The joke’s not funny anymore.
It’s a funny world, WWE. Last week I praised Vince McMahon, a 72-year-old man, for taking a solid headbutt in the ring. It was a fun moment and one that got some people hot under the collar. Not seven days later – it seems that the company can’t help but court controversy once again; this time around launching a bizarre segment that saw one Superstar seemingly throwing as many racist jabs at another as possible. For once I feel WWE has overstepped the mark – and may have caused irreparable damage to their WWE Champion Jinder Mahal in the process.
I’m going to preface all this by saying Jinder Mahal, the wrestler himself, is not racist. I can imagine that he wasn’t thrilled with the script he was handed – and going by the way things are going down – shouldn’t be the target for the terrible decisions made on his behalf. He gets paid to read the script – a script that gets approved by any number of people before airing.
For months WWE’s Creative team has lazily given Jinder free reign to call out audiences “xenophobia” and the implied racism that comes from it. It’s not new for the company – plenty of past (and current) WWE Superstars have used the same trick to generate cheap heat. Why else would WWE return to that well so often?
Yet last night WWE went too far. Jinder Mahal, the current WWE Champion, launched an incredibly awkward scripted rant against his Japanese opponent Shinsuke Nakamura – referring to the Superstar as Mr. Miagi (A nod to the Karate Kid movie) while implying that Nakamura eats feline and dolphin meat. Add in the fact that WWE was making fun of Nakamura’s facial appearance while mocking his accent (You always “rook” the same) and you’ve got a segment that came off in horrendous taste. So awkward did things get that the live audience chanted “That’s too far”. When a WWE live audience is bellowing your bad decision in such a way – you have to realise just how bad things have gotten.
It’s telling that WWE hasn’t uploaded the segment to their Youtube channel, something they usually do with quick speed (You can watch it here though). They also removed the video from Twitter – as we quoted it last night to call attention to how bad it was. It should also be noted that the WWE.com article about last nights Samckdown Live omits all mention of what Jinder said – effectively airbrushing it out of existence. The fact that they aren’t pushing it anywhere would suggest that those in charge realise how terribly framed the entire thing was – but the fact is they put it on television.
The big question remains though – how on earth did a segment like that make it to television? With parents and children in attendance, WWE usually wears its PG badge with pride. Yet here they completely abandoned that – offering up a segment that was in the worst taste and only served to hurt the Superstars involved. But remember, Jinder didn’t make that promo happen. Someone backstage had to write it, approve it and push it onto television. Jinder is the vessel for every bad decision that led to its airing – and it’s shocking that nobody looked at what was on the paper and went “maybe not a good idea”.
Because who did the segment help? It certainly didn’t help Nakamura, the Superstar WWE seems to be belittling to get heat on their WWE Champion. He didn’t even get to respond to the whole thing, except for a bizarre backstage interview right after. If the point was to make Nakamura look sympathetic, why not let him hit the ring? It also didn’t make Jinder look good at all. Indian or not – he looked like an incredibly two-dimensional character, the kind of throwback you’d see from late 1980’s wrestling. Sure it might have flown then but in 2017 – it makes an already poor WWE Champion look that much more laughable.
Some will defend the segment as “putting over Jinder” or “Let’s see where it goes”. Why? Jinder’s character has been cutting the same cookie cutter promos for months now. There’s no depth to his character, no advancement that will come from this. His promos are weak and now, awkwardly, controversial for the sake of trying to get a rise out of audiences. It’s a laughable state of affairs when casual racism is the go-to option for getting your lame WWE Champion over. There’s a reason other television shows don’t go down that road in modern times – it’s not acceptable.
By airing such a segment – WWE have showcased just how laughably tragic this entire Jinder Mahal experiment has gotten. How the WWE Championship has been reduced to a laughable accessory for a man who only claim to fame is making passively racist remarks. What kind of message does that send to the guys in the back? To the audiences at home? To the kids who sat live in the audience? WWE has done some questionably racist things in the past – but this one felt way more awkward than any segment should.
To put it bluntly, WWE needs to fire whichever idiot approved that segment. There are no two ways about it, it was unwatchable. It was arguably the worst segment of WWE television this year and draws attention to a Champion who’s failing on every conceivable level to get over. It also creates an awkward conversation around Jinder that WWE really doesn’t need. Why bring such an element into a feud that was already struggling to gain interest? What can the payoff for Jinder Mahal be?
But I guess that’s the point. Any reaction is a good reaction – even if it’s one that makes WWE look hilariously out of touch and paints the biggest Champion in the company as a racist xenophobe.