The internet wrestling community was abuzz two weeks ago over an article that appeared in The Atlantic about the WWE’s problem with race and a lack of a black world champion.
Soon after the article popped up, Dion Beary (the article’s author) even appeared on Grantland’s Cheap Heat podcast to discuss.
Truth be told, race has been an issue in professional wrestling for decades – and not just in the WWE.
Besides the ongoing issue of race and the world title (which was covered in The Atlantic piece) racism inserted in wrestling storylines is normally used as a way for a heel (wrestling’s term for a bad guy) to generate more heat (negative crowd reaction).
Let’s go back to 1986.
The wildly popular “Boogie Man” Jimmy Valiant was embroiled in a feud with “Number 1” Paul Jones and his army as the summer of ’86 approached.
During Valiant’s two-year plus feud with Jones, he often aligned himself with other popular wrestlers including an African-American fellow named Pistol Pez Whatley.
As the summer of ’86 began, Valiant’s feud with Jones received a curveball and a enemy for the Boogie Woogie Man.
Valiant, who was often overzealous and excitable during his interviews, joined Whatley for a segment and uttered the following line when describing Whatley’s athletic exploits:
“RIGHT HERE…RIGHT HERE IS THE BEST BLACK ATHLETIC IN THE WORLD!! PISTOL PEZ WHATLEY…MY BROTHA!!!! (AT THIS POINT VALIANT BEGINS TO AWKWARDLY DANCE)”
Whatley becomes enraged and attacks Valiant and cutoff his ponytail in the process. On the way out, Whatley called him a honky for good measure.
In the moments that followed on TV, Crockett and his broadcast partner Tony Schiavone mused why such a callous thing happened.
Crockett believed Valiant didn’t say anything wrong. However, the NWA clearly used perceived racism as a way to blastoff this feud and then somehow, made Whatley look like the jerk.
Whatley became a bad guy named Shaska and joined ranks with Jones’ army. Meanwhile, Valiant just kept on dancing.
For folks waiting for wrestling to take some sort of modernized approach to race….good luck. The wait for change is going to be a long one.
Categories: Random Nonsense