Colour. It doesn’t define us or represent who we are, but professionally and personally, it feels like we are at a crossroad. As wrestling fans, we should be able to enjoy the talent presented in front of us free of bias. The challenge is that this isn’t the case. There are constant struggles and challenges with who we like and who we can watch.
Over the last few months, our world has undergone a massive paradigm shift within professional wrestling but, more importantly, society. We face challenges we’ve never met before, and must overcome these challenges with awareness, education, and clarity. We see the likes of Big E, Kofi, and Bobby Lashley finally being put in a position to succeed. Ironically, they still enough remain part of a minority.

The discussions that have continued to surface online about how some independent promotions are also guilty of what the bigger promotions do is ridiculous. When we think of how often wrestlers struggle to get bookings in this current COVID-19 climate, it’s disappointing that Black wrestlers face the same issues. The argument is two-fold. For those that argue that its a surprise that equality amongst Black wrestlers isn’t happening, there are three times as many that will tell you they aren’t surprised. When we think for a minute how wrestling takes from societies, cultures, trends, and interests, are we truly surprised that there is little difference between the issues Black people face in the wider world, and the issues Black wrestlers face within the industry?

But here we are in 2020, with racism and indifference in the world as much of an issue today as ever. To be booked higher on the card shouldn’t be hope; it should be an expectation. If we ask for equality and look at the numbers across the board between Black wrestlers to white wrestlers, it’s clear that we have a long way still to go. A single moment – a push with someone in a position as champion or on the cusp of capturing a championship – isn’t the same. When Kofi Kingston won the WWE Championship against Daniel Bryan, the story told was believable. It was something fans could get behind. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be a feel-good story. MVP has always been an articulate speaker, and yet his world championship reigns in the WWE are few and far between.

To be vocal and speak up on the challenges and the uphill battle, many wrestlers face today is crucial. A few years ago, I had the pleasure to speak with former WWE Nexus member Michael Tarver we discussed Black world champions. Each individual that I thought would fall under the category of Black champion carried with them an asterisk. Regardless of whether it was The Rock or a World Championship Wrestling or Extreme Championship Wrestling World Championship, it was never the WWE Championship. This was before Kofi Mania and his pursuit for the championship and his win. What was even more disconcerting was when a championship was won, little was done with that title that could be considered meaningful. This was the case before Kofi’s reign. We see Moose as the current TNA Heavyweight Champion, but how it is booked almost feels like there is an asterisk tied to it.

This leads us to today. At the moment, there are signs that there may be a singles run by someone that many felt should have had a chance at the title. Big E could be the next one not only to challenge for the championship, but capture it. Unfortunately, if he wins it, the joy in having him capture it in front of an actual audience is unlikely. Does it make it any less important? Not in the slightest. The win, regardless of the circumstances, is essential. His story doesn’t need to be a feel-good, but the truth is, how can it not be?

With how an increased awareness of how society will no longer tolerate inequality, it’s important more now than ever that the shift continues. Why should we tolerate it? Society isn’t sitting idle; why should wrestling fans be any different? Big E has all the tools to be the world champion. To see him capture the championship goes beyond his NXT championship or Tag Team championship reigns. It doesn’t change the world, but it hopefully changes the conversation. Much like society not accepting it anymore, wrestling fans will equally seek change because it matters. Black Wrestling Lives Matter.

Pictures and video courtesy of WWE and Impact Wrestling
Words by Marc Madison

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