Black Wrestlers and The Racism They Still Face In Pro Wrestling
(I was recently asked to do a history read by a good friend of mine here on BR. This is the only day off I have had in weeks, but I figured doing an article would be better than watching TV all day with the old lady. So I figured what better way to spend it than writing what I love about pro wrestling.)
Today I am going to talk about a subject that is not talked about nearly enough. I must forewarn you that it is a touchy subject that may offend some people.
What I am going to talk about does exists and sadly it probably always will. The Subject at hand is racism towards black men and women in pro wrestling.
Now before all of you raise your arms in anger. I would appreciate it if you here what I have to say and take in the facts that I will lay before you. I promise to be truthful and unbiased in everything you will read in the following article.
Before I begin expressing my thoughts, I think it’s important to go back to the roots of black athletes in pro wrestling.
It may surprise some to know that black wrestlers have been in pro wrestling for almost a century and a half.
While there are no official records, it is said that the first black wrestler hit the scene in 1870.
The first black wrestler was a slave made free after the civil war. This man’s name was Viro Small; he wrestled under the name “Black Sam.” For the time period he lived in he made solid name for himself. He was a big draw all over the country, and he even won his promotion's main title a couple of times.
His success would be the start of many uphill battles that black athletes had to overcome. He was put in a match where he was put over a wrestler named Billy McCallum. This outcome wouldn’t go ever to well for Billy.
Later that night, McCallum would sneak into Viro’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. After him, we would many others break into the great world of the squared circle.
Such standouts like Reginald "Reg" Siki, Luther Lindsey, Shag Thomas, and Bo Bo Brazil, would all help pave the way for the black athletes today.
Their journeys wouldn’t be easy though. Often they were relegated to the “Negro Leagues”, and would rarely break out 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. His journey would be tough but he would go on to garner 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 champ.
Brazil would be the first black wrestler to ever win a major heavyweight title. Even then it would be a bittersweet victory. The NWA would refuse the title change for many years.
Still, his win would go on to pave the way for guys like Ron Simmons, The Rock, Booker T, Tony Atlas, and countless other black wrestlers who have made a good living off pro wrestling. I could dig more into the history of black wrestlers but it would be more of a book than an article.
If this subject does peek your interest more. I would highly recommend a book called “Black Stars of Professional Wrestling.” It’s a book the highlights the career of just about every black athlete who has made an impact in this great business.
While black athletes have made a great impact in wrestling, I can’t help but feel that they have been held down over the years. Let’s look at a few facts that may back my statement up. Since Bo Bo Brazil won the heavyweight title in 1962, we have had only four different 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. If I missed someone please let me know. That’s only four different people in almost 50 years. My friends, those numbers are just unacceptable.
It would be one thing of wrestling was a legit sport, but it’s not. Our champs are determined by bookers and promotion owners.
So am I to believe that we have had only four black wrestlers who were worthy enough to hold the title that really matters in the almost half a decade?
For those that may think that it’s only a coincident, I would respond that you are fools.
If that isn’t enough to prove my point let’s look at some other ugly facts. Black wrestlers have had probably some of the worst gimmicks in the long history of pro wrestling.
Whether it is there in ring names or how they acted in the ring. Black athletes have had some really bad tags thrown on them.
Let’s start with some of the many insulting names bestowed on some of the wrestlers in the past. Porkchop Cash, Black Venus, King Kong Clayton, Awesome Kong, Rasta the Voodoo Mon, Zulu Warrior, Delicious Pretty Ricky, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It also seems that over the years many of the black wrestler’s gimmicks were very stereotyped. Let’s look at a few shall we? Cryme Tyme was a pair of young black guys from New York who were grimy and stole everything that wasn’t locked down. Not enough, how about The Godfather?
He played a black pimp with his cast of hoes around him. While some of these gimmicks may have been entertaining, it doesn’t make it any less racist.
I know there have been many who haven’t been type casted like this, but there also have been way too many that have been.
Now we are in the year 2010. You would think with the many barriers broken by black men and women things would be different. This is not the case at all, folks.
Black athletes are still being held back in pro wrestling. We have hundreds of black wrestlers all over the Indies.
Yet in the big three in this country we have only 20 black men and women that hold roster spots. Out of those twenty only a handful are playing any real meaningful role with the company. How is this even remotely possible in this day and age?
When you look at the cold hard facts you can’t deny that black men and women are held down in pro wrestling.
In a way, you also have to blame the fans themselves. They don’t speak out on this issue nearly enough. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t care or they just hope the problem goes away.
We have the power to change these problems. Yet we stand by with our hands in our pockets and say nothing. Promoters will not change a thing until they are forced to.
These are just the cold hard facts in the matter. Make yourself heard; otherwise these hard working men and women that give their lives for this great sport will never truly be appreciated.
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