By being himself, Big E changed the landscape of WWE black superstars – The Undefeated

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On September 13, Big E only became the fourth black WWE Champion in company history, and unlike those before him, Big E didn’t have to be the villain or the outsider to make his victory special. All Big E has done is be himself. And with that, Big E changed the landscape of WWE black superstars.

For years, black wrestlers have been categorized into such characters as mechanics, dancers, jokers, and far too often criminals. Yet Big E refused to be stereotyped or forced to stay in one box. He made this point a year ago when interacting with The Miz on the TV show. WWE Talking Smack Following Smack down.

“If I don’t understand what feels right to me, I don’t deserve to be here,” Big E said on his travels with The Miz. “If I can’t trust my intuition and instinct, I don’t deserve to be here. I’m not saying I’m going to clown week after week. I’m not telling you. Believe me, I have a barometer in me. Believe me, I know when to steer the ship left or right, I know when to get serious.

Big E (center) is a complex wrestler, a complex person – and he’s now a world champion because of it.

WWE

Their conversation began when Big E, who is considered a cheerful fan favorite, was challenged to be more serious if he was to be seen as a potential champion.

“I think that [show] I opened some people’s eyes and felt that for a while, ”Big E told The Undefeated. “It was one of the first times I had the opportunity to say it. I’m glad we had the opportunity to have this conversation. It didn’t make much sense to me to be gloomy and brooding like so many other people. I feel like I just wanted to lean into what makes me unique and that is to be me.

The idea of ​​changing his character to fit a stereotype didn’t suit Big E. In the ring, he can easily lift 300 pounds above his head, but if a situation calls for a twerking session, he can. do it too. He’s a complex wrestler, a complex person – and he’s now a world champion because of that.

“Representation is essential for me… I really hope that my [championship] winning allows everyone to be inspired, but especially young black men and women who love wrestling, ”Big E told The Undefeated. “Thinking, ‘This is something I can do and there won’t be any obstacles in my way just because I don’t have a certain appearance.’ Whether they want to fight or not, I just hope that gets people to say, “Hey, I’m not going to be put in a box, I’m not going to have to change who I am to get to where I want in the box. life.’ If I can be that for people, I think it’s really beautiful and humbling.

The freedom to be shamelessly black is not a luxury wrestlers have had throughout history.

Those who grew up watching WWE may remember the “Age of Attitude,” a time in the late ’90s when WWE was in its prime. But as good as those memories were, there weren’t many black artists headlining events and pay-per-views or challenges for the main title. When The Rock became WWE’s first black champion in 1998, he did so as a heel, or villain, for those unfamiliar with wrestling terminology. It’s a theme seen throughout professional wrestling. Black talent is often presented as heels to elicit a reaction from crowds. As if there was something ingrained in our culture that said black people are easier to fear than to encourage.

Big E’s faction, The New Day, actually started out as heels. WWE crowds have taken a liking to Big E and his tag team partners Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods, turning them into good guys or what wrestling calls baby faces. Since their formation in 2014, Big E & Co. has started a race like no other. They are among the most decorated tag teams in WWE history, but there was still more to accomplish.

The freedom to be shamelessly black is not a luxury wrestlers have had throughout history.

WWE

“Being a part of The New Day allowed me to grow as a performer, to feel a lot more comfortable,” said Big E. “They were there for seven years, however long it was. our relationship. They were there to support me. It’s the only thing I absolutely love, is to have found a trio, a group, where we love each other legitimately, we roll one for the sake of it. the other, we support each other. The excitement for each other’s accomplishment for each other is so beautiful. I really feel a strong sense of family that I never thought I would feel in the room. ‘business. “

Still, there is prestige to having a race as a singles contender and it didn’t take long in his career, which began in 2012, for fans to clamor for Big E to get his chance for gold. . It turns out his stable mate Kingston would reach the top of the business before Big E.

Twenty-one years after The Rock became the first black champion, Kingston won the WWE title at WrestlingMania 35. It took several months, but Kingston went from a prototype underdog to a title win. Now dubbed ‘KofiMania’, the victory was a clear celebration of a belated recognition of diversity at the top of the company. As members of the WWE Universe in the arena and across the globe celebrated, Big E rushed into the ring to join Kingston. There was no jealousy, no envy, no impatience; there was a real feeling of joy for his friend.

WWE audiences didn’t have to wait another 21 years to get their third Black WWE Champion. On March 1, Bobby Lashley became WWE Champion. Like The Rock, Lashley won the title in heel, but he was one of a kind. Lashley was not a smooth talker and did not rebuke his opponents at the microphone. He showed up in the ring and let his actions speak for themselves. That now makes three black champions, three courses and extremely unique personalities.

This brings us back to Big E. His path to the top wasn’t so clear, but in late 2020 the opportunity for solo success arose. For the first time in seven years, Big E found himself estranged from his New Day brothers. He wasted no time in taking the opportunity.

Big E won the July version of the WWE Lottery – in the form of the Money in the Bank briefcase. The briefcase gives its holder the ability to challenge the WWE Champion at any time.

“I was tired of walking around with that damn briefcase,” he said. “I stopped checking baggage because things are chaotic at airports and it’s hard to fit in my bag. So I said, ‘I’m sick of this, let’s do it tonight.’ “

He seized this opportunity by challenging Lashley in the September 13 episode of Monday evening gross. In the show’s closing segment, Big E took advantage of an exhausted Lashley to become the fourth black WWE Champion in history. As you can imagine, the emotions flowed.

“When that Wale song hit and people lost it, it was really beautiful,” he said. “That’s what makes this moment special for me. This pop, this reaction. One of the most important things for me is getting back to everyone, to all the missed texts. I had 144 missed texts. … Not to mention all the DMs. Everyone has been so incredibly positive and kind. ”

Big E has shown his ability to combine the best of the three previous black champions. He can order the microphone with the best of them, which was a staple of The Rock. He has the fun attraction of Kingston and the raw power of Lashley. A suit tailored for WWE success, yet it took him nearly a decade to reach the top of the mountain. The trip was worth it.

“There was a video of someone sitting higher up in the stands that unfolded, and you can see how fast Woods and Kofi are sprinting into the ring. That’s what I appreciate, ”said Big E.

As Big E builds on his title reign, he’s now changing the tale of black champions. For more than five decades, white male champions have been able to portray any character they choose. Shawn Michaels had a ladies’ thing, Bret Hart was the ultimate tech, Steve Austin was anti-authority, John Cena was a rapper turned American hero. The canvas for them has been a blank slate, but black wrestlers have struggled with limited personas and stereotypical tropes. Big E has moved beyond that and hopes to usher in a new era.

“I love that we can look in and out of WWE and see this real depth of black wrestlers who are really bonkers, and there are so many of us,” he said. “And I hope we get to a point where it’s just normal.”

For now, Big E is focused on defending his WWE title against all comers. His first successful defense came against former champion Lashley in the September 27 episode of Monday evening Raw. This victory was the first of many references on his journey to redefine the perception of a WWE Champion.

Kel Dansby is a social media specialist; focusing on ESPNRingside boxing accounts. He also contributes to The Undefeated. He writes mainly on boxing, MMA and professional wrestling. His love for combat sports was sparked by his grandmother Julia, who bought him pay-per-view movies for boxing and pro wrestling as a child.


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