Saturday, April 4, 2009

Ghetto Nerds Wrestlemania 25 Countdown: Legends of Wrestling Roundtable--African Americans in Professional Wrestling

Wrestlemania 25 is tomorrow night. This evening will feature the Hall of Fame Ceremony with the one and only Stone Cold Steve Austin as the featured inductee. On the "undercard" longtime fan favorite, Koko B. Ware will be inducted as well. This is a controversial choice among smart marks because Koko was a novelty act whose career in WWE was rather undistinguished (although he did wrestle for many years in the regional territories prior to arriving in McMahon's company). Of similar controversy, is the induction of legendary wrestling promoter Cowboy Bill Watts--a man noted by many to be "a good old boy," an unrepentant racist. I have heard these stories, but until this interview remained undecided. Based on this interview, my instincts tell me that Cowboy Bill Watts has been unfairly maligned.

Well-timed, the great television series Legends of Wrestling recently had a feature for Black History Monthly called "Soul of Wrestling" that covered just these issues, as well as the experiences of African Americans in professional wrestling, more generally. This is really great stuff:

Teddy Long, the territories, and Ron Simmons becoming the first Black Heavyweight Wrestling Champion:

Who knew that Harley Race wanted Tony Atlas to be champion? And that Olie Anderson was against it because Atlas was a Black man? Or that Dusty Rhodes had such strong feelings about the Nation of Domination?

It is all about the green isn't it? Is it any surprise that Olie Anderson was such a bigot? Most importantly, this clip features Bill Watts on running wrestling events in Texas--and his fear that Whites would riot if African American wrestlers were featured on the card:

The panel reflects on the rise of the Rock:


Jeannette said...

Thanks for this post..It's wonderful to know that KoKo B ware is getting inducted... Wrestling says a lot about American society and where it is in race relations.
Everything from Hacksaw Jim Dugan to the Iron Sheik reflects (and still does) how the general American populace feels about it's diversity.
And besides it's nice to out the closet about wrestling.. don't you know I loved it when they had that wrestling cartoon on Saturday mornings with Rowdy Roddy Piper.. The Bomb ;)
Yeah the Rock is cute.. but I still love me some Hacksaw Jim Dugan.. Hooo!! (yes I am country.. and I don't care)

Anonymous said...

The interview with Bill Watts were he “maligns” himself is currently available as a free podcast at the Torch website:

Well worth listening to.

Dusty is also a guy who supposedly advertised himself to promoters with pitch that if they used him they wouldn’t need to have a black babyface on the card.

If Ole were allowed on roundtable, I’m sure he’d also know how to paint himself as progressive.