By: OWW Columnist Peter Bahi
It was 1962, Bob Dylan had just come out with his first album simply titled, Bob Dylan; Wilt Chamberlain had scored his 100th point in a pro basketball game, and West Side Story won an Oscar for Best Picture. While all those were tremendous accomplishments in their own rights, nothing measures up to the success on that faithful night in October 18th, 1962 as Bobo Brazil made history by becoming the first African American to win the World Heavyweight Championship for the National Wrestling Alliance when he defeated “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the title change was never recognized by the NWA despite those who witnessed this historic bout.
Thirty years later, on August 2nd, 1992, Ron Simmons defeated Big Van Vader for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship and became recognized as the first African American to ever win the Gold in the history of professional wrestling.
What purpose does this column serve to bring up two historic events about African Americans? It serves a great purpose after recent comments Ron Simmons made in regards to racism and professional wrestling. Ron was interviewed on the WNS podcast. When he was asked whether or not racism exists in pro wrestling his response came as a complete shock:
All the years I’ve worked with WWE, that opportunity is there for any man or woman for that matter. If you’re willing to work and put in the dedication that it requires you will get that shot. That I have no problem with. I’ve worked with Vince (McMahon) for quite a while. I know him, I know all of his family members. So, that’s not true. If opportunity presents itself and if there’s someone they consider to be worthy black or white they will get the opportunity to put that belt on and I’m certain that it won’t be long before that happens because you look up there you have quite a few black young men up there now that given a couple of more years under their belt will probably be wearing that belt really soon. So, no I have no problem with that. I think that’s going to happen real soon. (source: www.wrestlezone.com)
I am not here to bad mouth anybody I do not know personally, however, I do have a right to an opinion in response to what Mr. Simmons stated regarding racism in professional wrestling. He claims that racism does not exist, and that everyone gets their fair share regardless of skin color. Ron Simmons fails to mention why Bobby Lashley left the World Wrestling Entertainment after being considered next in line to become World Champion. Bobby Lashley is on record to say that he left due to racism within the company, and that one of their creative writers (Michael Hayes) went as far as calling him “Black” Lesnar, due to his physique and athleticism that resembles the likes of WWE Superstar Brock Lesnar. This same Michael Hayes used to paint a confederate flag on his face at times when he would come out as one-half of the legendary tag team the Fabulous Freebirds.
It is fact, not my mere opinion to state that racism does lurk within the confines of the WWE. Name the last African American Superstar to win the World Heavyweight Championship? The Rock, in 2013. Anytime The Rock were present, his Samoan lineage is pushed far more than his African American lineage. Anything else I describe regarding racism is mere opinion and nothing more. Can anyone explain to me why Kofi Kingston has never won the World Heavyweight Championship? I understand Big E is still fresh and new, but will WWE want to make an African American the “face of their franchise?” Ron Simmons believes it will happen, however, nothing indicates that being far from the truth.
Ron “The Truth” Killings, won the NWA-TNA World Heavyweight Championship on July 8th, 2002 and is considered the first African American to win the NWA title. World Wrestling Entertainment will never acknowledge this feat due to TNA being a competitor, and nowadays, since WWE does not consider to really have any competitors, that Championship reign was never recognized nor will it. Ron Killings has had a decent run within the WWE for quite some time, however, everyone knows he will never become World Heavyweight Champion, nor was he ever positioned to. His best chances came during the time he teamed up with The Miz, but that became as short lived as his Little Jimmy gimmick run.
It is 12:50AM, and I just tweeted Ron Simmons asking him why he keeps telling people he was the first African American Champion when he knows it was Bobo Brazil; of course I did not receive a response nor do I expect to. This is journalism that needs to be addressed because I believe the entire wrestling world is doing injustice to Bobo Brazil by not giving him the respect he deserves and recognizing his championship reign. Even after his match was over, Bobo (real name: Houston Harris) was gracious enough to not want to accept the title because he believed Buddy Rogers was injured, but Buddy did not accept the title and Bobo held on to the belt for a little while longer.
(12:54AM) I private messaged my hero, Bill Apter, and asked for his opinion regarding the Bobo Brazil championship fiasco, but considering how late it is, I am not sure I will receive a response by the time this column is over.
The athletically-gifted Naomi will be the break out star in the African American community as I strongly believe she will hold the Divas Championship on many occasions. She is very exciting to watch and now that she is breaking away from Cameron, the sky is the limit for this amazing athlete.
Big E was in line for a major push but for whatever reason, whether that was the fault of the WWE or its fans, somehow, Big E won the Intercontinental Championship and went downhill from that point on. Titus O’Neil is entertaining, but is he entertaining enough to become World Champion? Mark Henry, a former World Champion, is way beyond his years, therefore I am not certain he will ever rise to that championship level ever again. Kofi Kingston deserves to become World Champion, however, the WWE brass, for whatever reason, wants to continue to hold him down while Seth Rollins, who wrestles identically the same way Kofi does, is already a Money in the Bank winner being able to cash it in at anytime to pursue the championship. So unless I am missing something here, can anyone tell me who will be in line to become the next African American to win the World Championship? Whatever happened to Xavier Woods?
This just in: Bobby Lashley is the TNA World Heavyweight Champion; but apparently, this one will not be in the record books either.
— Peter Bahi