Stereotypes In Wrestling
May 29, 2006 by Steve Urena
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Hello my name is Steve Urena and I have been a wrestling fan since the age of seven. I have loved this business ever since I first laid eyes on the Undertaker confronting Mankind on Monday Night RAW, but as I grew older and started to get smarter and wiser I realized wrestling is filled with a ton of stereotypes. Now as a multi racial person I believe everyone is made equal white, black, Indian, Spanish , blue, red purple whatever, but I also think as much as these stereotypes are entertaining some of them can cause a hindrance to the performers. I want things to change so I’m going to address this situation one race at a time.
Japanese performers will not be a big sensation in promotions like the WWE because in Vince McMahon’s eyes most of them if not all of them do not appeal to the casual American audience. Even in TNA there isn’t a majority of minorities and they’re held down with over the top gimmicks or relegated to the X-Division or the Cruiserweight division. I’m not saying they are not the best workers but the reason they haven’t achieved success and we haven’t seen a Japanese WWE champion is because they don’t have a character. Every WWE performer from the East so far has been a broken English, master of Karate, part of the Triads, you name it the WWE has done it.
In the age of sports entertainment, as over the top as it can be, you will never achieve success unless you have a character. John Cena is atrocious in the ring but he has charisma to back it up. The Ultimate Warrior was the same way. Funaki will always be comic relief and cannot get by on his work alone in America because he has to have an over the top, no-I-don’t-speak-English, Funaki “numbah 1”, Jackie Chan-like gimmick. Jimmy Yang is an awesome wrestler. He isn’t the best on the mic but when he was in the WWE he could have been cruiserweight champ, but of course his character was he was part of the Triads along with Sakoda. It was evident in Tajiri as well - he probably did know some sort of martial arts but it’s just a stereotype.
Spanish wrestlers in the WWE today have to have thick accents and ride lawnmowers. It is entertaining to some extent but can Super Crazy and Psicosis get bumped up from the cruiser division? I hope this changes somewhere down the line. I will admit though wrestling is a cartoony type of entertainment and it does help appeal to the fans, but Eddie Guerrero really didn’t speak like that. He made his character into his own and that’s what made him popular with the crowd. Alejandro Armando Estrada is also comedic in his ways but can we really see his skills shine through that voice. I mean Chavo Guerrero had to turn white in order to get a push and move up the card a little bit. It was comical but as a Spanish American I cringed watching it.
African Americans have this problem too. Every WWE and some TNA superstars are over the top stereotypes. Booker T cannot get his hands on the title because they have made him so silly like a jive talking pimp out of the 70s that you can’t take him seriously. WCW back in the day had him cut his hair and let him speak like himself, let him be himself - a strong militant black man and to me that was cool. When people become themselves in wrestling they seem to become the most successful. Shelton Benjamin apparently needed a Mama and Ron Killings has to pop and lock and do splits for the audience in order to get TV time. It’s painful to watch because these guys are incredibly talented and they should just be themselves.
Middle Eastern wrestlers or supposed Middle Eastern wrestlers hailing from the Middle East have to be terrorists. What the hell is up with that? Muhammad Hassan who really wasn’t from the Middle East to begin with had a breakthrough gimmick that was just like a movie. The way he portrayed it - an Arab American in a post 9/11 society - was brilliant but the fans shit on it because they thought he was a terrorist.
So the WWE is raising kids to think these guys are wrong and that could cause a problem. Young minds are like sponges and when the WWE is calling Muhammad Hassan a terrorist in so many words the kids might think that their Indian neighbors or classmates are the same and harass them. Now this isn’t the case for all wrestlers as there have been champions of different ethnicities. I just don’t want the over the top gimmickry to overshadow the talent of the performer. So if you agree or disagree send me an email at [email protected]
by by Steve Urena ..
J phillips (Melbourne, Australia) wrote:
I hate stereotypes i wrestling , recently watching some tapes from wwe 2004 , Kenzo suzuki was mocked in racist fashion by John cena who translated for kenzo in a segment , where Cena's Only Knoledge of Japanese was the word, Godzilla. The commentary from tazz , bringing up what little he knew about Japanese culture ( witch usualy was still stereotypical facts from any cartoon show) did not help during kenzos matches.
Im just begging for one day there to be an asian-american who would have a persona that was not linked to his nationality or heritege
its few and far between for asian/mexican/british/australian wrestlers to be potrayed like just another blue chipper . Paul Burchil has to be a pirate , Regal cant just be the bad ass he is , he has to be a gentleman , and of course the only one in wwe who could hosty the corination of King Booker. Nathan Jones had to have a didgereedoo in his entrance music , but atleast he wasnt coming out with a kangeroo. Rene dupree was shoved down our throats that he was a heel , simply because he was "french". The mexicool lawmower thing is just plain wrong.
Muhammed Hussan ,in his vignettes all he was , was a arab american , who wanted to be accepted as a person and not a terroist . and what do the wwe do , they give him the most common name in Arab society , and instead of using the WWEs power to promate that not all Arabs are terroists , they make him a sneaky heel , who hated the chants of USA . It made no sense at all , MUhammed hussan could of been a very positve character , but Like La resistance in 2003 , he was shoved down our throats that he was evil just because he didnt like how people viewed his kind.
Atleast we have Bobby lashley , who has no stereotypical things about him , going out and kicking ass everynight to get over. Thankfully the Racist/sterotype booking of african americans is gone , well besides the Jive talkings of booker t , compared to booker in wcw , something just isnt right.
I hope you guys got anything usefull out of this email , and sorry for any grammer/spelling mistakes.
Patrick The Pop Guru O'Connell wrote:
I totally agree with what you are saying 1000 percent.
I look at the state of Raw, Smackdown (unfortunately), and TNA. Raw has Umaga as a Kamala/Headshrinkers 2006 thing going for him and Coach comes of as a tyipcal African American hustler caricature. Goldust is your flaming (no pun intended) cross dressing gay man stereotype. On smackdown sharmell i guess is the token black sista and Finlay is the typical angry irishman with his new and improved shilleaileigh carrying leprechaun. It will take all the Guiness in Ireland for this irishman ever admit enjoying smackdown lately. But in your article you seem to forget that stereotypes in wrestling is nothing new. it has been around since the beginings of the buisiness. Remeber Nikolai Volkoff, Roddy Piper, Iron Sheik, Frenchy Martin, Ludvig Borga, Gen. Adnan, Lord Steven Regal, ECW's THE FBI, Jimmy Snuka, and WWE Hall of Famer Tony "Saba Simba" Atlas. if there are more please comment.
but other wise kudos
Deborah Forjone wrote:
You seem to have forgotten another group that has been accused of a stereotypical personality is the Native Americans. These athletes, such as Chief Jay Strongbow, Wahoo McDaniels, and more recently: Tatanka. His streak was one of the longest ever, unbeaten for over a year, and still he has yet to win a championship. Another thing, why must the Native Americans always be stereotyped as barbarians, always shouting war hoots, wearing ceremonial headdresses, having tammahawks, etc... but the point is they should not be described as Native Americans living in the 1800s. Native Americans don't do that anymore. Get with the times. I don't know why Tatanka had to go through a Lakota ritual, hes a member of the Lumbii Tribe. It makes no sense to me. All in all, great article because there is way too much sterotypes in wrestling, and these sterotypes should be laid to rest.
Jesse Lee wrote:
I don't really think there's anything wrong with a small amount of stereotypes. I mean, we all stereotype in some form and fashion. The thing that gets me is the way how most wrestling promotions have to exaggerate these stereotypes. If someone has a Japanese heritage, they're a samurai. If they're German, they're nazi. Hell, if you come from canada, expect poor treatment of wwe sls, right? Small things like Kaentai's interview segments or maybe a little accent would be alright and often hilarious.
A perfect example is Rene Dupree. We have a young wrestler who's pretty solid in his work and has an amazing attitude as a heel. With time, Rene could have been an actual threat as a heel. Not because he had a French background (remember, it was during the time France refused to send troops to Iraq so America basically got angry.) He should have risen to a decent mid-card status as heel based on his cocky attitude rather than being a forgotten jobber-former tag specialist heel based on nationality.
That's just one example, compare it with others who may have failed due to a poor outlook on culture and terrible understandings throughout history. I'll leave it off with praising this column for pointing out an issue that not many seem to care about.
Steve "Da Whole Damn Show" Slaughter wrote:
Hey everybody, i'll keep it nice and short. my names Steve "Da Whole DamnShow" Slaughter. Im a proud SAMOAN living in South Auckland New Zealand (heavily populated with Samoans). Me and my friends like to enjoy watching Umaga wrestle and threaten and curse his opponents in Samoan. The gimmik Umaga is playing is the stereotye that the world views Samoan's as, as the big, tough, come in and beat up everyone in the party type. I would just like to say that stereotypes makes wrestling fun. But then again you are correct about if the wrestlers now days be themselves they would make it "bigger". take for example. The Rock is a proud Samoan, but did not mention a single tad bit about his Samoan culture, and just played it straight.and actually there was an episode of raw in 1999 when "Rikishi" who is also a proud Samoan asked the Rock to join him and show the WWE the true "Samoan Style", and the Rock walked out on him. But don't get me wrong, the Rock in real life is a proud Samoan. but the question is, "If The Rock chose to take up a Samoan gimmik would he be as successful in the wrestling business?" i don't think so.
Karen Lankstead wrote:
what annoyes me hassan was actually italian i found it out in power slam and plus that was terrible what jbl said in mysterios home town about his wife and about mexicans.
Alan Eisenberg wrote:
I tend to agree with Steve Urena's column, but if you look at the history of "modern" wrestling, which began in the 1950's, stereotypes reflect the attitude of the times. Remember, the very first televised sports event was Professional Wrestling, with Gorgeous George playing the flamboyant "gay". This was in the time when Christine Jorgenson was the first American to publically undergo a gender operation in Denmark. Also, in the 1950's, Americans were recovering from WWII and typically, the heels were Japenese or Germans. As the cold war esculated, the heels became Soviets. Professional Wrestling is basically a "mirror" on the current society to exploit and use the current societal trends.
I also tend to agree what has happened with Native American wrestlers. Growing up in the shadow of Don Owen's Portland Wrestling, who gave the rest of the country many superstar's first start (Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Buddy Rose (the Executioner on the very first match of the very first Wrestlemania), there was one Native American from Portland, OR that made it big, without the stereotype. His name was Bull Ramos who went on to many classic matches and also starred in a movie with Alex Karras about wrestling. Although I agree about the tomahawks and headdresses that Native American's wear or are forced to wear, it is a gimmick, just like Goldust's wig, Cowboy Bob Orton's hat (and cast), Dutch Savage's Coal Miner's Glove, the Undertaker's Urn, etc.
About Hispanics, not all are "stereotypical" lawn mow riding people. Ray Mysterio is far from a stereotype, as is Melinia Perez, Lilian Garcia and the other hispanic workers of the WWE.
There is a fine line between stereotyping and degrading, and as far as I can see, none of the wrestling federations have crossed it yet. I have yet to see a black wrestler bring watermelons into the ring, a native american scalping someone (or even in a hair match) or an Arab type blow someone up. Each promoter seems to know just how far to go without crossing the line. Each promoter likes to exploit the current reflections of society. Going back to Don Owen's Portland Wrestling, he had an Arab type wrestler for a couple of years (long before 9-11) that exploited his "wealth" gained by oil. This was during the Carter Years and the "oil embargo". Of course he was a "heel" but that didn't stop people from buying tickets to watch him take his lumps.
Last, the WWE likes to use the gay line quite offten (Billy & Chuck, "hot lesbian action", Goldust, etc.). The Billy & Chuck line made national headlines and got interviews on national network. Although that was years ago, it is still an issue in America today. In short, it sells tickets and promotes the product, and Vince McMahon got tons of publicity for his company that no amount of money could buy over the Billy & Chuck thing.
Ultimately, the stereotypes will live on, without crossing the line. It sells tickets and the product. Would a fan go to a professional match to see matches without a definitive heel and face?
Brodie Pullar wrote:
Great collumn but I have a few issues with some of the things you said.
First Of all Tajiri had a vast background in martial arts (in
Karate) not just some sort of martial art. In fact if you see some of
his old matches from Japan you can see that his wrestling style
incorporated many martial arts techniques. second many Japanese
wrestlers have a martial arts background because a lot of Japanese
wrestling dojo's incorporate it into their teachings.
Apart from this I agree hole heartedly on your statements, I know for a
fact that Tajiri can speak English well and I never picked up on it but
African american wrestlers get a bad wrap as well. I've been waiting a
long time for Shelton Benjamen to become WWE champion but it just seems
like he is not being used to his potential (especially as a heel). I
hated Muhamed Hassan and Daivari on the WWE, but that was because they
let the WWE give them a terrorist gimmick which makes me want to spew
every time i see them or chairman Vince Mcmahon.
Everything that Mr. Urena said is very true. When it comes down to it stereotypes are everywhere in wrestling. I think i saw it the most with Eddie Guerrero before he died. The Lowrider was his thing in the WWE and that whole Low rider latino thing worked because sure enought after doing it for so long he got his title shot and won it. Even his slogan Lie Cheat Steal was really playing the wholoe stereotype things and now the whole Armando Alejandro Estrada thing. He is the stereotypical cuban (scarface-ish) it's really rediculous.
Brodie Pullar wrote:
First of all Tajiri didnt know some sort of martial art he knew various martial arts (i.e. Kickboxing Karate etc) and i dont think its fair to some up martial arts training by saying 'he probably knew some sort of martial art'. To train in any martial art you need years of dedication and Tajiri studied martial arts before he studied wrestling. I think you should do a little more research before jumping to those conclusions. Second most Japanese wrestling dojo's incorporate martial arts into their training hence most Japanese wrestler use martial arts in the ring. This is also part of the reason the WWE hire Japanese wrestlers because of their unique and entertaining style. After all the E in WWE stands for entertainment and its so exciting to see the Japanese style in the ring.
Apart from this I agree with your collumn i'm surprised of how much sense it made after all i havent seen an African american capture the WWE championship or World heavyweight championship for a long while in fact i cant remember the last time an African American won the either heavyweight title let alone chalenge for it.
Muhumad Hassan's gimmick made me sick at times it made me want to spit at the TV. I keep on wondering how Vince Mcmahon could make light of such a touchy issue. It makes me so sick that he would trivialise the Middle eastern population by labeling them terrorists. No wonder none of my Arab freinds watch the WWE.
SK2 Derek Xavier Cohen wrote:
This article was very well written and I agree with you somewhat but I’m afraid that you may have some of your facts wrong. You say that we have never seen a Japanese WWE champion. I think you forgot one. The late and great Yokozuna was a former WWE champion. He defeated one of my favorite wrestling heroes, Hulk Hogan for the WWE title back in 93. He was of Hawaiian descent but did wrestle as a Japanese sumo wrestler. You also forgot about the most electrifying wrestler of all time, The Rock! (my favorite wrestler, by the way.) He was seven time WWE champion and two time WCW champion. The Rock is half African American and half Hawaiian. The WWE never made Rocky talk “jive talk” with a pair of Nikes on or never made him walk to the ring with a bunch of coconuts with a Hawaiian shirt and skirt on. They tried to stereotype him when he first came to the WWE but quickly transformed him to what we see him as now. Also, some wrestlers prefer to stay to their true heritage, i.e. Rey Mysterio. The WWE did not make Rey run around with a lawn mower and have him speak broken English. Rey obviously stayed true to his heritage with his in ring wrestling mask and the word “mexican’ tattooed on his belly. Rey may not be great on the microphone but he is a living legend in the ring. I understand the point that you are trying to make with this article and yes the WWE can go overboard with certain stereotypes but I think you need to do your homework just a little bit better.
Kyle Gurrent wrote:
Unlike some of the other reviewers of Your article I would like to state that it is well thought out, and a truly heartfelt opinion. I do agree with you that there is racism in wrestling, But..... When it comes to a gimmick involving race and nationality the wrestlers have a choice if they would except it or not(as it is there political right to do so). So when it comes to the issue of wrestlers having racist gimmicks they are the only ones to blame, not the writers, who merely ''suggested'' that they use there race or nationality as gimmick. Often the case is with these wrestlers that you mentioned there is three things going on in there head....
1. They aren't creative enough to think of a gimmick for themselves so their open to suggestion.
2.They have low self respect, and self hate towards their race or nationality, that they end up beliving that the streorotype about them is true.
or 3. They are a open minded person due to a lifetime of racism and don't care what racist people have to say about them. Allowing them to act themselves while evolving from that streotyped gimmick.
And yes, young kids minds are like sponges but if their parents are non-racial people then they'll set their child straight, so don't worry about the kids. And if the parents are raciast themselves, then the kid was probobly going to end up a raciast anyway.
So Steve, thanks for the read and keep these thought provoking columns coming! good job
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