So this week I ran across an article which pertains to the possibility of racism in professional wrestling, specifically in the WWE. In the article, the writer presents the indication that although other wrestling promotions and the independents have given their major titles to wrestlers of eclectic racial backgrounds, when it comes to African Americans and the WWE, the list only technically has half a representative with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (who is half Black and half Samoan). In WCW, The World Heavyweight Championship was once held by Ron Simmons and Booker T and once it was transitioned over to the WWE, Mark Henry and King Booker held the title once each. TNA as well seems to have a low tolerance for African American champions where Ron Killings was their NWA-represented champion and as of recent days, Bobby Lashley is their only African American Heavyweight Champion. ECW can say they had at least three champions of African American decent. As for Ring of Honor, the promotion has as of yet to place a champion of African American decent as the face of their company.
Sure, we have seen persons of all races and sexes in other championship runs. Hell, Chyna held the Intercontinental Title at one time. But the ability for those of dark-skinned complexions to “grab that brass ring” seems to be a fable or an urban legend to be obtained in hindsight. I would like to think this isn’t done purposely. I’d hate to think back in creative someone suggests to put the Heavyweight Championship on Kofi Kingston and other individuals say aloud “You do know he’s black right?” Through the years we have seen African Americans who the fans have felt deserved that one chance to hold the title and have proven themselves to be recognized as “the face of the company” although they may be a bit “darker”. So, with that being said, I bring to you…
Those Who Should Have Been Champion (African American Edition)
Can you believe that one of the most charismatic men next to Hulk Hogan in the 1980’s, who helped to shape the Rock ‘N Wrestling Era, and was recognized as a top face in pop culture not only never held the World Heavyweight Championship but ANY championship in the WWE/WWF? Not even an Intercontinental Championship! Tito Santana held the belt but not JYD? Sylvester Ritter was HUGE in the Mid-South Wrestling Scene so it was logical to crack open the Big East and be a big star in the WWF. And that he did. JYD had dance moves, a persona bigger than the MSG, and a smile that could light up New York City. Oh yeah, he could wrestle too. Even his gravelly voice was so infectious and recognizable. Junkyard Dog was that wrestler who had the “It Factor” who should have been given at least one run with any company’s World Heavyweight title. But sadly, due to Hulk Hogan Era and the presence of other talents who got the push around him, JYD left WWF in 1988. The one image I have of Junkyard Dog was in WrestleMania III when after a match with the King Harley Race, JYD bore the crown and robe in center ring wearing a big smile on his face.
When I talk about talented wrestlers, in my Top 5 is always Shelton Benjamin. Want to talk about a wrestler who was pushed into the limelight quickly and with a major backing? Benjamin was that guy. Being paired up with a tag team specialist in Charlie Hass and having the lead of Kurt Angle’s Team Angle, the World’s Greatest Tag Team was recognizable and had great chemistry. Once Shelton was able to stand alone, ” The Gold Standard”, although with goofy and hooky moments, was still able to perform and show great ring presence as well as earn some company gold along the way. But the one chance of gold which eluded him was the WWE Championship. With opportunities at his grasp such as the Money in the Bank and superb matches against Shawn Michaels and John Cena, Benjamin was unable to capture that one moment and grab hold of the brass ring. Only time would tell if he can return to WWE to finish what he started.