The WWE has a new, and old champion. Brock Lesnar defeated Kofi Kingston on Friday night, dethroning the second ever Black title-holder in the entertainment sport’s long history. But it was the manner in which Kingston lost his championship match that had some folks on Twitter complaining that the WWE is racist.
Kingston, who made pro wrestling history when he won the belt at WrestleMania 35 in April, lost his “Smackdown” match in 10 seconds Friday night.
To be clear, the WWE is just as scripted as your favorite weekly reality TV soap opera.
But still, to many faithful WWE fans, the manner in which Kingston lost the belt strayed from the storyline for other (read: non-Black) champions and had him lose within seconds, quicker than any other champion has lost the belt — both in match duration and how long he was the champ. (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the first Black WWE champion.)
Then, there was also the case of who beat Kingston to reconcile with. Brock Lesnar is a WWE veteran and legend who won his first title in just his fifth month of competing – the same amount of time it took for Kingston to lose his belt. Lesnar is also the same person who came under fire 10 years ago for stereotyping Black people when he said: “not to get into racism or anything— but I’m built like a black man.”
The combination of the two proved to be too much for some folks who took to Twitter to complain that the WWE is racist for even daring to write that type of “disrespectful” and “racist” scenario. Why couldn’t Kingston’s reign last longer, they wondered, implying that it was because he is Black.
It’s not like that’s a topic the WWE has ever tried to shy away from, as shown by the WWE’s decision to end its ban on Hulk Hogan over the pro wrestling legend’s infamous racist rant. It was also just reported earlier Friday that WWE star Randy Orton was recently caught using the N-word.
And the WWE presumably wrote Kingston’s speech after a match in March when he said: “I’ve never complained about the fact that you have never allowed someone like me to compete or contend for the WWE title.”
The implications were plain when he said “someone like me.” Kofi is not just Black – he was born in Ghana. The Washington Post has an entire report exploring the WWE’s history of racism.
Prior to his championship, Kingston had wrestled in the WWE for 11 long years. WWE CEO Vince McMahon had publicly called Kingston a “B+ player.” But it took just 10 seconds for him to not just lose the belt but to lose in a fashion that many fans felt wasn’t done with respect for any of the cultural implications behind Kingston’s championship.
Kingston previously spoke about the importance of the optics of how wrestlers win and lose.
“Personally, it just depends on how we tell the story,” Kingston told the Independent in May after being asked about how the WWE handles the topic of race. He went on to defend the WWE’s efforts on that front. “In being sensitive to people who may be offended, or not, we just try and do the best job we can to try and provide some sort of entertainment,” he said.
Famous last words.