Back in April, WWE superstars Bianca Belair and Sasha Banks made history (and broke the internet) when they became the first Black women to go head-to-head in a Wrestlemania title match. As the two performed in front of the WWE’s first live audience in over a year—a sold-out crowd of over 25,000 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.—it was a compelling, emotional affair in which Belair’s meteoric rise was justly rewarded with the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship belt.
“I love the fact that this is not just something that’s just about me and it’s not just about making history,” Belair told the Tampa Bay Times prior to the match. “It’s about going out and representing for women and for Black women.”
Fast forward to August, and now wrestling fans are crying foul at the WWE’s perceived mistreatment of Belair in the aftermath of this weekend’s pay-per-view extravaganza, SummerSlam—and the prevailing belief is that racism was a contributing factor.
Becky Lynch, who had been MIA since May of last summer after announcing her pregnancy, made her long-awaited return to the mat at SummerSlam to the delight of fans everywhere. But what has Black Twitter seething with rage was how upon her arrival, Lynch—who shocked the crowd with her surprise appearance—put the beats on Belair and squashed the reigning champ in a grand total of 27 seconds.
For those who think I’m exaggerating, feel free to bear witness to this bullshit yourself:
If the WWE’s goal was to establish “The Man” as a heel, congratulations on a job well done. But doing so at the expense of pissing off your fanbase—especially those who identify as Black or as people of color, and after going to such great lengths to build up Belair as the next big thing—is never a good idea, which the WWE did a resounding job of doing as well.
“Right now, I’m just trying to collect my thoughts,” Belair told host Denise Salcedo after the match. “Everything happened too quickly. I was ready to fight Sasha Banks, and Becky came out, which was an amazing moment. I’m happy to be a part of that, but I lost my title, and right now, I’m just emotional. I feel defeated. It was bittersweet, Becky Lynch, what she has accomplished inside and outside the ring. She is a legend in the making.”
But Twitter hasn’t been nearly as diplomatic following Belair’s abrupt defeat. In fact, users have accused the wrestling company of not only doing the 32-year-old dirty, but point to her loss as the latest example of blatant racism against Black performers within the WWE.
Others point to fellow WWE superstar Kofi Kingston, who suffered a similar fate at the hands of Brock Lesnar during SmackDown’s debut on Fox back in October 2019. Kingston lost his WWE Championship belt in even less time.
WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon’s questionable politics, cavalier response to Hulk Hogan’s racist rhetoric, and brazen Trump leanings are well-documented. So it’s not exactly a surprise that accusations of this nature continue to manifest as the WWE approaches its 42nd year of existence. But the fact remains that Belair deserved better; and as long as wresting fans—Black, white, or otherwise—continue to support the WWE’s problematic brand of entertainment, what incentive does the company have to treat Black performers any better?