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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Wrestling As A Weapon
July 15, 2005 by Steve Rochester


As a child of the 80's, my first experience of professional wrestling occurred during the Cold War. At the time, given the fact that I was around 4 years old, I thought nothing of "evil" Russian tag team The Bolsheviks being beaten up during a rendition of their national anthem, then demolished by uber-faces The Hart Foundation in seconds flat. Nor did I think, after the fall of the Iron Curtain, anything of Nikolai Volkoff's new-found alliance with the loud-mouthed, flag-waving "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. But hindsight, as always, is a miraculous tool, and now at the ripe-old age of 18, I can see the propaganda benefits that a well-worked wrestling angle can have, especially as the popularity of professional wrestling grows and grows.

This was brought to my attention this week on an edition of SmackDown! , in which Muhammad Hassan, the WWE's latest ethnic scapegoat, spoke out against an article in the New York Post which denounced him as a "terrorist" following the attacks in London. Now, as an Englishman myself, am I expected to harbour some kind of ill will towards Hassan for the attacks on my country" You would have thought that, in 2005, people would be more educated than to believe that a person's ethnicity and nationality determines their beliefs. Just as Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov were denounced as "Communists" by the majority of the then-WWF fan base of the 1980's and 90's, Hassan is denounced as a "terrorist" because of his character today.

In actuality, Hassan is an Italian-American, born and raised in the United States. Rather than detract from the message, however, this fact, I believe, seems to amplify the impact that these angles can have. Yes, it is important, and always has been, in the wrestling world to have characters that fans can boo and hiss, but where does this go from being a pantomime "hatred" of an obvious "character" to being a race-related real-life issue"

I believe the WWE has to be very, very careful when deciding on what to do with the character of Hassan, as well as what to do in general with race/nationality/religion-related storylines in the future. It's unfortunate that these events detract from Hassan's tremendous wrestling ability, but I am convinced that the WWE dropped the ball on this one. Rather than Hassan having to cut a promo himself on this issue, Vince McMahon should have come out to emphasise the point and draw the line between wrestling and reality, for the fans at the arena and all around the world. Unfortunate as it may seem, having an overtly-Muslim character was always going to be a risk post-9/11, and the WWE has a responsibility to make it clear that Hassan, and the overwhelming majority of Muslims, are not engaged in any terrorist activity of any kind, as they should have done with The Bolsheviks in the Cold War years, and the Iron Sheik before them. Vinnie Mac is far from stupid: he must've been able to see the impact a character like Hassan would have, and as unfortunate as it was, the response of the SmackDown! faithful was hardly surprising. It will be interesting to see what the WWE does with Hassan and Daivari in the next few weeks.

by Steve Rochester ..


Brodie Pullar wrote:
I think that the WWE have gone to far in making characters of certain races hated in there story line. this just proves how desperate the WWE can be to sell tickets, i think its a dam shame that modern wrestlers are still separated by there race.

Though i believe the above statement to be true, the WWE have still gone a long way and have since made face superstars out of foreign wrestlers (like Tajiri, Funaki and Rey Mysterio), its also good to see that religeon is less of a issue with the Jewish wrestler Paul London. this is aposed to earlier years where the only good guys where american or mexican, even Canadian wrestlers where excluded (the un-americans, i.e. christian, edge and lance storm)

Improvement in racist story lines is critical to the WWE surviving
Kevin Roberts wrote:
I think the WWE has done a good job with Muhummad Hassan. He is a super heel. Heels are supposed to piss people off and Hassan has done just that. So in esscence, he has done his job and done it well. Anytime a storyline can cause a world-wide media frenzy, the WWE has really out-done themselves. Good job Vince. Hassan is an outstanding technical wrestler with legendary mic skills and some of his promos are already classics. I am obviously a big fan of Muhummad Hassan and I am black, so racially-sensitive storylines do not bother me; it's entertainment, and I watch faithfully. I think now the WWE should capitalize on Hassan's heat and give a title push to one of the WWE's top 10 superstars right now. Muhummad Hassan is the Iron Sheik of the future and I think he will one day be as great as his predecessor.
Steve H. wrote:
Sadly, Hassan is just another in a list of WWF/E Superstars brought in off the back of a USA war/national panic. Nikolai Volkoff was there at the time of the Cold War, Sgt Slaughter was the Iraqi sympathiser and had General Adnan placed with him to rant in a native tongue - much like Davari now does...

None of these characters should present 'problems' - but sadly, they seem to.

Watching from the UK, I find it admirably patriotic that fans (by which I mean ones in the arena) can chant USA! over and over for their home-grown stars, yet sometimes its perhaps expected of them. If the fans didn't buy in and actually got behind Hassan, Davari or whoever and cheered them what would happen"

However, fans listen to the likes of JR, or another commentator berating 'this peice of garbage' and more or less told that they are bad because of where they or from, or what they may stand for.

Now don't get me wrong. Its just interesting - but at Wrestle Mania, Davari and Hassan double teamed Eugene. JR went nuts, calling their two-on-one assault cowardly and totally unfair. Whereas a few months earlier, when Hassan was kicked to the floor in the Royal Rumble by more than half a dozen Superstars, it was great in the eyes of JR. I'm not saying that it is Ross's personal view by any means, but is a little hypocritical I would suggest.

Is the WWE in this way inciting racial hatred"
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