To those who follow wrestling, this topic should not be a shocking one, but to the casual fan, wrestling can be incredibly narrowed-minded when creating gimmicks for minorities. Historically, most wrestling promoters have been older, white men that don’t exactly think outside the box when it comes to wrestlers that are anything but Caucasian.
Some of their gimmicks play off of widely known stereotypes like the original incarnation of The New Day (Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E). Their initial over-the-top gospel promos included an all-Black choir backing the stereotypical “preacher voice” that none of them possessed just weeks prior. Some fans didn’t like the gimmick simply because it was lame, while others voiced how offensive the gimmick was, but thankfully over time, it evolved into something better.
There have been other gimmicks that are just downright racist; take, for example, The Mexicools. They were basically laborers – dressed in full work gear – that drove to the ring on their “Juan Deere” lawnmowers. It’s actually amazing that they made it to TV and lasted for over a year.
Here are 10 examples of gimmicks relying on awful stereotypes.
10. The Godfather
In a nutshell, The Godfather is a perfect example of what the WWE’s very adult-centric “Attitude Era” was all about. There was nothing subtle about this gimmick; The Godfather was a pimp, complete with his cane, jewelery and flashy clothes.
Each week he would roll down to the ring with his “hoes” which The Godfather referred to as his “ho train”. Typically, when he got in the ring, he would say something along the lines of “Roll a fatty for this Pimp Daddy. Light that blunt up and say ‘Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy!”, to which the entire crowd would echo holding up their “Don’t say no. Just say ho!” signs.
This gimmick lasted two years and was brought back in 2002, but did not achieve nearly the same success. More recently, The Godfather makes one-off appearances for the WWE, but his gimmick is much more toned down in this “PG” era.
9. Saba Simba
Kamala was originally in this spot, but he initially developed the character himself with some assistance from Jerry Lawler and former wrestler The Great Mephisto. The creation of an African wrestler was meant to help cover up his poor promo skills and limited technical ability in the ring. So instead, Saba Simba, portrayed by Tony Atlas, earns this spot.
It’s fair to first point out that Atlas credits this gimmick to saving his life as he was homeless around the time he was picked up by the WWE. That doesn’t excuse the gimmick they created for him, though. Atlas was a popular bodybuilder and known as “Mr. USA” during his peak, but WWE felt like he needed to go in another direction.
In Saba’s in-ring debut, he danced to and around the ring, complete with tribal outfit. There is just so much wrong with this gimmick, even Bobby Heenan got in on the act: “You know what Saba Simba means? It’s Uganda for ‘room service’”.
8. Kerwin White
Coming off an equally questionable gimmick that “celebrated” Hispanics with the motto “lying, cheating, and stealing” and rolling to the ring in low-riders, Chavo Guerrero Jr. became a White, middle-class yuppie named Kerwin White.
With rat pack music playing and a white picket fence on the TitanTron, Kerwin rode to the ring in a golf cart. With plenty of white stereotypes abound, he initially used the motto “If it’s not white, it’s not right.” Obviously that didn’t sit well with viewers, so it was slightly altered to “If it’s not Kerwin White, it’s not right”.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, he would talk down to pretty much every minority out there. He was portrayed as a heel, so for obvious reasons crowds hated him. The message that becoming white was the way to success was terrible, and thankfully the gimmick went away when Chavo requested to drop it after the untimely passing of Eddie Guerrero.
R-Truth doesn’t necessarily show up on these lists often thanks to the comedic and “crazy” character tweaks he’s been given over the years, but at the core, it’s the same old tired gimmick for an African-American wrestler. Initially debuting with the WWE as K-Kwik, he, alongside Road Dogg, would perform some awful rap/rock entrance entitled “Get Rowdy”. During this time, K-Kiwk would rap and dance his way to the ring.
Years later, when he returned to the WWE, he became known as R-Truth, a gimmick that still rapped and danced to the ring. He used the phrase “what’s up!” all the time. The issues with his gimmick are much more subtle with his tendencies to go out and “shuck-and-jive” for the crowd, talking about conspiracy theories, and just acting overall like an ignorant person.
For a time, he would even say “I’m sorry, I’m a good R-Truth”,which, if you know your history, is close to what slaves would tend to say to their owners. Most don’t question this character as he is an entertaining person, but the stereotypes are abound within the gimmick.
Tell us if you’ve heard this one before: Umaga is Samoan, and is a savage! Seriously, can wrestling promoters give Samoans anything else other than tribal or savage gimmicks? The Wild Samoans, The Headshrinkers, and even The Usos all fall into basically the same category.
A pretty typical promo for Umaga shows off his brutality and disregard for all human life. He was initially managed by Armando Alejandro Estrada, who did all of the speaking for him. You see, Umaga didn’t speak, aside from a grunt, yell, or a random “Umaga!”
On the plus side, WWE did a fantastic job building him up as an undefeated threat that John Cena eventually crushed. Unfortunately, Umaga never really recovered thereafter. The gimmick itself is not so bad, but it’s just another tired trend that wrestling can’t find Samoans something different to work with.
5. Muhammad Hassan
Initially, the gimmick wasn’t too bad as Hassan’s main beef was with the mistreatment of Muslim-Americans post 9/11. There was some truth in his promos, but he became instantly a heat magnet on every single show. Crowds would instantly boo him with chants of “USA! USA!” throughout every arena.
Hassan was put in the ring with some of the biggest stars WWE had: Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, John Cena, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker. He was such a hated heel that other heels disliked him; this was evident at the 2005 Royal Rumble, when every contestant worked together to toss him out of the ring.
Then it went off the rails when WWE decided to book Undertaker getting beat down with clubs and piano wire by masked men that looked like terrorists. Three days later, London had a horrible terrorist bombing, which was also the same day WWE actually aired this segment unedited. This coming after Hassan’s initial complaint that Muslim-Americans were looked at as terrorists and WWE runs a terrorist-like angle! It made absolutely no sense. Due to network pressure, Hassan was effectively removed from SmackDown, eventually being released completely by the WWE.
Out of nowhere, One Man Gang became a white descendent of Africa – billed from “Deepest, Darkest, Africa” – coming out in a dashiki, complete with horrible dances moves and accent. He literally did a parody of a parody of a black accent, and it was just awful. This gimmick was said to be a rib towards Dusty Rhodes and how he acts and talks on TV, but it still came off pretty racist.
His manager, Slick, wasn’t much better. Known as the “Jive Soul Brother”, Slick also wore polyester suits and pageboy hats, living out most 70s’ black stereotypes. Later on, he took on more of a reverend gimmick, which he also became in real life.
Thankfully, Akeem only lasted about two years before he left the WWE for good.
3. Harlem Heat
Booker T and Stevie Ray were a fantastic tag team in WCW and you’re probably wondering why this gimmick would end up on this list. Initially, when they came to WCW, Booker and Stevie were ex-cons that were won in a card game by Col. Robert Parker, who just happened to look like a slave owner.
To make things worse, they actually had Harlem Heat come out in prison jumpsuits and leg shackles. Luckily, this was done at only a few house shows and it was adjusted before getting on TV, although in their first few appearances, they still had the prison styled tops on.
Booker and Stevie went on to have amazing success together, winning the WCW Tag Titles 10 times.
2. The New Day
Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E had been languishing in the mid-card for some time and someone within WWE had the bright idea to bring the three together to form a group. At first, they were dressed in regular dress clothes and it seemed like they might be forming a heel stable. After a few weeks of nothing, these New Day promos started popping.
The initial promos for the New Day were just plain laughable. The message wasn’t really bad, but everything was so over the top, it was annoying and offensive to some. They were meant to be faces, but crowds refused to cheer them and would break out “New Day Sucks!” chants on the regular.
Nearly all of their promos were similar: all-black gospel choir, preacher voices, rapping and dancing. It was just too much and fans totally rejected this group, to the point where it may not have lasted much longer. Luckily, WWE smartened up, turned them heel, eased up on the gospel stuff and just let these three go out and just do their thing. They have won the tag titles and are currently one of the more entertaining gimmicks within the WWE.
1. The Mexicools
This was a stupid, blatantly offensive gimmick. Dressed as laborers, Juventud, Super Crazy and Psicosis would ride out to the ring on their “Juan Deere” lawnmowers. If that wasn’t bad enough, each lawnmower was decked out with Mexican flags, fuzzy dice, Corona beer balloons, and fuzzy steering wheel cover.
They would cut promos that they are no longer working for others, but for themselves. That was great and all, but the stereotypes were hard to ignore, no matter what the message was trying to portray. Amazingly, the group lasted for over a year, but eventually split with all three members being released from WWE at different points in time.
It’s scary to think these are the gimmicks that actually made it to TV. Imagine what ends up getting left on the cutting room floor…