SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Let me start off by saying this. Professional wrestling, like many other forms of entertainment, is used as an escape. A distraction from the constant struggles that many individuals of all ethnicities and genders face on a daily basis. We lose ourselves in the characters, the work ethic, the over-the-top storylines that draw us in because of our love and passion for the business. It’s been that for me personally, a love that I cannot truly articulate. We are fans of the industry, and I’m not here to convince you otherwise.
What I can tell you, however, is that even though this industry comes from a long history of tradition and nostalgic memories, it is stained with years of discrimination, sexism, and injustice. (And I’m NOT just talking about the WWE.) I could deliver to you a laundry list of examples or describe to you the horrific tales of events that have transpired over the decades, but we would be here all day. So why mention all of this?
This Tuesday’s Smackdown Live contained a promo from the current WWE Champion Jinder Mahal, a hard working man who comes from an Indo-Canadian descent, and who was pushed to the top of the promotion not because of his skill at the craft, but for the WWE to do big business for their streaming network in the wide-open India market. I must reiterate this: Jinder Mahal WORKS VERY HARD for the WWE and he does deserve a chance to shine, but he’s in no position to be the face of the brand merely because of a business venture. (Which isn’t working, BTW.) But none of this is important. What is important is the promo (talking segment) that he cut.
Jinder’s current opponent for the WWE Championship at the upcoming Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View is Shinsuke Nakamura, a SUPERSTAR from the Japanese wrestling scene whose popularity has easily transitioned to the American wrestling fans. I’ll leave my personal opinions about Shinsuke absent, but I wasn’t being facetious when I called him a superstar. During Jinder’s promo, he constantly berated and mocked Shinsuke by bashing his Asian descent. You might think, “Well, this is professional wrestling. That’s his job isn’t it? To promote a fight? To get the fans to boo him and incite those same fans to cheer for the other guy? What’s the big deal?” My immediate and most honest response is this: “NO. HELL NO.”
HERE’S THE THING:
This strategy has been implored throughout the years in the wrestling industry, and throughout the years the fans have further pushed it away. I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that wrestling fans are not viewed as the intellectuals of the world. However, I will no longer subscribe to the idea that wrestling fans are the lowest common denominator; people who are stuck in a revolving cycle of the past. That’s just not true, and the fans of Oakland, California not only denied Jinder’s hate speech, but also loudly chanted against it. “THAT’S TOO FAR” they chanted.
Jinder’s entire character is based on xenophobia, and he himself has claimed to be the victim of wrestling fans bigotry. He’s not entirely wrong because there are still fans who are plagued with ignorance, but that is also the character that WWE has asked him to play. It’s the oldest trick in the book. A foreign heel, who despises America and wishes nothing but harm to its American heroes. (E.G. Muhammad Hassan or Sgt. Slaughter.)
So the fact that Jinder would now spurt this hateful rhetoric makes him a hypocrite. It makes all the ideas that he was trying to pass off now seem as ignorant as the people who wrote them. That’s the thing: I know for a fact that Jinder Mahal didn’t decide to say these things, but the WWE creative team wrote them for him. It’s infuriating that in 2017 this ideology of bashing someone’s ethnical background is okay. It’s not. It never has been. Some of the greatest wrestling storyline angles of all time, the one’s that will truly be remembered for the right reasons, had nothing to do with racial bigotry or sexual misogyny. They were just good stories worthy of being told.
This story is not good, it is not progressive, it doesn’t make me sympathize for Shinsuke, nor does it make me excited for when the bad guy Jinder Mahal get’s his comeuppance. It’s this type of unawareness that truly turns me off from the product. That’s a shame, because me, like millions of others around the world, have such a deep love relationship with this global industry. Shit like this makes me hate wrestling, and that just hurts to write.
Follow Joey Galizia on Twitter: @RamJam89