SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
Introductory Note: This column appeared in the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter and on the PWTorch VIP website two months ago after the Royal Rumble. Since it re-aired last night for free on Raw, I am republishing my column on that match for free for the first time today on PWTorch.com. Go VIP to read all of my exclusive-columns!
(Note: The following is written as plainly and directly as I can, as a sixty-year old southern white man with my particular life experiences.)
So, considering the reaction Wade Keller and Todd Martin, people I respect, had to what I said on Royal Rumble Roundtable, and what people on my Twitter timeline said, some of whom I respect, and the silence from many more, I thought it might be responsible of me to revisit/rewatch the Royal Rumble from last night.
For weeks going into the main event, I really didn’t know what to expect, to the point I’d made a provocative pre-show prediction (Ronda Rousey and Brock Lesnar win Rumbles, Ronda challenges Brock to an inter-gender biggest-star showdown at WrestleMania, a gamble with a big upside) partly because of that. Needless to say, by the time the last match came, that idea was already completely impossible, instead of highly improbable.
All the Rumble seemed to be based on in hype was how long WWE Champion Brock Lesnar, who had declared himself number one in the Rumble seeding despite already being guaranteed one of the WrestleMania main events, could last. Lesnar is booked far stronger and is a bigger star than anyone on the roster, to the point that Lesnar and his advocate, head Raw writer Paul Heyman, are underrated as an attraction in professional wrestling. Would Lesnar last the hour and actually win the Rumble, or would someone stop him and win it out from under him?
I always enjoy Lesnar’s dominant performances. He’s usually, but not always, really good. I think having dominant stars that stand above the rest has always been an effective tactic in drawing the most money for any pro wrestling promotion. Lesnar plays Baddest Man On The Planet extremely well, and his real-life UFC and NCAA bonafides only add to his credibility.
Brock Lesnar, interestingly, also fits the Ubermensch archetype, The Aryan Superman that fired the imaginations of Adolf Hitler and many White Supremacists that followed. The Ubermensch (German for Superman, before two Jewish man created the superhero mythology).
Nazis who felt insecure physically or mentally compared to people who weren’t like them bought the myth of their superiority as a separate race who were unfairly victimized by their lessers. That superiority was personified in the bigger, stronger, smarter, more ferocious, more potent, fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed Ubermensch myth. It justified the genocide and horrors the Nazis inflicted, because after all those weren’t Ubermensch, they were just animals here to serve.
The last time these unsavory associations came to mind with WWE was during the biggest, most important TV show the promotion ever broadcast, Smackdown’s debut on the Fox Network this fall. Brock Lesnar, whether anyone likes it or not, is the living personification of that ugly myth. Lesnar crushed the black babyface WWE Champion Kofi Kingston in unprecedented fashion, fairly and completely, in FOUR seconds. A lot of fans and wrestlers, particularly black ones, didn’t like how it all went down. Kingston was then demoted back to shaking his ass and flipping Little Black Sambo’s pancakes in his entertaining New Day tag team, where his character was not allowed even a hint of a WWE Championship rematch or a main-event return. He and his two partners (more on them later) subsequently signed a three-year contract-renewal with the company.
I didn’t see it at the time, but the theme I saw in this Rumble was foreshadowed in the hype before the show. In one TV segment, Brock Lesnar laughed in the face of the Man-Child In A WWE Universe, R-Truth, and crushed him like he was nothing. He easily did the same to the bi-racial Ricochet.
I laughed when a friend noted that Brock Lesnar, who usually let Heyman do his talking, now talked himself, but only to black people. I did notice he did an off-mic ugly “Thass right” imitation of Truth, but I didn’t think it was a presager of anything.
So, the Rumble starts. I figured Lesnar at no. 1, and comedy at no. 2, that WWE wouldn’t want to show their hand early and Brock could use an easy start. No. 2 wasn’t R-Truth, WWE’s best comedian, but white boy Elias, who tweeted aptly afterward “lamb to the slaughter” and saw his newly revived guitar player gimmick literally smashed, even though he, newly babyface, tried to run way.
Elias was followed by three more white also-rans and, at this point I was just enjoying the Baddest Man on the Planet act dominating.
To my shock, The Ubermensch theme then revealed itself more brazenly than I ever thought possible – and I was the one who covered the “self-proclaimed silverback” and the Jim Crow culture behind those pancakes. There’d been so much of it to cover in the last year that Wade Keller didn’t even bother to engage when I brought them up on my podcasts. Race is an uncomfortable subject, after all.
This year’s Rumble started with no. 5, Kofi Kingston, who got a few seconds of offense, then laughed at and beaten down yet again. The legendary Rey Misterio was next. Lesnar had previously beaten him up, whipped his civilian son’s ass, then the Hispanic Misterio, one of the best babyface in the entire business, attacked him from behind with a steel pipe to start their championship match but still lost to the guy. Lesnar then whipped Misterio’s son’s godfather, UFC star Cain Velasquez, for good measure.
Rey’s got nothing here, either. Kofi’s New Day partner, the aptly named Big E, is next. Two black guys and one Hispanic versus the Aryan Superman. Big E is bouncing in anticipation of the more-fair-than-Kofi fight, then he unaccountably goes to check on Kofi instead of going in to angrily take on white Superman. Bad move.
Ubermensch tosses out two WWE Champions and multiple time tag champion, Rey Misterio, arguably the biggest worldwide Hispanic star of the last quarter-century and black guys Kofi Kingston & Big E, the most famous tag team of the last ten, all with strong motivations for revenge, three longtime Superstars SIMULTANEOUSLY.
I’m getting the idea, now. Someone later had the nerve to say at least Kofi Kingston was the first to last 90 seconds against the white guy.
Shelton Benjamin, a black guy who was Lesnar’s college wrestling teammate, gets immediately outsmarted, thrown out and laughed at by Lesnar.
Shinsuke Nakamura, Japanese and Intercontinental champ, gets to knock down Lesnar with a kick before getting thrown out. Sami Zayn, Syrian, ran away first chance he got.
Incredibly, speaking of ten years, next up is ten-year-gone MVP, and in case you miss the point here, he’s wearing BLACK PANTHER gear. Corey Graves mocks the choice, saying maybe Black Panther will meet his Thanos in Lesnar. The Ubermensch humiliates the Panther, even tearing off some of his superhero costume.
We have a one-white-boy break next, when the world’s most over-qualified carpenter, “The Swiss Superman” Cesaro, comes in for Lesnar to toss out.
Then the new NXT North American Champion, Keith Lee, the company’s fastest rising black star, arrives. He’s bigger than Big E and he even knocks Lesnar on HIS ass. Maybe Lee eliminating Lesnar is meant to balance out the awful symbolism so far, I think.
Maybe not. Lee lasts long enough to get tossed out simultaneously with white monster Braun Stroman.
Lesnar talks to Lee, too.
Next up is another black Superhero, the aforementioned Ricochet. He’s beaten up easily again and thrown out, only not over the top rope.
Hold that thought.
That’s nine out of ten People of Color in a row, top POCs in the company who get, in Corey Graves’ word, annihilated by the Aryan Superman Brock Lesnar.
Time for a white guy, specifically Drew McIntyre, not-so-coincidentally physically more like The Aryan Superman than anyone else in the company.
Biracial superhero Ricochet (I mean, he actually calls himself a superhero – take it from me, a comic book guy my whole life, no superhero ever does that) cowardly sneaks back in the ring behind Brock Lesnar and kicks him in the balls. The second white Superman, Drew McIntyre, takes aim and Claymore-Kicks Ubermensch over the top rope and completely out of the Rumble.
The white guy does what no black guy can do: Be a man against the Aryan Superman.
Brock Lesnar Ubermensch dominated 26 minutes of the Royal Rumble more completely than anyone else – Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, or The Rock – in the 33 year history of the event and tied (TIED) the record for eliminations.
As Micheal Cole later proclaims it’s the story of two Royal Rumbles matches, both won by white boys. The new Alpha white-boy, McIntyre, doesn’t dominate like Lesnar, but then the heart of the POC roster is gone and he doesn’t have a bunch of push-overs to laugh at; he’s got two Samoans and a whole bunch of tough white boys to fight.
I mean, who’s whiter than King Corbin, Seth Rollins, or Randy Orton?
White legend Edge, who hasn’t been in a ring in nine years, doesn’t need a superhero costume to get his respect here.
The ring fills with white guys and also Samoa Joe and the would-be Rock (Everybody loves Rock! Are you sure he’s black?) Roman Reigns.
Aleister Black, alas, is white too.
Second half of this Rumble, nobody looks impotent and there are white guys everywhere you look, scene after scene.
It’s clearly either Roman Reigns, the face of the company who no one actually wants to win, or our new White Superman, a guy who actually started in WWE with a White Privilege gimmick, Drew McIntyre.
Drew McIntyre eliminates a bunch too, wins the second half and the Royal Rumble itself.
On review, everything I saw originally is still there, and there were bricks to add once you knew what to look for. As they like to say, WWE is in the story-telling business.
I don’t know whether this theme was deliberately done by WWE Creative or unconsciously careless, but it’s bigoted either way and like all bigotry, completely senseless.
(Bruce Mitchell, @mitchellpwtorch on Twitter, has been a PWTorch columnist since 1990. His columns appear exclusively in the pages of Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter and the vast majority are available in the PWTorch VIP website. Thousands of hours of the Bruce Mitchell Audio Show, a weekly podcast that began in 2004, are also available in the PWTorch VIP website archives with in-depth long-form coverage of pro wrestling’s biggest stories and biggest names from the last 15 years.) ###