The evil foreign heel should be an outdated wrestling trope. Having a wrestler trashing the American Way until a babyface stands up for Lady Liberty seems more in line with the big bangs and torn sweat shirts of the Netflix 1980s wrestling show, GLOW, than it does with the modern era of the WWE.
A gimmick like this shouldn't work in 2017. But not only is the one dimensional villainous gimmick working, it's working so well, SmackDown Live has given it to their top three heels. WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal, US Champion, Kevin Owens, and the returning Bulgarian Brute, Rusev, are all drawing heat by throwing shade at the Red White and Blue.
While it might be easy to assume Vince McMahon is simply out of touch, this line of nationalist storytelling falls directly in line with the 'love it or leave it' crowds that helped sway the 2016 Presidential election. With Linda McMahon as a part of President Trump's cabinet, it would be easy to assume WWE is using these overtly anti-American characters as a way to make a political statement, but the only statement Vince McMahon is concerned with is the one he gets from his bank every month.
The fact is, when Rusev slams America for celebrating their independence with hot dog eating contests, he gets a reaction. When Kevin Owens says Canada is superior to America, he gets a reaction. When Jinder Mahal says anything in Punjabi, he gets a reaction. Vince McMahon is simply reading the reactions of the WWE Universe and reacting in kind.
On a recent episode of 'Talk is Jericho', Mahal revealed that the original idea for his character was less anti-American than it ended up being. Vince McMahon made a last minute change that sent The Maharaja on a different course.
"So when I finished calling the match, one of the writers was like 'hey Vince changed your promo' and I was like 'okay, bring it to me' so they brought it to me and I had read the America comment and all that and I was like 'ugh I like the old promo better.' Like it was something like, 'I tried being peaceful but nobody was listening but now I have all you guys' attention, I just beat five of SmackDown's very best and I did it all alone.' Something like that, it was just a regular heel promo but the new one was like: 'You Americans, this and that' — I was like ugh I don't like it, but Vince wrote it, it's okay. But I did it and the reaction that I got I was like 'ah man, Vince is a genius.' He knows exactly what draws the most heat."
One could argue that with these portrayals WWE is only furthering the negative stereotypes that have existed for years in our country. While that may be true, the longer story arc of these characters could actually be working towards eradicating these stereotypes. When one of these heels stops being so angry and comes to the aid of a beloved American babyface wrestler, it will endear them even more to the WWE Universe.
When WWE sets up these xenophobic storylines, the ultimate goal isn't to turn fans against people of other colors and backgrounds. The long term goal is always essentially to recreate the end of Rocky 4 – that glorious scene where Rocky, Drago, the USA and USSR come together for a moment of mutual admiration.
"If I can change, then you can change, everybody can change!"
The evil foreign heel ultimately gives us a chance to make that change and confront our pre-conceived notions of people from other parts of the globe.0comments
Oh, and it gives us flag matches.
Lots and lots of flag matches.