For better or worse, the characters and storylines of sports entertainment have always drawn some inspiration from mainstream society. The 1980’s saw a plethora of cold war themes and Rock & Roll inspired wrestlers, while the late 90’s and early 2000’s were dominated by what fans refer to as the “attitude era.” If something is going on in pop culture, it is most likely doing to make its way into writer’s room and subsequently into the ring.
As some facets of society have become more accepting and in some cases welcoming of different cultures, WWE has also bolstered the roles of the women and people of color on its roster.
This was evident during the most recent SummerSlam weekend, where the WWE took over the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for four days straight with NXT Takeover, SummerSlam, Raw and Smackdown events.
The main event of SummerSlam featured two wrestlers of Samoan heritage—Samoa Joe and Roman Reigns. While the co-main event showcased legendary Japanese strong style wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura against the WWE’s first Indian WWE Champion, Jinder Mahal.
Mahal’s character truly shows how progressive the company has become in recent years. Unlike foreign caricatures of the past, Mahal is a contemporary character. I’m a new flavor, it’s the evolution, it’s the modern-day maharaja,” says Mahal. “I’m very modern, you see me with my custom suits, I’m very stylish, riding around in a limousine. I’m excited to see where I’m going to be years from now. I really think sky is the limit and I’m very excited to be representing the 1.3 billion people of the great nation of India at the same time.”
In September, Mahal will be headlining the WWE’s annual tour of India, a country that has become a major hotbed for wrestling in recent years.
The word evolution is something several WWE Superstars have often mentioned when discussing the new faces that are taking over the company. That isn’t any more apparent than when discussing the women’s (formerly Divas) division. There was a time when women wrestling was an afterthought, but not anymore. The women of WWE have been stealing the show for a couple years now, thanks to their talent, the popularity of the television show “Total Divas” and a major push from WWE brass.
“It’s a wonderful time to be a woman in WWE, we’ve taken the women’s evolution and just run with it,” says former WWE Raw Women’s Champion, Alexa Bliss.” It all started with the fans saying give Divas a chance. The fact that we are being recognized for our abilities, being able to main event, and have steel cage matches, tables, ladders [and chairs] matches, it’s amazing and it’s only going to get better.
Bliss, along with current champion Sasha Banks (who happens to be the cousin of big WWE fan, Snoop Dogg), second-generation wrestler Charlotte Flair, Naomi, Natalya, Bayley, Asuka and Becky Lynch are just a few of the best wrestlers on the roster, regardless of gender. The matches they have put on rival anything that fans have seen in any era, so it is only right that the WWE has had a women’s match as part of every major card in recent memory.
Aside from championships and main event status, the biggest accomplishment for an active WWE Superstar is the cover of the annual WWE2K video game. Throughout the WWE’s video game history, several performers have graced the cover, but they all had one common denominator. They were all men. Something that isn’t lost on Bliss and company. “Hopefully by next year we’ll see a women’s Superstar on the cover,” she says.
Male or female, all of the Superstars take WWE2K seriously, their virtual competition is almost as aggressive as their in-ring battles. Just like in Madden or NBA2K, these athletes take their ratings seriously too.
When asked what he thought about Samoa Joe having a higher rating than him in the upcoming WWE2K18 game, New Day member and resident WWE gamer, Xavier Woods replied, “He probably paid the programmers, he’s rich. I spend my money on myself and my gaming shed and he spends his money on trying to look good in video games. I’ll still beat him though.”
With the largest roster of talent in the game’s history, please believe that Superstars of all races and genders, will be represented on WWE 2K18. And the soundtrack is even on point thanks to a personal assist from Hollywood megastar and former WWE champion Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is executive producing the game’s music.
The WWE Superstars have already got their hands-on WWE 2K18, but the rest of the WWE Universe can play the game starting October 17, 2017 for the PS4 system and Xbox One, as well as in Fall 2017 for Nintendo Switch.