Racism has been destroying the United States for hundreds of years, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it will go away any time soon. The concept still manages to strive in hundreds of business around the country, and according to some insider reports, WWE is one of these businesses. Obviously, the implication isn’t that every single wrestler is racist, but it would appear there could be a few racists within the WWE corporate structure, and that may be damning enough to stifle the careers of any superstars of color.
Accusations of racism in modern society can feel like a witch hunt, with reporters scrutinizing every move made by public figures to potentially out them for their bigotry. While this may be so, it can be important to know who in the business world is racist, especially when they control the paychecks of literally hundreds of employees, many of whom are black, Latino, or otherwise members of a minority group.
Fans know Vince McMahon is far from a perfect person, but racism might be a weighty accusation to levy upon the current CEO of WWE on an individual level. As it would turn out, however, several of McMahon’s underlings, and perhaps even the man he’s grooming to take over the company, have been borderline transparent about their feelings towards their minority employees, and some of the things they’ve been alleged to have said are downright shocking, not to mention blatantly bigoted. Keep reading to learn all about 15 disturbing signs why racism most likely exists within the WWE corporate structure.
15. Ahmed Johnson’s Comments
The first questionable piece of evidence in the Ahmed Johnson story is that Johnson was the first black WWE Intercontinental Champion—in 1996. The championship had existed 17 years thus far with few black superstars even given the right to challenge for it, and by winning the belt, Ahmed burst past the color barrier in front of thousands of screaming fans at King of the Ring 1996. Unfortunately, the locker room wasn’t as euphoric about Ahmed’s accomplishment as the crowd was, and he claims they did some terrorizing things to him as a result.
The full story is unclear and unconfirmed, but according to Ahmed, an extremely popular superstar keyed the n-word into his car as a “congratulatory message” the night he won the title. Johnson also claimed that WWE Hall of Famer Ernie Ladd approached him the day he was hired to warn him WWE was “the most racist organization” a wrestler could work for. Ahmed was less specific about Vince McMahon himself, although he was pretty clear on his description of Vince as “racist from the word go.”
14. The Suspension of Titus O’Neill
Not all of the stories on this list are going to be as damning as others, and some elaborate why accusations of racism are so controversial in modern times. In February of 2016, Titus O’Neill grabbed Vince McMahon’s arm during Daniel Bryan’s retirement ceremony, and was promptly suspended for 90 days due to “unprofessional conduct.” Fans around the world were quick to assume the move was racially motivated, especially considering it happened during the start of Black History Month.
Looking at the situation with several months of hindsight, it can be pretty hard to frame it as a racist decision. The suspension may have been a bit excessive, but Titus grabbed his boss, for seemingly no reason, on live television, embarrassing both him and his daughter, during what should have been a landmark moment for the company. While the breakdown of events make it pretty obvious race didn’t play a factor, the Internet nonetheless was outraged, and quickly took to Twitter and other social media to deride Vince for his actions. Ultimately, the suspension was dropped from 90 days to 60 days as a result of this public pressure.
13. The Original Sin Cara’s Comments
The original Sin Cara has plenty of reasons to complain about WWE, considering they stole his gimmick when he was suspended and gave it to somebody else, who still uses the name as of 2016. The first Sin Cara was fired from WWE in early 2014, although that hasn’t stopped the company from using the mask and character he originated. The original Sin Cara, better known to the wrestling world as Mistico, claimed he was going to sue WWE over the infraction, although nothing seemed to come of that boast.
Despite a lack of success on getting the company to stop stealing his name, Mistico still managed to make waves with some other comments he levied at his past employer. Specifically, he claimed there was a highly racist attitude amongst higher ups within WWE, alleging that even top executives would make racial jokes about him in his presence. Granted, Mistico called them “gringos” when he said it, which itself has been called a racial slur. Nevertheless, his comments remain quite damning, albeit perhaps less important than at first glance, because he also clarified he didn’t think the alleged racism and his lack of success were related.
12. JTG’s Comments
This whole article could be considered excessive information, for one need look no further than Cryme Tyme for what may be definitive proof WWE is a racist organization. Cryme Tyme was a short-lived tag team consisting of JTG and Shad Gaspard, which made a mockery of every anti-African American stereotype known to man, practically glorifying them for their derivative behavior. Not surprisingly, in hindsight, one of the members of Cryme Tyme was able to look back on his time in WWE and realize the execs might have been a bit racist when they crafted this gimmick.
As though looking at pictures of Cryme Tyme weren’t enough, when JTG was asked point blank if he encountered racism in WWE, his immediately answer was a definite yes. JTG elaborated, “I don’t think they do a good enough job when the majority of the African American wrestlers are pigeonholed being the angry black guys, shuckin’ and jivin’ or rapping and singing.” Considering JTG was the victim of one of those very gimmicks, he clearly had first hand knowledge of what he was discussing. Also, considering videos of Cryme Tyme still exist, fans can say without any question that he was right.
11. Patrice O’Neal and Tiger Ali Singh
While WWE has regularly come under fire due to the various stories this list is revealing, stand-up comedy is a much different world than wrestling, and some top comedians have made full careers out of making questionably racist jokes. Radio shock jocks like Opie & Anthony take the concept even further, and yet even they were surprised by a story told by former WWE writer and legendary standup comic, Patrice O’Neal. O’Neal briefly worked for WWE around the year 2000, though it was enough for him to decide Vince McMahon was “the ultimate boss,” and the incident that clinched his reputation was also one of deep racism.
Tiger Ali Singh is infamous for having used his father’s notoriety in wrestling to create one of the most disappointing WWE tenures of any superstar. Tiger blamed WWE for misusing him and sued the company after he was fired, alleging racism. According to Patrice, Tiger may have actually had a point. With Patrice watching, Tiger complained to Vince McMahon himself about his gimmick, specifically the fact he didn’t want to wear a turban because it was disrespectful and insulting to his family, only for McMahon coldly replying “wear the f***ing turban” without even looking at Ali. Patrice told the story because he found it hilarious, and maybe it is if you hate Tiger Ali Singh, as many in the wrestling business do. Nonetheless, out of context it makes Vince seem like a huge racist, with no understanding of Indian or Arab culture.
10. Firing Alberto Del Rio
Let’s face it: after they’ve been fired, certain spurned employees have cried racism even when it probably wasn’t there. The stories on this list all seem legitimate, but in fairness, one can’t discount the possibility a few of them came from disgraced wrestlers bitter about their lack of success. Alberto Del Rio, on the other hand, is not one of these stories, because we know exactly why he was fired from WWE the first time around, and it was totally, totally racist.
As most fans know, a WWE social media coordinator made a blatantly offensive comment about Del Rio being Mexican, so Del Rio slapped him. Rather than assess the situation rationally and punish the social media coordinator, Del Rio was fired for the slap. The company welcomed him back barely over one year later, apparently letting bygones be bygones and admitting their fault in protecting a racist during the scenario. Spoiler alert on our list, though: Del Rio wound up fired again not long after, and that time he had more to say about how poorly the company was treating him and other Latin Americans.
9. Cedric Alexander’s Comments
The Cruiserweight Classic Tournament has been a great way to introduce wrestlers from all around the world to the WWE Universe, and had it existed for longer, lists like this may not be an issue. However, given how new the concept is, what instead is happening is that superstars who had previous spoken out about how racist WWE is are being given a chance to bridge the gap after years of being cast aside due to their race, and start making opportunities for themselves through their skills in the ring. Cedric Alexander was one of the CWC standouts and earned himself a job in WWE, and yet only one short year prior to achieving that accomplishment, Alexander had been very vocal about his feelings towards race relations in WWE.
Cedric’s main problem was that he found the wildly popular New Day to be a racist caricature, claiming, “It’s like, oh, we’re three black guys, we’ll dance, we’ll sing.” Alexander was particularly bothered by the fact he believed the gimmick had roots in Malcolm X, based on Xavier Woods’ speeches about black power. Now that Cedric has a company job, his complaints will probably fall by the wayside. Fans on the Internet aren’t soon to forget, though, and his comments remain a strong argument towards a race problem in WWE.
8. Triple H vs. Booker T
It probably isn’t completely fair to point to a single match that took place over 10 years ago as a sign that racism strongly lives on within WWE. The thing that makes this incident unique is that the match involved future WWE COO, and the man who may one day own the company, Triple H. Triple H was set to defend the WWE World Heavyweight Champion against Booker T at WrestleMania XIX, and rather than focus on Booker’s decade as an incredible athlete, the feud took a disturbing and racial turn when Triple H stated “people like Booker” simply weren’t World Championship material.
People might have swept Triple H’s comments under the rug as douchebag heel posturing, but unfortunately, Triple H very definitively won the match, thereby giving the implication that his racist statements were entirely accurate. The more power Triple H receives, the more disturbing the ultimate repercussions are, as fans of the WWE Universe continually see a blatant racist gain more and more power every day, without ever receiving his comeuppance, or even having his racist past addressed in any way.
7. Kamala’s Comments
Despite a reputation as one of the most racist and offensive gimmicks of all time, WWE is in fact mostly in the career with regards to the Ugandan Warrior, Kamala. Although WWE promoted Kamala for years, they didn’t create the gimmick of an African savage prepared to wreak havoc on American wrestlers; that idea belongs to none other than Jerry Lawler. Unfortunately, while WWE isn’t responsible for the Kamala gimmick, they are responsible for the racist trials the wrestler Jim Harris underwent during his time working for Vince McMahon.
Some people may dismiss the contents of this list due to the fact most of these stories are the wrestler’s word against WWE’s, but Kamala offered some cold hard financial facts to his argument. In an interview with the Voice of Choice Radio Network, Kamala alleged he only made $13,000 for SummerSlam 1992. Sounds like a pretty penny for one night’s work, until you learn his opponent that evening, The Undertaker, reportedly banked nearly half a million. Kamala also claimed road agents would regularly kick him out of the locker room in order for white talents to change by themselves.
6. Decades of Racist Gimmicks
Even if one were to remain skeptical about the stories on this list and whether or not racism exists within the WWE corporate structure, it would be nigh impossible to argue that the wrestling industry in general doesn’t have a long history of racist gimmicks. Racism has even infiltrated the WWE Hall of Fame with The Wild Samoans, an unquestionably bigoted gimmick based on the idea that the Isle of Samoa was uncivilized into the 1970s.
The Samoans were hardly the first, and they were far from the last, as a veritable plethora of highly offensive race-based gimmick stain WWE history in almost every era they’ve celebrated. Whether or not The New Day are racist caricatures is up for debate, but the Mexicools aren’t exactly ancient history, and the horrible implications behind gimmicks like Kerwin White or Saba Simba will never quite be forgotten. Until WWE makes a public statement apologizing for their racist history, it still exists, and it probably won’t go away.
5. Michael Hayes Still Has A Job
Maybe it can be hard to take the claims on this list seriously due to the fact few of the complaints name people who could give the WWE race problem a face. If that’s the case, here’s your face: longtime WWE producer, writer, and Hall of Fame inducted wrestler Michael Hayes. Hayes first came to prominence as a member of The Fabulous Freebirds, and though it was as a member of this famed group Hayes became a Hall of Famer, the Freebirds nevertheless have an unfortunate history as an extremely racist group, regularly having entered the ring draped in the Confederate flag and calling African American wrestlers “boys.”
Hayes might try and cast these truths as unfortunate pieces of his wrestling history, and note they at least occurred in character, and decades ago. However, far more recently, Hayes has proved time and time again his racism is very real, and isn’t going away. In 2008, Hayes was reported to have called Mark Henry the n-word during a drunken conversation, and a year later he did the same thing to writer David Kapoor. As if that weren’t enough, Hayes also used the term “boy” in reference to President Barack Obama, showing his racism extends far beyond wrestling. Hayes remains employed as of October 2016.
4. Mark Henry’s Rejected Gimmick
The items of this list that took place on camera did so on such a national scale that fans were absolutely shocked a multinational company would be willing to present them on television. It was only a manner of time before one of the wrestlers stood up for his or herself and refused to do one of these racist gimmicks, and that finally happened in 2007. The performer in question was former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry, and the gimmick was a new nickname, “The Silverback.”
There is a slight argument to the fact Mark Henry is big and strong, and so are gorillas, and this is probably what went through the mind of whoever first had the idea to start calling The World’s Strongest Man a simian. Unfortunately, the history of racism in the United States has made it so any comparison between black people and primates of any variety is outrageously offensive, thanks to centuries of ridiculously bigoted propaganda and downright insults. WWE only referred to Henry as The Silverback a handful of times as a result, stopping once Henry himself went to management and demanded they stop using the name.
3. Severe Lack Of POC World Champions
Somewhere near 60 men have held either the WWE World or World Heavyweight Championship since the original belt was established in 1963. Over 50 of them have been white, with only three or four black or Latino men, each (Booker T, The Rock, Mark Henry, Pedro Morales, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, and Alberto Del Rio) filling the ranks, one Arab in The Iron Sheik, and one Indian in The Great Khali. There was also Yokozuna, purported to be from Japan, although the real Rodney Anoa’i was in fact a Samoan from California.
The point behind this breakdown is that there simply haven’t been many people of color who ascended to the top of WWE. Out of those some 60 men to be champion, many of them also held the top titles on multiple occasions, something only three of these POC champions were able to do, thus making the statistic even more questionable. Yes, the majority of US citizens are white, and thus it makes sense that the majority of WWE World Champions have been white, considering the company is based in America. However, the fact people of color have barely even gotten a chance in more than sixty years of wrestling history remains a damning fact.
2. Ricardo Rodriguez and Konnan’s Comments
Alberto Del Rio slapped a WWE employee for making racist comments, and we can only imagine what he wanted to do to Triple H and Vince McMahon for allegedly having done the same to his very manager, Ricardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez became one of the youngest men to manage a WWE World Champion when Del Rio first won the title in 2011, but Triple H apparently never quite acknowledged him for achieving this accolade. According to Rodriguez shortly after he was released from WWE in 2014, Triple H never once referred to him by his real name, only ever calling him “Bumblebee” in reference to The Simpsons character Bumblebee Man.
Twitter was obviously outraged at this revelation, considering it clearly paints Triple H as both a disrespectful boss and a reductive racist. Fellow Mexican wrestler Konnan chimed in by saying the story “shows the racist element of upper management,” and claimed “[Vince McMahon] and [Triple H] have made numerous racist remarks which they will have to be held accountable for.” Granted, Konnan never worked for WWE at the same time as Triple H, and his tenure in the company in general was extremely short. It is fair to point out, though, that Konnan is friends with the majority of Latino wrestlers to have made it big in America, so chances are he wasn’t blowing smoke with these statements. Either way, Ricardo’s half of the story should be damning enough.
1. Alberto Del Rio’s Comments
The public circumstances behind Alberto Del Rio’s initial firing from WWE were bad enough, and things only got worse when Del Rio went public with the details. Shortly after his 2014 dismissal, Del Rio took to Fighting Spirit Magazine to discuss the racial climate in WWE, confirming what many others on this list have said: that Triple H and other top executives are practically open in their contempt for people of color. Given Del Rio echoed the comments of Ricardo Rodriguez and Sin Cara when he did so, it would be fair to assume the biggest issue at hand right now is in relation to how Triple H treats Latin talent.
Triple H has been a top WWE executive for some time now, but many fans would claim he hasn’t changed much from his days as a rising star to his time as a top businessman. One thing that made Triple H standout in his early days was his use of humor, which occasionally got a little controversial when his targets expanded beyond other wrestlers and into general cultural tropes. Del Rio and the various other superstars in particular aren’t laughing now that Triple H is continuing to use his racist jokes around the office, and all of WWE will need to speak for these claims if they prove to be true.