A "Shady" Deal: 5 Glass Ceiling-Shattering Candidates for a Black WWE Champion

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Sorry for the overtly long titles.  I'll work on that.

On August 2, 1992, Ron Simmons gave the wrestling world something I thought we would never see:  a black world champion for a major, mainstream national pro-wrestling promotion. 

The pop was electric.  When you see guys like Brian Pillman, Barry Windham, Dusty and Dustin Rhodes, all rushing the ring to congratulate Simmons, you know it was without a doubt a monumental occasion.  WCW was/is light years ahead of the curve in this regard.

Simmons would hold the WCW Championship for nearly five months before dropping it to Vader whom he defeated to become champion.  Even if that five-month reign had been a mere five days, it was still a major milestone in the industry that will never be diminished.

It would be almost eight years before another black world champion would arise when Booker won the WCW Championship from Jeff Jarrett in July of 2000.

You may try to catch me at this point and say, "Wait!  The Rock won the WWE Championship in 1998, and he's black!  End of article!  Right?"  Wrong.  Keep in mind, the word "Shady" in the article title in quotation marks.  That is the crux of this post.

As we all know, in addition to being half African-American, The Rock is also half Samoan.  Introduced as Rocky Maivia—a hybrid of his black father's first name and his Samoan grandfather's last name—it was the latter-mentioned, or "Maivia" side of his heritage that was placed primarily on display through the introductory vignettes prior to and including his debut at Survivor Series in his ring attire.  Prior to his Rocky Maivia Gimmick, The Rock was Flex Kavana, a wrestler of strictly Polynesian heritage.

Simply put, The Rock is not easily identifiable as a black man, let alone wrestler, and thus not widely viewed as one by the casual, less-informed wrestling viewer.  This ended up being good for his career, as he escaped being pigeonholed into the stereotypes placed on black characters in the WWE.  From the Godfather to Cryme Tyme, respectability has never been a top priority in wrestling gimmicks for minorities. 

Ron Simmons, the groundbreaking first-ever World Champion for WCW that I mentioned earlier, came over to WWE and was reduced to a gimmick as the militant head of the Nation of Domination, an angry black men's club disgruntled by "the man's" attempt to hold him and his brethren down in the WWE.  Vince McMahon took a very real issue and mocked it by turning it into a lame gimmick for WWE Universe to roll their eyes and close their ears to.  This is actually a very clever desensitizing tactic regularly employed in politics and media.

Remember Los Guerreros?  Latinos weren't exactly getting the long end of the stick in the image department either.  Something had to be done, and a change had to be made  And it was...for Mexicans.  Alberto Del Rio, a Mexican wrestler, is currently having his moment in the sun as WWE champion, as did Rey Mysterio (albeit a reign that lasted less than a full show). 

Meanwhile, JTG still struts to ringside in his Timberlands, wife-beater, and bling fully in tow, and R-Truth is yet another angry black man, convinced that there's a "conspiracy" perpetrated by all the "little Jimmys" (white America) against him.

As a hardcore Rock fan, this writing is in no way, shape, or form meant to diminish his accomplishments or his "blackness," but when will we see the WWE place the flagship strap around the waist of a black wrestler?  Not a light-skinned, mixed race wrestler, but one visibly of African descent only?

As WWE fans go, blacks are easily in the minority, which lands WWE in a catch-22 of sorts.  Because of a weak black fanbase, WWE hasn't felt the need to give a black wrestler a legitimate push.  On the flip side, the black fanbase is low because of the lack of a black superstar getting a push.  And when the interest in watching is low amongst blacks, this reduces the number of blacks who will actually pursue a career in the industry if they feel there is a limit to how far they will be pushed and/or how they will be used.  Eventually, the likelihood of a black champion dies a little more each day.

Someone has to blink first, and it has to be the WWE.  And here are my current top five candidates to make it to the pro-wrestling promised land.  Maybe not in the immediate future, but soon enough.

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