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EDITORIAL: The Ballad of Kofi Kingston



Kofi Kingston (Grant Gould (c) PWTorch credit)

Who does Kofi Kingston sing for? In the first episode of Smackdown Live after Fastlane, Kofi and Vince McMahon had a heated conversation about opportunities, connectedness and opportunities. In particular, Kofi told Vince: "I never complained that you never allowed someone like me to fight for the WWE title." I think if you don't come from the room he's talking to, you can't understand what he's talking about.

In the same week that this promo was broadcast, it was announced that Harlem Heat, the tag team consisting of the current WWE Hall of Famer Booker T and his brother Stevie Ray, would be included in the same room as a unit. Even with the selection process of the WWE COURT & # 39; s "Duck, Duck, Goose!", Old fans would look at their longevity, victories and title reigns strong enough to justify induction. On social media, I noticed that Booker T is going to court in New York for the second time, because both he and his brother have no ties to New York outside of their team name. In a popular Facebook wrestling group, someone innocently asked, "Why are they called Harlem Heat when they come from Houston?" The answers help explain how a Kofi Kingston can be valued and passed on at the same time.

& # 39; Harlem sounds harder than Houston. & # 39;

This is true … for part of the population. 3rd Ward, 5th Ward, Acres Homes … Houston is just as "tough" as any place in New York. But people who don't visit places often with people of color use the information they don't need to look for to explain things. So when someone says: & # 39; Harlem sounds harder & # 39 ;, they say: & # 39; I am largely exposed to black people through media and I associate & # 39; tough & # 39; black people with this part of the country. So (insert WCW booker) was not WRONG to call a team "Harlem Heat", it was reducing expectations that people would ride.

What does this have to do with Kofi Kingston, starting main eventer? It would be intellectually unfair to say that there has never been a Black WWE champion (I don't need gray hair anymore, so "how Black is The Rock?" Will not be the focus of this). It would be just as unfair to say that there were no contenders. But look at that list. Ahmed Johnson, Ron Simmons, Bobby Lashley and Mark Henry stand out. What do these men have in common? Johnson played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys. Simmons finished ninth in the Heisman Trophy race and was recalled by the Cleveland Browns. Lashley was a D2 wrestling champion, and Mark Henry was an Olympian. When Kofi Kingston says, "Someone like me," he is not talking about the Black Wrestler, he's talking about Black EVERYMAN.

If you look at the presentation of Black champions and candidates, their first list or introduction highlights their athletic background. The Rock was the & # 39; blue chipper & # 39 ;, Bobby Lashley & # 39; army combat champion & # 39 ;, Mark Henry & # 39; the Olympian & # 39 ;. Besides MVP, a clear vision of the template & # 39; diva wide receiver & # 39 ;, the Black WWE contender has had a John Henry quality for him, "pure" and "all American" and "hard work" and the like . Kofi, who does have a martial arts background, was not a & # 39; relatable & # 39; more collegiate, so even without a heavy foreign accent was saddled with a & # 39; Jamaican & # 39; gimmick from the gate.

Is something wrong with a man with dreads who gets a Jamaican gimmick? It depends on; if Dolph Ziggler had received the trick from Sheamus, how would it have played? As Randy Orton a mask and a henna tattooed & # 39; Mexican & # 39; pulled over his stomach, would it be accepted? At the time, Vince McMahon needed a new black character with a gimmick that people would get & # 39; & # 39 ;. During WWE you will not find many black characters whose gimmick is not & # 39; super athlete & # 39; was or was deeply rooted in a "Black known to white people." Look at the NXT era Sasha Banks: Sasha Banks does not talk in a heavy street ban, does not dress cheaply, is not promiscuous and is not even overly flirty. But a mostly white crowd started "Sasha & # 39; s rattle!" To chant, which did not fit in with how she was presented or how she wore herself in real life. Something they were not familiar with was given and they used a non-related buzzword to try and explain what they saw.

This is not a story about the anti-white fans. I even say that it is the promotion's responsibility to present three-dimensional characters from every background so that every Black team does not have to come "out of the closet". I tried to explain to a group of friends in 2015 that Xavier Woods represented what is "cool" now, and it fell off deaf ears, because the black nerd who doesn't skip the leg day was not something they had really experienced, and looking at what he was seeing has done for himself in multiple rooms in 2019. I will never forget Konnan of all the people who once said on his podcast that Woods was "The whitest black man in (WWE)". That's who sings a Kofi Kingston: the people of color who don't fit in boxes. He's a great athlete … just wasn't an amateur player. He has a fire over him … it's just not rooted in the fact that he pulls himself out of his bootstraps.

So if you look at Booker T, five-time WCW champion, who immediately fought the Rock and the Stone Cold when entering WCW, it took him five years to win his next world title. WrestleMania 19 is noted for his loss to the Triple H title game, in a feud based on the idea that "people like him" did not become champions; in fact he had to become an English king to finally achieve that. Triple H, which I do not consider to be racist at all, was able to address Vince & # 39; s mindset to the black athlete to make this happen in the moment.

The story of Kofi Kingston, whether he wins the WWE title, loses his WWE title match, or just gets some TV time for a while, is special and difficult and scary because it's unknown territory, and because they don't immediately say what i'm trying to say. The "every man" of color – the middle class, the one who has no muscles coming out of his ears, the one who doesn't start dancing or rapping in the fall of a dime – is rarely presented in WWE, especially at the top of the card. But the more WE see NEW in wrestling, the better you understand the world around you, and the better the world as a whole will be.


(Cameron Hawkins (@ceehawk on Twitter) cohosts the PWTorch East Coast Cast every Wednesday night with Travis Bryant. He is a regular collector of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Post show.)


Send guest editorials for consideration to pwtorch@pwtorch.com.


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