The WWE has progressed quite a bit from the older days of WWF gimmick characters and segments that really pushed the boundaries. One former WWE superstar was involved in a lot of those previous antics as well as racism after he won the WWE Intercontinental Championship.
Ahmed Johnson held the title back in 1996 as the first-ever African American to hold that particular belt. His reign lasted 50 days, but his time in WWF/E didn’t come without its share of issues. Among them were being kissed backstage by Goldust and having a racial slur inscribed on his car after winning the title.
As reported by WWF Old School, Johnson appeared on The Unsanctioned Podcast and spoke about the various events from during his career. One of those events included “stiffing Goldust” during a King of the Ring match between the two. That occurred due to a backstage segment in which Johnson was supposed to be unable to move backstage on a gurney.
Goldust, who was feuding with him at the time, had planned to put his hand over Johnson’s mouth and kiss his hand but instead kissed Johnson on the lips in a surprising moment. Goldust did it several times repeatedly on the live television segment. The angle was supposed to be Goldust offering “mouth-to-mouth” to an injured Ahmed Johnson. That led to real backstage anger from Johnson toward Dustin Rhodes, and it came through during their match.
Another incident came about once Johnson won the WWF’s Intercontinental Championship back in 1996. It was a big deal since he was the first African American to capture that prestigious title. Johnson talked about how the crowd popped once he went over as the first African-American singles champion in WWF. However, he also founded a racial slur inscribed on his car after the big career moment.
“And it was cool until I went out to my car and somebody had scratched ‘congratulations n****r’ on my car. It was definitely one of the boys. Where we parked at, nobody could get to our cars but the boys. Somebody said they seen some of the boys back there, you know by the car. I couldn’t put my finger on it.”
Johnson paved the way for future African-American champions who followed in his footsteps with WWE Intercontinental Championship wins. They’ve included Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, R-Truth, and Big E Langston over the years as WWF transitioned into WWE. Mark Henry is a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, while he’s also held the now-defunct ECW and European Championships making him a sure Hall of Famer within the next several years or so.
However, while it seems things have come a long way in terms of African Americans within the WWE, Johnson still had a bit of contention over how The New Day is presented in the company.
Johnson said of the trio who has won the tag team championships numerous times, “Now come on, don’t one of them got a doctorate degree or something? Come on, man. But Vince got you acting like a clown on a clown car. I think it is shucking and jiving for him. I just think that especially homeboy with that degree [Xavier Woods], they can find something better for him. He could be like a Clarence Mason, like a black wrestling Clarence Mason.”
Clarence Mason worked with WWF between 1995 and 1997 before moving to WCW. He was basically an attorney and former wrestling manager. If one were to look at WWE’s current roster of personalities, David Otunga, also an African American with a law degree, is working as part of the commentary teams on various WWE events. Otunga previously did a few segments where he acted as legal counsel for different situations that came about. Xavier Woods has yet to really take on anything like that.
One has to think Ahmed Johnson may have a point, although WWE has certainly given The New Day a lot of accomplishments for their tag team resume and the history books. The trio consisting of Xavier Woods, Big E, and Kofi Kingston was the longest-reigning tag team champions in the history of the company, holding onto the straps in a lengthy run during 2015 through 2017. In addition, they’ve now won the WWE SmackDown Tag Team titles multiple times and, based on previous reports, could be achieving a record number of reigns to put them up there with other great tag teams in WWE history.
That said, should the WWE give the New Day a more serious presentation, or is their current gimmick best for business? Will WWE have more African-American superstars holding the major titles within the next decade or continue to overlook these stars?
[Featured Image by WWE]