Each month in the Columns section of LOP Forums, we hold a competition to determine who was the best of the previous month, crowning the Columnist of the Month. The winner earns the right to present you, the Lords of Pain main page audience, with an example of their work.
May’s winner, MyLeeCyrus, is a first-time winner, taking out the May prize primarily for his outstanding work in The Pond Invitational tournament. Cyrus is incredibly articulate and isn’t afraid to take on controversial topics but does so with precision and witt. If you enjoy his work you can find plenty more of it in the Columns Forum, you can also follow him on Twitter @CyrusTheWriter.
Anyone can write for Lords of Pain and if you’d like to have a crack the path to doing so starts with the Columns Forum. You can visit it and begin your own journey by clicking the image below.
My name is Cyrus the Writer, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been voted “Columnist of the Month”, allowing me to fulfil my long-held dream of writing for the main page here at Lords of Pain / WrestlingHeadlines.com.
Sounds great, right? The truth is I’ve spent the last month paralysed, staring at a blank Word document desperate to use this platform in a meaningful way, to say something that actually matters… hopefully to give you, a complete stranger taking a chance on a columnist they’ve never heard of, something to think about. The problem is: over the last couple of months, as it so often does, wrestling has reflected the real world. The underlying poisons have bubbled to the surface, empowered by the struggles that we’re all facing right now, and revealed themselves; the whole world is sick with Covid-19, racism, and sexism, and the wrestling universe is right there with it. It’s so utterly broken that I don’t even know where to begin; hell let’s be honest, I don’t even know if I should begin.
I am a white male from a middle-class family in England. I have no personal experience of discrimination or persecution based on the colour of my skin or my gender. I’ve been born into the epitome of white privilege. My dad is a bank manager, my mum teaches piano, I work in middle management for marketing… I’m so far removed from these issues that the very idea of me commentating on them seems outrageous. But here’s the thing, I am exactly the right person to talk about it; so are you, for that matter. Whoever you are. Every person who looks at the entrenched, systemic problems within our society and thinks “this can’t be right” should be talking about it at every possible opportunity. So that’s what I’m going to do. The following column is intended to express support for the BLM movement and its place within the wrestling community. All opinions are my own, and I apologise ahead of time if I use the wrong terminology; I’ve done my best, but none of us should let fear of accidentally offending stop us talking about it. Thank you to Adunola Adeshola and her fantastic article “3 Things You Should Not Say To Your Black Colleagues Right Now” for freeing me from that paralysis.
So, as the distinctly average Rafael Benitez once said: I want to talk about facts.
Since the first Wrestlemania, there have been almost FOUR HUNDRED pay-per-views produced by Vince McMahon and WWF/E (excluding NXT; sorry, they just don’t count). Across those four hundred events, there have been precisely THREE main events that did not directly involve a white person. If that doesn’t seem like systemic racism to you then read it again. Despite the WWE roster being 56% white, the main events are 99% white. The men and women that WWE wants you to cheer for most are almost exclusively white. There are superstars of different ethnicities EVERYWHERE on the roster, apart from the main event scene. Right now, as I write this, eight of the thirteen championship belts in the WWE sit around the waist of non-white performers… but the main events are reserved for white men. Just as they always have been.
In 2001, Booker T defended the WCW championship at Summerslam against The Rock in the first ever main event to not directly involve a white person; luckily, Shane McMahon was by Booker T’s side for the whole match, just to make sure white people like me could still be emotionally invested. Five years later, Booker faced Rey Mysterio for the World Heavyweight championship at The Great American Bash, this time without the help of Shane McMahon. For the first time EVER the main event was entirely free of white characters and, to the surprise of possibly the entire McMahon family, it didn’t affect the buyrate. Would this prove to be the genesis of genuine diversity in the main event scene? Um, not exactly… TWELVE YEARS later, Roman Reigns took on Samoa Joe at Backlash 2018 with nothing on the line. Outside of those three anomalies, every single main event has involved at least one white person.
Think about these two facts for a second:
THREE HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN out of FOUR HUNDRED main events have involved at least one white person.
The WWE title has NEVER been defended in the main event of a pay-per-view without a white person in the match.
In the interest of fairness, let’s examine the other side for a second – I’m sure some of you are thinking “well sure, but for long stretches the biggest names in the industry were white men, so weren’t they naturally in every main event?” To some extent yes, that’s true: Hogan, Bret, Michaels, Austin, Triple H, Cena, Orton, Batista and even Rollins have all gone on uninterrupted main event streaks that meant the presence of a white man was inevitable. The problem with that argument is that The Rock and Roman Reigns have done the same. Excluding Shield matches, Reigns has headlined 22 events, and faced a single non-white opponent once. The Rock headlined 30, and faced the same number of non-white opponents in one-on-one competition. 52 events when all you needed was one other non-white superstar to be considered, and it only happened twice.
That can’t be coincidence, can it? I’m not a mathematician but it certainly doesn’t seem like that’s a statistically likely occurrence. When you consider things like population averages, viewership demographics, even the ethnic backgrounds of the WWE roster, that screams of deliberate discrimination. Don’t get me wrong, it might not be conscious, but it’s definitely deliberate. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but I genuinely believe that Vince, Triple H, Stephanie and the rest of the top brass are trying to be inclusive. Just look at the Raw roster right now: by my reckoning, 45% of the roster is white, and even within that you have Australian, Dutch, and Scottish superstars at or near the top of the card. Unfortunately, that only makes the main event discrepancies even harder to defend.
At its best, wrestling reflects society, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. Despite all the best intentions (and despite idiots like me believing we live in a diverse, inclusive society where racism is a forgotten memory) discrimination still flourishes. The western world is built on racist foundations, run by wealthy, powerful white men who couldn’t care less about the plight of others, just so long as their own little empires survive and prosper. Not everyone in that position is a demon; there are so many people with influence who do care, but they fundamentally haven’t done enough to change the system. I HAVE to believe that Vince McMahon falls within that bracket, because the alternative is awful.
I’ve been to Wrestlemania three times: Detroit for 23, Phoenix for 26, and Dallas for 32. I don’t know exactly how much I spent on those three trips, but I feel confident in saying that at least £1,000 of my hard-earned cash has gone directly to the WWE. If that organisation is intentionally racist then the harsh, brutal truth of the matter is that I’ve donated to a racist cause. Given that you’re reading a wrestling column on the internet, you probably have too. How do you feel about that? If the diverse roster is nothing but a smokescreen, if WWE is intentionally keeping white people at the top of the card, how do you feel about your hard-earned money being used to maintain that policy? Sobering, isn’t it?
Let’s talk about Wrestlemania for a minute. Do you know how many people have been in the main event of the showcase of the immortals? 38. Do you know how many of them aren’t white? Five. Even worse, two of those five are Mr. T and Lawrence Taylor. There have only been THREE actual, genuine WRESTLERS in the main event of Wrestlemania who weren’t white. That’s insane, right? Surely that’s insane? Please, if you’ve got an argument for that being okay, hit me up on Twitter and let me know, because I would love to be in the wrong here. It would be such a weight off my conscience if someone came forward with a legitimate reason for this discrepancy, but I don’t believe that’s going to happen. The most hopeful conclusion I can draw is that I’ve unwittingly donated money to an unwittingly racist cause. A cause which perpetuates the myth that white people belong at the top of society, and non-white people should be happy with their place on the bottom rung, celebrating those few individuals who do make it to the top as heroes of their community instead of wondering why more of them don’t make it.
So, what can we do? It’s all well and good me pointing out the racism within the WWE system, but that doesn’t actually mean anything if nothing changes. The truth of the matter is that there is no simple answer; even if there is, I certainly don’t have it! There are so many things you can do as a citizen of this planet that it might feel overwhelming, but personally? I think the most important thing you can do is to do SOMETHING. Educate yourself by reading books, watching documentaries, or listening to podcasts. Attend a protest. Post something on social media. Talk to your friends about racism. Reach out of your comfort zone and hear what other people have to say, even if it doesn’t make you feel good. As a wrestling fan, tweet Vince McMahon and ask what he’s actually doing to support the BLM movement. Read Mr. Tito every time he posts a new column here at LOP / WrestlingHeadlines.com; he’s doing a fantastic job of flying the equality flag. If you want to buy some WWE merch, spend your money on non-white superstars; do you really think Braun Strowman will stay champion if Kofi Kingston starts outselling him on a regular basis? Come on.
You have the power to instigate change; not on your own, but as part of a concentrated movement. If you’re one of the people suffering then keep your fire burning; don’t settle for anything less than true equality because you deserve the exact same opportunities that everyone else gets. If you’re one of the privileged, like me, then use whatever voice you have to decry the world you were born into. It doesn’t make you a bad person to be born white, but it damn sure makes you a bad person if you don’t speak out against a system that discriminates by skin colour.
Wrestling is often touted as a microcosm of society, and whether it’s Muhammad Hassan, Iron Sheik, or the Nation of Domination, there has ALWAYS been an undercurrent of racism tying the two together. Society and the WWE are, at their very core, racist. It has to stop.
We’ve never seen a black person face another black person for the WWE title; that isn’t good enough.
We’ve never seen a black person face another black person in the main event of Wrestlemania; that isn’t good enough.
June 2nd, 2020: “WWE supports an inclusive society and condemns racial injustice. We stand beside our Black performers, employees and fans around the world, and encourage everyone to use their voice to speak out against racism.” – WWE’s official Twitter account.
That’s exactly what I’ve done, Vince – now it’s your turn.
If you’re still with me, thank you for taking the time to read this. If you’ve enjoyed it and/or would like to hear more from me, follow @CyrusTheWriter on Twitter (particularly if you’re a mathematician who can tell me those percentages aren’t insane!) I strongly encourage you to find your own inspirations, but if you’re interested, I wrote this while listening to the albums “Stemma” by Doc Brown and “City of Thieves” by Sonic Boom Six; they’re both amazing.