For the past three decades, WWE has operated under the premise that it will have a handful of major showcases every year where they highlight their biggest feuds, stars and moments.
While the names and dates of those showcases have changed throughout the years, WrestleMania and Summerslam have always stood above the rest as the top two events on the WWE calendar. In the past few years, especially, Summerslam has elevated to become WrestleManias equal. This year is no different as we get Brock Lesnar and Ronda Rousey on the same card together for only the second time ever (WrestleMania a few months ago, being the last time).
However, sadly these big showcase events are also exceedingly white. WWE’s black wrestlers often get phased out as the company heads towards its trademark events, instead, putting white faces up front. Its a time-honored tradition. Of the 33 wrestlers booked to wrestle at SummerSlam this year, only three are black, with no black women on the card. This is inexcusable.
It happens every year that black wrestlers get the dog days of summer push and the fall push but when Summerslam and WrestleMania come along they’re shuffled to the back. The best example of this in 2018 was the treatment of Bobby Lashley who was the main event foil to Roman Reigns all summer, even beating Reigns clean to end the last pay-per-view, only to be humiliated on RAW every week with a limp Elias feud that has landed him off the entire Summerslam card. Of course, it’s possible he’ll show up and battle Elias in a non-match segment but, still, its a far cry from the way Lashley was used in June and July.
The women’s side is even more depressing. Sasha Banks and Bayley have had a will they or won’t they off and on feud for the entire year, with nothing much to show for it. The feud has had quite the slow build but not a single match yet. Naomi hasn’t had anything meaningful on Smackdown! in ages, and Ember Moon has been shuffling around the mid-card since getting called up after Mania. I imagine that these women are being held for Octobers womens-only WWE event but it’s not like there couldn’t be space for them to show up on both nights with matches. Heaven forbid.
Then there’s everyone else, wallowing in WWE purgatory with seemingly no means of escape. Titus ONeil and Apollo, who I pegged as a surefire future WWE champion when he made his NXT debut a couple of years ago, have been unable to find anything remotely substantial to latch on to. The Titus Worldwide brand has potential, but these two can’t even get on the HULU 90-minute cut of RAW on a given week. It’s extremely disappointing given ONeil’s charisma and Apollo’s incredible in-ring talent. R-Truth is R-Truth, a never-aging veteran who hasn’t gotten a real shot at much since he and the Miz ran rampant over the roster half a decade ago. Over on the Smackdown! brand is Shelton Benjamin, who just last week didn’t even get an intro for his match with Jeff Hardy. Benjamin returned to WWE with a lot of promise but, again, is underutilized.
Now the three black wrestlers who managed to make it on the Summerslam card. First, there’s Cedric Alexander, the current Cruiserweight champion and only black title holder in all of 2018. He’s on the pre-show, which is standard for the Cruiserweight title. Alexanders success largely depends on the popularity of the 205 Live brand, which, sadly doesn’t look to be gaining the popularity needed for the main card.
The New Day are far and above the most popular group of black wrestlers, WWE has seen. Maybe ever. All they do is show up, have great matches, sell merch and get the fans behind them. They’ve been cornerstones of the company for years now but it’s disappointing that they are still in the tag team division. It’s past time to put some singles belts on one or two of these guys. Big E is the youngest with the highest upside but Kofi has the pedigree and Xavier Woods is a genius. One or all three of these men deserve world title shots by the end of the year and it’s absurd it hasn’t happened yet. And they can have these title runs without even having to break up the group. They’re sorely undervalued for what they bring to the company and it should be a matter of time before they’re making history for WWE.
Overall, the landscape for black wrestlers in WWE heading to Summerslam is as depressing as ever. The company is as deep and talented as ever, but so often the people pushed are a homogenous bunch with little consideration for diversity. Its time for a change. And not just on B-shows or off-brand PPVs. WWE needs to give these wrestlers some chances and let them hold gold. The demand is there. The talent is there. If WWE doesn’t see that then they only have themselves to blame.