Monday, February 16, 2015
The next Black world champion is.......
With it being Black History Month there are sure to be some tributes out there and lists of the best black wrestlers in pro wrestling history. The WWE does tributes every year during this month on their broadcasts and their website, and there are other sites and blogs that will do the same. So I'm posing a different topic here: who is likely to be the next black wrestler to become the WWE Champion? OK, the answer's pretty simple right now: no one. To be honest, there's no one on the current roster who has any real chance of rising to that level. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, R-Truth? Nope. Titus O'Neal? Heck no. Big E Langston? I won't say never but it sure doesn't look like it right now. This shouldn't come as a surprise; there are usually no more than a handful of black wrestlers on the WWE roster at any given time and when you factor in how hard it is to climb that ladder in general the odds of there consistently being a black wrestler who has the chops to ascend to champion aren't very good. The last one was The Rock and he was almost finished before he got started thanks to the horrendous booking he got after his debut. Only after he and the booking committee course corrected and he became the biggest star in the business.
That's been the case for most of wrestling history; even when there were multiple top shelf companies the number of black world champions was pretty scant. The NWA/WCW had Ron Simmons and Booker T, the WWF/WWE had The Rock, and.......that's it. Of the WWE's present day competitors TNA has Bobby Lashley, and none before him. Is it racism? Yes and no. Wrestling history is littered with stereotypical roles for most of it's nonwhite performers (and plenty of it's white ones, too, to be fair) so it's been extremely difficult for any black wrestler to progress beyond any comedic or middle of the card roles. And until not too long ago, that was almost entirely by design. In the 80s we had to endure the likes of Koko B. Ware and the Junkyard Dog, jive talking cartoon characters who had zero chance of ever being taken seriously enough to become champion. And even more solemn, serious characters like Simmons ran into a glass ceiling for most of their careers. Today we still have clownish characters like R-Truth and guys intentionally stuck in the midcard like Kingston, whose yearly highlight is a miraculous escape from elimination in the Royal Rumble (which is soon followed by his actual elimination). And in between we had Booker T, who straddled the fence between the jive talkers of the 80s and more serious characters like Simmons during his WCW run.
So for right now things look pretty bleak on the championship front. Looking at recent history the biggest opportunities came when there was a void of sorts at the top. Simmons won the WCW title almost on a whim when champion Vader needed an opponent because Sting was occupied with short-timer Jake Roberts. The Rock got in as the corporate champion to set up Steve Austin's reclamation of the title at WrestleMania XV, and got over so much that they kept him at the top. Booker T became champion of WCW in it's dying days when they were trying whatever they could to get attention and their biggest names were choosing not to work much. The likelihood that the one remaining major company in the business will be in such dire straits that such a window will open is very small, at least for the current members of the roster. Maybe if Lashley comes back over to the WWE fold, but other than that forget about it.