By Ernest Wilkins, @ErnestWilkins
1:11 PM CDT, July 29, 2013
Reports from the dirt sheets say that WWE is aggressively seeking a black babyface to corner the African-American demo and get them buying stuff--a la how the Latino community is reported to have rallied around acts like Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio (well, the first one moreso than the last one, but I digress.) Besides this being the biggest no-brainer since letting Bryan Danielson wrestle for extended periods of time, it’s also fairly easy to execute. Don’t believe me? Here are the 3 steps that WWE needs to execute in order to create an African-American main event threat.
1: Hire more diverse writers
When it comes to the folks in charge of creating the gimmicks and storylines that dominate the programming, it might not surprise you to find out that like most publicly traded corporations, there isn’t much diversity in the upper ranks of WWE. Also, due to the um … uneducated history of the professional wrestling business, black wrestlers haven’t been given many opportunities to hold the big belt or be champion for extended periods of time. Sometimes the climate was wrong (JYD’s era) or Bill Watts was being Bill Watts (Ron Simmons in early '90s WCW) or the gimmick the wrestler was saddled with was BS (um … Kamala/The Gangstas/we can go all night) or just outright racism (The promo HHH cut on 3/3/03 during his feud with Booker T ranks among the saddest moments of my life as a wrestling fan).
This can be changed easily. Add a writer who is in tune with what the black community is talking about could go a long way to helping book a strong black face as, well, a strong black face.
2: Use the rap community
Scan Twitter during PPVs. Writers/journalists/rappers all are not only watching, but also are actively commenting on the events taking place. They know the wrestlers, storylines and have no issue marking out. There’s been a bit of a resurgence of young black influencers referencing wrestling, wearing vintage shirts and attending live events. Athletes of all types are carrying title belts and doing interviews that are basically promos. This should be taken advantage of. It’s one thing to have Diddy and Flo Rida playing "Mania," but embracing the rap community hardcore is a step in the right direction. Ernest Estime had an amazing idea in which the wrestler in question is seen actively in the rap community. Monday morning, you see him on WorldStar flashing an MMG chain in the newest Meek Mill video, later that night on "Raw" you see a clip of that video and then watch him take on the Shield. (Note: If you remember the absolute horror that was No Limit having a wrestling stable in WCW, that easily gets solved by taking care of No. 1. Don't have Brian Gerwitz trying to write a rap promo, people.)
3: Turn them loose
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin has said thousands of times that the reason his character was so successful was that it was purely an amplified version of himself. The key would be letting a black wrestler fully embrace who he is and letting him run with it. Part of the reason New Jack is so memorable is because he's exactly who he is in real life, complete with lack of filter. This idea isn't new. It was already proven by none other than John Cena himself. His being able to identify with fringe elements and exaggerations of black culture took his career to a new level. (Freestyling his promos? Spinner belts? Throwback jerseys? Come on, people.) Allowing a black wrestler to truly let loose and embrace the inherent humor that comes from mainstream black experience would be a bona fide smash. Can you imagine a black wrestler being given the green light to do the dozens with Chris Jericho? Calling CM Punk out about coming from the mean streets of Chicago’s South Side where even the Best In The World wouldn't stand a chance? Stumping Damien Sandow with a random George Washington Carver question? I’m already buying a t-shirt, and it hasn’t happened yet.
4: Never let this happen again. (This has nothing to do with my column, I just wanted to remind everyone that Vince McMahon said the N-word on a live PPV and didn’t get massacred for it.)
Before we get out of here, let's look at the current black wrestlers in the WWE and who could be utilized in this role to success. (Main roster only, no NXT)
So, what are your thoughts? Is WWE on point with trying to address the black community? Who would you nominate to be their pick? Let me know.
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