Asian wrestlers have never fared particularly well in the WWE. In recent years the likes of Taka Michinoku, Funaki, Jimmy Wang Yang, Ultimo Dragon, Tajiri and Sakoda have failed to make any sort of real impact in the American big league – for the most part being reduced to comedy jobber status despite their abundance of wrestling prowess.
Yoshi Tatsu, the rising star from ECW who has recently transferred to RAW and has nothing to do with Nintendo, will be looking to buck this trend… but will he succeed where so many others have failed?
Despite his rather baby-faced (in the physical sense, not the wrestling sense) appearance, Tatsu already has an 8 year wrestling career under his belt, as well as being extensively trained in boxing. So he’s a genuine badass dontcha know. He had an excellent run in New Japan (which included entertaining bouts with ex-WWE employees Tomko and A-Train), had a successful spell at FCW (where he tag teamed with Sheamus!) and has a reputation for being a solid and entertaining worker.
But, unfortunately, none of this will matter to the WWE. They take one look at the performer, note his ethnic origin, and pigeonhole him as a comedy performer.
Am I saying that WWE is racist, I hear you ask?! You’re damn right I am. Not in violent or hateful sense you understand, but in an ignorant manner that plays up to offensive stereotypes. Perhaps in the way your Grandad does. Or an Eddie Murphy movie.
Being of Asian decent, Tatsu must obey every stereotype that goes along with it whilst under the employment of WWE. These traits must include:
1) A very a basic grasp of the English language. (But usually an understanding of the double meaning of the word “puppies” – hilarious!)
2) The desire to bow a lot for no obvious reason. (Because that’s what My Miyagi did in the Karate Kid movies)
3) Fun and cartoonish entrance music (because we’re not supposed to take them seriously as performers)
4) Unable to fully comprehend American culture (Ha ha ha – because they’re from a different continent, get it?)
5) Kicking must feature heavily in their wrestling offence (all Asians are good at martial arts, you see)
6) Their offence is totally ineffective against heavyweights. (As if being kicked in the head by a Japanese guy could hurt Batista!)
Tatsu, along with all the guys mentioned in my opening paragraph, all pretty much tick all these traits in every instance. The Japanese tourist routine is just so one-dimensional it’s destined to flop. And how is Tatsu ever supposed to develop an iota of a character when he isn’t even able to cut a promo?
WWE’s racism isn’t reserved exclusively for Asians I’d like to add, pretty much every race and ethnic origin other than white American is or has been stereotyped in an offensive way – but that gripe isn’t for this column.
Unfortunately, as one would fully expect, things aren’t looking too good at this early point in Tatsu’s WWE career. Although he had some stellar bouts in ECW, picking up a couple of big wins over the likes of William Regal and Shelton Benjamin along the way, we all must admit than a win on ECW doesn’t really account for much. What percentage of the RAW TV audience regularly tuned in for ECW? I’m willing to bet less than a quarter. Not that it would matter anyway.
Tatsu’s debut on RAW saw him on the victorious side in a 6 man tag outing. Okay, things could have been much worse (just ask Zack Ryder) but how many people are gonna remember that in a few week’s time? How many people have forgotten it already?! This week, things fared worse for the chap when his sole contribution to the show was a cameo in a backstage skit where, surprise surprise, WWE played up the “comedy” aspect of his ethnicity (as well as a bunch of others I hasten to add. Does Vince genuinely believe that people find this funny? Worryingly, the answer seems to be yes.)
So where to from here? Well, with the Ezekiel-less Regal back on the RAW brand and with WWE often utlilising his strong comedic presence by associating him with oddballs (See: Tajiri, “Pirate” Paul Birchill, Eugene, Kamala etc) – I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him and Yoshi form an unlikely alliance. Yes, it would produce almost identical skits to those Regal did with Tajiri back in 2002, but when has WWE ever had a problem with recycling material?
A solid tag team run is likely the only way Tatsu is gonna receive a sustained run in the midcard (which would beg the question: Why split him from Goldust?! They had a half decent thing going, right?…), and I don’t see him ever seriously challenging for one of the secondary titles…
In this modern wrestling era, size is, thankfully, seemingly becoming less important. The WWE’s breakthrough performers in recent times have been the likes of CM Punk, John Morrison, Legacy, The Miz and Kofi Kingston (and heck, even though it’s only been 2 weeks – Daniel Bryan!). Yeah, I’m sure these guys have very impressive physiques compared to you or I, but there’s no sort of “giant” or “physical freak” label attached to them.
All this should bode very well for the prospects of Yoshi Tatsu you’d think… but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it won’t. Unless Tatsu is able to undergo some Michael Jackson-esque surgery and alter his ethnicity, he’s doomed to remain a lower-card, novelty act until his release. And in 2010, this is a very sad truth indeed.