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From the Top Rope...

Opinion by Joseph Holt

Racial Portrayals in Professional Wrestling

by David T. Maeda


Volume 3, Issue 386 - November 20, 1998
Editor's Note: In my editorial in the last issue, I made a mis-statement of the facts concerning Rocky Maivia when I said that he is the first non-white WWF World Champion. In fact, as I realized myself and then as was pointed out to me by several readers, Yokozuna was also a WWF Champion who is not caucasion as was the Iron Sheik. The same could be said for Ricky Steamboat, Antonio Inoke and Giant Baba in the NWA, plus several more recent NWA Champions all hailing from Japan. I guess what I should have said, in order to be accurate, is that the Rock is the first WWF World Champion of African-American descent. Solie's regrets the error.

One of the people who emailed me concerning my error was reader David Maeda from Hawaii. A portion of his letter appears as an article below.


Racial Portrayals in Professional Wrestling

by David T. Maeda

In regard to race relations and racial portrayals in professional wrestling, I think perhaps a more interesting observation is that since the inception of "Hulkamania," the WWF has granted a person of color the Championship strap for only the second time, but in both instances, the person of color ascending to the WWF championship has been a major heel. After the WWF began making the transformation into a national phenomenon during the early 1980s, it has made an extensive effort to conform with American hegemony. By this I mean that the WWF has catered overwhelmingly to a middle- and upper-class, male, and Caucasian audience. Thus, beginning with the Iron Sheik, it seems any person of color allowed to ascend to the WWF Heavyweight Championship must also be severely hated by the fans. And likewise, since the early 1980s, it should not go unnoticed that all three racial minority heels who have reigned as WWF world champions have been used to push the popularity of Caucasian faces (i.e. The Iron Sheik was used to push Hulk Hogan; Yokozuna was used to push Hulk Hogan and I think Bret Hart; Rocky Maivia is now being used to push Steve Austin). Conversely, the NWA and subsequently WCW, pushed two people of color (Rick Steamboat and Ron Simmons) to their World Championship Title as faces. Although both organizations play off racial stereotypes with their wrestlers, WCW has definitely been more tolerant and progressive in regard to their world championship.

Unfortunately, the bottom line is both organizations still use racist and stereotypical portrayals of their athletes in order to market themselves. In WCW, prior to Bret Hart's match with Booker T a few months ago, Hart imitated Booker T using stereotypical African American vernacular, or "ebonics." Sonny Ono incessantly enters the arena flashing his camera, perpetuating a common stereotype of Japanese and Asian tourists. Though well intentioned at first, it appears that Eddie Gurreros LWO (Latino World Order) will soon play off stereotypical images of Latinos, like the character of Konnan. At the same time, WCW at least has some wrestlers of color who are simply portrayed as great athletes, like Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Booker T (who I hope will soon become the first Horseman of color!). Even during the mid and late 1980s, the NWA changed the character of "The Russian Nightmare" Nikita Koloff and pushed him as a major face wrestler, debunking the perception that all Russians were heartless American enemies.

Not surprisingly, the WWF, under the grip of its culturally insensitive and sexist owner Vince McMahon, has displayed far more callous images of its minority athletes. It was the so-called Native American, Tatanka, who influenced me to stop watching professional wrestling a few years back. Give me a break, Tatanka was obviously not Native American, and he danced around the ring appropriating Native American culture as if it was some kind of cheap commodity. More recently, Los Boriquas were portrayed as Latino henchmen for DX, the African American "Godfather" now plays the stereotypical role of a Black pimp, and Kai'n'Tai run around like a bunch of emasculated Asians. Whatever happened to WWF wrestlers of color who minority fans could be proud of, like Tito Santana and the late Junkyard Dog?

Certainly there are innumerable Caucasian heels as well, but their angles are not played off racial stereotypes in order to generate heat. The same can rarely be said of racial minority heels, especially in the WWF. At a time when, cultural sensitivity is imperative, it is terribly unfortunate that power hungry owners like Vince McMahon ultimately manipulate wrestlers, and in turn the fans, so that racist perceptions are cemented in American minds. As an old-school wrestling fan from the early and mid 1980s and as a scholar of race and ethnicity, I find it extremely disturbing that today's young audiences watch professional wrestling every Monday night, only to have their understandings of race twisted to such a great extent. Although it may not be realistic for me to believe that racist images will die out in professional wrestling completely, I do hope that more wrestlers of color emerge who we can be proud of, especially in McMahon's sick playground.

David Maeda works for the University of Hawaii at Manoa Youth Gang Project.


From the Top Rope...

by Joseph Holt

Makin' it Real

My sister had a theory when she was young. "If if was on T.V. it was real." That theory encompompassed everything. As long as it was broadcast over the magic box that brought pretty pictures into her home there was no doubt in her mind that it was genuine. I often laughed at her over this citing that cartoons were on T.V. but they were by no means real but she still held her belief. Our father teased her about it as well which I found to be quite humorous until he began to direct his teasing to me as well because I believed professional wrestling was real.

For someone to tell me that my beloved sport of wrestling was fake disturbed me greatly. In an attempt to prove that my wrestling was real I searched for a way to prove it. When all my arguments failed to sway his opinion I had to take drastic measures. In a last attempt to prove the ?realness? of wrestling I made my stand.

During dinner one night the subject came up again giving me the opportunity to try out my plan. I set my fork on my plate and calmly, yet with great effort, placed my version of Fritz Von Erich's iron claw upon my little sister's head. What followed was my sister screaming in pain as she launched peas across the room and my mother showing me her version of the basic slap across my head. I released my claw as my mother began to tell me how horrible of a thing I had just done. I will never forget her words to me as she sent me to my room.....? you could have popped her eyes out squeezing her temples like that ... what is wrong with you...do you want to kill her or something...?

I spent the next few hours in my room. I had been directed by my mother to think about what I had done and the possible consequences of my action. I spent the next few hours in my room but all I thought about was how I had finally proved that professional wrestling was in fact real. After all...I almost popped my sister's eyeballs out at the dinner table.

Well, needless to say the future dinner conversations never again included a debate on what was real and what was not. I had won that arguement. I dont think my dad ever believed me but at least he didn't dispute it anymore.

Now, as an adult, I watch wrestling with my children. They, as I was, are convinced it is real. Some things about wrestling have really changed though. Either the misses don't seem so obvious as a child or wrestling truely was more real back then. As I watch the wrestling of today I can't help but to wonder how anyone could believe it to be real. When a kick is missed by a few feet but the victim still falls in pain it kinda ruins it. I remember back in the good old days when everyone started to wonder if maybe wrestling could be real. I have seen steel cage doors get slammed on people's heads, I have seen ring ropes wrapped in barbed wire (and that was a sanctioned match) and many other things wrestlers refuse to do today...except for Mick Foley.

Which brings me to my point...yes finally a point. The greatest wrestler in the sport today is , without exception, Mick Foley. This guy sacrifices his mind, body and soul for the entertainment of the fans. I don't watch him wrestle and think about how fake it looks. Most of the time, I watch his matches and think to myself "Damn that's gotta hurt!". Who else in the history of wrestling has done what he has? To my knowledge the answer is no one. Getting dumped through the top of a steel cage, sledgehammers and dumpsters. That is Mick Foley.

The last time I saw him wrestle in person the guy was wearing boxer shorts with a shirt and tie in the ring. There is no limit for him. He does what it takes and more to put on a good show. Im ready to see more wrestlers with this attitude in the WWF and WCW. Make it a good show not something we roll our eyes at. You guys get paid good money to get your butts kicked or to kick butt. We deserve more effort. Not everyone has to go to the length of Foley but at least make contact with your opponent. If you miss then don't pretend you didn't.

I'm not saying you have to literally kick the crap out of someone, just make it look like you did. I'm also not saying Foley is the only wrestler who really gives one hundred percent. There are a few others. Like Cactus Jack, Dude Love and my favorite....Mankind..........

Joseph Holt is a freelance writer in the Ft. Worth Texas area and a regular contributor to Solie's. His own web site, called Double Xposure, is located at: http://members.aol.com/Holt70/page/index.htm and features his articles on subjects besides pro-wrestling.


Thunder Report

Thunder kicks off with a WW3 commercial. It comes to us live tonight from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Legendary Larry is the guest commentator tonight (Heenan is on "assignment"). We get a video review of Diamond Dallas Page's surprise return on Nitro to accept Bret Hart's challange for a match at WW3.

Norman Smiley vs. Booker T - this one will be a slaughter (and I don't mean Seargent). Smiley is a competent grappler but Booker T is a genuine phenomenum. Smiley offers to shake kands and Booker obliges him. Then Smiley goes to fisticuffs almost immediately - nobody said he was stupid. The referee here is former wrestler and younger brother of Billy Jack Haynes, Brady Boone. Smiley continues his asault but it is telling that he hasn't started wrestling yet. Everything is kicks and punches with an occasional lariet thrown in. Booker takes it for a spell then his talented feet kick into gear (pun intended :-) and Smiley is lost. Booker gets him with side-kick and a sidewalk slam.

More tape of Page from Monday night. Cut to the opening montage about ten minutes into the program, then to commercial.

Clips from Scott Steiner's appearance on Nitro, including the skit involving his "mother". (By the way, Judy Bagwell is actually in the hospital for an appendectomy...)

Disco Inferno vs. Scott Hall - Hall is accompanied by several nWo thugs who, interestingly, never get involved in the match. Disco gets off to a great start and manages to set Hall to reeling with his initial, extended offensive flurry. Hall has discounted his opponent and is paying for it. He finally regains his composure and catches Disco's foot in his second attempt to get a boot to the midsection. He spins Disco around but misses with the right arm clothesline, only to come right back with a left hook that connects big time. Disco gets away one last time and tries a flying cross-body but is caught in mid-flight and subjected to a fall-away slam. The Outsiders Edge (or whatever he is calling it these days) seals Disco's fate. Cut to commercial.

Tony is on the ramp as we return to interview Chris Jericho. Tony reveals to Jericho and us that WCW has signed a return match at WW3 for the TV Title between Jericho and Bobby Duncum, Jr. Jericho pretends to not know who the opponent is so Duncum comes out and hog-ties him! (Maybe he'll remember that...) Cut to Kaz Hayashi backstage, trying to find a tag tam partner to face Sonny Oono and Ernest Miller and having trouble with the language barrier as he talks to Scott Hall. He mentions "Miller" which prompts Hall to say, in effect, "Yeah, I like Miller Light, but not before a match, after a match..." Interesting choice of words considering Hall's recent "drunk" act shenanigans.

Clips from the Jercho/Duncum match from Nitro which was referred to during the last segment.

Rey Misterio, Jr. vs. Kidman - Rey enters to Eddie Guerrero's music, wearing an LWO t-shirt. Kidman says he doesn't want to wrestle someone from the "Lazy Wrestling Organization", he wants to face the "Old Rey Misterio, Jr." who revolutionized the sport and paved the way for Cruiserweights. Eddie Guerrero horns in on Rey's reply then wants to Horn in on the match as well! Rey tries to protest that he needs this match to retain his #1 contender status but Guerrero overrides his objections. His thugs escort Rey away as we cut to commercial.

We return to find that Guerrero has indeed taken over the match, although he is out of the ring at the moment. Kidman turns to acknowledge the fans as Guerrero tries to sneak up on him from behind. Kidman turns around and suddenly Eddie wants to make nice. He offers his hand, which Kidman takes then decks him. Kidman gets another flurry then grabs a sleeper, from which Eddie escapes with a jawbreaker. Kidman is right back on him, coming over the top from the apron and getting a head scissors take-down then gets another sleeper. Eddie escapes but is downed again then finally gets a suplex and takes control...for about three seconds. Kidman is really on top of it tonight. Eddie comes back again then tries for a powerbomb but Kidman slips through it and slams Eddie's face to the mat. He climbs to the top, but notices Rey near the ring arguing with Guerrero's mysterious body guard. Kidman splashes both of them from the inside out. It turns out to be a mistake. He returns to the ring where he continues to control the action but he is distracted by the LWO shenanigans and ends up being rolled up and pinned. Cut to the announcers talking about the Cruiserweight Title, now held for the third time by Juventud Guerrera. We get a clip of the end of the Title match between Kidman and Juvey on Nitro. Cut to commercial.

Video review of the Hall/Nash feud.

Scott "the Putz" Putski vs. Scott Norton (w/thugs) - I suppose they are trying to put this up as a "power vs. power" match...more like "power vs. stupidity." Vincent starts a tiff with Putski before the bell sounds and gets his clock cleaned. The match gets underway but Putski is out on the floor fighting with Vincent again in a flash. I can't blame him for avoiding contact with Norton (apparently he's not as stupid as he looks...) Once thy finally do lock up, he manages to hold his own for all of 15 seconds, then he is squashed and pinned. Cut to commercial.

Replay of Hogan's latest political speech, Scott Hall's attack on Eric Bischoff and Hogan's susequent retaliation. Kevin Nash saves his bacon then says, "I'll see you on Sunday..."

Hayashi is trying to get Disco Inferno to help him but the language barrier is still getting in the way. Saturn interrupts to tell Disco what is going on - Disco says' Why don't you be his partner?" Saturn replies, "Maybe I will..." Of course we know there is no love lost between Saturn and Miller because of the latter's association with Glacier. Cut to commercial.

Ernest Miller (w/Sonny Oono) vs. "Super Sensai" - Miller does his usual annoying schtick then hands the mic to Oono. Oono says he's been having trouble getting a an opponent for Miller tonight. He says he's brought a "two-time karate champ" from Japan. A white guy in a karate robe shows up and approaches the ring but is warned to stay away by Miller. Kaz Hayashi runs in and gets creamed followed by Saturn who clears the ring and then announces that he will be Hayashi's partner for the tag match on Sunday. Cut to commercial.

Chavo Guerrero, Jr (w/Pepe) vs. Alex Wright - Chavo has been turning in some steller performances of late, while Wright has been more low key since he lost his last encounter with Fit Finley. This is a return match from a couple of weeks ago which, if I remember correctly, ended in a DQ when Wright used Pepe as a weapon. Wright wins the first exchange and stops to dance. He bulls his smaller opponent into the corner and gets in some chops but Chavo returns fire with a drop-kick, a flying head scissors and another drop-kick. Wright leaves the ring to regain his composure then takes control as he returns. The fight goes to the floor where Wright consolidates his advantage then returns to the ring to dance some more. Chavo takes his time returning and turns the tables as he re-enters the ring. Now the match goes into see-saw mode with Wright quickly gaining the advantage. He grabs a reverse chinlock then releases the hold to drop an elbow on Chavo's head. A belly-to-back lays Chavo out. Wright climbs to the top and launches himself onto an upraised boot. Now it is all Guerrero, he almost gets a fall. Wright pokes him in the eye to turn the tables, but he can't get the pin either. The match see-saws again then Chavo gets dumped to the floor. Back in the ring they struggle for position and Wright succeeds in getting a bridge-over roll-up and the pin. He messes with Pepe after the match which earns him a backdrop and a toss from the ring. Good contest. Cut to commercial.

Kanyon vs. Prince Iaukea - Kanyon goes through his litany - usual result, then meets the Prince in the aisle and starts the fight early. Iaukea takes control and they return to the ring. Once inside, Kanyon asserts himself and gets the first pin attempt of the match without success. He is still all over his opponent and we get very little offense from Iaukea. Kanyon is "innovating" all over the place as usual but Iaukea isn't going down easy. The latter finally gets hsi act together and starts showing us some of the aggressive style we have been seeing from him of late. He dominates right up to the moment that he allows himself to be put into the "Flatliner" and pinned.

Perry Saturn vs. Wrath - this should be good. Saturn is definitely a step above most of Wrath's recent competition. Wrath wins the first exchange through power and leverage. The second exhange sees Saturn mown down by a shoulder block. Saturn turns around springboards off the top rope and downs his opponent. He follows up with a clothesline that knocks Wrath to the floor. Wrath re-enters the ring and gets placed in an armbar then throws Saturn off. Wrath asserts his superior size to dominate the next several exchanges. Saturn absorbs it all and comes back with big fists but he is stopped again by Wrath's weight. Wrath seems to be getting over-confident now, could be his downfall against an opponent of this caliber. Sure enough he rushes the corner and misses, gets suplexed and almost pinned. Sonny Oono and the Cat show up at ringside as Saturn continues to wear Wrath down. Oono distracts the referee as Miller sneaks in and side-kicks Saturn in the side of the jaw. Saturn is dazed and thus easy pickings for the Meltdown. Kaz comes down to help his fallen partner as we cut to commercial. Great match except for the screw-job.

Video review of the appearance of Bam Bam Bigalow on Nitro.

Konnan vs. Bret Hart - the hardest working man in the Wolf Pack makes his usual entrance and call and response schtick. This is a return battle from a week ago Monday. Konna is a hothead and so that doesn't bode well for his chances in this match. Hart takes the early advantage with a shortcut during the initial lock-up, but Konnan comes roaring right back and pounds Hart into the corner. Hart rolls out to the floor to escape the beating but still Konnan is right on him. Konnan returns to the ring and then makes the mistake of going back out where Hart leads him on a wild goose chase then ambushes him coming back in. Konnan has his back turned when Stevie Ray reaches in and whacks him with his "Slapjack." Hart slaps on the Sharpshooter and the unconcious Konnan is declared the loser. Hart refuses to release the hold right away then does but goes out for a chair. He arranges it around Konnan's knee and gets ready to break it with a leg drop or something. He decides his initial position is to far away and moves to another corner. Before he can do the damage, Diamond Dallas Page runs in and starts whaling on him. Fade to black.

I'll be back on Sunday with the WW3 Interactive Report. Until then...

At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter


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This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie. Copyright 1998 - Jump City Productions


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