New Day rocks (and rocks, and rocks, and rocks...)
December 15, 2016 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Earlier this week, the New Day's reign as WWE Tag Team Champions became the longest in the company's history at 479 days (and counting). To commemorate the occasion, New Day member Big E tweeted a picture of his team with Cruiserweight Champion Rich Swann and Women's Champion Sasha Banks titled "#BlackExcellence" (Swann and the three members of the New Day are African-American; Banks is biracial). A "What if the white champions did this" backlash predictably ensued.

Big E's tag team partner Kofi Kingston replied eloquently:
It does not come from a place of malice, spite, or gloating. It comes from a place of joy and a place of happiness. We have a very strong sense of pride in being the Black People simultaneously holding championships in WWE. Historically in our nation, there was period in time where this would not have happened, followed by a long period of time where it became possible, but had not actually materialized. Now, we are in the time in which the possibility has become a reality.
The New Day's title reign is not just long, it is unfathomably long in modern professional wrestling. No one has held a championship belt this long in WWE or the WWF since Hulk Hogan's initial run as World Champion from 1984 to 1988. While much of the length of their reign may be a reaction to the previous record-holders being part of a massive concussion-related lawsuit against WWE (the company has a history of pettiness when it comes to such records), the fact that three African-Americans got to do it by being themselves is important (we discussed wrestling's longstanding race problem a couple of years ago).

The New Day didn't start as inspirational record-breakers. They started as a gospel-inflected "heel" (bad guy) group (yet another instance of non-white wrestlers being defined primarily by their ethnicity). Through sheer force of will and charisma, the trio turned themselves from cheating heels to fun-loving "faces" (good guys). They are so popular with WWE's surprisingly diverse audience that they sold the most merchandise at this year's WrestleMania and will be releasing a book in the spring.

One last point about the progress of race and wrestling: of the nine current WWE championships, four are held by "faces" -- all persons of color (the fourth is Samoan-American U.S. Champion Leati "Roman Reigns" Anoa'i, whose father wrestled as half of the Wild Samoans, which was just as racist as it sounds). All of the white titleholders are evil, cowardly, or insane "heels".
posted by Etrigan (29 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Also, the third member of the New Day, Xavier Woods, is not only an excellent performer but a huge nerd who once performed a trombone rendition of the Final Fantasy victory fanfare during a match.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:29 AM on December 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh, I coulda done a whole post about how much of a nerd Xavier Woods is. He once bragged about his Pokemon Go level in the ring.
posted by Etrigan at 8:34 AM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


What's best about the New Day is how their current status appears to have been self-made. When they made their debut as a gospel-tinged retread of Nation of Domination, it seemed clear pretty quickly that it wasn't connecting with the fans, and they gradually moved it farther and farther into something more connected to exaggerations of their own personalities, the way the best wrestling personas usually are.

I mean, let's be clear about how far they've come as black wrestlers, just in the course of their own careers:

-Kofi made his debut about 10 years ago, the last name "Kingston" given to him because white folks in the "creative" department took one look at his hair and thought "Jamaican" (and even billed him as such, and gave him a reggae entrance theme) even though he's from West Africa. Everything about his early gimmick was "island" this or "tropical" that, because besides reggae and weed, the only thing white folks know about Jamaica is weather patterns. (Which is also why his roundhouse kick finisher is named "Trouble in Paradise".)

-Big E Langston (and again, what does this guy have in common with Langston Hughes other than skin color?) debuted as a monster heel who wore a Lion of Judah on his singlet, and then became the unspeaking, unsmiling Virgil to Dolph Ziggler's DiBiase before getting rebranded.

-As for Xavier Woods, here's a GIS link to "Consequences Creed".
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


besides reggae and weed, the only thing white folks know about Jamaica is weather patterns

Not true! I know that James Bond went there.
posted by thelonius at 8:57 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


New Day are great and I can't wait until the Revival shows up to blow tag team wrestling the fuck up with them.
posted by zerolives at 9:00 AM on December 15, 2016


Everything about his early gimmick was "island" this or "tropical" that, because besides reggae and weed, the only thing white folks know about Jamaica is weather patterns.

Does he at least bring a cricket bat with him into the ring?
posted by NoMich at 9:40 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is wrestling still mostly scripted; having matches with predetermined winners? Not that the answer to this question should take anything away from New Day's accomplishments.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 9:45 AM on December 15, 2016


Relatedly, and sadly, the Young Bucks almost went with A.J. Styles to WWE but the timing was off:

“When A.J. was about to leave, he pulled us aside before anybody knew anything and he asked us about our contracts,” Matt recalls. “At that point, it was December and we had just signed—we signed in November. He’s like, ‘You did? Ughhh.’"
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:46 AM on December 15, 2016


Is wrestling still mostly scripted; having matches with predetermined winners?

Entirely so, yes.
posted by Etrigan at 9:49 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is wrestling still mostly scripted; having matches with predetermined winners?

I don't mean to threadsit Etrigan's post, but yes. So, don't think of it as "these are the accomplishments of black athletes" (though they are indisputably athletic, hard-working and accomplished) but rather that "these performers, despite endemic historical racism in their profession (and some of their audience), have been entrusted by the biggest company in their field to be the defending heroes and most-visible champions on their shows".
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 9:54 AM on December 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


I've really enjoyed The New Day's run - next to Enzo & Cass, they have the best tag-team banter in the business.

All of the white titleholders are evil, cowardly, or insane "heels"

I wouldn't say that AJ Styles is evil, cowardly or insane. An egotistical jerkface, to be sure, but he is a heel, after all (at least for now).
posted by ericbop at 10:10 AM on December 15, 2016


I wouldn't say that AJ Styles is evil, cowardly or insane.

He's been trying to cripple James Ellsworth (evil), ducking and cheating against Dean Ambrose (cowardly), and continues to poke at John Cena (insane).
posted by Etrigan at 10:24 AM on December 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Any wrestling team with unicorns, rainbows and a trombone as part of their official vibe is A-OK with me.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:48 AM on December 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


The WWE should print new New Day shirts that say #BlackExcellence on the front and Power of Positivity on the back, and let them hold the belts for another year. #RealityEra amirite?
posted by jermsplan at 10:55 AM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


The New Day are amazing, and Xavier Woods in particular seems like such a great guy. I say this because he once asked about arcade bars in Chicago on a day they were in town for a live event, and I suggested one. Because I am a fangirl of the highest order, I then went to said arcade bar in the hopes he might show up. He didn't, and I tweeted at him lamenting that he wasn't there, and he DM'd me an apology that they were out in the 'burbs, and some friendly banter ensued. I am still over the moon about this. I have another friend who has had a DM convo with him about comic books. He is great. And adorable.

I've really enjoyed The New Day's run - next to Enzo & Cass, they have the best tag-team banter in the business.

I'd give New Day the edge here because they don't veer into misogyny nearly as frequently as Enzo does, or at all really. They're such a great example of being charismatic and being able to play heel or face and banter with and make fun of your opponents without bringing sexism, racism, xenophobia, etc into the mix (I'm side-eyeing the Rock with this comment).
posted by misskaz at 11:13 AM on December 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Too late to edit: "asked about" should be "tweeted about" - to be clear all of this interaction was on Twitter. He's very active there, mostly promoting his Up Up Down Down youtube channel and related nerd stuff.
posted by misskaz at 11:22 AM on December 15, 2016


Through sheer force of will and charisma, the trio turned themselves from cheating heels to fun-loving "faces" (good guys).

I think you left out the sheer force of the marketing department and the script writers, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:56 PM on December 15, 2016


I think you left out the sheer force of the marketing department and the script writers, too.

The merch and the push followed the popularity. All three have talked about how the only reason they got to be themselves and put on unicorn headbands and play trombone and jump out of a gigantic box of Booty-Os cereal was because the marketing department and script writers didn't fucking care about them. Once Vince McMahon told them "Be preachers", everyone forgot about them, so they decided to be a little goofier than the racist gimmick that got foisted on them (and got people booing them immediately out of sheer boredom at the hyper-babyface-ness of it). No one told them to stop being a little goofier, so they kept getting goofier. Eventually, marketing and the writers realized what the New Day had created.
posted by Etrigan at 1:21 PM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I used to work in the wrestling industry.

People trying to minimize this because of the "marketing department" or because the outcomes are predetermined are really missing the point. It is literally because of those aspects that this record being broken is so shocking. There is a political aspect. There is the injury aspect. There is the TV ratings and merch aspect. There is the real-life contract length aspect. And on and on.

To go nearly 18 months without losing a title in WWE... well that literally hasn't happened in the entire time the WWE has been the WWE! (Since the name change away from WWF in 2002, the closest is CM Punk's 15-month run with the WWE Championship in late 2011 to early 2013.)

To craft winning characters out of shockingly stupid options presented to them -- it is a near miracle. Kofi Kingston has been with the company for a decade, and he had previously only once been "near the top" (in a feud with Randy Orton). Right now, these tag titles *matter* in a way so rarely seen since the days of Ax and Smash.
posted by andreaazure at 1:34 PM on December 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


The New Day are, like, 85% of the reason I got into wrestling in the first place. A very good friend of mine is a diehard, and she tweeted a gif of their Wrestlemania 32 entrance the night it happened. I was like "WHAAAAAT IS THIS WONDERFULNESS" and here I am, just a few months later, a big (albeit still very new) wrestling fan. They're just *so much fun* — how can you NOT be drawn to a bunch of adult men dancing and wearing unicorn horns?! They are great.
posted by sc114 at 5:08 PM on December 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Rock understands the New Day.
posted by delfin at 6:24 PM on December 15, 2016


I love that even pro wrestling is getting woke.

Can we have them go to Trump tower and turnbuckle him?
posted by klangklangston at 6:32 PM on December 15, 2016


Probably just a tease, but this photo of New Day, the Club, and the former members of the Shield backstage at Tribute to the Troops is pretty fantastic. Bring back 3MB, the Social Outcasts, and toss in the Wyatt Family and there's a solid trios roster right there.

And Kevin Owens, while in fact a heel champion, isn't cowardly, evil, or insane. He's just a raging asshole, and I love him for it.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:10 PM on December 15, 2016


The New Day are, like, 85% of the reason I got into wrestling in the first place.

Hear hear. I'm a big fan of Internet comedians LoadingReadyRun, and when they started a WWE fan podcast I was skeptical, but the New Day kept my interest long enough for me to start caring about some of the plot arcs.

...put on unicorn headbands and play trombone and jump out of a gigantic box of Booty-Os cereal...

I think the New Day-lorean segment is worth at least a mention.
posted by dialMforMara at 8:26 PM on December 15, 2016


And Kevin Owens, while in fact a heel champion, isn't cowardly, evil, or insane.

How many pedigrees does his best friend have to eat before Owens is a coward for walking away?
posted by Etrigan at 5:43 AM on December 16, 2016


New Day-Lorean
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:14 AM on December 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


How many pedigrees does his best friend have to eat before Owens is a coward for walking away?

Sounds like the mark of a true asshole, if you ask me.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:25 AM on December 17, 2016


Others here will know this, but The New Day's current gimmick is closer in spirit to the original idea Xavier Woods came up with, many months before they were repackaged under that name. He's talked before about how he and Big E were nervous about proposing it to Kofi, since he's very much their locker room senior, but he went for it, and it was road-tested on house shows for a while. The concept was very anime-inspired, with different names and different styles for various combinations of the trio (I don't recall the names offhand, but this stuff was reported on all the wrestling sites at the time) and I remember being excited to see it finally make TV.

Months went by, and they finally 'debuted' as The New Day, and you could instantly tell Vince's hands were all over it. It felt like everyone else was crapping on them but me, as I was hoping they were biding their time till they could exercise more autonomy or control over their characters. I wasn't wrong, as it was only a few months before they became The New Day we love today.

The long and the short of it is, a lot of this situation is down to their own persistence and determination, knowing they (and the company's women, which is another story) have to work within an outmoded system to make things happen. WWE didn't make The New Day, is what I'm trying to say.
posted by macdara at 6:22 AM on December 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Everything I've read about New Day was essentially Vince saying, you three black guys, go be happy preacher types, and the three of them hated it, hated the whole concept, and, well, also knew they couldn't outright refuse, or they'd be fired, or buried. For Woods and Big E, they were pretty much already on the verge of being off TV all together. For a while, it seemed they were trying to push it towards a moment where they would snap, and bring back the Nation of Domination, but that never got okayed, which, long run, I think was for the best. The New NoD would probably have been done and (horrifically, wrongly, in all the wrong ways) gone by now, and instead, the New Day continues to get nearly the biggest, if not biggest pop of the night whenever they come out. But yeah, Kingston, Woods, and Big E made the New Day work, and if you haven't seen them on Twitter, you're missing out.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:03 AM on December 17, 2016


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