All Frenchmen are arrogant, all Canadians are slow, all Americans are fat, all Englishmen are posh, all Russians are somber, all Irishmen are drunks, all Italians are aggressive, all Germans are efficient and all Japanese are industrious.
Having now insulted half the world, including my own people, it must be stated that this in no way reflects the truth about these people, nor my own opinion.
They are simply stereotypes.
A stereotype is a lazy concept. It takes one perceived attribute of a people to represent an entire country. Very rarely are they actually true. As it is, we are just as likely to find an arrogant Russian, fat Englishman, slow Irishman, industrious American and posh Canadian.
In the world of professional wrestling however stereotypes are featured prominently.
In the history of World Wrestling Entertainment, a number of nations have been represented—Scotland, Ireland, Jamaica, England, Northern Ireland, France, Russia, Italy, Australia, Japan, China, India, Mexico and South Africa.
However in the vast majority of cases, the wrestler who has come from these places has played the role of a stereotype and has presented vastly over the top reflections of the perceived culture.
How do you view Non-American characters?
Santino Marella is the Italian, a quasi-Mussolini role of a small aggressive man, who the world laughs at rather then fears.
His partner, the somewhat flexible Vladimir Kozlov, is the somber no-nonsense Russian, a throw back to Communist days of brutal aggression. He has mellowed considerably in recent times but his accent, his moves and his look, are somewhat reminiscent of his namesake, Vladimir Putin.
William Regal, who made a surprise entry into this year's Rumble, is another. Lord Steven Regal in WCW—William Regal in the WWE—was once billed as a descendant of William the Conquerer.
And to save time, Fit Finlay is the Irishman, Maryse plays the Frenchmen, Khali is the Indian, Bushwhackers were the Australians, Mr. Fuji could not have been more Japanese, despite being from Hawaii and Kofi Kingston plays the Jamaican.
It is on the latter and the example of Sheamus that provides the most contention.
When Kofi Kingston arrived in the WWE, he was given the angle as being from Jamaica, despite being born in Ghana and educated in America. His only pre-WWE links to the Caribbean come from his love of the music and his ability to perfect the accent.
Now its questionable whether this was in fact borderline racist. Why should he play a character simply because its easier to understand? Surely the WWE in its dual role of educator and entertainer, has a duty to promote new cultures, especially those unfamiliar to young Americans.
Kofi was happy to portray the character because he appreciated its culture, but surely by basing a wrestler's character on a national identity it seriously limits its realism.
And so case example, number two, Sheamus. The first Irish born World Champion, Stephen Farrelly, broke into the WWE with a breeze of originality. He was billed as Irish but he lacked the traditional Irishness that were part of Fit Finlay and Hornswoggle characters. He was simply a warrior, who happened to be Irish.
Flash forward a year, and two world titles later, and Sheamus is now dressed in Celtic crown, Irish robe and has seemingly stolen Finlay's shillalah. He is now an Irish king and could be Hornswoggle's big brother.
The likelyhood is that the king angle is being set up in case Triple H ever makes his reappearance, but until then, it has relegated Sheamus to the role of simple stereotype, even down to the dyed hair and lack of a tan.
The problem for stereotyping in addition to being simplistic is that the superstar has to maintain the culture in everything he does. It means the moveset, costume, accent and look has to be traditional. While in some cases it can be humorous, in most cases it seriously limits the character.
Why can't a foreign wrestler simply be a wrestler who happens to be foreign? Why does an Irish wrestler have to become a character from The Quiet Man? Why do all Russians have to be Communist Party supermen? Why are all Englishmen Lords of the Realm?
It seems that very few non-American wrestlers have managed to avoid typecasting and I wonder, with Drew McIntyre faltering, whether a face turn and a kilt can be far behind. After all, in FCW he wore the traditional Scottish attire including Claymore.
Wrestling needs to create new superstars that do not rely on simple stereotypes. It can make reference like Roddy Piper, but make it only a part of their character. Roddy after all was Canadian but had heritage links with Scotland. He was a brawler and apart from his kilt and odd references, made very little of the Scottish connections. This is the example of how to use culture—sparingly.
So to answer the original question—why is William Regal so posh? Simply because its easier to make an Englishman posh than to overlook his background and build his character upon something original. The irony of it is the likes of Regal, Santino and Kozlov are actually accomplished wrestlers, but this often gets overlooked.
Creatively, wrestling needs originality, and while making reference to culture and heritage is respectful and encourages the idea of the WORLD wrestling entertainment, the characters must be not be founded on stereotypes. To do so only limits what the character can do.
WWE—lets have an Englishman who hates tea!