WWE Champion Jinder Mahal's racist foreign heel gimmick may not be driving ticket sales up, but it's certainly garnering the company lots of coveted mainstream attention. Following a scripted promo on Tuesday's SmackDown Live wherein Mahal played on racist stereotypes of Japanese accents by telling opponent Shinsuke Nakamura "You always rook the same," and comparing him to Mr. Miyagi (the character from The Karate Kid played by Pat Morita), The Washington Post has started covering the story.
The Post's article points out that even wrestling fans, despite the sport's long tradition of playing on racism and xenophobia to generate heat for storylines, were chanting "that's racist" and "that's too far" in response to the jokes.
In response to all the attention, WWE has issued a statement:
"Just like many other TV shows or movies, WWE creates programming with fictional personalities that cover 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."
While the jokes were delivered by Mahal, a Canadian of Indian descent whose on-screen character is based heavily around his Indian heritage, all the storylines on WWE programming are scripted by writers, with Chairman Vince McMahon having the final say. Mahal has given interviews noting that McMahon has been personally involved with writing his promos in the past.
Which makes sense, of course, because who other than a 72-year-old billionaire who thinks burritos are called steak wraps would think the best way to deal with sensitive real-world issues is to reference a movie made in 1984?
SmackDown Live airs every Tuesday night on USA Network. Mahal is set to face Nakamura for the SmackDown Championship at Hell in the Cell on Sunday, October 8th. If WWE is looking to escape the real life heat this storyline has brought down on them, expect Mahal to drop the title to Nakamura that day.