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WrestleMania Week Recap: WWE Crowns First Black Men’s World Champion

It has been quite the eventful week in the world of professional wrestling, and for good reason. WWE, the biggest promotion in sports entertainment, hosted its biggest annual event, WrestleMania, on Sunday April 7. Leading into the big show, there was a lot of pressure and high expectations set heading into the broadcast. The night before the show was the annual Hall of Fame Ceremony, notable this year for an unscripted attack from a fan on wrestling legend Bret Hart. The event was being headlined by the first ever all women’s main event featuring Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch. Triple H’s career was on the line in what would be the final match of now famous Hollywood Actor, Batista. Members of Saturday Night Live competed in the traditional Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal. And for the first time in the history of the event, a fully black man was challenging for the company’s top men’s championship.

While this week has seen social media go into a frenzy over African-American wrestler Sasha Banks allegedly wanting to leave the company, the popular Kofi Kingston made history at WrestleMania becoming the first African American man to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at the company’s flagship event; furthermore, he is the first one to win a heavyweight championship in the company since 2011.

Wrestling has always been seen as a white man’s soap opera, filled with action-filled drama and characters designed to fit the mold of white entertainment. For decades, WWE’s biggest stars have been white men the likes of the Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and John Cena. There have, however, been exceptions to this rule. Currently, one of WWE’s most credible female competitors, Sasha Banks, is a black woman. Her appeal and mainstream appeal has been well documented; however, the company’s acceptance of her as their top female star remains denied, a trend that has long stood with male stars such as Booker T and Mark Henry.

Sasha Banks

Booker T is a six time World Champion in wrestling, with five of those reigns coming from his time in WWE’s former rival company, WCW. WCW also crowned the first black world champion in wrestling history in Ron Simmons. Mark Henry, who won his first and only World Heavyweight Championship in 2011, spent 15 years in the company before capturing the gold; his reign too was short lived. And then you have The Rock, arguably the most popular wrestler in history.

The Rock is recognized as a ten time World Champion in professional wrestling, but due to his multiracial background, is often overlooked as a former black champion. Kofi Kingston identifies himself as a fully African American competitor, and has been on the WWE’s roster since 2007. While he has enjoyed success and remained popular, his popularity reached new heights in the winter of 2019, leading the company to put him in the position to challenge for their top prize amongst men. Though it may have been expected by some fans, WWE has a long history of disappointing fans in high profile matchups. Fortunately, Kingston’s win was not the case. Whether or not this opens the door for other black athletes in the company remains to be seen. For now, congratulations to Kofi Kingston and the era now known as #KofiMania.

Keshawn Taylor | contributor

April 15, 2019

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