I’m not one to talk about race or racial relations very often (unless I’m talking about police brutality, Hollywood or the unintended consequence of the concept of Pokemon) but when it comes to the WWE, I’m the first to say it: they don’t give a brotha a chance. When R-Truth came into the fray and introduced Almost Dr. Xavier Woods and the Funkadactyls, he pleaded with the crowd to give a brotha (read: brotha) a chance, and I shook my head and said, “Man, they ain’t trynna give a brotha a chance…”
But that’s just my perception. Most prominent black Superstars are relegated to background roles or unmemorable personas, such as Mr. Shuck-and-Jive R-Truth or Kofi “Always Making This Face” Kingston. Sure, there’s Mark Henry, but even he functions as a massive, powerful continent of a man who goes in, wrecks shop, dances a bit, wrecks more shop, and leaves. Is it awesome? Very, but I’m greedy: I want more for my brethren in color. I want more for the human embodiment of Torterra and his would-be protégé, the Intercontinental Champion and candidate for Venusaur, Big E. Langston. I want to see Xavier Woods as more than just Lamont Sanford, finding himself in violent situations with his partner in crime Rollo Lawson, er… I mean Ron Killings. What can I say: they’re both felons.
But how awkward would it be for an angle or a storyline that pushed some level of prominence on these particular Superstars just based on the shade of their skin? The Nation of Domination worked because of what it was and when it was. In a time of PG-13 rated angles, stories, content and foolishness, the Nation was acceptable. This was a time where a group such as the Nation could thrive and just be seen as business as usual; it helped that it became a platform for Dwayne Johnson to grow as well.
Doing something like that now, an angle such as the Nation, and the gods of political correctness would swoop on the world of professional wrestling faster than Kevin Nash at the Fingerpoke of Doom.
And swooping is bad.
As are fingerpokes.
Unlike the world of “We are the World-ness”, I am NOT politically correct, so don’t expect me to shy away from anything. Say an angle that DID focus on the shade of the skin existed, but at the same time, it DIDN’T exist. Say there was a blatant idea that the black Superstars were coming together to compete with what they see as an… let’s say “unfair” system, but it wasn’t about them being “unfair” to “them”. Would a professional wrestling company be capable of something so reasonably complex?
Over the past few months we’ve seen some more-than-simple stories, long-form exploits that have garnered just as much hate as they have praise; some might say significantly more hate than praise. The “Best for Business” storyline has many yawning and complaining, often to their own hypocrisy considering that despite their “boredom” they watch every week (your views mean ratings). Daniel Bryan’s rise and background battle with that same Authority is another testament to that long-form talent, but without being in the limelight the casual viewer concludes that the story is over and “burial” begins.
Forgive me: that “burial” (hi Quinn!) begins. The unwritten rule is that we always say… never mind.
I want to go into the concept of A.F.R.O. but it’s important to remember that the casual fan doesn’t care about long term storytelling so much a dedicated viewer such as us fine people here at L.E.W.D. If anything, we’re even MORE critical about the long term because we have more time to critique and dismantle. There’s a reason we spit on the Aces and Eights and Claire Lynch and anonymous Raw GM storylines so much; part of it is longevity.
That’s the issue with a long story: you run the risk of getting boring or repetitive. Loyal fans will stick by it, but after a while even they will turn their nose up at it. With that in mind, you HAVE to stay entertaining. You HAVE to stay relevant. You HAVE to keep their attention, and as much as Ashley and Quinn may disagree with me, maybe because it’s a copied storyline or maybe because it’s of the “enemy” (my words, no one else’s) company, but I think the Magnus/AJ Styles thing still has a chance to be reasonably compelling.
It’s been done, but what hasn’t? AJ Styles should’ve just LEFT and said “Screw you, Dixie, I’m going home!” and Magnus should just take the World Heavyweight belt he possesses that he gets on TV in about two weeks (the beauty of taped shows), but the dynamic of a king versus an uncrowned king is always something fun. Usually. I haven’t read the spoilers yet, outside of the fact that Magnus is the new TNA World Heavyweight Champion. Oops. Spoiler.
Whatever you do, if it takes a while, keep it amusing.
Exposition out of the way, let’s talk A.F.R.O. Imagine a nation (no pun intended whatsoever) where people who get fed up with the higher ups of their society stop and leave. They don’t leave forever, just for a while, and in that while there’s a notable absence. Where went the massive pair of Mark Henry and Big E. Langston (who still has his title and just hasn’t been around)? Where went the high flying yet massively pointless Kofi Kingston? Where went the rapping Truth? Where went the almost doctor Woods? And you don’t ask about Ezekiel Jackson because he was gone already.
Yes, he’s still employed in the WWE.
You DO ask about the Funkadactyls though. You do ask about Alicia Fox. You might ask about Brodus Clay and Layla, but one is still in hot water with me because he dared use the phrase “main event player” to describe himself and the other… the other can do no wrong in my book.
Where did they go? For at least a month they’re all gone. It’s business as usual and, as usual, people are bitching and moaning about every little thing. It’s professional wrestling and sports entertainment, that’s what you expect, but slowly and surely even the people behind the scenes, the talent and the staff, are grumbling. The company is not doing well in their eyes, the operations are shoddy and more and more the people are saying that the company is more reckless than it’s ever been.
Enter a business card, one with nothing more than the name Mr. H, the profession “fixer” and a phone number. The GM sees it and, out of sheer desperation, dials, and the voice on the other end, a familiar, gruff voice, merely says, “See you in a week.”
So Brad Maddox paces in his office at the beginning of the show, blowing off any nonsense from Guerrero, trying to hurry any words from the authority, and the door to his office slowly opens. He looks frightened, then happy, then scared. Why?
Because who walks in by Mark Henry, dark shades on, CLEAN three-piece suit, and he’s on his phone, talking business. Mark Henry is scary enough. New agile Mark Henry is even scarier. New agile Mark Henry rocking a suit and talking on a phone, demanding the attention of the person he’s standing before even as he’s on the phone is enough to make you crap a brick. He ends his phone call and says happily, “Johnny! Good to see you again!”
Brad: “It’s, uh… it’s BRAD, sir, my name is—”
Mark waves him off. “Sorry, I gave you the wrong impression; you think I care. You called me and you called the right one. My team and I, we’ll get this company in ship shape in no time.” He smiles. “Ah, Franklin, it’s great to be back!”
Brad: “Uh, it’s Bra—”
Mark: “Still don’t care, Alice! I need to look around again: my team will be taking notes throughout the show too. Now, get out of my office. I have musing to do.”
Mark grabs Maddox and literally throws him out of the office. He closes the door and sits at Maddox’s desk. “Lashawnda better not try and correct me again.” Then he goes to the phone. Henry is in charge now, and slowly but surely his “team” is going to come out.
It starts off swimmingly. A throwaway match takes place between random mid-card number one and random mid-card number two. Who do we see at the entrance ramp, taking notes on his tablet, speaking on his bluetooth? Big E. Langston, not in a suit but certainly business attire, belt over his shoulder, glasses on, scoping potential competition? Perhaps.
The tag champions win their match later on and Woods and Truth come out, one in a suit, the other like Langston, conversing amongst each other, circling the ring but engaging in no action.
A Divas segment backstage shows Fox, not amused, on her bluetooth, and walking on her way. The Divas match has Layla sitting ringside, silent and watching.
Towards the end of the show, the Unified Champion (assuming of course they refer to them as the Unified Champion) is walking backstage, pleased with his victory, smiling, already tired, and in the hallway he encounters Mark Henry. He doesn’t look amused either; don’t let Aaron McGruder’s satire fool you: black people are NOT a jovial people. The champion stares down Henry, Henry stares him down, and out of the blue, BAM! A kick right in the temple, leveling the champion, and Kingston, in his suit and tie, rises from his violent strike. Henry nods.
Kingston: “Weak. You’d think a real champion would be ready for anything.” He grabs the belt, shrugs and drops it right back on the champion. “Even the belt is garbage. We’ll have to design a new one.”
Henry: “We’ll need a new champion too. Can’t have the face of this company smiling and looking weak.”
Kingston grimaces. “I’m done with that smiling BS. We done here?”
Everyone mentioned before comes up, clean, dressed to kill, not rallying behind Kingston so much as standing beside him. Henry pulls a cigar from his jacket (I’m assuming he would smoke a cigar; he IS from Texas) and lights it. “We have enough data to get it started then? It was pretty easy going today but orientation is over. Next week we hit the ground running.” He kicks dust on the champion. “A.F.R.O. is in business.”
Now admit it: THAT would kick ass. It would be great to see and it would be compelling, and the scenarios that would come from it (and believe me, I have dozens upon dozens, including having Ron Simmons as A.F.R.O.’s director of Human Resources and Wade Barrett being the “affirmative action” employee).
But that’s just how I think. What do YOU think?