by Victor Parenza (@ParenzaBooks)
Smackdown’s world title scene is a mess. Every angle post-Elimination Chamber this year has seemingly found a way to get worse and worse. And for some reason the thought of, “Hey let’s add Great Khali to the equation”, seemed like a way to help spice things up. For the record, nothing is better when you add Khali to it.
I get it though. The WWE is pushing that new Indian market hard. Adding one of its most famous sons to the center of that push forward is a good business move for them. The dream scenario is to add 1 billion new fans to the WWE “Universe” (I still hate that term). Obviously that number is not going to happen, but they’ll gladly take a new million fans, or however many decide to jump aboard the WWE train. At the end of the day I respect that business decision, but they sure took a crappy route to get there.
None of this is obviously Jinder’s fault. It’s entirely WWE creative. Let’s be honest Jinder was a job guy throughout his first stint, was fired, then came back only to be a jobber for eight months only to be hot-shotted to the world title. Don’t believe me? Here’s who he beat since coming back in 2016 prior to becoming number one contender: Heath Slater, Jack Swagger, Darren Young, and Curtis Axel. And that’s not even multiple wins against each guy. He beat each ONE time. So he had four wins in eight months against guys that were on his level, which as we established is a very low level. If this was the year 2000, he would have maybe been qualified to hold the hardcore title for 10 minutes before losing it back to Crash Holly. And we are supposed to take this man seriously as a credible world champion? Fuck me.
Now we get to the meat and potatoes of today’s topic. The “evil” foreigner. I’m not the most politically correct guy in the world, but I’ve hated the concept of the “asshole because he’s not American” since I started watching wrestling during the Attitude Era. Back then it wasn’t as prominent, but then around 2003-2005 we saw a huge influx of them. La Resistance, Kenzo Suzuki, the Un-Americans (granted they were all talented guys which made it much more tolerable), Muhammad Hassan and Diavari, Tajiri with Akio and Sakoda, and the Mexicools. And even Canadian babyfaces like Benoit and Jericho weren’t allowed to be announced as being from Canada. (So Atlanta for Benoit, and Manhasset for Jericho.) What the hell is wrong with being from Canada? In Vince’s mind (at least at that point in time) something clearly was. I also need to point out that there are no racist gimmicks in NXT. So hopefully that is a good sign for our future as annoyed fans.
Now the argument for this concept is that it’s “just a TV show.” Okay, but isn’t this called the “reality era?” We shouldn’t boo someone because they aren’t American. I feel stupid just having to write that. I’m not going to lie, when I go to a WWE show and Rusev comes out for example, it makes me uncomfortable that people chant “USA USA” at him. I don’t hate Rusev because he’s Bulgarian, I hate Rusev because they brought him in as an obvious Rocky IV rip-off that came across as such a lazy and dated gimmick that it insulted me as a wrestling fan watching it. Not to mention the horrible booking of him post-John Cena feud, but that’s a whole other thing.
It’s well-documented that Vince is all about the stereotypical “Americana” bullshit. He wants his heroes decorated in the star and stripes, and their arch-nemesis to be the dreaded, dastardly, purely evil foreigner. For years this worked. So on one hand you can’t blame him for wanting to stick to what he believes is a tried and true formula. But when was the last time it really worked? Hogan vs. Slaughter at WrestleMania VII? You can argue the Hart Foundation in ’97, but to me that doesn’t count because that was a very grey scenario opposed to the normally very black and white thinking of Vinnie Mac.
Now please don’t start thinking I’m anti-American or anything. America is a great place to live. We do however have issues with getting along at times. It is true that many countries despise Americans for our arrogance and/or stupidity. So maybe the evil people aren’t really them, maybe the evil ones are us? Think about that for a minute.
This clearly isn’t a black and white (literally and figuratively) issue. I’m not going down this rabbit hole any further because it’s a slippery slope. What I will say is that it’s time we quit villainizing foreigners in wrestling. (Or mocking them either. No more savages from Samoa, yodeling Swiss, river dancing Irish, or anything that stereotypes someone in a silly way just because they’re not American.) I mean doesn’t it seem wrong to anyone else that 9 year old kids are screaming “USA” at a guy just because he’s from country X? I don’t watch GFW/Impact/TNA anymore, but I know they’ve been guilty of this, but I’m just sticking with WWE. They are the last major offenders on a large scale of this in wrestling. Quit programming young American minds to hate non-Americans. (Hopefully I’m wrong and this is not happening.) And the smark in me says to stop being lazy and think up more creative ways to get heat than wear a turban or bone in your nose.
This has been a pretty negative column, so I’ll leave you with an uplifting related story. Back in 2006 KENTA was tearing it up in ROH. Every night he seemingly had a match of the year. Towards the end of his ’06 run he was having a match with Davey Richards. They took the fight to the floor, and KENTA was in control. A small but very noticeable chunk of fans started chanting, “USA USA USA!” KENTA looked at them with an expression of, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” No sooner than that happens than the rest of the crowd starts screaming “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” I was so proud at that moment. Here these jack-offs are insulting this guy who has put it all on the line every single night. In one match he was even knocked unconscious by Samoa Joe, only to come back and proceed to still tear the house down. It was absolutely ridiculous that the thought of even saying that should have entered their pea-sized brains. Even the commentators had to acknowledge it by saying that “the ROH crowd can police itself against a couple of idiots in the front row.” Wrestling fans are pretty moronic these days, but at least for that one moment we showed that we could treat these guys and girls as people and not ridiculous stereotypes.