Elijah Burke: “There have been several black champions”

Apr 8, 2019 - by Steve Gerweck

Former WWE/TNA star Elijah “The Pope” Burke posted the following on his Facebook page:

Ok, so I’ve been hit up by several people in regards to Kofi winning the WWE Title at Wrestlemania asking why many are saying he’s the first black champion. Instead of responding to your messages I’ll do one post to answer all, so allow me to shine some light on this for you. First many fans today are not wrestling fans but “sports entertainment” fans, most of whom are from the Attitude and after era. They simply don’t know or have never watched WCW nor decided to do their homework before making such a claim. For them only WWE exist. The truth is that Kofi is being recognized by most black people as the 1st African American individual to win not a “World title” but the “WWE” title. Yes, The Rock did win the title prior to Kofi and has a black father, but The Rock more so socially identifies and celebrates (at least from what is shared by him and said on air) his Samoan heritage, which is his right and of no fault.

Wrestling history however will show that Ron Simmons is the FIRST black wrestler ever to win a recognized world heavyweight title with WCW. Later in WWE there would be Booker T and Mark Henry. While those titles were indeed world titles, they were not the WWE title which was always considered the #1 trophy in the company. Here’s some food for thought while on the subject of #1 trophy; In the midst of Kofi’s win one should really ask themselves this question: Is the WWE title the #1 trophy at this current day and age… Or is it the Universal Title? Or do you see them as equal (Comment below)? Either way, we’re just happy for Kofi’s milestone achievement.

There have been several black champions (not enough) that we as African Americans and fans are proud of including Jay Lethal who’s been killing it in ROH and somehow has been overlooked by many, and even Lashley and R-Truth during their runs in TNA but alas, in the world of wrestling WWE is the end all be all to sports entertainment.

At the end of the day my thoughts on this is deeper, way deeper than that of those who were hoping for a Kofi WWE title win. While happy, I’m not hoping for just a mere short run with the WWE Title, I’m hoping for an Era. I’m hoping for Kofi to be “THE GUY” and not just a continued player. We had the Bruno ERA…Backlund ERA…Hogan ERA…New Generation ERA (Shawn/Bret)…Attitute ERA (Austin/Rock)… Ruthless Agression ERA (Cena) and the current ERA which has been built as the Roman ERA (Rollins/Brock).

My question is will they put Kofi in a position to be THE GUY, to be the FACE of the company. Will his contract reflect millions of dollars like The Shield or will he still stay in the under half of million bracket (per Forbes)? Unlike days of future’s past, THE GUY was cherished, needed and catered to in an effort to keep him happy and of course from jumping ship to a rival promotion, namely WCW. In this day and age WWE does not revolve around one guy like in times past as the machine is much bigger than any one character and will simply replace you if needed.

To sum this up, here’s a quote from my interview with The Washington Post this week about Kofi’s (pending at the time) title win:

“The company has the ability to put a black man in the driver’s seat and let him be the face of the company, I want to see someone who looks like me be the face of the company. That signifies change, not putting the belt on someone and taking it right off him.”

So while Kofi now has the title, let’s hope he received it because of his ability to be THE GUY and not to pacify those who have been vocal about wanting this moment to happen. Only time will truly tell, but in the meantime (and in the future) we can certainly look back on this moment as one that signified a change in the WWE as Kofi became the 1st African American Ghana born WWE Champion. CONGRATS~PHS

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