WWE has come under fire recently for a number of racist gimmicks. Whilst we have already about WWE’s sexist attitude toward women, they also have a poor record when being respectful to other cultures. One of the best wrestlers in the company, WALTER, was recently subject to such insensitivity.
WALTER had been a star in NXT UK and NXT. He even performed on the Survivor Series pay-per-view in 2019. He had a huge impact on every show he appeared on and seemed set for superstardom.
However, he recently decided to up sticks and move to the USA permanently. He debuted on NXT as a member of the roster this week, beating Roderick Strong in the main event of the episode. However, after the match he announced that he was changing his name to Gunther.
Earlier that week, WWE trademarked the name “Gunther Stark”, to be used by the Austrian monster. Gunther Stark in real life was a Nazi U-Boat captain who died in 1944. Coupling that with the creeping Nazism in WALTER and Imperium’s characters, such as quoting lines from the rarely used first Stanza of the German national anthem, it become problematic very quickly.
The wrestling world was in outrage with WWE. It could be theorised that it was an honest mistake on WWE’s part. However, with WWE’s past of clearly racist gimmicks, it’s likely that it’s simply old man Vince McMahon not respecting people of other cultures and races.
Here are some of the most racist gimmicks WWE has ever had the gall to think of under the reign of Vince McMahon.
Check out our list of WALTER/Gunther’s best ever matches.
Saba Simba (Tony Atlas)
Noted foot fetishist Tony Atlas is the first person for Vince McMahon to absolutely racially humiliate. Recent fans will remember him more from his run as Mark Henry’s manager during his run as ECW Champion, but in his day Tony Atlas was a huge star.
Atlas was a pioneer of black pro wrestlers. In 1981 he and his partner Rocky Johnson (father of The Rock) defeated the Wild Samoans to become the first black champions in the companies history. It was a huge honour and Atlas became a household name.
After this, he had runs with WCW, AWA and the WWF again, before signing for Vince McMahon in 1990. This is where the racial injustice occurred. In his 1990 return, he was not billed under the name of Tony Atlas. Instead, he was Saba Simba. Saba Simba was an African warrior who danced his way down to the ring in a tasteless and humiliating fashion.
Vince McMahon tried to sell the new gimmick on commentary whilst “Rowdy” Roddy Piper tore it to shreds. McMahon tried to explain that Atlas was simply proud of his African heritage, while Piper argued that Atlas was a legitimate competitor and that the whole thing was humiliating.
Hirohito (Kenzo Suzuki)
Japanese wrestlers have always found it tough in WWE. Whether that is to do with Vince McMahon’s prejudices or not is unknown. However, the only Japanese wrestler to win the WWE Championship was Yokozuna, and he wasn’t even Japanese, just a Samoan pretending to be.
Kenzo Suzuki was one such Japanese wrestler who struggled in WWE. During his time in WWE, he struggled to make a meaningful connection with the crowd, and only managed a single title victory in his career in WWE. He and Renee Dupree won the WWE Tag Team Championships, but that is not the racist gimmick he was handed by WWE.
Prior to his debut in 2004, a single vignette was shown on Raw for a new character called Hirohito. The character was revealed to be the grandson of the Emporer Hirohito, who ruled Japan from 1926 to 1989. Hirohito, played by Kenzo Suzuki, was angry at America for the events of World War II, and vowed to take revenge by beating the top wrestlers on Monday Night Raw.
Thankfully, WWE realised that this was an awful racist gimmick and had to be scrapped immediately. Suzuki and his wife/valet informed Vince McMahon and WWE how awful and racist this gimmick was and it was immediately drooped. Kenzo Suzuki would debut under his own name, to little success in WWE before returning to Japan in 2006.
Kerwin White (Chavo Guerrero)
Whilst often overshadowed by his uncle Eddie, Chavo Guerrero carved himself a career as one of the best Mexican wrestlers in WWE history. Wrestling for WCW and WWE, he won both the Cruiserweight Championship and ECW Championship in his later years in WWE, before moving on to working in Hollywood and in AEW.
However Chavo Guerrero was dealt and awful hand when he was handed the gimmick of Kerwin White by Vince McMahon. It sounds like it was a joke from the WWE writers and Vince Mcmahon. Chavo Guerrero was made to claim to be ashamed of his Mexican heritage, and acted more “White”, even referring himself to his “white” name, Kerwin White.
This involved him putting on an accent to hide his Mexican twang. His character became a golfer which I suppose is a “white thing to do in the US. He even had Dolph Ziggler, before he became a star, as his own personal caddy.
The racist charade only ended due to ghe tragic death of Chavo’s uncle Eddie Guerrero.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.