As we've mentioned several times before, the idea of good versus evil is an omnipresent theme in professional wrestling. We've discussed how good and evil are often ideas defined by capitalism whereby hardworking citizens may often find themselves disillusioned by an incompetent and/or indifferent government and individuals who succeed by using underhanded means.
Race has also been used to define good and evil in the wrestling ring. Historically, it was more often the foreigner who was cast as the evil aggressor. Professional wrestling would play off of xenophobic sentiments of the time to invent new characters. Hence personae like Franz Herman, Fritz von Erich, and the Iron Sheik. These villains were pit against familiar American faces.
At the same time, however, fans have been able to identify with minority wrestling characters. These wrestlers have provided a way for foreign, non-American characters to become babyfaces in the ring. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, there were several Mexican-American wrestlers who were able to build a sizable postive following among the general fanbase. More recently, wrestling phenoms like the Rock, Eddie Guerrero, and Rey Misterio, Jr. have been able to command even greater success.
An apparent difference between the two generations of wrestlers has often been noted. While the earlier minority wrestlers were able to be cast in a generally positive light as hardworking, sportsmanlike faces, the more recent generation of minority characters have exploited many existing racial stereotypes. Nevertheless, these wrestlers have been able to enjoy even greater success and appear to be some of the more popular characters of their respective wrestling programs.
While it is easy to align the popularity of minority characters with the minority fan base, there necessarily exists a deeper source of their widespread fame. As veritable symbols of the fruits of hard work and effort, the wrestlers themselves and not simply their characters can be identified as "good" as per the definitions prescribed by the capitalistic view of wrestling. As a result, these wrestlers are able to transcend race and become heroes of the working class.
Just as we've discussed in class, it is social class that has become the ultimate criterion for defining popular wrestlers, especially as wrestling progressed throughout the latter part of the 20th century. Haughtiness and arrogance has rarely if ever been tolerated in the ring. It is the ability of wrestlers to identify with the blue-collar ideals of the fanbase that has become an important determining factor in their success as performers in the squared circle.