Pro wrestling has never had any problem trading on racist tropes to arouse the fans, but times may be changing.
On Tuesday night’s episode of “WWE Smackdown,” current league champion Jinder Mahal did a promo in which he, well, tried to smack down rival Shinsuke Nakamura. But the crowd didn’t take too kindly to the champ’s insults, which relied on racist stereotypes for laugh lines.
“You always ‘rook’ the same,” Mahal said during the live telecast. “They call you Mr. Miyagi,” he added ― a reference to the karate master in the “Karate Kid” movies.
Mahel’s backup goons, the Singh Brothers, mimed martial arts poses from those films while laughing hysterically at their leader’s scripted jokes.
Typically, these types of racially inspired insults have a WWE crowd roaring in laughter, but not this week at Oakland, California’s Oracle Arena, according to DeadSpin.
Instead, many audience members decided enough is enough. They shouted “That’s too far!” in unison. One man could be heard yelling, “That’s too racial.”
You can see the complete segment below. The crowd gets upset around the 3:16 mark.
Pro wrestlers, especially “heels” like the character Mahal plays, commonly rile up the crowd for effect. But this incident has left a bad taste in the mouths of WWE fans like 15-year-old Noumaan Faiz, who was in the audience.
“WWE should have never approved this,” Faiz told The Washington Post. “Racism is definitely an idiotic way to get heat and not necessary.”
He added, “It also makes the writers look bad.”
Which makes sense, of course, because who other than a 72-year-old billionaire who thinks burritos are called steak wraps would think the best way to deal with sensitive real-world issues is to reference a movie made in 1984?
The rant by Jahal, a Canadian of Indian descent, is also inspiring anger on Twitter:
— MarriedMarksPodcast (@MarriedMarks) September 20, 2017
HEY @WWE HAVING A BROWN PERSON SAY OPENLY RACIST RHETORIC DOES NOT MAKE IT OK
— the babefollower (@SocksMahoney) September 20, 2017
I don’t understand @wwe‘s angle by letting Mahal cut uninterrupted racist promos. You want your champions heat to come from disgust?