This week the WWE crowned their third ever Black WWE World Champion when Bobby Lashley defeated the Miz in the main event of Monday Night Raw after a week plus two hours and 45 minutes of shenanigans that the champion attempted to get out of defending his newly won title. And for a rare Monday night almost my entire twitter timeline was celebrating. After waiting over 30 years between the first and second men to win the title we only had to wait two years to get to number three. It also marks the second time in three years that a faction consisting of all black members held the world title and the tag team titles for a wrestling company.
With this, and with Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair set to face off at WrestleMania, it’s an unprecedented time for Black wrestlers in the WWE. Big E is the Intercontinental champion, the Street Profits recently ended almost a year as champions on Raw and Smackdown combined. Last year Apollo Crews got a long awaited elevation to being a TV regular and a US title reign. Keith Lee won both the NXT North American and NXT World Championships. And MVP returned to WWE and parlayed a two night appearance into full time role and establishing the Hurt Business along with Lashley, Shelton Benjamin, and Cedric Alexander. So now as we move on through the third consecutive year where Black wrestlers are getting not just titles but big spots on TV every week.
And it’s not just in the WWE. Representation of the highest form is spreading across the industry in the 2020s, as you’ll see here (h/t to @Markswithmics for the artwork here).
Impact has multiple Black title holders in Impact World Champion Rich Swann, TNA Champion Moose, and Knockouts Tag Champions Tasha Steelz and Kieran Hogan.
Ring of Honor has Pure Champion Jonathan Gresham, Six Man Tag Champions Shane Taylor Promotions and Kenny King as one half of their Tag Team Champions
And there’s the NWA and MLW, who currently have TV champion Elijah Burke and Middleweight champion Lio Rush, respectively.
So clearly at this moment in time we are witnessing a pinnacle of achievement by Black wrestlers in the title holding department of pro wrestling. And we should celebrate that! But we have to be honest even while we rejoice. All of these companies have a checkered history to put it lightly on this matter, littered with men and women who should have won titles or won more titles or gotten longer runs with the titles they did hold. And even when booking or business logic has been correct in choosing others that doesn’t mean these folks predecessors and contemporaries were not done wrong in their careers. For a lot of them spaces and opportunities were earned that could have been paid off within the normal order of things.
For me all of this begs this question: are we finally moving in a direction where this will be the norm and not the exception? Now I don’t think we should assume or expect to have this many Black champions at all times, but it’s not the least bit excessive to treat this like it’s a thing that will never happen again either. There are so many Black wrestlers across the entire business who have shown they can perform at a level that warrants being a titleholder, that the stars aligning to this degree again should be on the table going forward. The days of one or two brothers and often no sisters in one company, who then either have to team or feud, are long gone. Our numbers have grown exponentially, to the point where putting titles on us is way more than a thing to score points, it’s just basic math that can’t be danced around without you looking real suspect.
Ok, but what do you people want?
I do not profess to be the voice of all Black wrestling fans, but for me it’s pretty simple. Equality isn’t when you get a chance if you show extraordinary abilities, it’s when my ‘good enough to be here’ brings the same results as yours. There have been 53 WWE World Champions so on that list are several white guys who were deemed good enough to wear it but were not extraordinary talents or were well past their primes. Vince McMahon himself is one of those guys for crying out loud so yeah, some space could have been found in 1996 or 1997 for Ron Simmons to have gotten a brief run as WWF World Champion.
Everyone who’s pictured here has shown that at the very least they are good enough to play the role of a champion on a wrestling show, and several of them have shown they can do it at the highest tier of title holders. I don’t ask for them to continue doing so or for others to get a chance just so we can have a turn. No, I am saying that when they have proven they can do it, instead of doing all kinds of mental gymnastics to go with yet another white man or woman because you’re too prejudiced or too afraid that your audience is too prejudiced, go with what you’ve seen can work.
Nobody’s saying no more white champions. It’s just……cut the bs, that’s all. If given the choice between a black wrestler who has shown they can perform as a champion (or any other non white wrestler for that matter) and a white wrestler who is just……white, and nothing that stands out in any way, then do what makes common freaking sense. Don’t be so stuck on having a white guy/gal on top as your default setting, even if it hurts your product. Ultimately it’s supposed to be a show and prove business, so as we continue to show and prove just treat us accordingly. It’s what we want from all of society so of course we want it from pro wrestling.