WWE is so far behind the times that when a black man finally won its most prestigious title in 2019, many fans rejoiced as if was the end of segregation.
Note: The Rock is Samoan which he identifies as and half black before you start sending us mean tweets
So when Kofi Kingston lost the WWE Championship to Brock Lesnar in near-record time—nine seconds to be exact—only to be upstaged by UFC’s Cain Velasquez to add insult to injury, Twitter—and my DM’s—quickly reverted back to the same confusion, vitriol and anger that plagued WWE during pre-Kofimania racial tensions.
One of AEW’s major talking points in becoming an alternative to WWE is inclusion and diversity.
Think about that for a second.
One of the major ways this upstart promotion has vowed to be different from WWE’s so-called global entertainment model is by being more inclusive.
AEW has already succeeded in that department as it boasts the first black woman executive in national pro wrestling, a caveat that appears lightyears away from ever happening in WWE.
After Kofi Kingston stole the show at WrestleMania 35 in one of the most feel-good moments in WWE history—and even after WWE booked Kingston as a strong world champion with a series of decisive wins—the worldwide leader somehow managed to squander its resurgent credibility when it comes to fan perception of its sketchy race relations.
Why is it that Seth Rollins, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan and even developmental demotee Finn Balor got to have epic David vs. Goliath matches against Brock Lesnar, whereas Kofi Kingston was squashed faster than a Brad Shepard rumor?
Some even took this opportunity to point out WWE’s mishandling of overqualified current tag team competitor Asuka.
Now, before this gets out of hand, let’s backtrack just a bit. Kofi Kingston’s reign as WWE champion, while its started out hot and was enjoyable in bursts, was far from perfect. In fact, much of Kingston’s WWE Championship run was mediocre, with several feuds and matches against the likes of Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton underdelivering from both an in-ring and crowd engagement standpoint.
The same (if not worse) can be said, however, about current Universal champion Seth Rollins as he is slowly developing a knack for competing in big matches that end in fan revolt.
It’s not fair to question WWE’s race relations strictly based on whether or not Kofi Kingston is a world champion. In fact, this is not at all a discussion we should be having at the end of what appeared to be an encouraging world title reign.
But after Kingston was cast aside, suffering quite possibly the most one-sided WWE Championship loss this side of Bob Backlund, fans took to Twitter and many did not pull any punches as to why Kofi deserved better, and how they feel WWE views its history-making champion.
And by the end of a week defined by new eras and new beginnings, “Kofi” quickly became the top pro wrestling trend into the wee hours of Saturday morning. Later on in the morning, he only trended harder with as #ThankYouKofi and #Kofideservesbetter later becoming top pro wrestling trends Saturday morning.
Same old “ish.”
Many of the more racially charged tweets are NSFW and cannot be posted in the body of this article. Now that you’ve been warned, Here’s one. And here’s another.
To be clear, it’s a bit extreme to revert to accusing WWE of wanton racism because its first(ish) black WWE champion lost his title. I, for one, would not be supporting and covering this product if I felt that was the case.
But just look at the amount of disgust and racial conjecture that exploded as a result of how Kofi lost, essentially dominating conversation coming out of WWE’s biggest television premiere in history. There must be a reason this subject has once again reared its ugly head after much of 2019 felt like it was a thing of the past.
WWE had somewhat of an obligation to handle Kofi Kingston’s Johnny-come-lately world title run with care, and that’s because WWE put itself in that position with 60+ years of cognitive bias in deciding who gets to be world champion.
WWE came so close to pulling off an otherwise simple feat, but at the very end, it failed miserably.
And after serving as an inspiration to even the most cynical wrestling fan, watching our beautiful black champion lose in such expendable fashion was a sobering reminder of just how long this promotion has to go to truly be perceived as an equal opportunity employer.
Most within pro wrestling’s Caucasian-dominated media will fail to grasp how and why so many black wrestling fans vicariously felt the angst and upward climb that often is the black experience simply by watching Kofi unceremoniously lose to Brock Lesnar. And maybe that’s part of a bigger problem with pro wrestling in general.
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