling, but why does it still feel that they are being held down to this day? Here is a fact.

Since Bo Bo Brazil won the heavyweight title in 1962, we have had only four black athletes to hold a MAJOR heavyweight title: Ron Simmons, The Rock, Booker T, and Ron Killings (R-Truth), are the only four to be world heavyweight champions. That’s four people in 50 years and that is just ridiculous. The reason it is so shocking is wrestling IS SCRIPTED…champions and outcomes are pre-determined by bookers and promotion owners and fans input, so what is their reasoning? Are we just supposed to accept that only four black wrestlers were worthy enough to hold the main title in a promotion in half a century? Need I bring up the gimmicks? Fine I will…

Let’s start with some of the many insulting gimmicks given to some of the wrestlers in the past. Porkchop Cash, R-Truth, King Kong Clayton, Awesome Kong, The Silverback Mark Henry, Rasta the Voodoo Mon, Zulu Warrior, Delicious Pretty Ricky, Papa Shango and that’s a select few.

Let’s now look at a few stereotypes in gimmicks shall we? Cryme Tyme was a pair of young black thugs from New York who were “grimy” and stole everything that wasn’t on lock down. Not enough, how about The Godfather…who if you’ve been following my writings played a black pimp with a cast of hoes around him. While some of these gimmicks may have been entertaining, it doesn’t make it any less stereotypical.

Think about it in an everyday setting, I know there have been many people who haven’t been type casted like this and will never understand, but there also have been thousands more that have been including myself and it’s not easy to describe how exactly it makes you feel…It is a rage/anger/frustration/confusion that can’t be described any other way but to be type casted yourself.

When you look at the cold hard facts you can’t deny that black men and women are held down in pro wrestling, in the two major promotions the WWE and TNA/Impact Wrestling, there is only (as of this writing) 13 black wrestlers on the main rosters both men and women.

In a way you also have to blame yourself, we don’t speak out on this issue nearly enough because some simply don’t care and others just hope the problem goes away, but it won’t so I figured I’d do the talking.

R-Truth’s comments were clear as day, maybe he is the man to pioneer a less racially charged WWE future. But in all actuality, I think the WWE is moving towards a new era and escaping its current identity altogether. I am starting to think this new era will be the era of the “shoot” and breaking the “fourth wall” killing these stereotypical gimmicks and bringing us more realistic entertainment all together. This treatment towards minorities may end up being history which is a good thing. But until that time, we need to support every wrestler no matter his shape, size, build, skills, or color and appreciate the simple fact that they are giving up their own wellbeing to keep you entertained. I would have gladly touched on the other races being treated the same in pro wrestling, but that would take a book.




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