Since his surprise push to the main event earlier this year, Jinder Mahal, the reigning WWE Champion, has been a familiar character to wrestling fans: a foreign heel playing on the xenophobia of Americans. He has decried American audiences for treating him differently simply because of how he looks or talks or where his family is from. Mahal certainly looks the part, but his character’s motivations have been very one dimensional since taking the WWE Championship from Randy Orton.
So when Mahal entered into a feud with Japanese Superstar Shinsuke Nakamura, questions arose about how the storyline would play out. Unfortunately, as evidenced by Jinder’s maligned promo on this week’s SmackDown Live, WWE is doubling down on the racism. Mahal poked fun at Nakamura’s facial expressions, claiming he “always rooks the same,” mocking his Japanese accent. Later, he called Nakamura “Mr. Miyagi” as his henchmen, the Singh Brothers, pantomimed exaggerated karate histrionics while doubling over in laughter.
The promo was so poorly received the crowd in attendance broke into a “that’s too far” chant. The Washington Post took notice and published a piece about WWE’s eternal struggle with racism, peppered with first-hand accounts, tweets, and comments from renowned reporter Dave Meltzer on the matter.
The piece caused WWE to take notice, who issued a statement to The Washington Post:
Just like many other TV shows or movies, WWE creates programming with fictional personalities that incorporates real world issues and sensitive subjects. As a producer of such TV shows, WWE Corporate is committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of our employees, performers and fans worldwide.
Is this enough of a response? Or just a boilerplate diffusion attempt from the company? Will the trajectory of Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura’s storyline change after the fiasco? Only time will tell.