The history of WWE isn’t exactly synonymous with political correctness. Throughout the years, the company has created several characters who would be deemed problematic in this day and age, and Vince McMahon is known to have come up with the majority of them.
According to the legendary manager Slick, however, one of WWE’s most racially insensitive gimmicks was his own idea. As quoted by Wrestling Inc., he was recently interviewed on Prime Time with Sean Mooney, where he discussed the company’s treatment of George Gray — a white wrestler who portrayed the characters One Man Gang and Akeem “The African Dream” in the late 1980s.
“They were really getting ready to end the One Man Gang contract. So when I came up, I went to George, cause we were very close, and I said, ‘Man, I think I came up with a way to convince Vince of how you can really blow up and make money.’ He’s about making money, you know? And I said, ‘We’ll just call you Akeem, say you’re from Africa. You come to the ring dancing, and acting black, it’ll go over.'”
Vince took to the idea, as Akeem became a fixture on WWE television for two years afterwards, most notably as part of the Twin Towers tag team with Hall of Famer Ray “Big Boss Man” Traylor. Upon leaving WWE in 1990, he reprised his One Man Gang gimmick in World Championship Wrestling and became associated with the Dungeon of Doom stable.
Gimmicks like Akeem can be summed up as products of less enlightened times in the world of sports entertainment. At the same time, WWE is still known to produce insensitive characters and storylines for the modern age.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, a 2018 episode of Monday Night Raw saw Sami Zayn bring Bobby Lashley’s “sisters” to television. The angle featured three men dressed in drag pretending to be Lashley’s siblings, and — unsurprisingly — it attracted its fair share of criticism. Some pundits described the storyline as transphobic, while others criticized its depiction of racial stereotypes.
Wrestling has never shied away from courting controversy, and when handled right it can create cash and compelling storylines. Often times, however, WWE handles touchy subject matter in a juvenile and insensitive way. Akeem and Lashley’s sisters might be offensive characters in the eyes of some viewers, but they’re mild examples compared to other gimmicks we’ve seen since McMahon took over the company in the 1980s.